OSB and the Sustainable Future Section
Announce Partners in Sustainability Program

by Ann McQuesten, YLS Futures Committee

As Oregon attorneys, we are fortunate to practice in a state that offers some of the most precious natural resources in the country. Perhaps it is because of our state's unique natural beauty that members of the Oregon bar have long strived to protect and nurture its resources for future generations. In 2009, recognizing the bar's growing commitment to sustainability, the board of governors created the country's first state bar association section devoted to the relationship between sustainability, the law and the needs and interests of future generations.

Since its creation, the Sustainable Future Section has been instrumental in developing and promoting a dialogue among legal professionals about sustainability, both at the state and national level. The section has been successful in providing sustainability-related resources to those who seek them out via CLE programs, its quarterly newsletter The Long View, and its Web site. But its ultimate goal is to reach as many Oregon attorneys and law offices as possible. In furtherance of this goal, the section recently announced the new OSB Partners in Sustainability Program.

The Partners in Sustainability Program provides recognition for Oregon law offices that adopt practices to reduce the energy, resources and harmful chemicals required to operate their offices. The criteria for the program can be found on at http://osbsustainablefuture.org.

Any Oregon law office that satisfies the criteria for the program may submit an application to the Section confirming its compliance with the criteria. Upon acceptance of the application by the section, the office will be listed as a partner in The Long View, on the section's and OSB's sites and in special advertisements. A partner may also distribute a section-prepared press release to announce its participation in the program and may display the partners program logo on its own website and in its promotional materials.

Because the section's goal is to encourage the highest level of participation possible, the program is open to law offices of all sizes and provides flexible criteria to accommodate small, medium and large firms. For example, large offices (those with 25 or more attorneys) must 1) process documents electronically when appropriate, 2) provide payroll information to employees online, and 3) employ hardware and software to scan for electronic document distribution and storage. Medium firms (those with 6-24 attorneys) must meet any two of the above criteria, and small offices (those with 1-5 attorneys) are exempt from these particular criteria.

Michelle Slater, chair of the Sustainable Future Section's Executive Committee, notes that in developing the program it was important to make it both accessible to a wide range of law offices and robust enough to be meaningful. Slater and other executive committee members see the Program as a way to expand upon the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge, which provides far less detailed criteria for law office sustainable practices. In partnership with the OSB, the executive committee developed a more rigorous and detailed framework for the Program, ultimately resulting in the most robust program of its type in the country.

Although the Program requires a strong commitment by its participants, it was also important to its founders that it be voluntary and self-certified. The concept of strength in numbers is what will truly make sustainable practices meaningful. An accessible program that enables as many Oregon lawyers to participate as possible will also create the best results possible.

Sustainability means different things to different people, and individuals' motivations in embracing sustainability concepts can also differ. Similarly, law offices adopting sustainable office practices may have different motivations for doing so. Whether motivated by a desire to preserve natural resources for future generations, to ensure economic stability, or to relate to Oregon clients who value sustainability, participating law firms enjoy the benefits that result from their commitment to sustainability.

Detailed information about becoming an OSB Partner in Sustainability is at http://osbsustainablefuture.org/, along with information about the section's other activities and how to become a member. As an added incentive, law offices that submit applications before June 30 will be recognized as Founding Partners in Sustainability in a section advertisement in August 2012 and in other section communications.