'Timely and overdue': 22 global law firms launch the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Association

Corrs, DLA Piper and HSF are some of its founding members

'Timely and overdue': 22 global law firms launch the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Association

More than 20 global law firms united to launch the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Association (BHRLA) following the principle that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The establishment of the BHRLA will promote and support action by lawyers around the world to advise commercial clients on human rights risks and opportunities in business activities. It builds on the Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process of November 2016.

More importantly, the BHLRA seeks to have a proactive rather than a reactive approach to its responsibility for human rights. Business enterprises are called to prevent, mitigate and address human rights impacts that could be plaguing their own operations.  

This objective will be accomplished 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.

The BHLRA’s 22 founding members are commercial law firms with worldwide reach, namely Berwin 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 board is led by co-chairs Rae Lindsay, a partner at Clifford Chance, and Douglass Cassel, a counsel for King & Spalding.

Joining Lindsay and Cassel on the board are:

  • Meriam Al-Rashid, partner at Eversheds Sutherland
  • Helene Bogen, senior associate at Wiersholm
  • Antony Crockett, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Jonathan Exten-Wright, partner at DLA Piper
  • Roger Leese, partner at Clifford Chance
  • Samantha Rowe, partner at Debevoice & Plimpton
  • Martijn Scheltema, partner at Pels Rijcken
  • Fredrick Svensson, partner at Mannheimer Swartling
  • Phoebe Wynn-Pope, head of responsible business and ESG at Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Following its launch, the BHRLA will seek to expand its membership and global footprint through the inclusion of individual lawyers and lawyers who practise in other settings.

“The formation of this association is both timely and overdue,” Lindsay said. “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. We encourage lawyers around the world to join and support the association's ambitions.”

“It is good to see so many firms unite to progress the understanding and practice of business and human rights,” Wynn-Pope said. “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.”

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