Debevoise & Plimpton appoints first senior ESG advisor in New York

Ulysses Smith joins US firm amid ongoing industry-wide ESG push

Ulysses Smith

Debevoise & Plimpton has hired sustainability expert Ulysses Smith as its first senior environmental, social and governance (ESG) adviser in New York. 

He joins Debevoise’s Manhattan headquarters in the newly-created role that will see him focus on advising clients on legal, regulatory and business matters in order to assist them in keeping up with the dynamic ESG landscape, the firm said. 

A seasoned expert operating at the intersection of sustainability, governance, law, anti-corruption and human rights, Smith’s experience covers advising major multinationals, nonprofits and governments on all aspects of sustainability and governance issues. 

“As legal, regulatory and public policy developments have placed rapidly increasing scrutiny on these issues, we are advising our clients on ESG issues across all of our practices,” Michael Blair, presiding partner at Debevoise, said. 

“Bringing Ulysses to the firm is the latest strategic step we have taken to ensure our clients have access to comprehensive ESG advice and guidance, and we welcome him to the firm,” he added. 

After spending a decade as an associate at Linklaters between 2007 and 2017, Smith spent four years advising the UN Global Compact on anti-corruption and global governance matters and served as the president and CEO of Telos Governance Advisers, a New York-based advisory business working with corporate, nonprofit and government clients on good governance, development and human rights compliance matters. 

Smith currently sits as a member of the UN Global Compact Expert Network, an international advisory group of representatives across a number of sectors focused on sustainability and governments. He is also the former chair of the New York City Bar Association’s United Nations Committee, according to his Linkedin profile.

His hire comes six months after Debevoise boosted its ESG strategy by launching an ESG resource centre in April, a hub designed to consolidate the firm’s ESG-related expertise and allow lawyers and clients easier access to practical guidance across a range of ESG areas. 

A number of other US firms have beefed up their ESG capabilities this year amid wider focus on sustainability issues across all corners of the legal industry. In July, Jenner & Block launched a new culture risk and sensitive investigations practice focused on helping companies navigate cultural and compliance issues amid a rise in demand for advice related to unhealthy workplace cultures. 

And last month, Florida’s Greenspoon Marder launched an ESG affiliate group led by partner Sarah Teslik that will assist clients in the investment space to benefit from how they manage sustainability-related operations, communication, risk management and assurance processes as well as capital allocation and attraction decisions. 

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