Mishcon de Reya has withdrawn from the B Corporation initiative – for businesses that balances purpose with profit – just months after becoming only the third law firm to achieve it, Legal Futures can reveal.
The high-profile London firm has been criticised in Parliament several times this year, including this week, for its work for oligarchs and others, but an insider insisted that the B Corp decision was unrelated to this and just a case of bad timing.
B Corporations, with B standing for ‘Benefit’, are for-profit businesses that meet “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”.
The certification process is known to be challenging but Mishcon, which has a substantial practice for high net-worth individuals, became a B Corp last August.
However, a spokeswoman said yesterday: “Along with other leading professional service firms, we are looking at creating an appropriate new set of sustainability standards for regulated businesses.
“As well as working with our industry colleagues, it will allow us to participate in a standard that balances our sustainability commitments with our professional obligations, which is an issue that we have found difficulty navigating with B Corp.
“We have, therefore, decided to end our partnership with B Corp although we remain fully committed to the principles and values it supports, which will continue to be enshrined in our constitution.”
As part of becoming a B Corp, the firm changed its LLP agreement “to embody our commitment to having a material positive impact on society and the environment”.
Managing partner James Libson said at the time that certification was “an important pillar” in the firm’s “impact strategy”, with its aims of improving access to justice, encouraging and creating opportunity, making sustainability a reality and ensuring diversity in the legal profession.
He continued: “It is also a tangible manifestation of our status as a values-based business, with clear links to our core values and to our stated purpose to enable our clients and our own people to shape the world’s possibilities.”
Bates Wells was the first UK law firm to become a B Corp, in 2015, followed in 2019 by Radiant Law.
Alex Hamilton, chief executive of Radiant, told Legal Futures: “Radiant is delighted to continue to be a B Corp and believes the fast-growing B Corp movement is more relevant than ever.
“We don’t consider there to be any conflict with being regulated as a law firm, and the B Corp mission is fully aligned with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s requirement for integrity, which we interpret widely.
“I would encourage any law firm aspiring to high ethical and ESG [environmental, social and governance] standards to look into becoming a B Corp.”
Mishcon de Reya has had a tricky few months. In January, it decided to put its planned stock market listing on ice due to market conditions.
It also received a record fine of £232,500 from the Solicitors Regulation Authority over multiple breaches of anti-money laundering rules, and another fine of £25,000 from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for allowing its client account to be used as a banking facility.