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Law Firms Going Green

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Submitted By thomas23
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“Going green” is a phrase that has been on the lips of many people for the past few years. To go green means you will act in a way to preserve the planet and its natural systems and resources (Wilkerson, 2009). In light of all the talks of going green many companies want to go green as well. Green jobs as explained in the Bureau of Labor Statistics website are jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve its natural resources. Jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources (BLS, 2013). Automatically the thoughts of working on a farm or planting trees in some forest come to mind I am sure but those are not the only options. Major companies that are housed in large story buildings can be a green job as well. Companies that produce energy from renewable sources use energy efficient electronics in the work area, and any reduction in greenhouse gasses can all be considered green jobs (BLS, 2013). The company itself is not the only thing that has to be green but the employees need to be as well (at least when at work). The company needs to provide the employee with the proper knowledge of the environment and how the company itself is working towards helping the planet. Whatever it is that the company is doing like aiding in the conservation of energy or pollution reduction the employee must know how the company implements these practices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics actually has surveys that they use to determine which jobs can be considered green. The Green Technologies and Practices (GTP) survey is used by the BLS to provide data on the number of jobs in which workers spend more than half of their time involved in green technologies and practices (BLS, 2013).

As a paralegal student I at first was just looking forward to my dream job working in a law office but as I have become more aware of the environment my dream job has turned into my hunt for a green job. Law firms use a tremendous amount of paper on a daily basis and know for fact that cannot be good for the environment. I started to look into firms that are implementing green habits and was surprised that the American Bar Association was involved in becoming green as well. In March 2007 the American Bar Association created a program called the American Bar Association-Environmental Protection Agency’s Law Office Climate Challenge (ABA, 2013). The program is designed to encourage law offices to take specific steps to conserve energy and resources, as well as reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (Pribek, 2008). When you think of a lawyer you think of paper, paper, and more paper so hearing that many law firms are going paper less is refreshing for “tree huggers” and the conscious green advocate alike. Everything in a law office is done in writing because of that a lot of paper has to be used. Due to privacy issues the papers are then shredded and new paper must be used to start all over again. There is the thought of using recycled paper but what are the other ways of limiting the paper usage in a law office? Using both sides of the paper is a concept that is not used as often as it should be but printers are now being built. An environmentally safe printer that prints on both sides of the paper simultaneously. With the advancement of technology we can now send emails instead of paper mail, which for lawyers is a great benefit since everything is on a schedule. Many companies like HP and Cannon have printers that print on both sides of the page at the price of a regular printer.

Another way attorneys are going paperless is to scan the documents into the computer and not have to worry about carrying around a bunch of paper. Advanced scanners like the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1500 will scan both sides of the papers (Beahm, 2010). The life-cycle of one ton of office paper, from production to recycling, results in the release of about nine tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)–equivalent gases (ABA, 2013).
Besides the ways to reduce the use of paper to lower the carbon foot print firms are looking into other things that can be done like carpooling to work. At Godfrey & Kahn’s Madison branch, a number of staff and attorneys have agreed to participate in National Bike to Work Day and those who want to keep peddling to work will be given a yet-to-be-determined incentive (Pribek, 2008). Firms are applying green initiative programs by encouraging employees to find environmentally friendly ways to get to work. Taking the bus to work is another great way that firms are encouraging their employees to be more Earth conscious, some firms pay 100 percent of the transit cost (Lore, 2008). At the office of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, the firm has purchased a corporate membership with Community Car; the cars obtain high gas mileage or are hybrids (Pribek, 2008).
While some law firms have opted for changing out the light bulbs in the office to something more energy efficient or they installed automatic light switches that turn off the lights when no one is in the room (Pribek, 2008). Every little thing helps in an office, like switching out the desktop computers with laptops, since laptops use only one-third of the power that a desktop does. The law firm of Garvey, McNeil & McGillivray has installed a programmable thermostat to keep the temperature at comfortable levels only during business hours (Pribek, 2008).
Other firms have gone above and beyond by implementing other aspects into their offices to reduce their carbon footprint. Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi took the lead among law firms in the upper Midwest more than a year ago when it announced it was switching to wind-generated electricity to provide 100 percent power for its Minneapolis office (Lore, 2008). Many buildings are doing a complete overhaul of their offices by taking on a LEED or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design approach (USGBC, 2013). LEED is a green certification system that provides construction for the interior or the building/office and for maintenance of the building/offices. LEED utilizes materials like natural lighting, bamboo cabinets and recycled flooring which are saving the firms money (Rabiner, 2011). LEED is used to increase the efficiency of buildings, freeing up valuable resources that can be used to create new jobs, attract and retain top talent, expand operations and invest in emerging technologies (USGBC, 2013).
Green jobs are great ways for not only law firms to go green but a way for all companies to take the initiative and help the planet. These changes are cost effective for the companies as much as it helps the environment. Clients will be proud to do business with the company since the time was taken to care for the details of the business and its surroundings. Clients will have a sense of security and feel like you will want to take care of them just the same (Rabiner, 2011). These are also great ways to start employees to build habits of taking care of the environment. The trainings will educate people in ways that they may not have known or remind others of how important it is to think of our planet (Lore, 2008). The impact of the companies going green has been so big that the employees are taking what they are learning home with them. Lydia Bednerik a marketing director for the law firm Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP said that “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” (Donely, 2013).

American Bar Assocation (ABA). (2013). Green Power Partnership Program.
Beahm, J. (2010). Is going paperless your goal? Fujitsu SacnSnap scanner does trick. Technologist, Findlaw.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (2013). Green Jobs.
Donely, M. (2013). Law Firms Go Green. South Source.
Lore, M. (2008). Minneapolis law firms going 'green'. Minnesota Lawyer (Minneapolis, MN). Pribek, J. (2008). Wisconsin law firms give environmental efforts the green light. Wisconsin Law Journal (Milwaukee, WI).
Rabiner, S. Esq. (2011). Law Firms Going Green, Flocking to LEED Certified Offices
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). (2013). LEED is driving the green building industry.
Wilkerson, B. Dr. (2009). What does going green mean? Ezine Articles.

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