Photography Competition Awards Ceremony
Obelisk In Action

Last night (10th July) saw us announce the winners of the 1st Global Law Photography competition, themed around climate change. 

The judging panel, led by Marcus Jamieson-Pond, photographer and former CSR Manager,  was impressed not only by the quality of all the photographs submitted but also by the accompanying stories explaining their significance. As well as being inspired by the thinking and creativity of the competition entrants, our audience at Lexis House was privileged to hear from Peter Barnett, climate litigation lawyer at ClientEarth.  As an NGO working at the cutting edge of climate change, ClientEarth are using the law to fight the climate crisis and show the true power of lawyers to drive change in this area. Obelisk Support were delighted to raise funds for ClientEarth, as well as raising awareness of their work in this area.

Our thanks go to LexisNexis, home of the LexisPSL Environment service, who were supporters of this initiative and hosted the presentation evening.

Here are the three top photographs and our winners’ stories:

Winner – Magdalena Bakowska

Winner

This photo represents the spectacular Namib desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world, to draw attention to the problem of global warming and water shortages, so common in this region. Arid regions of southern Africa, although beautiful, are particularly exposed to further drying. The region is said to be one of the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and having less natural capacity to adapt to such impact, although, ironically, African nations are considered to have contributed the least to the problem of global warming.

Namibia’s climate is, in general, dry and hot, with already irregular rainfall patterns. As a result of climate change, the country, which is highly dependent on climate sensitive natural resources, is predicted to become even hotter, leading to aridification.

Highly-Commended – Camilla Bindra-Jones

Highly commended

All week concerns were expressed by SpringWatch for the fledglings under watch. Strong winds unusual for England in June came as predicted & scattered the precious cargo.  I felt the parents sorrow & placed their children in a row. I know not why I took a photo & felt a need to bury them but maybe it was to stay the busyness of the world. Death makes us wish to turn back time; our recently awakened awareness of climate change calls us to a state of mindfulness.  We must stand together and do as much as we can to try to stay the damage of us in time past.The swallows have nested in the open garages since 1993. The numbers arriving this year were reduced by around 70 per cent. It was this fact, along with the unusually strong winds that made the loss of the fledglings additionally upsetting.

Commended – Lauren Bruce

Commended

This photo was taken at the Solheimasandur plane wreck in Southern Iceland. Airplanes have a huge environmental impact, both the pollution when flying and in the environmental destruction of a crash. Strangely this crash site had been repurposed as a tourist attraction, juxtaposed against the natural beauty of its surroundings.

Climate Change
The Legal Update

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist, has a fair point when she says that adults should start behaving like adults and do something about climate change. In the legal sector, and more broadly in the services sphere, it’s not immediately obvious what we can do in our professional capacity to fight climate change. Unless you’re the GC of Greenpeace working to protect the planet, what are your options? This is why at Obelisk Support, we decided to help lawyers who fight climate change on a daily basis by harnessing the artistic talents of the law.

We are looking for the next Legal Photographer of the Year who can capture the effects of climate change in photographs. Is that you, or somebody you know?

Global Law Photography Competition

Launched on May 1, 2019, the Global Law Photography Competition is open to anybody working in the sector as well as law students and its theme is climate change. Meant to be inclusive, this competition invites all artistic talent in the legal sphere to join forces and put their brains together. That means that non-fee earners including secretaries, IT or operations staff and non-lawyers at law firms can enter the competition just as fee-earning lawyers to win two VIP tickets to Hamilton the Musical in London.

How Do You Capture Climate Change in Photographs?

At SXSW 2019, 2010 Alexia Grant Recipient Louie Palu presented “Arctic Passage”, a series of photographs frozen in large ice blocks. The melting ice blocks gradually revealed photographs shot around the Arctic, illustrating the effects of climate change on Arctic communities.

For the purposes of the Global Law Photography Competition, nobody needs to go to the Arctic or Antarctic to capture the effects of climate change. Sadly, climate change is already all around us. Here are some examples that we can all relate to:

  • Have you noticed your favourite flowers blooming earlier than usual?
  • Did last summer’s drought affect your travels or surrounding landscapes?
  • Have winter floods or storms affected you or people you know?
  • Have you noticed more extreme and changing weather patterns around you?
  • Have you witnessed forest/moor fires in areas where it’s unusual?
  • Are you thinking twice about driving short distances versus cycling or walking?
  • Have you found traveling on public transport uncomfortable because of summer heat waves?
  • Have you spotted invasive non-native plants or insects on your regular walks?
  • Are there less water-dwelling species in rivers, lakes and streams around you?
  • Tick season is now much longer than it was 20 years ago – how do you protect yourself and your house animals?
  • Have you noticed that seasonality of local fruit and vegetables has changed at your farmers market?
  • Do you see new ‘warm climate’ crops such as wine grapes where there used to be none?
  • Have you seen increasing signs of coastal erosion?
  • Have some traditional bird, insect, or mammal species populations around you gone down?
  • Do you eat less meat and dairy to mitigate the carbon footprint of your meals?

These are only a few examples of how climate change affects all of us, whether or not we are realising it.

How will the Global Law Photography Competition help?

The strategy is two-fold.

Fundraising for ClientEarth

For each photograph entered in the competition, ClientEarth will receive a donation from participants.

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect the planet and the people who live on it. They are lawyers and environmental experts who are fighting against climate change and to protect nature and the environment. With the planet in peril, they (and we) believe the law is one of the most effective tools that we have in the battle to save civilisation.

Raising Awareness about Climate Change

By capturing the tangible effects of climate change in photographs, competitors will challenge the status quo and help raise awareness about climate change, thus inspiring others to take steps towards reducing their carbon emissions.

After the competition, the photographs will be used as educational material and provided free of charge (pending artists’ permissions) to school and organisations who educate people on global warming and climate change.

There could be no better result of your artistic skills than to know that they can inspire others to act.

How to Submit your Photographs

Click here and submit your entry before June 1, 2019.

Good luck!

 

 

The Legal Update

With Earth Day 2019 behind us, we are reminded that climate action is not an occasional task; it requires an on-going interrogation of our actions and a commitment to both short and long term changes. We take a look at the legal industry carbon footprint as reported by the Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA) in 2018, and assess the business case and focus points for sustainable strategies.

Efforts to address the legal industry’s carbon footprint and play a part in the response to the global environmental crisis appear to be increasing. On beginning her term Law Society President for 2018-19, Christina Blacklaws declared her focus on sustainability as underpinning the main themes of innovation and technology, equality and diversity for her term in office.

LSA Carbon Report

Meanwhile, in the LSA’s 2018 annual Carbon Report, there has been a large increase in firms joining and declaring carbon footprint. Between 2017 and 2018, the alliance welcomed 31 new member firms, an increase of nearly 30%. Of the law firms that have been reporting regularly since 2008, figures show a 56% reduction in their combined carbon footprint and a 39% reduction in the average per capita emissions.

Carbon footprints are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). CO2e is calculated by multiplying the emissions of each of the six greenhouse gases by its 100 year global warming potential (GWP). As an example, the average person in the UK emits around 12.1 tCO2e per annum.

The total carbon footprint of all law firms reporting to the LSA was 191,836 tCO2e — with an average figure of 3.24 tCO2e per employee — an 11% reduction since 2017 and 21% reduction on the 2016 figure.

Over the past three years, paper use by reporting firms has reduced by 9% from a total of 4676 tonnes in 2016 to 4249 tonnes in 2017, suggesting that there is still work to be done to get firms to increase their use of digital documentation.

Another area for improvement was carbon emissions associated with water used, significantly increasing from 690 tCO2e in 2017 to 1712 tCO2e in 2018, but this was largely due to 12 more firms reported their usage (like for like shows almost identical usage in 2017 and 2018). Carbon associated with waste produced by reporting firms had also increased by 23%, again due to more firms reporting to the LSA.

Becoming Carbon Neutral

Most recently, Thomson Reuters declared their Earth Day commitment to becoming carbon neutral. In a recent press release, the organisation announced goals to become carbon neutral in 2019 and to convert to 100% renewable energy usage globally by 2020.

Thomson Reuters has undertaken a carbon offset strategy which is geographically informed by its global footprint. As a result, the carbon offsets will have positive impacts worldwide in major markets that the company operates, including Brazil, Canada, India, and the U.S.

“Not only is it the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, but it’s what employees and customers are asking us to do,” said Stephane Bello, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Thomson Reuters. “As a global organisation, we have a shared responsibility to do business in ways that respect, protect, and benefit our customers, employees, communities, and environment.”

Seeing a company like Thomson Reuters lead the charge and be ambitious in its timelines and targets, shows us that there is no excuse for companies – no matter their size – to ignore their responsibilities to the environment in which they make their profits.

The Business Case for Sustainability

As the environmental crisis and its global effects become more urgently apparent, we are becoming more conscious of our day to day waste and energy usage as individuals and as collective organisations. However, it has always made business sense to prioritise sustainability and resource efficiency. Corporate social and environmental responsibility is not a new concept, with public scrutiny of practices relating to waste management, pollution and labour conditions making or breaking the reputations of corporations.

According to a 2015 report on sustainability and business performance from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, 88% of research shows that solid Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) practices result in better operational performance. Companies are also reported to perform better on stock markets by 80% of studies.

The LSA sets out its own business case for cutting the legal industry carbon footprint. It states that having a carbon footprint and management plan is a good way to highlight hotspots where resources are being consumed and cost saving can be achieved. This also provides an opportunity to engage with new generations of lawyers – who prioritise ethical and environmental concerns when choosing companies to associate with – helping to bring forward new ideas for organisational innovation and transformative leadership that goes beyond meeting minimum carbon targets.

Creating Sustainable Strategies

Whether as an individual, small or large firm, it’s important to develop a dedicated strategy for reducing carbon footprints. Think about your working patterns – travel, energy consumption, resource usage – what areas need most attention?

For example, moving towards paperless working can save on paper, couriers and storage. Already paperless? Great! See where you can you cut down on energy consumption – employing energy saving measures, such as reducing unnecessary devices and utilising switch-off and downtime settings, can more than offset increasing energy costs in your offices.

Crucially, flexible working also plays a significant role in energy efficiency – better implementation of flexible and remote working policies have been shown to help to reduce office energy consumption, and lowers individual carbon footprint related to work travel. When working flexibly, as an individual it’s up to you to keep your work as green as possible at home. Take a look at these tips from a previous Attic article on working sustainably from home, and remember small changes make a big difference.

It’s also important to look beyond your organisation. Look at switching to renewable energy suppliers and other sustainability-focused suppliers of resources. Research other recycling, public transport and cycle schemes in the local community that you can take part in – the more events and sustainability focus communities you connect with, the more knowhow you will gain for better strategic implementation.

The bottom line is: it takes collaborative action, and sharing of information and ideas at all levels to change the way we do business and reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

 

The Legal Update

The Attic recently spoke with Jasper Teulings, general counsel of Greenpeace International in Amsterdam. With a team of 10 lawyers spread across the world, Jasper Teulings takes on immense legal challenges that combine not only legal expertise but something rarely seen in the private sector – a will to break down silos between NGOs, the public and academia to foster active collaboration on topics that affect us all. Here he gives us a fascinating in-depth insight into working in the nonprofit sector at the most famous name in environmental conservation.

Tell us about the legal department of Greenpeace…

I manage a team of 10 lawyers at Greenpeace International, the international coordinating body for the global Greenpeace network, with independent national or regional offices covering 55 countries.

My team comprises of a number of specialists with expertise on international law, maritime law, human rights, media law, and Dutch law (as we are based in the Netherlands). We provide legal services to Greenpeace International first and foremost at a strategic and operational level, and we also provide legal support to our national offices at a strategic level. Less than half of these offices have some form of in-house legal capacity but we collaborate with them frequently, or with the national office’s external counsel, and with pro bono firms and law clinics. As general counsel I support the team and focus on key risks and opportunities. The team works on the full spectrum of legal work conceivable in the NGO sector.

What’s a typical day like?

It’s typical that there isn’t a typical day! Our work falls into three key areas, which we have named Sword, Shield and Armour: which translates as strategic litigation, strategic defense and organisational legal support respectively. The first two are rather Greenpeace-specific and the last one is what one would expect from an in-house legal function anywhere. The work is truly global.

#1 Strategic litigation – Sword

This is the most important aspect of our work. You could find us developing a legal case to protect the Amazon against destructive industries, or organising a case conference on climate litigation. Most of our strategic litigation work is in the realm of climate litigation, supporting our local Greenpeace organisations and their allies.

For instance recently, Greenpeace Netherlands joined a case brought by Friends of the Earth against Shell in which the court is asked to make Shell align with the Paris climate agreement. You could also find us filing a securities complaint against the lack of disclosure of climate risk in relation to a coal plant or oil pipeline, or we could be discussing the fiduciary duties of pension funds to divest from fossil fuel. It’s an incredibly dynamic field we’re fortunate enough to be at the forefront of, in support of our society’s much needed transition to renewable energy.

#2 Strategic defense – Shield

In terms of strategic defense, you would see us engaging with a case in Strasbourg in front of the European Court of Human Rights. We have one case pending at this instance, on behalf of the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were unlawfully arrested and detained by Russia following a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic waters.

We could be working with allies and academics, on a general comment of the article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of assembly together with allies – that’s more legal advocacy work. Or we are managing pending litigation against us. We have two rather bizarre cases in the US based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, one brought by Resolute Forest Products (read more about it here), a logging company in Canada, and another one by Energy Transfer, an oil company from Texas. Both companies were represented by Trump’s go-to law firm, who argued Greenpeace’s environmental advocacy amounts to a criminal enterprise. To be clear: both cases relate to pure speech activities (reports, tweets etc.), and both lack any form of legal merit. As such they classify as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) – a form of legal intimidation increasingly deployed by corporations against public watchdogs.

The first case was dismissed by a San Francisco court as a SLAPP on 22 January 2019 (for the second time) and the second was fully dismissed by a North Dakota court on 14 February 2019, which held that “donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise”. But we don’t expect we’ve seen the last of these bogus claims.

For us, it’s not just about ensuring we’ve got the best legal defense. These are PR attacks as much as they are legal attacks, and civil society needs to bolster its resilience against them. We are therefore a founding member of a coalition of civil society actors in the US called Protect the Protest, which aims to build resilience against SLAPPs. In that coalition, we partner with EarthRights International, ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom of the Press Foundation and many others.

#3 Legal support – Armour

In the context of our Armour work, some of my team members may be reviewing a contract, looking into compliance issues, or supporting colleagues at Greenpeace India against a barrage of bureaucratic attacks, which are a direct consequence of Greenpeace India’s campaigns to protect the climate and the forests. This is part of a broader attack on civic space in India, which has forced Greenpeace India to let go of part of its staff. Unfortunately, NGOs face increasing civic space constraints in many countries nowadays; there is degree of crisis management in dealing with these matters. We simultaneously have to fight for space to operate in countries with democratically-challenged governments, and deal with large corporations with vested interests abusing the legal system to suppress criticism. Those are fights I’d rather not have to fight. I would prefer to focus exclusively on advancing our environmental goals.

What’s your background?

Before joining Greenpeace International as general counsel in 2004, I was in private practice in the Netherlands for 10 years. After graduation from Amsterdam University and the University of Canterbury, I clerked at the Amsterdam Court of Appeals and then became a member of the Dutch Bar. I worked in various law firms in commercial litigation, civil litigation and media law, mostly representing media.

In addition to the work I do for Greenpeace International, I sit on the (Supervisory) Board of EarthRights International and SOMO, two NGOs whose work I really admire. And I am on the Advisory Board of the University of Amsterdam’s Law School. These roles enrich my views and allow me to share our experiences and networks as wide as possible. I also regularly give guest lectures at universities, something I really enjoy.

What about your team?

I am very fortunate to have an excellent team of specialists. Their expertise is tailored towards the needs of a global NGO: international law, human rights, environmental law, media law, maritime law, etc. They hold a range of nationalities and qualifications. A good number are members of US bars, and we have two UK barristers, and some Dutch-trained lawyers.

The people in my team are mostly based in Amsterdam, but also in Copenhagen and Colorado. Greenpeace International has around 250 staff, 100 of whom are based in Amsterdam. The global Greenpeace network has close to 4000 staff, based in one of the 27 independent National or Regional Offices, covering 55 countries. Fortunately, working globally nowadays is much easier. We have excellent video conferencing facilities, collaborative web-based tools and remote working facilities to keep our carbon footprint and expenses as low as possible.

What are your biggest challenges?

That has to be the urgency of the issues we deal with.

According to the most recent IPCC Report on Climate Change, the next decade is critical if we are to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which in turn is needed to keep global temperature rise within 1.5C. At the same time, we see biodiversity loss rapidly increasing. These are tremendous challenges for humanity. Strategic litigation can play a key role in supporting our campaigns against climate change and biodiversity loss. Fortunately, there is an increased appreciation for this work and we are hopeful that we will be able to expand opportunities in the near future.

How do you prepare for the future in the legal sector?

While we do use a lot of collaborative web-based tools, we don’t really use legal tech; not as much as legal departments in the commercial sector. It comes down to the fact that within my team there is no bulk work – it’s all tailor-made. The work we do is highly specialised work that requires independent assessment of each case or matter, and that’s what makes it exciting.

Our imperative is to keep identifying the best legal instruments and tactics to advance our organisation’s environmental goals. I encourage my team to actively build networks to help us in our work. They contribute to academic research, they publish, and they sit on other charities’ boards.

#1 Landmark Cases as Building Blocks

In our strategic litigation work, we try to create landmark cases that act as global building blocks to advance environmental and human rights interests. A significant climate change victory in one jurisdiction, while it does not have precedential value in the strictest sense elsewhere, often has significant moral authority in other jurisdictions. There’s a famous Philippines Supreme Court ruling – Oposa v Factoran – that recognises the rights of future generations. This landmark case has served as an inspiration in our own Norwegian constitutional challenge, and also in the famous Urgenda case in the Netherlands, as well as in pending climate cases in the US, such as Juliana v United States.

We try to identify such building blocks across the globe and see how they can be translated into local contexts and act as inspiration for judicial audacity. Where governments and corporations fail to meet their duty towards society and nature, courts intervene. For us as a legal team, identification and dissemination of these building blocks is an essential part of our work.

#2 Thinking Outside the NGO Box

We have seen a convergence of issues that requires us, as lawyers, to transcend traditional boundaries between environmental law and human rights. Climate change is increasingly seen as human rights issue. This allows us to strengthen bonds with other NGOs dealing with these issues. We are partnering with Amnesty when it comes to climate emergencies. On civic space, we work with NGOs that strengthen fundamental rights such as peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Breaking down the silos in the NGO sector is a highly-needed development and very welcome.

#3 Harnessing Support for Legal Action

The third axis of future development is how to harness the massive popular support for legal action. Over half a million people have supported our case against the Norwegian government and the recent case by Oxfam and Greenpeace against the French government generated over two million signatories in a couple of weeks. These are important indicators of public interest for the judiciary and politicians. How do you make that point come across – should these individuals become individual plaintiffs like Friends of the Earth has been doing? In the Norwegian case, we submitted the signatures of half a million people as evidence of popular support for our case – prompting the judiciary to take its duty and act where governments and corporations are failing to act.

How might Brexit impact the day-to-day running of Greenpeace International?

Greenpeace International is a Dutch foundation so the impact should be minimal. Two UK lawyers on my team are working from Amsterdam, but I gather from colleagues at UK-based NGOs that they are concerned about the potential disruption – they may at some point join the exodus of talent from the UK to the continent. On the broader political level, it’s a worrying sign of nationalism at a time when we need more multilateralism to address global problems. You simply cannot address these complex issues at a national level alone – international collaboration will always be key.

What does 2019 have in store for Greenpeace?

We expect a tidal wave of climate litigation, especially as there is a growing popular concern about the lack of public action, as an expression of the need to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I expect this type of litigation to involve both governments and increasingly, corporations. More governments will be compelled to ramp up their regulatory efforts and more fossil fuel companies will face legal challenges regarding their long term strategies.

We are also expecting increased scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry from the financial sector. Is it still responsible to invest in fossil fuels? Are climate risks adequately disclosed as material risks? What is the role of the accounting sector, of rating agencies? Are they overstating the values of stocks of fossil fuel companies? It’s not just Greenpeace that’s looking at these issues. The Bank of England and other central banks have stated that climate change is a ‘mega risk’ and requires increased regulation of the banking and insurance sectors. The European Commission is setting the agenda on sustainable finance; we are monitoring developments closely.

What are the best things about working for the world’s most famous environmental advocates?

I’m in the enviable position to work with extremely smart and dedicated people. One of the huge advantages of working for Greenpeace is the ability to attract and retain incredible talent – it’s much easier than in commercial practice, even if the pay is incomparable. There are few legal jobs in the NGO sector and there is an overwhelming interest from the legal profession. People want to work for values rather than for profit.

The name Greenpeace opens a lot of doors in the legal world. We have strong ties with academia and work with law clinics at Yale, NorthWestern, Harvard, and the Amsterdam Law Schools. Take the case we have pending in Norway, a constitutional challenge against oil exploration in the Arctic. For this, we’ve had support of the Yale Human Rights law clinic in the form of an amicus brief. We have also welcomed amicus curiae briefs and expert witnesses in our Philippines human rights case, which looks into the accountability of the carbon majors for the human rights implications of climate change. As you see, academic collaboration is very important to us.

We also increasingly get support from large firms when it comes to pro bono legal support on various issues. I think there’s still room for improvement there but yes, it certainly helps to work for a global name like Greenpeace. In the past some of the larger firms have declined to work pro bono for us out of a perceived business conflict, for fear of losing out on business opportunities from the fossil fuel industry. However, the tide is turning and law firms increasingly take their own responsibility when it comes to human rights and climate change issues. They embrace the ‘do no harm’ principle and are more actively supporting NGOs. I see that as a positive development.

What advice would you have for a young environmental/human rights lawyer?

As said, there are few legal jobs in the NGO sector and competition is fierce. People who find jobs have a demonstrable track record that shows their professional skills as well as their commitment through causes. Young lawyers should build up experience through internships and hone their skills in private practice. I still think there is no better place to become a lawyer than at a law firm, but there are other places too where lawyers can build up their skills in a very demanding professional context.

Of course, you have to realise that there is no way to compete with the commercial sector in terms of salaries. It is always a dilemma for experienced lawyers. If they are in the commercial for too long, it turns into a golden cage. Work in private practice for as long as is needed to build your skills but don’t wait too long or you might get trapped. Alternatively, if you are in private practice and you do want to support the work that we do at NGOs, offer your services pro bono,  or serve on a board.

No one here doubts that the issues that we work on are acutely relevant for the future of our planet and for humanity as a whole. Climate change, biodiversity loss – if you are able to make a contribution towards addressing those threats; that is incredibly rewarding. No amount of money can match that. As a lawyer, it doesn’t get much better.

You can follow Greenpeace’s work on their website, on LinkedIn. If you have aspirations to join them, Greenpeace welcomes internships, and has a very strong intern talent pool. Greenpeace also welcome pro bono support. The bottom line is, you don’t have to work in an NGO to help protect the climate – there are lots of great opportunities for lawyers who want to work for good and not just for money.

The Legal Update

Be they lawyers by day, legal superheroes by night or pro bono lawyers who are passionate about making the world a better place – each and every one of the lawyers below deserve recognition for outstanding legal efforts in their community and beyond. Most of them were nominated by colleagues, others by clients or by work partners. After our inaugural list of lawyers who are changing the world in 2018, the 2019 list is heavy on lawyers who deal with urgent crises threatening our society and our planet – climate change tops the list of urgent battles to be fought, but social mobility and diversity aren’t very far behind.

We could not include all the nominations but thank all of you who contacted us to recognise exceptional lawyers; we are in awe of the impressive nominations we received. Without further ado, here is the 2019 list of lawyers who are changing the world for the better.

Piya Muqit

Legal aid lawyer, Hong Kong

Lawyers who are changing the world

The executive director of the Justice Centre, a local non-profit organisation providing legal support to asylum-seekers in Hong Kong, Piya Muqit is the daughter of economic migrants who fled Bangladesh during the 1971 civil war to start a new life in Scotland. After serving as the head of policy and advocacy at UNICEF UK as well as senior legal adviser at Freedom From Torture, Piya Muqit raises awareness on issues concerning refugees in Hong Kong and presses for fairer legislation and policies. Her ambition is to expand the organisation into a regional NGO leader in human rights.

Victoria Anderson

Commercial lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Victoria Anderson is a solicitor in London who is passionate about education and diversity in the legal profession. After volunteering as a group leader for a student project at City Law School about social mobility and helping their local community, the project became a charity called Big Voice and she became CEO of Big Voice London. This social mobility charity seeks to engage young people from non-traditional backgrounds in law and legal policy. Big Voice London runs projects for young people each year, including: a Mooting Competition and introduction to the legal system in association with the UK Supreme Court, a summer school discussing growing topics of law, the country’s only Model Law Commission, plus seminars, workshops and lectures.

Rebecca Perlman

Pro bono lawyer, London (UK)

Blending business focus and corporate social responsibility, Rebecca Perlman’s job is to fight poverty and inequality – literally. While most law firms offer pro bono work to their lawyers as a side hustle, Rebecca Perlman harnessed her firm’s corporate connections and global reach to transform its pro bono work into a profit centre by supporting government and NGO initiatives in developing countries. She is also the director of the African Commercial Law Foundation, a trustee of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, a member of Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty Steering Committee, co-founder of the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network, and a member of the European Banks Alliance Against Human Trafficking Expert Working Group.

Angela Hayes

White collar criminal lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

For a decade, Angela Hayes has provided invaluable pro bono support to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). This international NGO fights environmental crimes by conducting detailed investigations into activities such as illegal logging and wildlife trafficking, and by publishing its findings as reports. Angela Hayes, partner at a global law firm, plays a vital role reviewing these materials for potential defamation action. On the few occasions when EIA reports are challenged, Angela has given rapid and effective advice on how to respond, thereby ensuring the situation is resolved without developing into formal legal challenges (such as EIA being sued for libel). EIA’s investigations and reports make a demonstrable impact in curtailing environmental crime, for example triggering the recent arrest of major ivory tusk traffickers by the Chinese authorities.

Chris Daw

Fraud, regulatory and criminal barrister, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Social mobility is not often associated with barristers in the United Kingdom. After starring in a film on access to the profession for The One Show, Chris Daw became a role model for aspiring barristers from non-traditional backgrounds. By speaking up on social mobility, becoming a mentor and setting a mentoring campaign, he has made a real difference for lawyers from ‘ordinary’ backgrounds who thought they would never succeed in the legal profession.

Lauree Coci

Dispute lawyer, Perth (Australia)

Lawyers who are changing the world

In addition to being pro bono coordinator in the Perth office of her firm, Lauree Coci was recognised for her professional excellence and contribution to the legal profession and wider community at the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards in 2018. She was an early advocate for anti-slavery legislation in Australia, assisting Walk Free Foundation with submissions to the parliamentary inquiry and making recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Department to shape the Modern Slavery Act that came into effect in January 2019.

Sonya Bedford

Energy lawyer, Exeter (UK)

A partner and head of energy at her law firm, Sonya Bedford is passionate about renewable energies. Believing that renewable energy can take the UK to energy independence, she has been recognised for her renewable energy efforts in the southwest of England as a Community Energy Champion at the Community Energy Awards, Energy Champion at the Energy Institute Awards and Environmental Champion at the Devon Environmental Business Initiative Awards. From climbing wind turbines to supporting her village in going Carbon Zero, to hosting Facebook Live sessions and decorating her local green area in Exeter with mini windmills, her aim is to continuously raise awareness of climate change. She established the UK’s first grid consortium and grid sharing agreements for communities, and in 2018 was awarded an MBE for services to community energy.

Jennifer Chika Okafor

Lawyer, UK/Nigeria

Lawyers who are changing the world

Jennifer Chika Okafor is a solicitor who regularly offers her services free of charge to people within the African community. She has taken on many institutions and individuals and won on a paid or pro bono basis. Jenny is a Women’s rights advocate and activist. She is the founder of the Nigerian Women in Diaspora Leadership Forum (NWDLF), a group which helps women realise and utilise their leadership potential. Jenny is currently concentrating on women and girls rights issues with the aim of assisting them in finding their places in society early in life without fear and minimum difficulties. Under her leadership, the NWDLF has spearheaded the fight against child marriages in Nigeria.

Carroll Muffett

President and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, Washington D.C. (USA)

Lawyers who are changing the world

A recognised expert on the international law of wildlife and timber trade, Carroll Muffett is an outspoken advocate for the environment and has authored numerous articles and textbook chapters on national and international environmental policy and on the trade and environment debate. CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, a nonprofit organisation that uses the power of law to protect the environment, he is a leading voice in holding corporations accountable for climate change.

Sophie Marjanac

Company and financial/climate damage lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Passionate about the power of the law to protect people and the environment, Sophie Marjanac is project lead, Climate Accountability, for ClientEarth and was previously a senior lawyer in Australia where she specialised in environmental and planning law. She has also worked in the remote Torres Strait region, where she undertook litigation, negotiation and advocacy on behalf of Indigenous Australian landowners. At ClientEarth, she works on novel climate litigation strategies around the world with a particular focus on the risks of climate change to private actors and the intersection of environmental and corporate law.

Roda Verheyen

Environmental lawyer, Hamburg (Germany)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Specialising in environmental and international law, Roda Verheyen is a champion of climate justice in Germany. In 2002, she co-founded the Climate Justice Programme to support climate-related litigation worldwide. In 2017, she represented a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saul Luciano Lliuya in an appeal to the high regional court of Hamm against energy giant RWE (they won). In order to hold authorities accountable for climate change, she seeks compensation or stronger climate action through the courts and currently represents ten families in a lawsuit against EU institutions, dubbed the People’s Climate Case. She will argue in the European General Court that the EU must adopt a more ambitious 2030 climate target to defend their human rights – drawing on the UN assessment of the science.

Congratulations to the 2019 cohort – they are absolutely amazing and inspiring!