Launching the Lawyers Eco-Challenge

Issue October 2007 By Jennifer Rosinski

Lawyers can join the worldwide fight against global warming by participating in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyers Eco-Challenge, a program that will help practitioners change the way they do business.

MBA President David W. White Jr. last month launched the challenge, which includes multiple initiatives. The Energy and Environment Task Force will develop “Green Guidelines” for law firms to be published later this fall. The new year will bring a contest that asks lawyers to put those guidelines to use and track how much they can reduce their energy consumption. Throughout, practitioners will be asked to pledge to become more environmentally responsible.

“The goal is to make lawyers in Massachusetts environmentally conscious and to be a leader around the country for law firms of all sizes,” said White, a partner at Breakstone, White & Gluck PC in Boston. “We are asking people to begin by changing a few habits. It will make a difference.”

Energy saving changes have already been made to White’s 2 Center Plaza office. Motion detector lights have been installed in the conference room and library, the refrigerator has been replaced with an Energy Star-certified appliance, nonessential office equipment has been hooked up to switches that are easily turned off at the end of the day and all light bulbs are now energy-efficient. All future equipment upgrades will be Energy Star-compliant.

“It’s easy to turn these words into meaningful action,” said White, who in his hometown, founded the non-profit Westwood Land Trust Inc. and has chaired the town’s Organization for the Preservation of the Environment and Nature.

The Lawyers Eco-Challenge comes at a perfect time. Gov. Deval Patrick declared 2007 “The Year of Energy Efficiency,” has supported the use of renewable energy and asked state agencies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting their electricity consumption. The challenge also comes on the heels of a Sun MicroSystems survey that says 73 percent of workers want their employers to be green.

Nationally, the push toward green law is being undertaken by various groups. The American Bar Association in March launched a “climate challenge” that asks law firms to make changes in one of three areas: curbing paper use or increasing the use of recycled paper, using renewable sources for energy or using Energy Star guidelines and products. The Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future offers continuing legal education on energy conservation and both a policy and checklist to operate an environmentally responsible law office.

“Lawyers will be leaders in the fight against global warming,” said task force chair Nancy B. Reiner of the Boston-based, international law firm Brown, Rudnick, Berlack, Israels LLP. “That fight starts in the office and at home, with a commitment to reduce energy usage and to recycle to the greatest extent possible.”

Other task force members include Susan Reid, a staff attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston; John E. Tener, a partner at Robinson & Cole LLP in Boston; Boston personal injury attorney Jeffrey Glassman and Susan J. Crane, an environmental attorney who practices in Sudbury.

On average, each lawyer goes through a ton of paper each year ― the equivalent of 24 trees, according to Lawyers Accountable To The Earth, or LATTE, a group formed by Glassman. That means, in total, lawyers across the United States consume 24 million trees annually. “Lawyers go through 10 times more paper than the average office worker,” Glassman said.

Efforts to reduce paper use by thinking twice about printing documents and using recycled paper will be among the common sense suggestions included in the MBA’s Green Guidelines. Advice will also include simple and easy adjustments like switching to energy efficient products, shutting down computers at the end of the day and turning off lights when walking out of rooms.

The Eco-Challenge contest will begin in January, challenging lawyers and law firms to demonstrate reductions in energy use over the course of a few months. In addition, tips will be posted on the MBA Web site ( regularly and distributed to members through the MBA’s weekly electronic newsletter, Lawyers e-Journal.

Eco-Challenge leaders at the MBA will also form coalitions and partnerships with other agencies, associations and businesses throughout the state.

“It’s important for the MBA, as the non-profit legal association with a mission to support the legal community and the larger community, to lead attorneys across the state in this important effort,” said MBA Executive Director Marilyn J. Wellington.