Approximately forty law firms, including major firms like Alston & Bird, Bryan Cave, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, Chadbourne & Parke, Cravath, Swaine & Moore Debevoise & Plimpton Dewey & LeBoeuf, Proskauer Rose, and Shearman Sterling, have created the Law Firm Sustainability Network, which is a group dedicated to developing environmentally friendly offices. The group was organized by ecoAnalyze, an environmental consulting firm. Members of the network conduct monthly conference calls to pool ideas for creating an environmentally-friendly atmosphere at work.
Firms do not have to pay to join the network, but they are expected to contribute to a case study library. Each month the members study a project implemented by one of the firms, e.g. how a firm can cut electricity usage or diminish the firm’s carbon footprint. They also study the firms’ “green” initiatives that did not work. One of the successful case studies involved a system allowing firms to gauge electrical usage on each floor of the office. Because of that case study, Alston & Bird is considering a similar system in its Atlanta office.
Shearman & Sterling will be expanding Earth Day, which falls out on April 22, into Earth Month, because longer campaigns are more effective and generate more participation. The firm plans on organizing competitions during the month-long campaign, including one tracking the number of mugs used per floor versus paper cups.
The Law Firm Sustainability Network will also create standards for environmental sustainability in the legal industry called the American Legal Industry Sustainability Standards. The system would award points to law firms that implement environmentally-friendly practices like video-conferencing instead of travelling to meetings, reducing energy consumption, and reducing the usage of water and paper. Firms will also be able to compare their performance to that of other law firms.
Law firms are focusing on being more earth-friendly, not only because they are concerned about the environment or want to create efficiencies, but because recruits and clients expect it of the firms. In other words, it helps their bottom line.
Some of the law firm initiatives that have taken hold include recycling paper products; reducing paper usage by printing on double-sided paper; converting disposable catering goods to biodegradable materials; food waste composting; saving energy by unplugging electrical appliances and turning off lights; and recycling computers and other devices in an eco-friendly manner.