David W. Rivkin, partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, has appeared on a panel discussion at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights that focussed on how lawyers navigate the perceived tension between their ethical duties as independent advisers to companies and the expectation that they respect human rights in the advice they provide.
The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, held in Geneva, is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“Guiding Principles”) from paper to practice.
At this session organised by Debevoise, the American Bar Association, and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, the panel used a case study of a human rights problem to explore how a company should balance the need to provide an effective remedy to those who suffered, while at the same time protecting the interests of the company.
The panelists often referred to the Guiding Principles and to the International Bar Association’s (IBA’s) Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers as the touchstones for the discussion.
During the session, the panellists identified the practical considerations corporate counsel—both in-house and external—should bear in mind, and the specific steps they should take to ensure they and their clients respect human rights by providing an effective remedy. Mr. Rivkin advocated that the lawyer in such circumstances needs to be a “wise counselor”, taking into account not just the legal issues but all the financial, reputational, ethical and other considerations of the company.
The full panel included:
Moderator: Yousuf Aftab, Founder, Enodo Rights.
Susy Bullock, Head of Litigation, Europe, Middle East and Africa, UBS.
Archana Kotecha, Head of Legal, Liberty Asia.
Claudia Maradan, Senior Legal Counsel,Corporate Affairs and Communications, Nestlé.
David W. Rivkin, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Mr Rivkin is the immediate past-President of the IBA. During his tenure, human rights were at the core of his agenda. He worked with many IBA constituencies to adopt the IBA’s Practical Guide, and he frequently spoke about the need of lawyers to understand their clients’ and their own obligations to respect human rights. He also continued the IBA’s strong focus on the human rights issues arising from climate change, and he frequently spoke to governments and bar leaders with whom he met about specific human rights concerns in their countries.
Mr. Rivkin is a leader of Debevoise’s Business Integrity Group. The Group works with in-house counsel, sustainability leaders and compliance departments to provide structured guidance on leading integrity standards, including the Guiding Principles. The Group’s broad expertise and collaborative approach to independent experts and civil society organizations ensures commercially reasonable solutions addressing all dimensions of business integrity risks across sectors and across the globe.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.