Legal & Criminal Justice

Legal & Criminal Justice
Law Firms Go Green

Law Firms Go Green

Article Highlights

  • The American Bar Association and Environmental Protection Agency have partnered on a project that encourages law firms to go green.
  • In addition to being eco-friendly, law firms that make the effort to go green could also save money.

Rate This Article

Related Topics

View PDF Print Article

The green movement is taking root in all types of industries, including law firms.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a Law Office Climate Challenge — a project that encourages law firms to go green.

“The ABA worked with EPA to design a program to encourage law firms to participate in these voluntary programs,” says Daniel A. Eisenberg, a lawyer and member of the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. “The aim was to encourage law firms to take steps to improve their office sustainability, and also to set a good example for clients.”

The program is designed to help with office paper management and energy usage reduction.

While the perception may be that law firms use more paper than other businesses, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore, thanks in part to technology.

Paper Chase

Kathryn Dickey, program director of Legal Studies at South University — Montgomery, Alabama says that reducing, or even eliminating, paper use in law firms has been made easier by e-filing.

“All documents filed in federal district courts require e-filing, which has reduced the amount of paper documents filed,” she says. “By eliminating the requirement to file paper documents in federal district courts, the amount of actual paper documents in law offices has been drastically reduced.”

Save Some Green

In addition to being eco-friendly, law firms that make the effort to go green could also save money. The ABA’s Law Office Guide to Energy Efficiency says that “energy represents 30% of a typical office building’s operating costs, and is the single largest controllable operating expense.” The guide estimates that an office space consisting of 20,000 square feet with 30% energy savings would reduce costs annually by 60 cents per square foot, or a total of $12,000.

“We have had over 200 law firms and other law-related businesses and organizations enroll in the program,” Eisenberg says. “The popularity of the program is at least in part due to the fact that firms are given an array of options for improving sustainability, many of which either are low-cost or even have the possibility of saving money.”

That wide variety of options for going green means that even small firms can reduce paper usage and electricity consumption, Dickey says. Larger law firms may be able to do even more.

“Some of the large law firms are hiring sustainability officers in an effort to conserve energy and resources,” Dickey says. “These firms also serve as an example of an environmentally friendly business to their clients.”

Dickey says some law firms go even further to be environmentally friendly by using green options when constructing buildings. That can mean using anything from bamboo flooring to recycled glass.

Green Firm Effect

Lydia Bednerik is marketing director for the law firm Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP. The firm’s Oakland, California, office has been classified as a “leader” in the Law Office Climate Challenge in the areas of best paper practices and energy star. Bednerik says the firm began investigating how to go green in 2003 when a group of attorneys approached firm management expressing the desire to establish environmentally friendly initiatives.

“The goal was simple: we wanted to do well while doing good,” she says. “Understanding that simply installing recycling bins wasn’t enough, but unclear as to just how much impact one mid-sized law firm might have, Wendel Rosen investigated the steps necessary to become a sustainable organization.”

Four months later, she says, the firm became a certified green business — the first law firm in the country to do so. Since then Bednerik says that the firm’s representation of environmental business has increased, which further encourages Wendel Rosen to continue their own green tactics.

“The firm’s employees are making changes in their personal environments thanks to their heightened awareness and ongoing education at the office,” she says. “These positive indicators suggest that its impact is reaching far beyond the immediate community.”

Author: Megan Donley

© South University