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LOS ANGELES-Law firms are warming up to climate change. In the past few weeks, two firms have formed new climate-change practice areas as states scramble to pass regulations designed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Lawyers are advising clients on how to comply with the new laws and how to benefit from certain types of emissions credits. Earlier this month, Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine launched a 10-lawyer climate-change practice group in response to recent regulations of greenhouse gases. In September, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman announced the formation of a new climate-change and sustainability practice group, which encompasses 40 of the firm’s lawyers. Lawyers at both firms said they consider the practice a growth area. “It’s a nascent practice right now,” said Daniel Adamson, a partner in the Washington office of Davis Wright Tremaine and co-chairman of the climate-change practice group. “You’ve got firms around the country that are forming or starting to form a climate-change practice of some kind. The amount of work will go up a huge amount in the next five years.” Changing climate In August, governors in seven Northeastern states agreed to an initiative that would cap carbon dioxide emissions from power plants while achieving a 10% reduction by 2019. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that would cap all greenhouse gas emissions and mandate a 25% reduction by 2020. Other U.S. firms are helping companies with international operations to obtain emissions credits under the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that became effective last year. “You know an issue is beginning to break when firms are identifying something as a stand-alone practice area,” said John Dernbach, chairman of the committee in charge of climate change within the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources. “The emerging climate-change law is occurring at the intersection of energy and environmental law.” Most firms are not adding new lawyers so far. The new practice group at Davis Wright Tremaine involves lawyers in four offices, said Adamson, who co-heads the group with Allison Davis, a partner in the San Francisco office. Adamson said the practice focuses on regulatory changes and the trading of emissions credits. While many of the firm’s clients are energy producers, he expects more interest from companies in the transportation and manufacturing sectors. Pillsbury’s new group involves lawyers in finance, real estate, intellectual property, energy, environment and litigation in about eight offices, said Sheila McCafferty Harvey, a Washington partner in the environmental practice who co-heads the group with San Francisco regulatory partner Michael Steel. She said much of the new practice involves renewable energy resources and emissions credits. “Our clients’ business may be in a good position to benefit from some of these developments,” she said. In June, Baker & McKenzie, which has built its 40-lawyer climate-change and emissions-trading practice group since 1998, hired a lawyer licensed in California to coordinate new regulatory issues in that state, said Rick Saines, head of the North American climate-change practice group and a partner in Chicago.

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