What do large law firms have in common with Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog? For both, it’s not easy being green. Take a look at the hoops that mega-firm Reed Smith had to jump through when its clients started inquiring about the firm’s green initiatives. As described in this article, Reed Smith first created an internal green management committee to provide a list of green suppliers to employees and to manage the firm’s $5 million travel expenditure with green goals in mind. Eventually the firm made a carbon offset donation of $22,000 to account for 13.7 million miles flown. The firm’s goal wasn’t to eliminate the miles traveled, but to make a donation to offset miles used. Aside from travel issues, the article does not mention any other efforts by the firm to go green – such as encouraging telecommuting, going paperless or substituting web based meetings for in-person ones.
In contrast to large firms, green is something that we solo and small firm practitioners are rather than something we do. Many of us work from home at least part of the time, which keeps cars off the road. And we employ virtual assistants or contract lawyers who also work from home, further cutting down on traffic and the corresponding emissions. Working from home allows us to dress as we like, so we can limit the cost of dry-cleaning, which isn’t even slightly green (some would argue that you don’t even need to change your clothes regularly when working from home, but that’s taking environmentalism too far in my view!). Many solo and small firm lawyers are also cutting down on travel costs by utilizing video depositions or affiliating with counsel in other cities who can handle local matters where face to face contact is required.
Since solo and small firms try to keep our costs down, we’ve been early adapters of the paperless office, which obviates the need to waste space storing voluminous paperless files on site. Transmitting documents by email cuts down on the need for couriers or mail trucks. And it also conserves ink and reduces the number of printer cartridges we use.
As for me, I employ many of these techniques already in my practice. I’ve also made a point of using green web host, Dreamhost for my marine renewables trade association website and a new blog that I’ll be putting up. And for my next round of business cards, I’m going to seek out recycled paper.
As being green becomes increasingly important to clients, consider using your green practices as an added selling point, perhaps making note of them in a list of office policies. Of course, you shouldn’t go green just to get more “green” from clients. But if you’re green already, why not flaunt it?