Law Firms' Implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

This report examines the application of the corporate responsibility to respect to law firms as business enterprises. It explains that while law firms played an active role in supporting the development of the Guiding Principles and are advising companies on their application, they are only beginning to grapple with the fact that, as businesses, they have their own responsibilities not to infringe on human rights. The report focuses on firms’ practices with respect to employees, supply chains and clients. It identifies a range of agreed topics for immediate and future action including: the need for high-level human rights policy commitments by law firms; the need to fill gaps in law firms’ human rights due diligence processes; the importance of guidance regarding the steps firms should take to avoid being deemed complicit in human rights abuses; and the need to address the relationship between the Guiding Principles and the professional legal standards of conduct to which lawyers must adhere. 

The report is based on a meeting convened by A4ID in September 2011 that brought together representatives from 8 leading law firms to discuss their firms’ responsibility to respect human rights. The meeting was chaired by John F. Sherman III, Shift’s General Counsel and Senior Advisor.