Yesterday I received an email from the Law Society Gazette, and another from the Law Society, described as a Professional Update. In fairness, the one from the Law Society does contain a lot of important professional information that would be useful to me, had I not retired (stuff like the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination). Still, I was perplexed to see a link to the Law Society websitei, under this heading: “Four ways to improve your firm’s environmental impact”.

I was still more perplexed to read what followed:

We all care about protecting our planet, so it’s no surprise employees expect business to do their bit too. Volvo Cars UK suggest four core actions you can take now to make your law firm a greener place to work.

Volvo Cars UK? Why on earth is the Law Society pushing environmental advice at solicitors, from – of all people – Volvo Cars UK? Don’t let the UK bit of the name fool you. They’re part of Volvo Cars, which used to be Swedish, until bought by Ford, but which since 2010 has been owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd of China. Geely also own Lotus, by the way.

Intrigued, I thought I should visit the Law Society’s website to discover the four amazing strategies Volvo wants to share with me (well, with solicitors in practice, I suppose) so that together we can “protect the planet” (as they put it).

It turns out that the Law Society has a tie-up with Volvo Cars UK:

Brought to you in partnership with Volvo Car UK

Volvo have bold sustainability plans, with one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking electrification strategies in the industry and a commitment to being fully climate neutral by 2025.

If you and your company would like to join them on that electric journey, Law Society members have an easy and simple way into the world of electrified driving thanks to a partnership with Volvo Car UK.

Well, knock me down with a feather. Why didn’t I think of any of this? It’s a good job those nice people at the Law Society and at Volvo Cars UK are on hand to keep me right. Well, Volvo Cars UK, actually. It’s they who “suggest four core actions you can take now to make your law firm a greener place to work.”

Drum roll….

1. Offer the option of a greener pension;

2. Find alternatives to single-use items;

3. Switch to renewable energy (opportunity here for another advert):

It might just be the springboard you need to work towards a completely climate-neutral location – like the Volvo Torslanda plant in Sweden, which was one of the first climate-neutral car factories in the world.

Which – ta da! – leads in to:

4. Electrify your company cars.

There you go – job done. Disinvest your company pension scheme from nasty old oil, coal and arms (yes, that was the advice – apparently it helps every individual feel like they’re making a difference. Careful choice of words, I suppose – it’s good to feel like you’re making a difference, even if you’re not); stop using plastic straws; switch to renewable energy (even if, as the website helpfully reminds us, [i]t’s worth noting that not all of these providers generate renewable energy directly. Some might just buy renewable energy certificates); and then – the clincher – buy electric cars from Volvo Cars UK.

I wonder if the same advice has been given to the Chinese Communist Party?

Extinction Rebellion

Not satisfied with pushing Chinese products at me, the commercial arm of the Law Society (its Gazette – remember the other email) has decided to give XR a bit of a push. That email linked to an article in the Gazette under the heading “In focus: Should City firms cut ties with fossil fuel giants?”

Where do XR fit in?

With their drums, loudspeakers and grungy headbands, Extinction Rebellion protesters are the antithesis of corporate London. However, the questions they raise are starting to be discussed in boardrooms across the City. In short, should law firms who want to act responsibly be representing – and profiting from – some of the world’s biggest carbon emitters?

Apart from idly wondering if they really are the antithesis of corporate London (remember Tollydollyposhfashion?ii), I also wonder why the Law Society Gazette decided to add to the exposure XR is already receiving in abundance in the mainstream media. Anyway,

Professor Paul Watchman, a former Freshfields partner and advisory board chair for Lawyers for Net Zeroiii, says firms need to be more discerning when it comes to picking clients. ‘Law firms can say they expect their clients to have certain values – because clients are saying it to the law firms now.’

We’re not asking them to dump their clients on day one – but maybe don’t accept instructions that relate to building a coal fired power station in China,’ he adds. ‘And a big thing they could do is stop their clients litigating on climate change.’

Those comments intrigued me at two levels. Firstly, it’s OK for the Law Society to push a Chinese-owned car firm at me, but apparently acting for anyone building coal-fired power stations in China is verboten. Secondly, litigating on climate change should be stopped. I assume he means litigating against climate change policies, rather than the massive amount of climate change litigation brought by activists against fossil fuel companies etc. – see “Climate Litigation”.iv Indeed, the article tells us:

As climate change becomes more urgent, however, solicitors face a crossroads. According to a study by the London School of Economics, the number of climate change disputes has more than doubled in the past five years and practitioners are observing a similar change: Allen & Overy partner Suzanne Spears anticipated a ‘flood of litigation’ at a recent International Bar Association webinar.

We also learn that:

Carbon reporting, for example, is likely to soon become a major consideration for businesses, with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosurev currently consulting on how disclosure requirements should relate to private companies, such as LLPs.

I imagine we’re going to see a lot more of this (I only just scratched the surface in “Green Law, Red Tape”vi).

Nowhere, it seems, is immune from climate activism, possibly as a result of it now being front and centre in schools and universities:

Future trainees are also asserting their priorities. Law Students for Climate Accountabilityvii – a group that was founded last year by Yale law students – has ranked 100 law firms from A to F according to their climate performance. (Three out of five magic circle firms were graded ‘F’). They have also invited firms to take a ‘climate pledge’ under which they will ‘not take on work to support the fossil fuel industry, now and into the future’.

Then again, as the Gazette article asks:

And how does cutting ties with certain sectors square with the universal right for legal representation?

Maybe Law Students for Climate Accountability missed that bit of the course?

The article ends with the following words:

One thing is clear, however: as the planet warms up, lawyers will be feeling the heat.

I would say one thing is very clear: the Law Society, and the Law Society Gazette, have nailed their colours to the mast, and it’s clear that they’re firmly in the alarmist camp. And of course, there’s money to be made out of it.

i https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/business-management/4-ways-to-improve-your-firms-environmental-impact

ii https://tollydollyposhfashion.com/tag/extinction-rebellion/

I understand that the mostly positive experiences I have had over the past year, have come out of a place of privilege and out of the little risk to my safety, wellbeing and overall security. I will never beat around the bush that this type of activism can often cost a fair amount of money (whether it’s for covering accommodation, food, travel or other expenses), take a lot of time and have potential legal consequences.

Not everybody can afford to take two weeks off of [sic] work or travel the country frequently, no matter how much they understand and appreciate the severity of the issue.

iii https://www.lawyersfornetzero.com/

iv https://cliscep.com/2021/06/08/__trashed-2/

v https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/

vi https://cliscep.com/2021/07/21/green-law-red-tape/

vii https://www.ls4ca.org/

13 Comments

  1. Mark,

    Are you now in competition with Tony to see who can come up with the most depressing article?

    Like

  2. Mark,

    The bit about law firms needing to deal only with clients that have the right values was particularly grim. It reminded me of my last employer. They boasted at having a ‘unique culture’ and would only do business with clients who shared that culture. Not only was this a remarkably stupid statement to put in a marketing brochure, it also rather glossed over the fact that they were uniquely corrupt and thought of nothing of trying to defraud their clients, even though one was the bureau set up to tackle organised crime! It seems those organisations that crow most about corporate values are those that have the least to be proud of.

    Cue the ‘what do you call a lawyer’ jokes.

    Like

  3. I wonder just what proportion of the income of the big legal firms, such as Frrshfields, comes from those rascals such as Shell, Barclays and Rio Tinto. How do they propose to replace the billings? “A greener pension plan with nothing to put into it” might appeal to Greta Thunberg but not to an ambitious corporate lawyer

    Like

  4. It is interesting to me that the centre of gravity of belief is moving further away from what I consider the truth. In this day it has become more important to signal virtue than to be competent. And by “signal virtue” I don’t mean “be good.” I mean that because matters of a neutral character have been translated onto a scale of “good” at one end and “evil” at the other, it is possible to signal one’s virtue by espousing astoundingly stupid beliefs that are more extreme than the already-extreme centre of gravity of belief on the “evil…good” scale. There seems to be nothing so bovine that, so long as it ranks higher on this spurious “evil…good” dimension, it will not exhibit a magnetic attraction to people. Somewhere along the line rationality was kicked out and locked out of our minds. We deal with the faraway knocking on the door by rationality trying to get let back in by turning the music up.

    XR are a good example, as objectively good people advocating ludicrous ideas as apparently logical answers to sincerely held beliefs: ideas that are off the scale of the virtue chart. They’ve been able to make our government’s own insane virtue signalling seem far less significant, close to neutral in moral terms. If we are to be judged on virtue instead of competence then beliefs that are mad but extreme on that scale, are entirely sensible.

    They have also invited firms to take a ‘climate pledge’ under which they will ‘not take on work to support the fossil fuel industry, now and into the future’.

    Take fossil fuels out of a Westerner’s life and you end up with no electricity, no hot water on demand, no motorised transport, no computers, smartphones or internet, and most clothing would be gone too. Healthcare would be rudimentary, as would education. And it’s goodbye avocadoes. In fact, take fossil fuels out of a Westerner’s life and you have the life of a poor person in the third world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the comments – all perceptive and interesting.

    The bit I do find particularly depressing is the way in which climate change (or “climate crisis” or whatever) has now entered almost every aspect of discourse, being shoehorned into all sorts of TV and radio programmes that on the face of them have nothing to do with climate change; being the backdrop to many, if not, most political utterances, on any subject at all; to situations like those I describe in the article – shoehorned in to websites ostensibly about matters of interest to the legal profession (whether in a serious, practice management sort of way, or in what might be a more “newsy” sort of way, i.e. in the Law Society Gazette).

    It’s everywhere, utterly ubiquitous. That, I think, demonstrates the religious nature of the enterprise. The way life is today, with no possibility of escaping from someone banging on about “the climate crisis” makes me think of what it must have been like to live in western Europe during the Middle Ages, when Roman Catholicism overshadowed every aspect of life. Pretty much every day would be referred to not as the calendar date, but as the Saints Day it represented, so that today wouldn’t be 28th August, but St Augustine’s Day. I suppose we’re already all paying climate tithes. How long before it’s compulsory to attend climate church?

    Like

  6. Mark – extract from quotes in your post
    “As climate change becomes more urgent, however, solicitors face a crossroads”

    somebody is cutting & pasting methinks, cause that’s a stupid statement to me anyway!!!

    Like

  7. How Green is my University?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-the-papers-58372596

    “In other news, the Sunday Times reports Britain’s top universities are chartering flights to get Chinese students to the UK next month.

    It says they are fearful global travel restrictions could cost them hundreds of millions of pounds in lost overseas fees.

    The paper says some experts warn universities risk overlooking the needs of British youngsters as they “fret” over the money their foreign counterparts generate.”

    The Sunday Times article is paywalled:

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/universities-hire-planes-to-fly-in-china-students-gfq2cc9j0

    However, you can see the opening few paragraphs without paying, including this:

    “More than 50 UK universities — including many of the elite Russell Group of 24 leading institutions such as Imperial College London, Bristol and Exeter — have already chartered four flights to bring in 1,200 Chinese students in time to start their degrees next month.”

    That would be this Bristol University:

    http://www.bris.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/stories/climate/

    “Bristol was the first UK university to declare a climate emergency, and we’re committed to taking action on climate change.

    Eco-consciousness and sustainability run deep at the University of Bristol. Through studying, research and extracurricular work, our students and staff share a commitment to protect our planet, and the drive to take bold action.

    The University has divested from fossil fuel investments, pledged to become a net carbon neutral campus by 2030, and invested £10 million in energy-saving technologies – and we’re not slowing down.

    The University of Bristol plays a key role in fighting climate change. Calling a climate emergency highlights the urgency of the task we are engaged in and I hope others join us in increasing their action on this, the biggest challenge we face.

    PROFESSOR JUDITH SQUIRES, DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PROVOST”

    Like

  8. Climate hypocrisy is useful to the sceptic because it jars. It does not seem to compute in the world we are supposed to believe exists. But it is entirely to be expected in the scheme I outlined above.

    The highest status is obtained not by *having* the highest virtue – but by *displaying* the highest virtue. The display has become so attenuated that it is now purely symbolic: the highest status is obtained by saying the most extreme things, not (as would be logical) by giving up all the trappings of Western civilisation, wealth, freedom, etc.

    For the powerful, there is no question that any of their displays will ever affect them personally, so there is no drawback to making extreme demands. The key is to make an ostentatious display that costs nothing. Declaring a “climate emergency” is an obvious move for a university, or a council, and has no drawbacks. It’s business as usual under the froth.

    This is diametrically opposed to the “true” virtuous act (and this is an obvious point), which is to behave as if there is a climate emergency, while staying quiet about what you are doing.

    Thus Harry’s hypocrisy is to be expected, so is the University of Bristol’s, Alok Sharma’s, Allegra Stratton’s, Kwasi Kwarteng’s, Gail Bradbrook’s, and so is everyone else’s that has been in the news lately.

    At least St. Greta seems to understand this, at least partly (but still allows her shine to rub off on the powerful hypocrites).

    Like

  9. Jit, I find your analysis strangely compelling, but of course it also ties in with the religious nature of climate change hysteria. The two analyses can go hand-in-hand, and aren’t necessarily in contradiction with each other. Many medieval religious leaders were strenuous in their virtue-signalling while behaving profoundly immorally and hypocritically away from the public gaze. Admittedly some were pretty up-front with their hypocrisy, but most weren’t and the brazen hypocrisy of many of today’s leading climate change scaremongers (whether prominent individuals or institutions) does take some beating.

    Like

  10. Going back to the hypocritical universities jetting in Chinese students, it’s more than a little ironic that one of them, Imperial College, London, houses the Grantham Institute. Given their CO2 spewing chartered flights, you might have expected them to tone this down a bit, but not a chance:

    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/climate-change/

    “As one of the world’s great universities, Imperial has the power to make a profound difference in the fight against climate change.”

    And much, much more.

    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/grantham/

    “The Grantham Institute sits at the heart of Imperial College London’s work on climate change and the environment. We drive forward discovery, convert innovations into applications, train future leaders and communicate academic knowledge to businesses, industry and policymakers to help shape their decisions.”

    Like

  11. A curious postscript:

    “Volvo’s battle to ensure there’s a future for cars in its Swedish hometown
    Activists want a city ‘planned for people not for cars.’”

    https://www.politico.eu/article/volvo-battle-future-cars-sweden-gothenburg/

    “Volvo is fighting to ensure that an emissions-free city isn’t a car-free city.

    Ground zero is the Chinese-owned carmaker’s hometown of Gothenburg, where there’s growing pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions and rethink the role of the car — weighed against the economic importance of the region’s largest employer which provides 23,000 jobs.

    It is also a low-lying coastal city whose very existence could be threatened by climate change. And a growing number of Swedes are calling for politicians to take bolder climate action.

    The country’s Left Party is leading the charge against cars in Gothenburg, pushing a proposal to exclude them from central areas of the city to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Shutting out cars is “the fastest and most efficient way to reduce emissions, noise and air pollution,” said local Left Party lawmaker Gertrud Ingelman. Among the party’s campaign proposals ahead of next year’s local elections will be a focus on reducing car use, she said.

    That puts Volvo in a bind. The company has long portrayed itself as different from its carmaking rivals — touting its record in developing features like seatbelts and espousing safety over horsepower. It’s also making a big bet on electric cars, committing to going fully electric by 2030.

    But green and clean doesn’t mean that people should stop driving cars.

    “We want to constantly increase the customer benefits of driving a pure electric Volvo car,” Henrik Green, chief technology officer, said this summer.

    Volvo is laying out its vision for how to integrate cars into a post-fossil-fuel city at its new innovation center in Gothenburg’s Lindholmen district.”

    Like

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