Welcome to our first roundup relating to our focus on strategic litigation and what it might mean for your organisation. We’ll be pulling this roundup together twice a year to keep you informed of key issues, updates and changes in approach.
Our litigation team is focused on using its expertise to create a widespread positive impact for people and the planet and we use our values as a compass to guide us in working for impactful clients making a difference on social and environmental issues. We’ve worked closely with clients to challenge norms through litigation and policy action and we’re ready to discuss pragmatic options if you know of an issue that would benefit from being tested.
Insights from the team
In the last six months we have seen a plethora of strategic claims being brought in the UK in relation to a wide range of issues. From climate actions like Client Earth’s challenge against Shell; a judicial review against the government in relation to the XL Bully ban and an action against water companies relating to the reporting of pollution incidents, to name just a few. I find that companies and individuals alike are increasingly interested in bringing strategic claims – and are becoming more willing to do so. There tends to be an assumption that strategic litigation is limited to actions within the climate sphere, but this is not the case. The law is a tool to be used for change and we are increasingly seeing charities and other impactful organisations bringing claims or threatening claims to further their objects.
There is great potential for a positive impact. ‘Winning’ does not have to mean being successful in Court and ‘winning’ in the Court of public opinion can sometimes be enough to bring the change you seek. Alternatively, a well drafted letter before action which articulates a well-reasoned claim with a reasonable chance of success can be enough to stop your opponent in their tracks. Leticia Jennings, Partner
Despite the ability to create positive impact, the increase in strategic litigation has not been welcomed by all. We are increasingly seeing clients being targeted by abusive litigation otherwise known as SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation). SLAPPs are a result of improper use of the legal system. Clients often find themselves on the other side of meritless claims and being targeted in different jurisdictions simultaneously. Aside from the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, the Government says that as soon as time allows it will introduce anti-SLAPP legislation. In the meantime, a warning notice has been published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority regarding advising on SLAPPs and a failure to comply with the notice can lead to disciplinary action. It remains to be seen whether the action taken will help to stop SLAPPs. Katy Sawyer, Solicitor
It’s been an interesting six months since we hosted the UK B Corp finance and investment group to discuss the rise of environmental litigation and the threat it poses to financial institutions and corporations in June 2023. Since then we’ve seen the UK government U-turn on key climate commitments, a COP summit that has left many frustrated after some parties resisted a full commitment to phase out fossil fuels and insufficient funding commitments were made to address the extent of need on loss and damage. At the same time, we are witnessing increasingly successful challenges and scrutiny from charities, community groups and lobbyists across the world. Very few continue to deny that climate change is real at this point, and those that do are more likely to be challenged or ridiculed in light of the increasingly extreme weather events that we are all experiencing.
In the last week a prominent conservative MP has stood down, saying that the government’s bill to allow more oil and gas licences to be issued ‘is wrong and will cause future harm’. And the Climate Change Committee has publicly challenged the Chancellor and Prime Minister on the way that they have represented the Committee’s advice. The opportunities for change on climate are increasingly likely to come through strategic litigation and policy action. Angela Monaghan, Purpose and Impact Manager
Recent news and updates