We caught up with Zaneta Sedilekova and Elnaz Amiri, trainees at Clyde & Co and founding members of the Trainee Climate Change Group, to find out about their recent work putting together a Climate Change Hackathon. Plus, we heard from trainee participants of the Hackathon about how they found the experience!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Zaneta: My name is Zaneta, I am an aspiring climate change lawyer, Clyde & Co trainee and one of the founding members of the Trainee Climate Change Group, a trainee-led initiative that allows trainees to gain knowledge of climate change risk and legal/regulatory developments together with first-hand experience in business development while focusing on Pro Bono climate change-related projects. You can find more about the Climate Change Group in this interview.
Elnaz: I am Elnaz, one of the trainees at Clyde & Co and also a founding member of the Trainee Climate Change Group. I've always been interested in climate change on a personal level, but it wasn't until I became a trainee that I approached this challenge from a professional perspective.
Can you tell us more about The Chancery Lane Project?
Elnaz: The Chancery Lane Project is a global, collaborative initiative of lawyers who come together to draft new contracts and model laws to help combat climate change. The Project intends to use these precedents to empower businesses and communities in their transition to a net zero world. It has already seen a lot of engagement with 400 participants from 115 organisations from 60 different countries taking part in the first year of its existence! The Chancery Lane Project Year  Impact Report explores the main goals and desired impacts of the initiative. The Impact Report is titled "Year " as the Project is counting down to the emissions reduction deadline in 2030 set by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The next 12 months is therefore Year .
How did you become involved with The Chancery Lane Project?
Zaneta: In February 2020, The Chancery Lane Project published the first edition of the Climate Contract Playbook and the Green Papers of Model Laws, its first publications of precedent clauses and laws focused on combatting climate change. I and Clyde & Co Associate Jane O'Reilly attended the launch of these publications and pledged, on behalf of Clyde & Co, to hold our own in-house Climate Change Hackathon – the first law firm to have done so! Then Covid-19 happened and we had to adapt swiftly and quickly – from an in-person event to a virtual one! It was challenging but we were determined to honour our pledge.
Can you explain what a Climate Change Hackathon is?
Elnaz: A Climate Change Hackathon is an event which gives participants from different backgrounds, specialisms and jurisdictions an opportunity to focus their efforts on tackling some of the most challenging aspects of climate change in a practical and innovative way. The event brings together specialists and provides them with the technical tools and common space that enable them to cooperate effectively in finding legal solutions to facilitate the transition to a net zero economy. It is this collaborative focus of specialists from various backgrounds, concentrated in a single (in our case virtual) room, which yields impressive results.
What were your motivations behind organising the Climate Change Hackathon?
Elnaz: Lawyers are in a unique position to impact the decisions of government (as the drafters of legislation) and business (as the drafters of legal contracts and as litigators in contentious matters). A Climate Change Hackathon is a fantastic opportunity to encourage collaboration and teamwork between lawyers – each of our drafting teams were made up of both private practice and in-house lawyers all of whom approached each draft from a different perspective – and experiencing the collaboration of such diverse minds is a fantastic experience. Even more importantly, these efforts were focused on such an important challenge – climate change!
Zaneta: My motivation to organise the event can be summarised in the moto of The Chancery Lane Project – "Change the Precedent, Change the World." Let me explain. Lawyers have a lot of power - we advise clients on clauses to put into their contracts and governments on laws to adopt to govern their countries. That is a powerful role. Imagine a client has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and wants to make sure that its suppliers assist it in achieving this goal. If a client adopts a clause demanding such a commitment in its standard contracts, it will motivate suppliers bidding for its work to adopt the same carbon commitments. Changing a single clause in a single contract can cascade down the supply chain in multiple businesses. If we draft and offer such precedent clauses to the entire legal profession for free, our impact will be (to play with words in here) unprecedented!
How did you go about organising the event?
Zaneta: Very soon after our pledge to hold the Climate Change Hackathon, I approached Elnaz and asked her to lead a team of five trainees to coordinate the internal organisation of the Hackathon. From then on, we split the tasks – I was responsible for external organisation with The Chancery Lane Project while Elnaz coordinated the internal matters. Our roles often overlapped as the organisation of the Hackathon had to fit into our other trainee duties. This often meant that El had to pick up my tasks when I was asked to do urgent research and vice versa. It was a great experience, I could not have asked for a more reliable, responsible and creative co-coordinator. El's team also did a great deal of work – from coming up with engagement strategies to delivering technology training to the hackathon participants.
How have the firm supported you in setting up this event?
Elnaz: While we were given a lot of autonomy in organising the event, support was provided as and when we asked. The marketing and communications teams helped us with drafting external emails and LinkedIn posts as well as providing advice on engagement strategies. The IT team advised on the technology most suited for the event. Partner Nigel Brook who leads the firm's Resilience and Climate Change Risk Practice and Senior Associate Wynne Lawrence were there to give sign-offs on our ideas and offer much needed moral support. Most importantly for me, the members of the Trainee Climate Change Group, even those who did not eventually take part in the Hackathon itself, were always keen to help – even with the most mundane yet crucially important tasks, such as proofreading.
Quotes from trainee participants in the Climate Change Hackathon:
Emma Turton: "I loved the experience of collective drafting and receiving quick feedback on our team's work during the community calls."
Tom Bennett: "Personally, I've really enjoyed taking part in the Hackathon. The project has been a unique opportunity to get to know my colleagues from across other teams at Clydes and to work alongside clients and other lawyers from outside the firm. Overall, I think the project has been brilliantly organised and has adapted well to being held as a virtual event. I think it's shown that every lawyer can pick up new technology and use it to work collaboratively to instigate practical and meaningful changes."
Natalie Armstrong: "Working as part of a team of clients and lawyers from different firms around the world has been a fantastic experience. I found the opportunity to create something completely new really refreshing. Bringing together a diverse group of people, working virtually from all corners of the world meant we had a wealth of commercial and legal knowledge to inform our drafting. It is a good feeling to think we have created a new clause, which sits within existing global legal and business frameworks, which could create a real sea change in businesses' behaviour towards our climate."
Tom Wells-Cole: "The hackathon has been a brilliant experience both on a professional and a personal level. It has brought together, and afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with, some incredible minds on the most important issue. Our drafting demonstrates that by putting climate change front and centre, it is possible to achieve big things, with far reaching positive consequences, in a short period of time."
Vladimir Milic: "I always believed that lawyers can greatly contribute to society's efforts in protecting our environment, and this project offered the opportunity to work with great legal minds in drafting contractual clauses for the future. The urgent threat of climate change is here and firms like Clyde & Co can leverage their expertise and knowledge to make a difference."
Natalie Wisniewska: "It has been a privilege to work on this project amongst so many accomplished and insightful lawyers from all over the world who share the same goal and hope to effect a positive change to our environment. This impressive initiative creates a brilliant opportunity to enrich our legal knowledge and drafting skills. It makes me proud to be part of Clyde & Co where we are entrusted with these remarkable responsibilities whilst feeling entirely supported and valued for our efforts."
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