All rise: The future of Big Law in an era of stakeholder engagement

In our latest contribution to New York Law Journal, Zach Olsen and Ken Kerrigan examine the rise in stakeholder engagement and how Big Law can approach establishing and maintaining a values-driven culture. 

We’d all like to forget 2020, but it’s unlikely we will. And maybe that’s a good thing. Undoubtedly, we’ll remember it as the year of COVID-19, global protests calling for social justice and an unprecedented presidential election. But it was also a year in which business leaders started to rethink their value systems and how they engage with stakeholders, especially their employees.

Big Law was no exception. Following the presidential election, many firms found themselves thrown into the media spotlight due to their work for the Trump administration or the Republican National Committee. These firms became the target of negative media coverage, protests and aggressive social media campaigns fueled by deep-pocketed activist groups like The Lincoln Project. But this wasn’t the first time that the values and culture of some of the nation’s biggest law firms came under the spotlight.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but in 2019, several firms were under scrutiny as gender and racial inequality among the partner ranks was called into question. And before the pandemic hit, Yale Law School students began targeting firms that they believed helped promote the climate crisis by representing energy companies like Exxon.

As we enter 2021, we should expect the needs of business and society to continue colliding. But if law firms prepare for those collisions, they can drive better outcomes.

Continue reading on New York Law Journal here.