Environmental lawyering and professional responsibilities in crisis?

Monday, 11 September 2023, 4.00-5.30pm, Room 317

A discussion with Steven Vaughan

As a species and as a planet, we are facing significant environmental harms, many of which are highly likely to only get worse over time - climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss, deforestation, chemical harms, waste pollution, poor water quality, and so on. Somewhere in the story of each of these forms of environmental harm are environmental lawyers. They work in law firms large and small; they work for the government and regulators as civil servants; they work in-house in large corporations and charities. These lawyers lubricate, lobby, legislate, and litigate for their clients. In his recent inaugural professorial lecture and paper, Professor Steven Vaughan has suggested that some of the environmental harms that environmental lawyers help their clients bring about, ‘perfectly legally’, raise important and significant questions about the ethics of that lawyering. Do environmental lawyers do things that cost society – in the form of environmental harms – too much? And does legal ethics (written down in regulatory rulebooks and, more generally, in the theories of lawyers’ ethics) help or hinder those actions?

In September we hosted a discussion with Steven Vaughan about environmental lawyering and professional responsibilities and also heard from other legal scholars and practitioners working on lawyers’ roles and responsibilities in our current environmental predicament.

Co-hosted by CREEL, Melbourne Climate Futures, and the Australian Legal Ethics Network at Melbourne Law School.

Watch the recording

About Steven Vaughan

Steven Vaughan is Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at UCL Laws and Deputy Dean of the Faculty. He is a former City solicitor whose research spans environmental law and lawyers’ ethics. Steven is interested in the theory and practice of regulation, and has held various committee positions at the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Services Board. He is currently a Council Member of the Health and Care Professions Council. Keen that his work engages with an audience beyond the academy, Steven has spoken at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts and written for a number of media outlets (including The Times, The Guardian and The Lawyer). Steven has also held visiting fellowships at Stanford University, the University of Melbourne, and the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics.

  • Past event
  • Environmental Lawyering
  • Ethics