By Gwyneth K. Shaw
Berkeley Law’s innovative work exploring how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) questions are — and should be — incorporated into business strategy just got a boost through a new gift to support research, programming, and student fellowships.
The school was selected as the first academic partner of the ESG and Law Institute, launched by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP as an independent forum studying the most pressing issues of corporate sustainability. Amelia Miazad ’02 developed the school’s growing suite of courses bridging corporate law and social and environmental justice, and already helped bring together companies and experts to share best practices.
The new gift will expand and deepen those efforts, says Adam Sterling ’13, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Business, which will lead the collaboration for Berkeley Law through its Business in Society Institute.
Paul, Weiss chairman Brad S. Karp envisions that the gift will help make legal ESG education more accessible to the next generation of lawyers.
“We are proud to partner with the region’s premier public university to equip law students with the sophisticated understanding of ESG that they will undoubtedly need in their future practices,” he says.
General counsels, boards and executives need to navigate this nuanced and important area, but they must have good advice, says David Curran, executive director of the ESG and Law Institute and co-chair of Paul, Weiss’ ESG Advisory Practice.
“Companies urgently need guidance in areas where legal risks and corporate governance are colliding with corporate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives,” he says. “The Institute aims to provide the kind of detailed, up-to-the-minute information and analysis required to make sound business decisions that are in compliance with current and emerging regulations.”
The idea of a more sustainable form of capitalism was a hot topic in the business world — even before the COVID-19 pandemic made the depth of income inequality starkly visible. The Business in Society Institute has incorporated Berkeley Law’s public mission into a curriculum that gives students the opportunity to become leaders in building better corporations.
The new gift specifically helps students: The ESG and Law Institute will award two $25,000 fellowships to select Berkeley Law students to conduct research and analysis and be involved in programs and events focused on leading-edge topics.
ESG issues are increasingly part of corporate strategy and governance, and students must be prepared for this new business reality, Miazad says.
“Berkeley Law students are increasingly concerned about the role of business in society,” Sterling adds. “This new gift will help scale our platform and provide our students and faculty with additional support as we continue to build the most impactful business law program in the world.”
Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky says the gift is exciting because it will deepen the experience for Berkeley Law students as well as support pathbreaking research.
“We are grateful for the investment into our ESG program and the creation of the new fellowships, affording new opportunities for analysis of this important area,” he says.