Students who graduate from our nation’s top law schools are too often faced with a choice between morality and prestige when making decisions about their career paths. When the best law schools facilitate a job search that feeds into the “Biglaw or bust” mentality, success is measured by the number of graduates who have secured positions at firms serving clients that represent the worst of the worst when it comes to our planet’s ongoing climate crisis.
A new report from Law Students for Climate Accountability set out to answer a simple question: how much do the Vault 100 firms contribute to climate change? The answer is, as you might imagine, a lot.
Biglaw firms continue to be a “hotbed of fossil fuel activity.” Here’s a breakdown of what that means: per LSCA, Vault 100 firms conducted 502 representations in cases exacerbating climate change, facilitated $3.05 trillion of fossil fuel transactions, and received millions upon millions in compensation for fossil fuel lobbying between 2017 and 2021.
“There will always be firms that represent Exxon, Shell or Chevron. “Stopping that is not our end goal,” second-year NYU Law student Nathaniel Waldman, a member of the LSCA leadership committee, told the American Lawyer. “What we do want to do is stigmatize that work because it is adding to the global disasters we see every day. We want people to be aware of the work these firms are doing and not let them sweep it under the rug.”
LSCA’s work has not been in vain — this year, in the group’s fourth annual Climate Scorecard, a record number of Biglaw firms received “A” scores. Of course, the majority of other Vault 100 firms received scores of “D” and “F,” but let’s concentrate on the positive news. So, which firms performed the best compared to their peers? Take a look at the firms that did the best in LSCA’s latest scorecard.
Congratulations to Cooley; Foley Hoag; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Sheppard Mullin; and Wilson Sonsini. None of these firms represented a single fossil fuel company, earning them the top spot in LSCA’s ranking.
LSCA’s full report and 2023 Climate Scorecard can be found here.
“We want to work with firms,” Waldman told Am Law. “We want to have firms come to us and talk to us about what they can do better. That is the point of this. To do better. More renewable energy, less fossil fuel work.”
Good luck to Law Students for Climate Accountability as they do their best to make Biglaw do better, to make the future better for all of us.
2023 Climate Scorecard [Law Students for Climate Accountability]
‘We Want to Stigmatize That Work’: Report Focuses on Big Law’s Ties to Fossil Fuel Industry [American Lawyer]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.