At a busy law firm, there's no time for paper jams in the copier or unprofessional-looking documents, even if these problems are a consequence of good intentions. Such are the potential pitfalls faced by firms interested in switching to eco-friendly paper or using double-sided printing.
That's where the Law Firm Sustainability Network comes in. Since 2009 it has helped firms develop and share their best practices for boosting environmental sustainability.
Just shy of 50 firms - including big names in California like Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Morgan Lewis & Bockius; and Morrison & Foerster - participate in monthly calls the network organizes to review sustainability case studies and troubleshoot for one another.
The firms involved are motivated by prospective clients that pressure them to vouch for their environmental practices in addition to their billable hours, says Gayatri Joshi, vice president of client management at ecoAnalyze, the New York-based consultancy that administers the network.
"People want to work for a firm that represents their beliefs and their cultures, and clients are the same way," she says.
Discussion topics include carbon emissions, sustainable design, and initiatives that have succeeded at various firms.
Time is a major consideration for legal practices that want to go green, says Linda F. Magyar, the administrator at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman's office in Sacramento, which participates in the network. "When we talk about sustainability, we also talk about human energy. We try to find things that are reasonable to ask very busy people to do," Magyar says.
Meanwhile, the Law Firm Sustainability Network is developing a voluntary sustainability rating system based loosely on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Office facilities and practices will be assessed by the American Legal Industry Sustainability Standards in a rating system to be made public this winter.