Lawyers Are Responsible is a group of lawyers who accept the global scientific consensus that the climate and ecological emergency is already causing damage to people and the planet, and without rapid and radical action, within this century the climate and ecological emergency will cause unprecedented levels of damage, including the deaths of huge numbers of people. The climate crisis is also resulting in climate injustice: those who have done least to contribute to global warming suffer its worst consequences.
Solicitors are free to choose their clients and cases. Barristers are governed by the “cab rank rule”. The Bar Standards Board handbook includes at Rule C28 the requirement that barristers do not withhold their services on the ground that the nature of the case is objectionable to them or to the public. This gives rise to a potential conflict between what individual barristers’ consciences tell them is the right course of action and the rules of their profession.
The classic example of the cab rank rule in action is of a criminal barrister who accepts a brief to represent a person accused of murder, against whom there is strong evidence of guilt. In that situation, there is no conflict between the cab rank rule and the interests of justice. The barrister is agreeing to perform his or her role within a system of justice that produces, on the whole, just outcomes. By representing the accused, the barrister is merely helping to ensure that there is a fair trial and is serving the greater good.
The signatories to the declaration are convinced that at the present time offering their services in support of new fossil fuel projects or action against peaceful climate protesters would not serve the greater good. At present, our laws cause climate injustice and set society on a course with consequences so dire that they ultimately threaten the Rule of Law itself. By taking on these types of case, the signatories are of the view that they would be personally facilitating these consequences.
There is an important discussion to be had about the role of the legal profession at a time when the IPCC has delivered a “final warning” on the climate crisis. This is a serious issue which merits considered discussion and debate within the profession and more widely, and we will be engaging in those discussions with all interested parties.