Oct 9, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Big law firms are facing new climate pressure from students

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Activists say they'll deliver on Friday signatures from more than 600 law students pledging to boycott the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison unless it ditches Exxon as a client.

Why it matters: It signals the evolving tactics of climate advocates. Another example of the widening scope are campaigns in recent years to pressure tech giants over their emissions and work with oil companies.

  • Paul Weiss ranks poorly in a climate scorecard of big firms released this month by the new group Law Students for Climate Accountability.
  • The signatures being delivered today come from students at over 45 schools, the group said.
  • Harvard and Yale law students protested at Paul Weiss recruitment events in January and February.

The other side: Paul Weiss, in a statement to news outlets around the Yale protests, said, "We are proud of the outstanding work we do for a wide range of commercial and pro bono clients in their most challenging and high-profile matters, including our recent defense of ExxonMobil in a securities fraud case in which the court found, after trial, that plaintiff’s claims were entirely without merit."

The intrigue: Some firms are taking notice of how they're perceived by students coming into the profession.

  • This month, Cozen O’Connor and Wilson Sonsini posted statements noting they're among only four firms with "A" grades in the Law Students for Climate Accountability scorecard.
Go deeper