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Global law firms team up to launch new association

Twenty-two global law firms have united to launch the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Association (BHRLA), in a move to cement the principle that business has a responsibility to respect human rights.

Officially launched on Tuesday (29 November), the BHRLA was established to further advance business and human rights leadership, learning, collaboration and practice among commercial law firms and business lawyers around the world.

The BHRLA’s founding members are commercial law firms, headquartered in Australia, Canada, continental Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The 22 founding members of the BHRLA are: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Clifford Chance, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Covington & Burling, Debevoise & Plimpton, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Fasken, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gibson Dunn, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Spalding, LALIVE, Linklaters, Mannheimer Swartling, Miller & Chevalier, Norton Rose Fulbright, Paul Hastings, Pels Rijcken, Quinn Emanuel, White & Case, and Wiersholm.

The association will promote and support action by lawyers around the world to advise commercial clients on human rights risks and opportunities associated with business activities — and implore them to implement considered human rights due diligence processes as well as processes to enable remediation in appropriate cases.

According to the BHRLA, this includes many major global businesses — as well as an increasing number of smaller and medium-sized enterprises — that embrace this responsibility.

The BHRLA will be dedicated to the principle that business has a responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), said co-chair Rae Lindsay, partner at Clifford Chance.

“The formation of this association is both timely and overdue. There is a need to accelerate the dissemination of good practice in the field of business and human rights across the commercial legal profession globally,” she said.

“We encourage lawyers around the world to join and support the association’s ambitions.”

The BHRLA will promote awareness in the business and legal communities of the responsibility to respect human rights, and of the responsibility of lawyers to incorporate business and human rights advice in their client services. This will be done through educational and engagement activities, including seminars, publications, conferences and sharing of best practices. It will also provide a forum for leadership, collaboration and peer learning among business and human rights lawyers and commercial firms.

Dr Phoebe Wynn Pope (pictured), head of responsible business and ESG at Corrs Chambers Westgarth and BHRLA board member, said that “the launch of the BHRLA is an important and timely initiative, and it is good to see so many firms unite to progress the understanding and practice of business and human rights”.

“As the world moves towards a zero-carbon economy, human rights considerations can help ensure a ‘just’ transition that respects the rights of all — and especially those of vulnerable workers and communities,” she said.

Moving forward, the BHRLA will seek to expand its membership and global footprint and to include individual lawyers and lawyers who practice in other settings, co-chair Douglass Cassel, counsel at King & Spalding, added.

“The formation of the association reflects a commitment by 22 of the world’s leading law firms to ensure topflight legal advice to companies on the crucial matters of business and human rights,” he said.

Taken from Lawyers Weekly 29 November 2022 Media Release.

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