29 Jun 2021

London law firms agree Greener Litigation Pledge

Freshfields, HFW among those signing up to scheme launched by Mishcon de Reya intended to reduce environmental impact of dispute resolution

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A group of leading law firms including Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, HFW and Simmons & Simmons have signed up to the Greener Litigation Pledge, a commitment launched by Mishcon de Reya that commits to lessen the environmental impact of dispute resolution.  

In signing the pledge – which mirrors similar developments in international arbitration led by independent arbitrator Lucy Greenwood – the participants aim to actively reduce the environmental impacts of litigation – both civil and criminal – in the English and Welsh courts.

Mishcon de Reya associates Jenny Hindley and Olivia Wybraniec convened the steering committee which developed the pledge and later sourced its inaugural signatories. Hindley acknowledged Greenwood’s arbitral initiative had inspired her own work and shared a similar mission in setting out “practical changes that litigators can make in the journey towards net zero.” 

The pledge is part of a wider set of commitments to reduce the carbon footprint of litigation in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and comes as London’s lawyers mark London Climate Action Week, with an initial focus on reducing the use of printed documents and post-pandemic business travel.  

Wybraniec added: “Since the UK became the first country to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050, we recognise that the courts and court users of England and Wales play an important role in achieving that commitment, in encouraging lasting change in litigation practice.” 

The launch of the pledge was welcomed by participating law firms, with HFW disputes partner Damien Honey explaining that changes in practice imposed on firms and clients by the pandemic had made the switch to sustainability easier, thanks to remote hearings and greater use of electronic bundles.  

HFW unveiled a new environmental, sustainability and governance strategy led by the firm’s first sustainability partner Giles Kavanagh earlier this year, so its signature of the pledge dovetailed with its own commitments.  

Honey added: "As an industry, we must build on this experience and ensure that we don't simply revert to the old ways of doing things. The goal is to reach a point where the most environmentally sustainable options in litigation and dispute resolution become the default, rather than a conscious decision." 

Mishcon chair of dispute resolution Kasra Nouroozi agreed, saying the pandemic had “shown us that we can conduct litigation differently.” She added that the pledge form’s an important part of Mishcon’s own climate care strategy. 

The announcement comes alongside news of the launch of Lawyers for Net Zero, a network to support in-house lawyers take the lead in helping their organisations deliver on climate change commitments. Founded by Adam Woodhall, it aims to develop key principles for in-house lawyers to follow and includes counsel Anthony Kenny of GSK, Deutsche Bank’s Tamuna Cheishvili, Stephanie Beat of Certas Energy and Alessandro Galtieri of Colt Technology Services.  

Firms including Baker McKenzie and Linklaters have also announced their own commitments to green initiatives recently, with the latter intending to reduce its carbon emissions by at least half over the next decade. Other City firms are expected to follow suit with their own initiatives this week.  

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