Big Law firms are opening up environmental, social and governance practices, driven by priorities of the Biden administration and, increasingly, those of consumers and institutional investors.
This month, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher announced its new ESG practice led by six partners in London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas. On Tuesday, Seyfarth Shaw has formed its ESG group, comprised of 20 total attorneys and led by Chicago-based labor and employment attorney Ameena Majid, London-based international attorney Amy Levin, and San Francisco-based litigator Giovanna Ferrari. That same day, Hunton Andrews Kurth also announced its own group.
And on Wednesday, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe bolstered its existing group with the addition of Fenwick & West partner Ashley Walter, who will head the firm’s ESG practice.
ESG represents a range of nonfinancial factors that exhibit how a company acts toward its employees, vendors and consumers. ESG attorneys, for example, ensure that their clients abide by the U.S. Conflict Minerals Rule, a provision passed by Congress as part of the Dodd-Frank Act that requires public companies that use “conflict minerals” such as tin or gold to trace their supply chains and ensure that funds are not being directed to human rights abuses.
And what’s driving the recent growth among Big Law firms is twofold.
Similar to recent movement and growth among white-collar and state attorneys general practices, the Biden administration’s new priorities are driving up interest in ESG among corporations and, by extension, their outside counsel. The Biden administration and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have all but promised to ramp up ESG disclosures, especially as it relates to climate change.
Earlier this month, the acting SEC Commissioner Allison Herren Lee hired Satyam Khanna to serve as a senior policy adviser for climate and ESG, where Khanna will “advise the agency on environmental, social, and governance matters and advance related new initiatives across its offices and divisions.”