Twenty-two leading global law firms, including Australia’s leading independent law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, announced today the launch of the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Association (BHRLA).

The BHRLA is established to inspire and advance business and human rights leadership, learning, collaboration and practice among commercial law firms and business lawyers around the world.

The BHRLA will be dedicated to the principle that business has a responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). It will promote and support action by lawyers around the world to advise commercial clients on human rights risks and opportunities associated with business activities.

The responsibility to respect human rights entails more than merely refraining from committing or being complicit in human rights abuse. It means that business enterprises should seek to prevent, mitigate and address human rights impacts with which they may be involved through their own operations and activities, and their business relationships. In practice, this includes implementing considered human rights due diligence processes as well as processes to enable remediation in appropriate cases. Many major global businesses – as well as an increasing number of smaller and medium-sized enterprises – embrace this responsibility.

Commenting on the launch, BHRLA co-chair Rae Lindsay, partner at Clifford Chance said: “The formation of this Association is both timely and overdue. There is a need to accelerate the dissemination of good practice in the field of business and human rights across the commercial legal profession globally. We encourage lawyers around the world to join and support the Association's ambitions.”

Co-chair Douglass Cassel, counsel at King & Spalding added: “The formation of the Association reflects a commitment by 22 of the world's leading law firms to ensure topflight legal advice to companies on the crucial matters of business and human rights.”

Dr Phoebe Wynn Pope, Head of Responsible Business and ESG at Corrs Chambers Westgarth and BHRLA board member said: “The launch of the BHRLA is an important and timely initiative, and it is good to see so many firms unite to progress the understanding and practice of business and human rights.

“As the world moves towards a zero carbon economy, human rights considerations can help ensure a ‘just’ transition that respects the rights of all – and especially those of vulnerable workers and communities.”

The BHRLA will promote awareness in the business and legal communities of the responsibility to respect human rights, and of the responsibility of lawyers to incorporate business and human rights advice in their client services in a manner consistent with their professional responsibilities. This will be done through educational and engagement activities, including seminars, publications, conferences and sharing of best practices. It will also provide a forum for leadership, collaboration and peer learning among business and human rights lawyers and commercial firms.

The launch of the BHRLA builds on the Law Firm Business and Human Rights Peer Learning Process, in which a number of founding member firms participated. It has been supported by Catie Shavin, Anna Triponel and Malin Helgesen, who were invited to co-facilitate the design and launch of the BHRLA with founding member firms, fostering an inclusive and collaborative culture from the association’s earliest days.

The BHRLA’s founding members are commercial law firms, headquartered in Australia, Canada, continental Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, with worldwide reach. Following its launch, the BHRLA will seek to expand its membership and global footprint, and to include individual lawyers and lawyers who practise in other settings.

Interested law firms and commercial lawyers may find additional information, including on how to become a member and other opportunities to engage, at the BHRLA’s website:

The twenty-two founding members of the BHRLA are: Berwin Cave Leighton Paisner, Clifford Chance, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Covington & Burling, Debevoise & Plimpton, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Fasken, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gibson Dunn, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Spalding, LALIVE, Linklaters, Mannheimer Swartling, Miller & Chevalier, Norton Rose Fulbright, Paul Hastings, Pels Rijcken, Quinn Emanuel, White & Case and Wiersholm.