ILANZ, In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand


Can lawyers save the world? Part B: Legal frameworks for climate action, and lawyers’ ethical obligations on climate

Can lawyers save the world? Part B: Legal frameworks for climate action, and lawyers’ ethical obligations on climate

In the coming years the far-reaching consequences of climate change will touch on the practice of every in-house lawyer – our organisations need to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate…and in-house lawyers need to be ready to advise on the legal consequences of these steps.

Building on the previous session, this panel session will discuss:

  • the wider legal frameworks relating to climate in which our organisations will take their mitigation/adaptation action;
  • the draft NZLS Climate Change Policy;
  • what it means to practice in a “climate-conscious” manner;
  • how we can incorporate climate impacts into our daily practice.


Sophie Meares is a Senior Legal Counsel at the Christchurch City Council. She is involved with the implementation of Kia tūroa te Ao Ōtautahi Christchurch Climate Resilience Strategy, and specialises in governance and legal frameworks for local government relating to climate. Sophie is a Board member of Lawyers for Climate Action NZ, a not-for-profit organisation advocating for legislation and policies to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.



Susannah Sharpe is the General Counsel Environment and Property in the Waka Kotahi legal group. Susannah’s team and other lawyers at Waka Kotahi cover a wide range of work that relates to climate change including RMA consenting and planning matters where we consider how to reduce emissions, adaptation work (including supporting the organisation with recovery works from recent severe weather events),  input to climate change policy work and reforms, litigation and reporting relating to climate change. Susannah has significant experience as an in-house lawyer in environmental and regulatory work relating to climate issues, including at the Ministry for the Environment and Transpower.


Debra Dorrington is a practicing property lawyer with a firm interest in climate-conscious lawyering.  She has presented many times on the topic and has a regular column addressing climate issues for property lawyers in the Property Law Section publication, "The Property Lawyer".  She has a website aimed at building conversations around sustainability for professional advisers.   

Debra brings her personal views to the panel discussion, but her in-house role in the property legal team at Kāinga Ora - Homes and Communities gives context as to their application to in-house practitioners.