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Law firms contribute $15 million in pro bono work to advance sustainability

Sep 14, 2018
Precourt Institute

By Mark Golden

Nine U.S. law firms will deliver free legal services worth $15 million by 2020 to advance sustainability in energy, transportation and land use. The initiative, Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, offers pro bono legal assistance to U.S.-based entrepreneurs and non-profits taking on key sustainability challenges.

The founding firms and the State of California announced the new initiative Friday in San Francisco at the Global Climate Action Summit as honoring the work of the late Nancy McFadden, the lawyer and former chief of staff to California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

“This pro bono legal aid will give a major boost to people who are fighting pollution,” said Brown.  “This program is a fitting tribute to Nancy McFadden who was a trailblazing attorney and fearless advocate for the environment.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaking at the Global Climate Action Summit
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaking at the Global Climate Action
Summit (Image credit: Sheraz Sadiq/KQED)

Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy will facilitate connections between participating firms and potential pro bono clients, and track the effort’s impact. The school and the institute helped incubate Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy with the assistance of NYU’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center.

“Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy are pleased to play a facilitating role for the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy initiative,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School.

The lead founding firms of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy are: Arnold & Porter; Cooley; Dentons; Holland & Knight; Latham & Watkins; Morrison & Foerster; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. As lead founders, each firm has committed to provide legal services worth at least $2 million by the end of 2020. Two additional founding law firms – Hogan Lovells and WilmerHale – are committing to provide at least $500,000 in free legal services by the end of 2020.

"We commend the law firms who are bringing pro bono legal resources to the table to work with innovators on some of the most important sustainability issues facing our country and the world," said Prof. Arun Majumdar, co-director of the Precourt Institute.

The firms will provide a range of legal services to clients, including on matters as diverse as incorporation, corporate governance (e.g., bylaws, policies), contracts, real estate, IP protection, website-related issues (e.g., privacy policies, terms of use), regulatory issues, structuring advice for financing and investment, tax advice, and litigation. Each law firm’s voluntary commitment will be implemented consistent with the firm’s pro bono and conflicts rules and policies.

Entrepreneurs and non-profits interested in applying for this legal aid may do so on this page, which also provides eligibility requirements.

In addition, several public interest organizations will assist potential clients in connecting with participating firms. The American non-profit online environment magazine Grist, which curates and cultivates a network of community-based “Fixers,” has already helped some participating firms identify individuals and organizations working on sustainability solutions.

This article was adapted from the Global Climate Action Summit’s press release.