The Law Office Sustainability Policy

By Dick Roy

Law offices of all sizes are adopting sustainable practices. Example: replacing disposable cups with ceramic mugs. To begin or add energy to a sustainability initiative within your office, an excellent first step is to adopt a written policy.

As a resource for law offices, Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future (OLSF) created a model policy. Key features of an effective sustainability policy include the following:

Management approval. The policy is a commitment by management to the staff that suggestions to alter practices will be seriously considered, subject to economic considerations. In contrast, law-firm green teams of the 80s and 90s often had essentially no support from the management group. A thoughtful policy tends to raise morale of employees and lawyers as it becomes part of the culture of the office.

Responsible person. The policy calls for one person to coordinate efforts to operate the office more sustainably, often with assistance from a small sustainability team. Absent one person with responsibility, sustainability will likely be overlooked in the press of office work to meet client deadlines.

Internal education. A commitment to educate employees at some level is important. In announcing the policy, brown bag lunches might be organized to discuss details and answer questions. When a new employee arrives, part of the orientation should be an introduction to the sustainability policy and efforts within the office to operate more sustainably.

Although the OLSF model policy is a useful tool, it can be modified to reflect the unique culture of your law office. As an example of one of the first policies adopted and published by an Oregon law office (April 2007), see the Stoel Rives Policy.

Provided by Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future.

After practicing corporate law at Stoel Rives for 23 years, in 1993 Dick Roy left his firm to join his wife Jeanne as a full-time volunteer in the emergent sustainability movement. Together they have founded the Center for Earth Leadership, the Natural Step Network, and the Northwest Earth Institute—three Portland-based nonprofits.

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