EJA’s Sustainability Law Lab recently attended an event called Lawyers as Changemakers, organised by Kim Wright, a pioneer of the global collaborative law practice movement.
Wright believes the traditional approach to legal practice, which assumes clients are competitive and adversarial, which segregates all problems into legal issues and which charges by billable units, rather than valuable outcomes, is losing relevance.
Millennials, innovative technologies, responsible business models and the need for a meaningful work culture are driving a trend towards new models.
The event catalysed a new network in Melbourne called “change makers in the legal system” (see social media links below). This movement of legal and other practitioners is characterised by innovation, holistic solutions and intrinsic values.
It is all about people in the legal system doing things differently.
There are lawyers who are also collaborative problem solvers, mediators and facilitators of agreement making, public interest lawyers, designers of new user-centred legal services and lawyers working to change the legal system and our laws.
There are business models that have a specific social or environmental goal.
There are legal practices charging fixed fees and offering holistic and egalitarian work cultures.
There are lawyers drafting and distributing open source documents and promoting innovative business models.
This is part of a wider move to go beyond traditional legal practices to help create systems that deliver more healthy people, organisations and justice systems.
Change makers in commercial law are helping conscientious clients design new legal social enterprise legal structures and write contracts in a way that incorporate constructive win-win solutions.
In climate and sustainability law practice, lawyers are co-designing laws with stakeholders to protect rivers, use creative legal arguments to protect future generations by public trust doctrines or duty of care and use shareholder actions to enforce responsible business practices.
While a key part of the movement is innovative new practice models, it is not only about using technology to disrupt and lower costs but also to deliver value for people and the planet.
Empowering local solar groups
Here’s one practical example of legal system changemaking.
The Law Lab is working with the Victorian Community Solar Alliance, a collaboration of small solar groups that aim to increase the uptake of renewable energy in their local areas.
They plan to generate local investment, raise awareness, increase participation in community-based energy generation and create cheaper renewable energy for locals.
Tapping into EJA’s legal expertise, the Law Lab delivered a legal workshop for the Solar Alliance and is supporting the participants with open source legal models and collaborative energy enterprises.
By diagnosing legal needs and clarifying legal models behind different solar initiatives and enterprises, the Lab is empowering local solar uptake in Victoria.
Beyond this project, the Law Lab also seeks to help create local and shared benefit schemes on larger renewable energy projects — such as brokering local investment vehicles, local participation agreements or advising on co-operative energy business models.