How fast are law firms learning to market ESG services?

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– No law firm has a fully-integrated ESG offering yet, but some firms are close.
– Most firms in the Vault 100 earn a grade of “C” or lower from a group of law students concerned about climate. Some firms thought to be ESG leaders received an “F.” Only 3 firms earned an “A” – 9 firms received a “B.”

This 18-page paper – entitled “Chasing the Dragon: The Rise of the ESG Law Firm” written by Paul Watchman and Paul Clements-Hunt for “The Blended Capital Group” – covers how law firms will play a role in the ESG transformation that is upon us. Here is an excerpt:

In many ways the legal world is late to the game. With a few exceptions, we see 2018 as a tipping point for the legal sector. Time is precious for those firms needing to play catch-up on client ESG demands driven by converging forces including, inter alia, a huge flow of investment funds from 2019 accelerating in 2020-21 into a broad range of ESG-aligned public and private offerings, a massive uptick in policy and regulatory ESG demands, and a clear increase in corporate board and, therefore, GC attention to ESG disciplines.

No law firm seems to have achieved, as yet, a fully integrated service ESG offering across the nine major themes we have defined as covering the broad and sometimes complex ESG “piste”. However, a number of Magic Circle, White Shoe, international and ESG specialist firms are closing in on an integrated offering to cover the tsunami of incoming demands.

Here is the related press release – and an excerpt from that press release:

Professor Watchman, however, warned: “some law firms face a real dilemma that will demand tough internal decisions. They are moving to be seen to be ESG aligned and supporting sustainable development while, at the same time, acting on behalf of companies with very poor track records on environment, human rights and a myriad of the most complex ESG issues. I think there’ll be shake-out of the clients who are the most egregious ESG offenders.”

Meanwhile, the “Law Students for Climate Accountability” has posted this ESG scorecard which hands out grades to the top law firms, those firms in the Vault 100 (this is the second year in a row that this scorecard has been posted). Not good news for most firms. The mass media is picking up on this, such as this LA Times piece