Call to action
Responding to those affected by the war in Ukraine
In a year of geopolitical turmoil, environmental disasters and threats to human rights, we leveraged the full spectrum of our capabilities to help address the challenges of our time.
The Firm and our people supported those affected by the war in Ukraine in multiple ways—giving financial support to charities working on the ground, organizing donation drives for emergency relief provisions, providing pro bono advice to refugees and even opening their homes to those escaping the conflict. Elsewhere, we helped refugees from Afghanistan evacuate and resettle in safer countries.
In the wake of natural disasters such as the catastrophic floods in Australia, our lawyers helped families rebuild their homes and lives. We also helped tackle long-term issues, through research on carbon rights and climate change.
In the United States, our lawyers fought for the human rights of prisoners and women: challenging the use of long-term solitary confinement and helping to develop a unique database tracking rapidly changing reproductive healthcare laws in all 50 US states.
A long-term pillar of our pro bono work has been educating and empowering the next generation of legal leaders around the world. We celebrated important milestones in two projects we support: the inaugural graduating class of Bhutan’s first and only law school and the fifth anniversary of the African Centre on Law & Ethics.
This review tells these stories and more about the ways our people donated their time, knowledge and expertise to make a positive impact on their communities and the world in 2022.
Responding to those affected by the war in Ukraine
Rebuilding houses and lives following the Australia floods
Helping refugees fleeing from Afghanistan
Protecting prisoners from the harms of long-term solitary confinement
Fighting to obtain just compensation for our client who was wrongfully convicted of murder
Improving access to justice for children
Providing access to executive clemency for women and other vulnerable groups
Building on our long history of reproductive rights pro bono work
Identifying legal frameworks for developing countries to address climate change
Free speech victory benefits endangered gray wolves
Facilitating green and blue bonds in Africa
Marking a milestone for Bhutan’s first law school
Supporting the African Centre on Law & Ethics as it trains law students and practitioners from across the continent
Deepening client relationships and boosting associates' skills
Pro bono matters from each of our offices
A conversation with Jacquelyn MacLennan, EU competition and trade law partner, Global Pro Bono Practice Leader (2015 – 2022) and Business & Human Rights Interest Group member
Law firms have traditionally given back to society through pro bono work, which often includes matters that support the environment, a more equitable society and good corporate citizenship. It’s not surprising, therefore, that with the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, these concepts sometimes overlap.
To learn more about the difference between ESG and pro bono, we spoke with Jacquelyn MacLennan. An edited and condensed version of that conversation follows.
Q: Why is ESG important to our clients?
A: A focus on ESG criteria enables businesses and governments to allocate resources and invest responsibly, emphasizing sustainability, people and ethics—both in their own operations and their supply chains. Increased stakeholder pressure and regulatory requirements are placing ESG front and center for all businesses.
Q: What is our approach to ESG?
A: Our Responsible Business Working Group identifies and addresses ESG risks for the Firm. While we help our clients navigate ESG developments and requirements, we are also part of our clients’ supply chains. They request information from us so we need to have our own house in order. We are also signatories to the UN Global Compact, which requires us to report annually against human rights criteria. Our Environmental Sustainability Report shares our progress in reducing our environmental footprint.
Q: What is the relationship between ESG and pro bono?
A: We see these as two distinct areas but complementary and sometimes in lockstep with each other. Our pro bono work is much wider in scope than ESG but, of course, includes matters falling under the ESG framework. All our lawyers are encouraged to do pro bono work, and some are specialists in ESG areas. Members of our pro bono team are part of our ESG and Sustainability and Business & Human Rights groups, supporting institutional knowledge and information sharing. Certainly, the impact of our pro bono work can be viewed, along with reporting on our responsible business operations, as part of our commitment to high ESG standards in the global citizenship role we have as a Firm. But pro bono is not ESG, and vice versa.
Q: What trends do you see emerging for ESG and for pro bono?
A: ESG regulation and legislation are increasing at a very fast pace. This is going to standardize ESG and require it to be embedded into business practices. Business cannot ignore ESG—and as a result our ESG work is going to grow.
Our pro bono work is also going to grow. We face an economic downturn in which we can predict that funding legal services for individuals of limited means will not increase; racial injustice will continue; and the migrant crisis and the repercussions of climate change will spread. Our commitment to providing access to justice and serving organizations with an environmental and societal mission will continue. Our pro bono work will respond to these major issues with an increased focus on rapid response and greater levels of collaboration between law firms and between NGOs and local legal providers.
In my view, young lawyers will continue to choose to work for firms such as White & Case that are engaged in ESG work and committed to pro bono.
Photo by © James Cannon Photography
The “Cycling through the Trees” bicycle path in the forest of Bosland, Belgium.