The Global Climate Action Summit at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, nine large law firms announced Friday that they would deliver $15 million in free legal services within the next two years in order to advance sustainability around the world.

Seven firms—Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, Cooley, Dentons, Holland & Knight, Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati—said they would contribute $2 million apiece by 2020. Two others, Hogan Lovells and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, will contribute $500,000 each.

The new initiative, called Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, sought to honor the work of the late Nancy McFadden, an attorney and former chief of staff to California Gov. Jerry Brown, a longtime environmental advocate and outspoken opponent of the Trump administration. McFadden had assisted Brown on a number of efforts designed to combat climate change, including putting together the Global Climate Action Summit.

“Today’s announcement is a perfect example of how Nancy makes it possible for our ability to continue the work that has to be done to save our environment,“ said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in Friday’s press conference in which he praised the firms’ commitment. “It is important that we recognize that there are people who sometimes don’t have the capabilities to fight for themselves, for their community and their environment. The fact that we come together as one team to say that everyone can have that opportunity, to make the fight and to win, is critical.”

Under the program, the participating firms will provide millions in free legal assistance to nonprofits and businesses working on climate and sustainability issues such as energy, transportation and land use. Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy and Stanford Law School, which will help incubate the initiative, will also participate in the program by connecting firms with potential pro bono clients and tracking their progress.

California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Essentially, what it is, is a team of fighters from some of our best law firms with our most capable and skilled attorneys, who come together with the resource their firms bring to make sure that there is no one who goes into a fight with his [or] her hands tied behind their back,” Becerra said.

Attorneys general from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C., have also voiced their support for the potential impact created by the nine firms’ commitment.

Lawyers participating in the program will provide a range of legal services to pro bono clients, including counsel on contracts, corporate governance, incorporation, intellectual property protection, litigation, real estate, regulatory and financial-related issues. Participating lawyers will act voluntarily in a manner consistent with their own firms’ own pro bono, conflicts rules and policies.

“One of the exciting things about this pro bono program for us will be working with some of the entrepreneurs and nonprofits as they seek to establish greater inroads with traditional organizations,” said Susan Mac Cormac, chair of Morrison & Foerster’s social enterprise and impact investing practice, as well as co-chair of its energy and clean technology group.

As part of the initiative, Morrison & Foerster is partnering with Aclima Inc., a San Francisco-based company that uses its network of sensors to gather data about air quality for businesses, governments and the public to better understand pollution on a hyper-local scale.

Davida Herzl, who was trained as a lawyer, founded Aclima in 2008. She said her company is working with Morrison & Foerster to expand their work into communities, such as environmental justice and impact groups, that need their data. Morrison & Foerster also assists the company on corporate matters.

“The initiative that was announced today makes available a number of legal services,“ Herzl said. “As our needs evolved, there will be different lawyers and law firms in the group that can work with us to solve some [of] those challenges as they come along.“

The groups are being paired up by Grist, which curates and cultivates a network of community-based “Fixers.” That helped some participating firms identify individuals and organizations working on sustainability solutions.

“This pro bono legal aid will give a major boost to people who are fighting pollution,“ said a statement from Brown. “This program is a fitting tribute to Nancy McFadden, who was a trailblazing attorney and fearless advocate for the environment.“

The Global Climate Action Summit was supposed to bring together business leaders, mayors, governors and activists to introduce new solutions and deeper commitments to sustainability. However, throughout the three-day gathering, protesters have interrupted the proceedings, calling upon local and world leaders to do more to address climate change and pollution.

Brown’s speech was also disrupted by a group of activists demanding that he bring an end to the extraction and processing of fossil fuel in California.

Leaders from each participating firm explain their decision to take part in the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy initiative:

“At Arnold & Porter, our longstanding commitment to public service and pro bono work is key to who we are, including in the areas of sustainability and conservation,” said Brian Israel, chair of the firm’s environmental practice group. “We are especially proud of our pro bono representation of the National Parks Conservation Association, an organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing America’s National Parks for present and future generations. We are honored to serve as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, an innovative and collaborative approach to supporting sustainability initiatives.”
“As a firm that strives to give generously of our time, talents and resources to the communities in which we practice, Cooley is truly honored to be a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said pro bono partner Maureen Alger. “We have a long tradition of providing pro bono services to those of limited means and working to expand access to justice. We also leverage our deep knowledge of corporate law to assist low-income entrepreneurs and great environmental nonprofit organizations. We’re eager to further expand our environmental commitments to include more support for entrepreneurs whose innovative companies are helping to advance a more sustainable economy.”
“Dentons is extremely proud to join this effort as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said pro bono partner Benjamin Weinberg. “We are grateful for this opportunity to combine our long-standing commitment to pro bono and cutting-edge innovation to help solve one of the world’s most pressing issues. No one firm can do this alone, and we are all stronger when we join forces with like-minded firms to achieve a sustainable economic future. At Dentons, our goal is to help deliver a more sustainable world to the next generation.”
“Hogan Lovells is honored to have been asked to serve as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said pro bono partner T. Clark Weymouth. “We look forward to providing pro bono legal support to the nation’s entrepreneurs, non-profits and grassroots organizations that are committed to developing innovative advancements in climate sustainability. Tackling these tough issues today will create real and lasting impact in communities all over the world for generations to come.”
“Holland & Knight is proud to be one of the founding members of the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy and is committed to providing pro bono services to advance sustainability projects by 2020,” said Buddy Schulz, chair of the firm’s public and charitable service department. “Our Energy and Natural Resources Industry Sector Group has long been a supporter in advancing renewable energy projects, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Global Climate Action Summit to advance this important global initiative.”


“Latham & Watkins is committed to donating free legal services to the communities where we live and work,” said firm vice chair Ora Fisher. “We are proud to join other founding members of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy to use our skills in the service of helping organizations that seek to create a more sustainable world.”
“We are not only among the top firms in the country in terms of pro bono commitment—providing considerable services to, and serving on the boards of, CERES, BSR, TNC and other critical voices shaping global action on climate change—we have also been leaders in impact investment and sustainability since 2001,” said MoFo’s Suz Mac Cormac. “We help our company and investor clients promote social and environmental values while seeking financial returns, specializing in crafting creative and viable mainstream capital market solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Our lawyers are passionate about this mission and look forward to expanding our pro bono commitment.”
“We at WilmerHale are proud to be a founding member of LSE and support its mission to increase the odds for success of innovative entrepreneurs with a vision for a more sustainable future,” said Andrew Spielman, chair of the firm’s of the energy, environment and natural resources practice.
“As a founding member, WSGR is committed to LSE’s success and inspired by its mission,” said Wilson Sonsini corporate partner Robert O’Connor, who also serves as a member of the board for the WSGR Foundation. “We’re also proud to join Attorney General Becerra and the many others supporting this important cause.”