Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy

A Law Firm-Led Effort to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services to Sustainability-Focused Entrepreneurs and Non-Profit Organizations

The Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative just wrapped up its successful two-year run and is poised to continue in 2021. The initiative—which aims to match non-profits and start-ups working in the field of environmental sustainability with law firms providing pro bono legal services—more than doubled in size over the course of its first two years. The original group of nine firms pledged $15 million in free legal services in 2018; by 2020, the initiative grew to include 14 firms pledging $23 million. But the firms did not stop once they hit their financial commitments, and several firms–including Nixon Peabody, Latham & Watkins, Arnold & Porter, Wilson Sonsini, and Morrison & Foerster–exceeded their pledge by millions of dollars.

Supporting the effort, Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy facilitate connections between participating firms and potential pro bono clients and track the effort’s impact.  With member firms eager to extend the initiative beyond the original 2020 end date, Stanford is launching a new phase of the initiative in 2021, with hopes of growing the client and firm base even more.

18


Major, private U.S. law firms

$35M


Provided in pro bono legal services over two years

2


Corporate and non-profit partners

The firms offer pro bono legal assistance to entrepreneurs and non-profits taking on key sustainability challenges.

About the Initiative

Entrepreneurial and community-based efforts to advance sustainability are surging within the United States, but these efforts are often slowed by limited access to top-flight legal services. Even obtaining legal help on first-order matters associated with formation and incorporation can present hurdles for entrepreneurs. Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy provides an easier way for entrepreneurs and environmental non-profits working on sustainability projects to find firms that are offering pro bono help on these types of important matters. The Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative was incubated to facilitate this match.

The LSE initiative was announced at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and dedicated to the memory of Nancy McFadden, former Chief of Staff to Governor Jerry Brown. Karen Skelton, David J. Hayes and Ali Zaidi worked with Governor Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy to launch the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy initiative.  Stanford Law School will continue to provide periodic updates on the matters member firms are taking on as part of their commitment under the initiative.

The types of legal services that firms participating in Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy may be able to provide include: support with incorporation, corporate governance (e.g., bylaws, policies), contracts, real estate, IP protection, website-related issues (e.g., privacy policies, terms of use), structuring advice for financing and investment, tax advice, and litigation.

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy

Environmental & Natural Resources Law and Policy Program Logo

We applaud the work of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, which has connected entrepreneurs and community-based non-profits with the expert legal advice they need to advance climate and environmental justice efforts. While the threat of climate change is immense, we look optimistically forward as our efforts and partners grow. We will continue to harness the power of the public and private sector together, moving forward to build a brighter, cleaner, and more sustainable future.

Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General

Who's in the Initiative?

Law Firms

The nine major law firms listed below are lead founders of the LSE initiative.  The firms have committed to provide free legal services on on-going and new sustainability matters in the amounts identified over a two-year period:

Law firms that joined the initiative in 2019/2020:

Law firms that joined the initiative in 2021:

Corporate Partners

The initiative is truly a collaborative one, with the private sector and NGOs like Grist working with law firms to support connections between law firms and pro bono recipients. For example, Microsoft is helping to connect grantees from its AI for Earth program – a five-year, $50 million initiative that supports and partners with environmental groups, academic researchers, and start-ups – with the initiative for legal support.  Pro bono lawyers from additional companies, including Goldman Sachs, have also volunteered to assist LSE firms.

Companies participating in the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy are making a commitment to assist the initiative in a number of ways, including by: (1) enabling company in-house lawyers to provide pro bono assistance to clients directly, or in coordination with outside LSE-member law firms, on company time; (2) encouraging outside law firms and other companies to participate in the LSE initiative; and (3) using their community outreach activities to identify potential clients who may qualify for, and benefit from, pro bono services provided through the LSE network.

View Advisory Council

Sponsors

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 2

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 1

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 3

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 4

The Future of Healthcare Symposium

The Future of Healthcare Symposium 4

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 5

Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy 6

Beyond Preemption, Toward Metropolitan Governance
"Tackling these tough issues today will create real and lasting impact in communities all over the world for generations to come."

T. Clark Weymouth, Pro Bono Partner at Hogan Lovells

Current Pro Bono Work