G7 bar leaders call upon governments to take action on lawyers at risk, lawtech and climate change

Ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, the presidents of the G7 bars have signed resolutions calling on their governments to tackle issues including climate change, the ethics of legal technology and undue interference with the independence of the legal profession.

Flags of G7 countries flying against blue sky

Although consensus proved elusive at the G7 bars summit on 17 May, chaired by Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce, one resolution on lawyers at risk gained unanimous approval and a second resolution on guaranteeing continuity of justice in a time of crisis also gained widespread approval.

The presidents and executives of the representative bodies have committed to make efforts to urge governments to:

  • protect the rule of law and access justice
  • uphold the independence of the legal profession
  • condemn any attacks on lawyers carrying out their duties

Alongside resolutions focusing on lawyers at risk and continuity of justice, there was also progress on key areas that will impact the future of the legal profession, most prominently climate change and lawtech.

We now call on G7 governments to reflect on these issues and build these into respective discussions this weekend.

In preparation, we have engaged the UK G7 Sherpa team, highlighting our shared concerns and resolutions, and look forward to future engagement following the summit itself.

Progress in key areas including lawtech and climate change

Though these resolutions did not attract unanimous support from the assembled bar presidents, there was agreement on the importance of these issues, representing progress in tackling the most pressing emergent global issues.

This included advances in technology which demand ethical realignment and climate change – identified by some as perhaps the single biggest threat to human peace and prosperity.

Recognising that not all law societies have internal policies addressing each of these issues, our resolution on climate change committed the bars to:

  • “build awareness in the legal profession of climate change and encourage firms to raise awareness to their clients”
  • “encourage promulgation of training materials and professional guidelines” in order to support law firms and their clients to create policies on sustainability and reduce their carbon emissions

What was discussed on 17 May?

We proposed four resolutions, alongside a fifth resolution from the Conseil National des Barreux (CNB), focusing on areas that are key for both promoting the work of lawyers and assisting wider society:

  • lawyers at risk
  • lawtech and ethics
  • climate change
  • economic recovery
  • continuity of justice

These five areas reflect the concerns of the legal profession and wider agenda of the national G7 meeting, with a focus on leading the global recovery from coronavirus, tackling climate change and championing our shared values.

The strongest agreement between the bars was found on the ‘lawyers at risk’ resolution, with all of the seven bars signing the final statement and agreeing to promulgate the resolutions to their governments via the so-called national ‘Sherpas’ (civil servants and diplomats who help guide the leaders of the G7 countries in the leadup to the summit).

Many bars also agreed to the statement on ‘continuity of justice’, encouraging their respective governments to ensure the functioning of courts and access to justice – including the right of lawyers to visit their clients – in the face of future global crises.

What is the G7 bars meeting?

The Global 7 known informally as the ‘G7’ is a grouping of seven advanced economies whose leaders have met on an annual basis since 1973.

The seven countries are the UK, USA, Italy, France, Germany, Canada and Japan.

In order to boost cooperation on global issues and enhance trade, a number of industry, civil society and union organisations organise their own ‘shadow’ G7 summits that take place around the main government-to-government meetings.

Mirroring the national picture, this year, the G7 bar leader’s summit was led by the UK with the Law Society of England and Wales hosting a virtual meeting of the seven bar leaders and representatives due to the ongoing pandemic on 17 May 2021.

A number of bars were also invited as guests, including the Law Council of Australia, the Korean Bar Association, and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe.

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If you're interested in our international work, email international@lawsociety.org.uk.