Can Lawyers be Conscious Capitalists?

By Soledad Matteozzi

We are used to identifying conscious businesses with companies that take ownership over their impact on the planet and are built around values to make positive change. Great companies such as Patagonia, Unilever, Natura come to mind. However, we may not tend to think of law firms as conscious organizations.

I will argue that today, the law profession is shifting and it is a great place for any Conscious Capitalist to create positive change. Being a lawyer myself, and after joining the Board of Conscious Capitalism Connecticut, I conducted research on what law firms are doing in terms of sustainability and what role they are playing in helping their clients adapt to new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)/Sustainability demands. I was glad to learn that many law firms are deeply invested in incorporating ESG/Sustainability into their practices leading the way to a different way of doing business. Yet, there are many firms that need to better understand how to transition their practice to this new paradigm.  With the idea of learning from what leaders in the industry are doing, I co-moderated a panel discussion with Gayatri Goshi, the Executive Director of the Law Firm Sustainability Network where speakers Pamela Cone, Founder and CEO of Amity Advisory, and Alison Torbitt, Partner at Energy and Environmental Group at Nixon Peabody law firm, shared their valuable perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for law firms today. 

We had a one-hour highly active discussion, with great questions from the audience, who seemed engaged and eager to learn.

The following items are the main takeaways. It is my hope  that this information is useful for you and that more law firms locally get inspired to take the leap and join this movement:

  • The results from a survey conducted by the Law Firm Sustainability Network showed that 96% of law firm respondents affirm that clients are demanding them to report on their ESG/Sustainability efforts in Request for Proposals. Why? Because today law firms are considered part of their client’s supply chain and therefore a key element in their ESG efforts, especially when measuring scope 3 carbon emissions.  To remain compliant with their own targets, most clients require law firms to demonstrate their ESG/Sustainability measures and credentials in their Requests for Proposals. Therefore, it is fair to say that the absence of a sustainability strategy and ESG reporting presents a risk for business continuity. I understand that a solid ESG strategy could not be the main selection criteria when hiring a lawyer, but the absence of it could put your firm at a serious disadvantage.  
  • Clients are becoming more sophisticated in ESG and they are demanding knowledge and understanding of ESG from their advisors to help them transition to more sustainable practices.  Buyers of legal services confront a growing list of environmental and social issues that pose serious risks and opportunities for their businesses. Lawyers today have the opportunity to work with their clients to ensure they address these risks and maximize opportunities. But, to do that, lawyers need to be knowledgeable on ESG issues.
  • The regulatory landscape is shifting to incorporate elements of ESG. Clients need their lawyers to help them mitigate risks and identify opportunities. As lawyers, we need to be prepared to advise clients on thinking through and considering the impact, and the financial and reputational risks associated with environmental and social issues arising from new regulations affecting our clients’ businesses. 
  • The new generation of lawyers is demanding law firms to walk the talk.   Entry-level associates are increasingly requiring law firms for their ESG credentials. The younger generation of attorneys and potential new hires ask questions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental policies. New generations of talent want something more than just a paycheck; they want to join law firms and organizations that reflect their values and beliefs. Having a clear Sustainability/ESG strategy can help differentiate firms bidding for conscious talent.
  • Law Firms are moving away from a “good to have” policy, to make it part of their business strategy. Historically law firms have seen their social and environmental impact as not material but as a nice program to have. Today, they are developing robust programs that actually generate a positive impact.   Alison Torbitt explained that at Nixon Peabody, they started by classifying their sustainability initiatives into three buckets: internal, external-billable, and external-non billable. Internal mainly includes diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness initiatives. External billable is their consulting work regarding sustainability/ESG mitigation, and contamination remediation. Finally, their external non-billable category represents their pro bono commitments and their donations to socially and environmentally friendly nonprofits and start-ups.  She explained that today their current efforts are focused on their purpose and impact. Leadership is reflecting on: As a law firm, how can they positively impact everything they do? They are working on a strategic impact that brings all sectors of the business together – every practice group, management, business development, marketing, communications, operations, procurement, and compliance. 

It is not about reinventing the wheel but seeing the law profession through a new perspective. For this purpose, it is crucial to have a cross-sector approach and stop acting and thinking in silos. Law firms need to connect the dots and practices and get everyone involved. 

My Reflection

Law firms and lawyers have always had an important role in our society. Lawyers are trusted advisors to their clients and have historically helped shape and drive change and business behavior.

Today, as Pamela Cone mentioned on our panel, they have the opportunity of a lifetime to help their clients transition to more conscious practices and behaviors. This transition is both the most significant challenge and the biggest opportunity for the legal profession. While doing so, they also need to build their internal sustainability programs and lead by example.

Lawyers that become conscious capitalists will not only help save our world but also be successful while doing so. 

Are you interested in learning more about Membership in our organization? Monthly events like this are free, plus networking and other benefits.

Bringing Purpose to Your Business

Purpose is more than a marketing tactic; it’s much more than a term thrown around at conferences. It is something that is so deeply embedded into our experience with a brand that it can drive individual and collective actions to create a better world. The feelings we get from being part of these interactions or even seeing them happen – feelings produced by our own brain chemicals – fulfill the deepest of human needs: connection, belonging, wellbeing, and meaning, to name a few.

So let’s explore what this can look like from both sides of the market.

Recruiting Talent

Research shows that monetary rewards only go so far. From the perspective of “where do I want to work?” Purpose – or meaningful work, is a more essential driver of employee engagement and therefore one of the key predictors for organizational success.  

The best human resources you can imagine are asking themselves questions like: Will this job give me the autonomy I seek, plus tools and support to get the job done right? Will my suggestions for improvement be taken seriously? Will I be able to look back and see tangible results for my efforts? You want to be sure that your organization appeals from that perspective.

Brands that can clearly articulate their purpose will attract employees who become deeply committed to one another and the company’s goals. They will, in turn, attract your greatest fans and lend discretionary time and energy to be brand ambassadors – on social media and in their daily lives. 

So your company brand purpose should:

  1. Describe the kinds of problems that you solve in terms that are immediately engaging and lead naturally to “calls to action”
  2. Define your value proposition as a set of high stakes: what good things will happen in the world if your business achieves its purpose? What bad things will happen if you don’t?
  3. Include all stakeholders.
  4. Make the old “vision, mission and values” more visceral
  5. Unite the head, hands and heart of your organization by connecting what you do and how you do it with WHY you do it and who benefits.

Finding Customers

Consumers are now in the position to push for social change with every purchase 

As we cruise the crowded marketplace, we make split-second decisions based on emotional connections associated with each brand. And every time we spend money, we are casting a vote for what kind of world we want to live in and leave to future generations. 

What does your brand say about you in these terms, compared to your competition?

When we consider the causes we are drawn to or inspired by – what makes them compelling? We find that brands do a good job when they draw people in. Enabling people to champion an underdog, for example, is an excellent strategy for animating purpose. So is filling a gap or providing visibility to an underserved group. 

During this time of great upheaval, opportunities for transformation are always at hand. More than ever before, customers select brands that align with their values. Show them that you care about the same things they do and together, your company and your customers will realize great potential. 

Examples of consumer-facing brands and the campaigns that highlight purpose by addressing important global issues and fighting societal ills:

So to sum it all up, Brands leading with a clear sense of purpose experience greater ease in talent recruitment, employee engagement and staff retention, higher productivity, and attract the right kind of customers.


Glen McDermott,

Executive Director, Conscious Capitalism Connecticut Chapter

Founder & CEO, Red Rock Branding

Feel free to schedule a consultation now to discuss how these ideas can apply to your organization! Contact Glen Now