Green Ribbon Committee
Message from the 2010 Chancellor:
We have all heard about the potential effects of global warming on our environment. But few among us have given serious thought to how this trend impacts us locally – and professionally. The legal profession often sees itself as unrelated to environmental issues. But we are very connected. In my address to our membership in December, I emphasized that our agenda this year will call on us to think beyond where we are today. It will set a course that gives us the best possible chance to take control of our futures. To this end, we are undertaking a new initiative – one that I have been inspired by my children to pursue: minimizing our impact on the environment by taking the Philadelphia Bar Association and our legal community “green.” The range of information and discourse shared at our Bar Leadership Retreat last month framed this threshold issue. At that gathering, Kevin J. Coyle, vice president for education and training at the National Wildlife Federation, shared his candid insights on the practice of law in a clean energy economy. According to the NWF, the global temperature has increased more than one full percentage point since 1860 – 0.6 percent just in the last 25 years. This trend is alarming and should serve as a catalyst to action. For a large metropolitan legal community that employs thousands, a reduction in our collective carbon footprint can make a measurable difference. As a first step of our green initiative, I have created a Green Ribbon Task Force co-chaired by Michael Hayes of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP and Kim Jessum of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP. This group will first determine how the Philadelphia Bar Association itself can better reduce waste to decrease its carbon footprint, both in its internal operations and its external member support. The Task Force will then come up with recommendations on voluntary green standards tailored to each segment of our bar. If a legal employer complies with those goals applicable to institutions of a particular size, it will be invited to post a designation that it has met the Bar Association’s green standards for legal practices. This will ideally encourage transactional lawyers to look at how they document deals and closings, litigators to scour the litigation process – especially in discovery, the rules of court, and hearing preparations – and every other class of attorney to evaluate how they can revamp all aspects of their operations with “green” in mind, from waste reduction practices to marketing, human resources and beyond. Regardless of size, any law office – whether a private firm, nonprofit or government agency, or law school clinic – can take steps to reduce energy use and waste, thus creating less to be disposed of in landfills and less demand for energy production with its environmental impacts. Strategies range from simple paper recycling to comprehensive replacement of lighting and HVAC systems. While some strategies are more realistically available to building owners, tenants also have numerous options for savings.
Once we have proven successful with our personal and law office efforts, we will bring our proposals to the judiciary and ask them to join us by including pertinent recommendations in their case management and trial preparation orders. If there are rules that are causing waste, we will open appropriate dialogue with the courts on what can be done to change them. Our legal community uses enormous amounts of resources. But such heavy use is inconsistent with a sustainable future in which adequate, healthy resources are preserved for future generations. Land use, forestry, and air and water quality are all adversely affected. By minimizing its impact on the environment, our legal community also will reap savings – in the costs of heating, cooling, lighting, equipment operation and purchase of supplies, among other areas. Your public profile will shine brighter as well. To get started, I offer some suggestions taken from Coyle’s presentation: reduce paper and electricity usage and fully commit to recycling; buy “green” products; and minimize your travel impact and offset unavoidable carbon emissions with deliberate “green-friendly” actions. The amount of carbon emitted per person in the United States is 5.6 tons, nearly 4.5 tons more than the world average. It is a staggering figure we must reduce. Even without waiting for the recommendations, we can all make a difference immediately. Challenge what you are doing in discovery and in drafting briefs. Can you and your opponents agree on a single set of exhibits, so the same documents are not entered repeatedly as different exhibits? Can adversaries stipulate exhibits or trial exhibits to avoid duplication? If each of us cuts only a few pages in each deposition or transaction, the cumulative effective will be incredible. As I said in December, our 2010 agenda is unapologetically bold. But while our “green” goals are ambitious, we must commit to better our planet by joining together as one Philadelphia legal community and leading on a national scale. We are not only obligated to set an example as respected members of society, but as mothers, fathers and grandparents. The time for us to perform our own “pro bono service to the environment” is now. Scott F. Cooper, a partner with Blank Rome LLP, is Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.