Business and Human Rights for the Legal Profession



Business clients are increasingly going to expect their lawyers to understand what human rights risks they might face and how they manage them. Business and human rights issues are not new, but may, in the past, have been framed differently (i.e. as health and safety or labour compliance issues).

In-house lawyers are usually the first port of call for advice relating to business practices and principles, including global soft law standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In-house lawyers also have an important role in managing the company’s strategic and reputational risks, including human rights risks. A significant knowledge gap has been identified in the legal profession regarding business and human rights.

Objectives of the Legal Policy and Research Unit (LPRU)’s Project:

  • Increase lawyers’ ability to advise businesses to prevent and protect against any adverse impacts on human rights, both domestically and internationally;
  • Educate lawyers on the possible negative impacts on human rights of businesses; and
  • Provide educational and practical tools to allow businesses to respect human rights whilst maintaining the profitability of the business.

The LPRU’s work on Business and Human Rights has developed the following three guidance documents and two training tools to bridge the knowledge gap and build the capacity of lawyers to advice business in this field.

Guidance Documents

The Practical Guide is intended to assist internal and external lawyers, who are involved in advising businesses globally, to understand:

  • the core content of the UNGPs based on its framework of three core pillars:
    the state duty to protect human rights;
    the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
    the role of both states and companies to enable greater access to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial, for victims of business-related abuses
  • the relevance of the UNGPs to the advice provided to clients by individual lawyers subject to their unique professional standards and rules (whether they are in-house or external counsel acting in their individual capacity or as members of a law firm); and
  • the potential implications of the UNGPs’ for law firms as business entities with a responsibility also to respect human rights.

The Bar Association Guidance aims to inform bar associations on how they may promote, launch and develop business and human rights initiatives that are relevant to practitioners in their jurisdictions.

The Reference Annex intends to be consistent with the general principles of the Practical Guide and consists of:

  • an in-depth review of the UNGPs;
  • the Interpretive Guide on the Responsibility to Respect prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; and
  • the extensive literature, ongoing practices and policies of governments, multi-stakeholder institutions, bar associations and companies.
Practical Guide
Bar Association Guidance
Reference Annex

Training Tools

Click here to view more information about available training tools.


The Handbook is a unique self-learning tool comprised of a collection of educational resources, practical exercises and multimedia to enable lawyers to develop their ability to identify and manage human rights risks.

Training programme for lawyers on business and human rights

The Training Programme is a course for bar associations, law firms and other legal institutions. Online material combined with a bespoke face-to-face training session will provide legal practitioners with the necessary knowledge to incorporate human rights management into their client-facing work and within their own businesses.


The Legal Policy and Research Unit (LPRU), as part of this project, are working with Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) with the aim to enable in-house lawyers and sustainability/ethical trade teams to identify, implement and support human rights risk management approaches that align with the UNGPs. Read the full article here.

Business lawyers, the UNGPs and supply chain risks

Business responsibility to respect: how to achieve greater coherence and clear accountability

Download PDF


The LPRU piloted the training programme they developed at two sessions in Australia in May 2018. Please see the videos below that show attendees of the training giving feedback on the session, outlining how they believe the training will be useful and the importance of Business and Human Rights.

Advisory Group

The IBA LPRU would like to thank the below experts in the area of B&HR, who have provided advice to the consultant and to IBA LPRU on the development of the Training Tools.

  • Elodie Aba
  • Nicole Bigby
  • Christine Chow
  • Daniel D’Ambrosio
  • Dr Mihir Kanade
  • Sternford Moyo
  • Andrea Saldarriaga
  • Abigail McGregor
  • Paul Redmond
  • Vanessa Zimmerman

The IBA also appreciates the contribution from John F. Sherman III, Chair of the Working Group and the key drafter of the Bar Guidance, the Practical Guide and the Reference Annex.

The IBA would like to thank The Law Council of Australia (LCA) for its partnership in developing and implementing the pilot training programme through sessions held in Sydney and Melbourne in May 2018.

The development of these guidance documents and training tools would not have been possible without the work and dedication of the following IBA LPRU staff:

  • Project Lead: Rocio Paniagua, LPRU Senior Legal Manager
  • Project Sponsors: Gonzalo Guzman and Jane Ellis, LPRU Directors
  • Project Coordinators: Rob White and Emily Boig, LPRU Project Coordinators

For further information on this project please contact LPRU at

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