The Sustainable Law Office

By Dick Roy

Creating a sustainable law office is a journey of many steps.  With the announcement that Ater Wynne will receive the section’s inaugural Sustainable Law Office Award, let’s take a look at the process.

As a threshold question, why should a law office be interested in sustainable practices beyond the notion that “it is the right thing to do”?  The reasons are many.  Firm personnel are universally uplifted to work for a firm sincerely interested in sustainable practices.  Clients and prospective clients respect firms that contribute to the societal goal of creating a sustainable future.  Law students (and lateral-transfer lawyers) are attracted to a firm known for its sustainable practices.  Firm lawyers, as they participate in a sustainability initiative, become more aware of practices that are important to a growing segment of society.  Expenses can be reduced in certain areas such as paper reduction.

As a measure of how your office is doing, see the Office Practices Checklist developed by Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future.  Check off the recommended practices that are already in place in your office.  The remaining practices provide a framework for next steps.

As one example of a step along the path of sustainability, Ater Wynne discontinued the purchase of bottled water in favor of filtered tap water.  Embedded in each bottle of water are the energy, natural resources, toxic waste, and disposal issues associated with the cradle-to-grave process required to place a bottle of water in the law office.  Like backpackers, sustainability champions in the law office are often surprised and gratified to see how far they travel one step at a time.

Dick Roy is co-founder of the Center for Earth Leadership, the Natural Step Network, and the Northwest Earth Institute—three Portland-based nonprofits.
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