A Law Firm-Led Effort to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services to Sustainability-Focused Entrepreneurs and Nonprofit Organizations
The Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative matches nonprofits and startups working in the field of environmental sustainability with law firms providing pro bono legal services. The initiative continues to grow, with 20 law firms providing pro bono legal help to over 160 startups and nonprofits through the initiative over the past five years. The firms in the initiative have dedicated over $100 million in pro bono services over the past five years to support sustainability efforts both inside and outside of the initiative.
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, including directed research aimed at eliminating the barriers green startups face in accessing pro bono legal services.
The firms offer pro bono legal assistance to entrepreneurs and non-profits taking on key sustainability challenges.
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.
2022 Pro Bono Project Highlights
The firms have pledged the amounts below in free legal services for on-going and new sustainability matters in 2023:
- Akin Gump ($250,000)
- Arnold & Porter* ($2 million)
- Beveridge & Diamond ($250,000)
- Cooley* ($1 million)
- Debevoise & Plimpton ($1 million)
- Fenwick ($250,000)
- Foley & Lardner ($250,000)
- Hogan Lovells* ($250,000)
- Holland & Knight* ($1 million)
- Latham & Watkins* ($1 million)
- Michelman & Robinson ($250,000)
- Morgan Lewis ($250,000)
- Morrison & Foerster* ($4 million)
- Nixon Peabody ($1 million)
- Orrick ($2 million)
- Ropes & Gray ($1 million)
- Seyfarth Shaw ($350,000)
- Vinson & Elkins ($250,000)
- Willkie Farr & Gallagher ($250,000)
- Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati* ($3 million)
*Lead founder of the LSE Initiative
The initiative is truly a collaborative one, with the private sector, NGOs like Grist, and accelerators like Venture for ClimateTech working to support connections between law firms and pro bono recipients. For example, Microsoft has helped 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.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history, offering funding, programs, and incentives to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Stanford’s Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative is facilitating educational opportunities and pro bono legal help for NGOs, community organizations, Tribes, and early stage entrepreneurs to access the benefits and funding from the IRA. Since two-thirds of the Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 Billion flows through the tax code, helping these groups navigate the complex IRS guidance and take advantage of these tax provisions will be a critical component of deploying new clean electricity resources, lowering GHG emission footprints, and accelerating the clean energy transition.
Stanford Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative is partnering with the law firms in the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative to provide several webinar series on tax opportunities under the Inflation Reduction Act. Those who still need additional help to take advantage of the IRA can apply for direct pro bono legal assistance through the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative.
The first three-webinar series focused on Tax Opportunities for Tribes in the Inflation Reduction Act, with presentations and live Q&A by tax and Tribal law experts at Holland & Knight in Washington, D.C.
- Overview Webinar – Inflation Reduction Act: Tax Opportunities for Tribes – August 3 (featuring PaaWee Rivera, Senior Advisor and Director of Tribal Affairs, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs)
- Deep Dive – Inflation Reduction Act: Direct Pay for Tribes – August 28 (featuring Wahleah Johns, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs)
- Deep Dive – Inflation Reduction Act: Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) for Tribes – September 25
We also hosted a webinar focused on Tax Opportunities for Early Stage Entrepreneurs in the Inflation Reduction Act. The webinar featured presentations and live Q&A by tax partners and energy experts at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
- Direct Pay and Transferability – IRA for Early Stage Entrepreneurs – September 27 (featuring Emma Hutchinson, Communications Advisor, White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation)
*Premium Sponsors are sponsors providing over $15,000, Partner Sponsors are sponsors providing over $7,500, and Advocate Sponsors are sponsors providing over $2,500