Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion gathered outside Slaughter and May to protest what the group called the “blood money” law firms have been receiving from the oil and gas industry.
The protestors focused on Slaughters due to its recent work on Premier Oil’s agreement to acquire $625m of oil and gas fields in the North Sea from BP, but their chants also referenced other clients, including Shell, Enesco and Maersk Oil.
Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion was set up by full-time lawyers to support the wider Extinction Rebellion movement, both by protesting to raise awareness of the role the legal industry plays in climate change and by offering their time to do environmental pro-bono work.
Natalie Barbosa, an Extinction Rebellion member and senior associate at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said: “We are not talking about criminals who have a right to legal representation. Slaughters are going out and bidding for work from the oil and gas industry and get significant revenue from this work.”
“Humanity needs a carbon-free future, and although Slaughters does have some renewable energy clients, they should put more of their efforts into supporting green energy and carbon replacement technologies.”
The protestors insisted they were not there to “denigrate our profession or fellow lawyers” but to encourage “big City law firms to use their power to create a carbon neutral world.”
Slaughters’ employees were advised to use the back entrance to avoid the activists that were lying across the front door in white jump suits.
City law firms have been caught up in protests many times. In 2010, Dechert’s work for vulture funds was highlighted by the Jubilee Debt Campaign while a mock exorcism was once performed on the London office of King & Spalding.
Extinction Rebellion protested outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019. No further protests have been organised yet but there are plans for more in the City later this year.
Slaughters declined to comment.
Protests outside law firms: a timeline
|When||Firm affected||Who?||Why?||What went down?|
|Jun 1999||Freshfields, Norton Rose, Linklaters, Lovells, DLA, Maclay Murray & Spens, Herbert Smith and others||J18||Protesting capitalism – the law firms were on the route of the planned march||Norton Rose suffers extensive damage; Freshfields paintballed; a Maclays partner claims the firm has been “beseiged by open-toed-sandalled hippy vandals. We have armed our doorman, Bernard, with a shotgun.”|
|Oct 2008||A&O, Clifford Chance||Anti-capitalism campaigners||Protesting capitalism||Witches and wizards gathered to “dance on the grave of capitalism” outside the firms’ offices|
|Feb 2010||Dechert||Jubilee Debt Campaign||Protesting Dechert’s representation of vulture funds||Protesters sold satirical cakes outside office (profiteeroles, etc)|
|Nov 2011||McGrigors||Cleaning staff||Protesting Apollo Cleaning Services’ (just awarded a contract to clean McGrigors’ London office) treatment of workers||Protesters beat drums and chanted, “Apollo, Apollo – shame on you. McGrigors, McGrigors – shame on you”|
|Jun 2013||Clifford Chance||Cleaning staff||Protesting MITIE’s treatment of workers (CC was one of many firms that used MITIE)|
|May 2015||King & Spalding||Global Justice Now||Protesting firm’s involvement in investor protection court cases||Mock exorcism performed (“We exorcise you from this brutal slab of architecture, King & Spalding.”)|
|Jul 2016||Mishcon de Reya||Spiked||Protesting Mishcon’s plans to challenge unlawful triggering of Article 50||13 protesters showed up|
|Dec 2019||Addleshaw Goddard||Cleaning staff||Protesting the suspension of a night shift cleaner||Industrial strength siren disrupted work on Chiswell Street all day|
|Feb 2020||Slaughter and May||Extinction Rebellion||Protesting law firms’ representation of polluters||Protesters “established a crime scene” outside the office|