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What is The Chancery Lane Project and why do lawyers care?

What is The Chancery Lane Project and why do lawyers care?

Charlotte Lear

18/05/2022

Reading time: two minutes

Even if you haven’t studied law yet, you will probably be aware that one of its key pillars is the humble contract. Something as simple as an offer or promise in exchange for consideration (usually money) is one of the foundational concepts in the entire study of the law. This makes it one of the best starting points for reformation. The Chancery Lane Project (TCLP) has sought to harness this opportunity.

I looked at the future of contracts in another recent post concerning smart contracts - how they can be automated and what this means for lawyers in practice. TCLP is inspiring the future of what actually goes into these contracts.

TCLP is made up of lawyers from around the world, working pro bono, to create clauses for contracts that enable solutions to climate change. There are two ways in which they plan to achieve this:

  • firstly, by collaborating on events and hackathons to produce the clauses and similar content; and
  • secondly, by facilitating the peer review and publication of this content.

TCLP embodies the premise of offering practical legal solutions to the climate crisis.

As it stands, TCLP currently has over 2500 legal professionals collaborating, 310 participating organisations and over 63,000 downloads of TCLP publications.

Find out more about working in environmental law with this practice area profile

Ultimately, the clauses are a vehicle to set precedents and normalise climate-friendly clauses in contracts. The project does not claim to be tried, tested and effective, but it is a great starting point for drafters to amend and negotiate in accordance with their own professional judgement. Yes, this does still carry its own risks but the trade off for the environment has the potential, in and of itself, to be precedent-forming.

As well as the individual clause bank, TCLP has created what it calls a 'net zero toolkit'. This contains all the clauses, glossary terms and various tools that give lawyers and drafters the appropriate grounding in how to start aligning their work with the aims of net zero and beyond.

By changing the way contracts are drafted, one by one, transactions become more environmentally friendly and climate goals can be achieved, ideally, more quickly than through board meetings and activist shareholder conflicts - all of the stuff you hear on the news that doesn’t seem to be getting anyone very far as of yet.

TCLP is not asking for companies to change their ways overnight - this is not sustainable. Instead, TCLP has created an effective tool for legal drafters to start incremental but arguably more effective change to the transactions that govern the legal world in the first place.

As we know, many big businesses are some of the largest contributors to climate change. If drafters can change their practices at a legal compliance contractual level, then bringing contract law to the forefront of the solution to climate crisis can therefore only be a good thing. The ever-changing nature of technology surrounding climate solutions lends itself well to the flexibility of the common law system in England and Wales which is the perfect bedrock for setting precedents.

TCLP has collaborated with many large firms such as Bates Wells and Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and it does not appear to be slowing down. As the climate crisis is an unavoidable issue, more firms and in-house teams will need to access these resources going forward.

Read this LCN Blog to learn about smart contracts: ‘Smart contracts: a beginner’s guide’.