Climate change demands solicitors’ attention


New guidance for NSW solicitors urges them to consider an ‘evolving duty of care’ owed to their clients to provide advice regarding a legal problem which meaningfully addresses any climate change issues and related consequences.

President of the Law Society of NSW Brett McGrath said the guidance, to be launched this evening, outlines for solicitors the key principles that apply when considering how climate-related legal risks may impact client advice, the solicitor-client relationship, and the interaction of climate change with legal advice and solicitors’ professional duties.

“The legal profession has both the opportunity and obligation to ensure that clients have the benefit of advice that will assist them to deal with the physical, regulatory and liability risks associated with climate change,” Mr McGrath said.

“As the guidance document says, ultimately ‘climate-related risks will affect most clients and nearly all areas of legal practice. For this reason, this guidance is relevant to all members of the Law Society’.”

The guidance document entitled Legal Implications of Climate Change is the product of months of work and research by the Law Society’s Climate Change Working Group.

Mr McGrath said the document provides a useful guide for solicitors on the legal issues associated with climate change and its impacts.

“Solicitors are duty bound to act in the best interests of their clients and to deliver legal services competently and diligently. The provision of advice around climate change risks is therefore a natural consequence of solicitors’ professional standards and legal ethics,” Mr McGrath said.

“The Law Society is committed to assisting solicitors to be informed, skilled and ready to assist clients on climate change-related legal matters, within their areas of skill and competence. We can’t avoid the novel and complex questions of law that the effects of climate change will raise across the spectrum of legal practice.”

The guidance document is designed to assist solicitors to adapt to this changing landscape, as increased regulations, litigation risk, public scrutiny and reputational risk impact clients of all sizes and across all industries.

Mr McGrath expressed gratitude to the Law Society’s Climate Change Working Group, along with the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of England and Wales, whose work was important to informing this guidance for NSW solicitors.

Damien Smith | Director, Media and Public Relations
The Law Society of New South Wales

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