DLA Piper tops global ESG law firm ranking as UK firms dominate

Almost half of the top 25 best performing firms on ESG are headquartered in the UK, according to Impactvise
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DLA Piper is the world's best performing law firm on ESG Shutterstock

DLA Piper has topped Impactvise’s inaugural environmental, social and governance (ESG) law firm ranking, which measures the ESG performance of more than 1,000 firms globally.

The ranking is based on how well law firms meet the World Economic Forum’s (WEF's) Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, which measures ESG efforts through the lens of governance, people, planet and prosperity.

DLA Piper scored 91 out of 100 for its ESG performance, holding off Clifford Chance in second spot and DWF, the UK's largest publicly listed law firm, in third.

Almost half of the top 25 ranked firms are headquartered in the UK, with six based in mainland Europe, six in the US and one in Asia. Baker McKenzie, Linklaters, Burges Salmon, Garrigues, Ashurst, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose Fulbright completed the top 10.

Impactvise is a Swiss startup launched in 2021 by two former general counsel at Zurich Insurance Group. The platform is designed to help GCs compare law firms’ ESG performance and make it easier to select firms whose ESG values align with their own.

Co-founder Adrian Peyer said: “What we constantly hear in discussions with our clients is that law firms are already experiencing a ‘tsunami’ of ESG questionnaires associated with request for proposals (RfP). There is an increasing risk of being de-selected in RfP. But clients of law firms are requesting more transparency around the ESG performance and are looking for objective data to compare law firms in the selection process.” 


Read the Law Over Borders ESG comparative guide, which features authors from firms including Debevoise & Plimpton, Herbert Smith Freehills, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Legance, Kim & Chang, Hannes Snellman and Zhong Lun.


Firms in the top 25 scored highest in the ‘people’ category, with an average score of 68. Impactvise said: “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is part of the pillar ‘people’ and DEI has been a long-standing focus of law firms. But there is still room for further improvement and law firms should continue focusing on DEI.”

Top 25 firms recorded an average score of 60 for planet, 50 for governance and 40 for prosperity. The WEF metrics define prosperity as building strong, transformative and inclusive economies through employment and wealth generation, innovation of better products and services and community and social vitality.

Impactvise added: “Clients expect from law firms not only ESG advice, but that they walk the ESG talk. Law firms are key players in the modern value chain and have a unique position to support moving towards a more sustainable future. But many law firms have not yet started their ESG journey. To be a credible ESG advisor, law firms will need to walk the ESG talk and demonstrate their license to operate to their clients.”

Julia Hayhoe, an independent board advisor, said: “Whilst firms are sincere in their desire to operate in more sustainable ways, they struggle to do so consistently and cohesively.”

Hayhoe says boards need to better understand their ESG opportunities and risks and then make tough choices about the mindsets, behaviours and policies they need to adopt.

She added: “Crucially it means that sustainability-savvy boards avoid the old practice of shunting sustainability into a separate initiative box, or vested in an arm's-length CSR committee.”

Law firms are also lagging on ESG when compared to other professional services firms. The average overall ESG score for top 25 law firms was 54, compared to 81 for large professionals services companies such as PwC, EY, McKinsey and BCG.

The research is based on publicly available data, which, according to Payer, reflects the importance of transparency in the ESG equation. He said: “We have selected key metrics and adapted them to fit the legal market. We believe that law firms need to transparently report about their ESG progess and therefore only rely on publicly available data.”

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