ESG is “mission critical”. Paul, Can Weiss enter law school?

  • The firm launches an ESG institute with UC Berkeley Law
  • He plans to involve more law schools in ESG research

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(Reuters) – Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison have teamed up with the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law to launch a one-of-a-kind research initiative focused on ESG – the legal field in full swing growth of the environment, society and governance issues.

As the firm’s first ESG and Law Institute partner school, students and associate professors at the Business and Society Institute at Berkeley Law will work with Paul Weiss lawyers to conduct research, organize panel discussions, and bring together opinion leaders in the ESG field. Paul, Weiss will be offering two annual scholarships of $ 25,000 to Berkeley students involved in the new institute in the hope that they will help establish a cohort of young lawyers who are familiar with the many aspects of ESG practice. The firm plans to expand the institute and involve more law schools in the future.

The Berkeley partnership also reflects Paul, Weiss’ recent expansion into the Bay Area. The firm opened an office in Northern California in July 2020. It now has 17 attorneys.

Institute director Dave Curran, who is also co-chair of Paul, Weiss’s ESG consultancy, said the institute will tackle the big picture, the “existential” questions surrounding ESG. in a way that lawyers advising clients on day-to-day matters do not have the ability to contemplate. And that will bring academic rigor to the conversation around ESG, he said.

“We need a way to bring together thought leadership at a high and broad level that I can’t just do by leading a practice,” Curran said. “We also need to involve a wider community, including academics. “

Amelia Miazad, faculty director of the Business in Society Institute at Berkeley Law, said she envisions the new partnership with Paul, Weiss bridging the gap between theoretical discussions about ESG and what’s really going on within companies . Current ESG research tends to fall into a very practical category, such as business case studies, or very theoretical law journal articles.

“What’s exciting here is that we can do something that is really designed for executives and professionals, but still takes advantage of that academic rigor and that research,” Miazad said.

The research, polls and discussions produced by the Paul, Weiss ESG and the Law Institute will be publicly available, Curran said. The field is changing rapidly, he said, noting that Paul Weiss was the first large company to launch a dedicated ESG practice, in March 2020.

“ESG has been around forever,” Curran said. “The difference over the past two years is that lawyers recognize that companies that make obligations such as social or environmental commitments must actually meet those commitments. “

Paul, Weiss and its chairman Brad Karp have spoken on social and political issues such as marriage equality, voter protection and reproductive rights. But the company has also been targeted by critics who say its portrayal of fossil fuel customers makes it complicit in climate change.

Curran and Miazad both said they hoped the new institute would encourage law schools to incorporate more ESG training into their curriculum. Beyond Berkeley Law, few law schools offer ESG courses other than an occasional tutorial course, Curran said.

“We want the legal industry to recognize that it is essential for lawyers to fully understand ESG and its intersection with the law,” said Curran. “We need the students to think about it. It is the fastest growing specialty that no one knows.

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