Four Eco-Challenge participants honored for their strides in greening their practices

Issue June 2008 By Kate O’Toole and Tricia M. Oliver

The work of the Massachusetts Bar Association Energy and Environment Task Force in developing the Green Guidelines and launching the Lawyers Eco-Challenge has been well received by the Massachusetts legal community, with nearly 60 firms and solo practitioners pledging to incorporate more earth-friendly practices into their offices.

On May 14, the Massachusetts Bar Association and its Lawyers Eco-Challenge partner, the Conservation Law Foundation, honored four of those law firms for exemplary leadership in greening the practice of law. The honors took place at the closing reception following the House of Delegates meeting at the Salem Waterfront Hotel.

“Now, more than ever, it is necessary for lawyers to become sustainability leaders. We hope the efforts of our Eco-Challenge pledge partners continue to inspire changes throughout the legal community and the business world at large,” said MBA President David W. White Jr. as he welcomed the guests of honor at the reception.

CLF President Philip Warburg offered words of thanks to the honorees and all the Eco-Challenge pledge partners. “Whether they have worked to reduce energy use, put an end to the massive amount of paper we use, or encouraged employee participation by encouraging public transit and commuting choices, the firms being recognized today — and all the other participating firms — are setting a true example for the rest of the business and legal community in Massachusetts,” said Warburg, who was joined at the event by CLF Staff Attorney Susan Reid, who co-chairs the MBA Energy and Environment Task Force.

Partners from McRoberts, Roberts & Rainer LLP in Boston; Milton, Laurence & Dixon in Worcester; Modern Times Legal in Cambridge; and Borchers, Ware & Guglielmo PC in Medway were on hand to accept the awards for their firms’ extraordinary efforts in minimizing their offices’ impact on the environment.

Reusable mugs, public transit and double-sided printouts reduce Boston firm’s carbon footprint
McRoberts, Roberts & Rainer LLP, Boston

For McRoberts, Roberts & Rainer LLP, which focuses its practice on environmental law and land use, joining the Eco-Challenge and becoming a greener office has enhanced the firm on several fronts. As an expert in the environmental field, the firm felt an obligation to examine its practices and lead by example.

“We spend the majority of our days examining and addressing the impacts to the environment from the acts and omissions of others,” explained firm associate Jennifer Bernazani-Ludlum. “It is our objective to demonstrate practical strategies to minimize our consumption of energy while at the same time providing our clients with quality environmental and land-use representation.”

The firm signed up for the challenge the same day it was launched in January. Since then, the staff has altered some of its office behaviors to save energy. For example, they switch off lights, computer monitors and speakers at night, and try to keep non-essential lights turned off during the day.

The firm also distributed an electronic newsletter to its clients and colleagues, which featured the MBA’s Green Guidelines, and highlighted the steps the firm has taken to reduce its energy use. The newsletter has been met with positive feedback, with firm members receiving thank you notes from clients for the “very helpful guidance.”

Before the challenge even began, McRoberts, Roberts used printers that scan and produce double-sided sheets, utilized reusable mugs and containers and recycled cans and bottles. Each staff member also takes advantage of public transportation to commute to the downtown Boston office.
“Our participation has heightened our awareness of the resources that we consume on a daily basis and has spurred us to take active steps to reduce that consumption. The Eco-Challenge was an opportunity for us to reflect on how the operation of our own practice affects the environment,” Bernazani-Ludlum concluded.

Small firm invests in volume scanner to cut down on paper, postage and wasted space
Milton, Laurence & Dixon, Worcester

“Members of our firm have been interested in promoting environmentally-friendly policies,” noted partner Jennifer DeFronzo. “But the Eco-Challenge gave us the impetus to evaluate what we were already doing and look at other ways to create a positive impact.”

Milton, Laurence & Dixon in Worcester is a five-attorney firm of defense trial lawyers that represents clients before the state and federal courts, and in professional board hearings, mediations and binding arbitrations.

After joining the Eco-Challenge in February, Milton, Laurence & Dixon began making small changes to become more eco-friendly. For example, the staff successfully urged their landlord to install motion-activated soap dispensers, and are working on putting in motion-activated faucets, as well. The firm also initiated a bimonthly electronic newsletter to staff with tips on how to save energy.
According to DeFronzo, “Encouraging simple acts like turning off the lights, making double-sided photocopies when appropriate and writing the bimonthly Eco News have, almost overnight, created a firm-wide culture promoting awareness of the environment.”

Another major step for Milton, Laurence was the purchase of a volume scanner, which has helped the staff to reduce its paper volume by e-mailing documents or burning CDs. DeFronzo noted that the scanner has already dramatically improved the operation of the office. “We have not only reduced the amount of paper we use, but reduced the amount of space required for file storage and postage costs,” she said.

The firm continues to strive toward more economic and environmental efficiency. “Our next focus will be in evaluating our purchasing decisions and encouraging the use of materials manufactured from recycled materials,” DeFronzo said. “As a small firm, we've found that even small changes and a minimal time commitment can generate full-sized results.”

Solo practitioner in Cambridge embraces sustainable practices to streamline business, strengthen client relationships
Modern Times Legal, Cambridge

Patent attorney Robert J. Sayre’s commitment to progressive business practices is reflected in his firm’s unique name: Modern Times Legal.

“My clients understand that concerns regarding the environment are real,” Sayre pointed out. His clients include top universities and companies in a range of fields, including chemistry, electronics, alternative energy and mechanical engineering. “It is now more readily apparent to them that I share their values and commitments.”

Sayre has pursued a sustainable business model. Before the Eco-Challenge began, he ran a substantially paper-free practice and eliminated his car, instead electing to ride his bike, rent a Zipcar, or hop on the subway. When the MBA announced the Eco-Challenge, he was thrilled to be a part of it.

“I had not previously seen this commitment take root on a broad scale with a shared sense of purpose among attorneys,” Sayre explained. “I found the program highly validating in terms of knowing that my own efforts were not in isolation.”

Sayre urges other lawyers to be examples for their clients: “The collective client base of the firms that have pledged to the Eco-Challenge spans the regional economy. As these clients look to their lawyers as trusted advisors, these initiatives will spread further and the impact will be magnified.”
Since the Eco-Challenge began, Sayre shifted to using recycled paper and printing double-sided paper, replaced his incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and began recycling his printer cartridges. His commitment to sustainability is now an important part of the identity and vision for Modern Times Legal, and he looks forward to continually implementing new ideas.

Sayre added that his awareness of environmental responsibility does not stop when he leaves the office at night, but persists in the aisles of the grocery store, and in his own home.
“It’s contagious,” he said, “Fortunately, my wife is fully on board and we enjoy working together in greening our home.”

Estate-planning firm cuts down on paper and fuel; saves money and boosts morale
Borchers, Ware & Guglielmo PC, Medway

“Our firm is still working on changing years of habits in printing of estate plans and in resistance to telecommuting,” said Managing Partner Timothy B. Borchers. “We have bugs to work out.” But Borchers, Ware & Guglielmo PC — a six-attorney Medway firm that specializes in estate planning — has taken several important steps to eliminate those bugs.

The firm signed up for the Eco-Challenge the day after it launched in January. “The Eco-Challenge seemed a logical extension of our vision as a law firm in which we emphasize caring for people and their assets,” explained Borchers.

Since then, they have formed a Green Up Committee to implement changes at the firm, which include switching to double-sided printing, installing additional programm-able thermostats and implementing new recycling systems. The committee also developed standards for telecommuting effectively from home one day every three weeks.

“We decided to adopt an approach to most of our planning that was along the lines of ‘better a little than nothing at all,’” Borchers noted. For example, while the firm is not yet prepared to make telecommuting the office norm, allowing each employee one day per month to telecommute adds up. Ten employees telecommuting once a month spares 120 commutes and several hundred miles per year.

Borchers described the small changes as “very gratifying,” though he expects the changes to snowball. He predicts major changes to occur within about a year’s time.

The firm has already challenged other businesses in its office building to reduce energy use. The staff has noticed a morale boost not only among themselves, but also among neighboring businesses.

Borchers urges other law firms to embrace the challenge. “Becoming more ecologically friendly boosts morale, image and savings all at once,” he explained. “Rather than thinking of this as a burden, schedule times to think through the ideas. Adopt the simple ones first and expand over time.”