Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process

This page provides information on the Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process launched in September 2016 by nine law firms to create space for knowledge-sharing, peer learning and collaboration on business and human rights between, as well as within, law firms.

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About the process

Leading legal practitioners have identified a need to create space for knowledge-sharing, peer learning and collaboration on business and human rights between, as well as within, law firms. This need stems from the breadth and complexity of law firms’ responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to work iteratively to build know-how and capability to implement respect in practice. Accordingly, in 2016, nine law firms initiated the Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process.

The Law Firm Peer Learning Process seeks to:

  • Drive increased engagement by the legal profession with business and human rights developments, building on the IBA Practical Guide and Reference Annex, as well as the leadership of individual bar associations and law firms;
  • Establish a community of practice amongst leading law firms and practitioners to support knowledge-sharing, peer learning and leadership/innovation;
  • Demonstrate progress by the legal profession in implementing respect for human rights in practice, and create a platform for exploring ongoing challenges and areas where further progress and/or guidance is needed; and
  • Support the broader legal profession (and their clients) to access and build on emerging practices, insights and lessons learned from leading firms working to implement their responsibility to respect human rights.

The firms involved in this process are proud of the leadership that has already been shown by members of the legal profession – including the IBA, local/national bar associations (notably, the American Bar Association and the Law Society of England & Wales), individual law firms, and practitioners – as well as civil society organizations, such as Advocates for International Development. However, they are keenly aware that the legal profession is still in the early stages of an ongoing broader journey to enable all business enterprises, everywhere, to operate with respect for human rights. Clarity regarding expectations of lawyers and law firms is increasing rapidly, in no small part due to the recent efforts of the IBA. But there is still a long way to go to act on that guidance, and operationalise emerging standards and expectations regarding law firm respect for human rights across the profession. Sponsoring firms believe that the Law Firm Peer Learning Process will play a role here – hopefully one that reinforces and will continue to build on the work of law firms, bar associations, professional regulators, clients, academic lawyers and other stakeholders, not to mention individual leaders within the profession.

 

Sponsoring firms

The sponsors of the Process are Allen & Overy LLP, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, DLA Piper LLP, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP and White & Case LLP.

 

Workshop report of November 2016: emerging practice, insights and reflections

On 27 September 2016, the Law Firm Peer Learning Process convened a one-day peer learning workshop with individuals from diverse functions, including partners and associates from key practice groups, General Counsels and the Heads/Directors of the firms’ Risk, International Regulatory and Compliance, Social Responsibility and Pro Bono teams.

Discussion during the workshop focused on the implementation of the law firms’ own responsibility to respect human rights and, in particular, the following areas:

  • Policy, strategy and governance;
  • Embedding through training, capacity building and awareness raising;
  • Client risk mapping and client acceptance; and
  • Approaches to supply chain due diligence, including in response to the UK Modern Slavery Act.

The workshop report of November 2016 is based in part on the ideas and comments shared at the Peer Learning Workshop, and presents insights and reflections from those discussions, as well as examples of emerging practices. The report is intended to promote discussion, and share learning and experience; it does not seek to prescribe specific actions by either the sponsors of the Process or the wider legal community. The workshop was held under the Chatham House Rule (meaning that information shared made by the participants may be used, but not attributed to specific individuals or their affiliations), and the content of this report reflects that approach.

 

Facilitators 

The Law Firm Peer Learning Process is facilitated by Catie Shavin and Anna Triponel, independent advisors with expertise in business and human rights, as well as business-to-business peer learning.

 

Next steps

Participating firms will continue to engage with the community of practice established through the Law Firm Peer Learning Process and will reconvene in 2017.

 

For further information about the Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process, please contact the process facilitators; Catie Shavin, catie.shavin[at]gmail.com, and Anna Triponel, anna[at]triponelconsulting.com.

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