Reed Smith launches ESG practice to advise on plethora of 'regulations, principles, initiatives and reporting standards'

New team will be led by partners from seven of the firm's 30 global locations


Reed Smith is launching a dedicated environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice to help clients navigate what it describes as ‘a persisting lack of global convergence on ESG regulations, principles, initiatives and reporting standards’.

The new practice brings together around 60 lawyers across the firm’s 30 offices. As part of the ESG practice, lawyers will support clients facing intensifying compliance and stakeholder obligations related to transactional, corporate, regulatory and disputes matters, among others. 

The team of partners leading the charge is made up of Claude Brown and David Boutcher (London), Daja Apetz-Dreier (Munich), Hagen Rooke (Singapore), Jennifer Smokelin (Pittsburgh), Rolf Hünermann (Frankfurt), Tyree Jones (Washington DC) and Yves Melin (Brussels). 

Brown said that the practice was formed in response to clients finding a persisting lack of global convergence on ESG regulations, principles, initiatives and reporting standards despite the now-permanent status of sustainability, social and climate-related issues on the corporate agenda. 

“We have formed this team to ensure that we are providing the very best support from our leading lawyers across the globe, tapping into the regional insight and industry experience from the wider team will prove a huge asset to clients,” he said. 

Reed Smith characterised the launch of a dedicated ESG practice as a ‘formalisation’ of its existing offering, which has seen its lawyers advise on ‘hundreds’ of ESG matters through the years. 

Some of that work has included advising NatWest Markets on the financing of a €2.3 billion ESG-linked credit facility and providing legal counsel to a UBS-affiliated fund manager on the formation of a $400 million fund focusing on impact investments in Asian healthcare-related businesses

The firm has also advised on other matters including net-zero targets, healthcare financings, Modern Slavery corporate obligations and the establishment of diversity, equity and inclusion objectives and reporting requirements. 

Read the Global Legal Post ESG Timeline

By setting up an ESG practice, Reed Smith has joined a list of other firms to have bulked up their ESG offerings to clients in the past year either by way of lateral hires or practice launches. Those firms include Herbert Smith Freehills and Singapore’s Rajah & Tann, which both launched ESG practices last year to deal with heightened compliance needs. 

AmLaw 200 firm Greenspoon Marder also improved its ESG capabilities in 2021 by launching an ESG advisory affiliate group with the goal of assisting companies and firms 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. 

And last July, Chicago’s Jenner & Block launched a 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, particularly over matters concerning gender and race. 

The trend is more than likely to continue as demands only continue to evolve and grow. A study published by Landmark Information last November found that more than half of surveyed law firms believed they need to enhance their ESG capabilities and resources, with only about a third (36%) of firms saying they are able to meet the increased demand for ESG-related advice. 

In the same survey, a majority of law firms and corporations agreed that ESG has become more important in the present day than it was 12 months ago, with 42% of corporations saying that it has been driven by shareholders and investors demanding companies take more action on climate change and sustainability.

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