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America is “going green.” Now that consumer product companies market themselves based on how “green” they are in addition to how much better their products are, it’s a trend worth watching. We lawyers shouldn’t just sit by and watch our clients set the trends; we ought to pitch in and “go green,” or at least go greener in our own practices as well. Most firms participate in recycling programs promoted by the landlords of their buildings. Two trash cans sit under my desk and the desks of all my colleagues in our firm; the bright blue one is designated for recycling with the bold label “We recycle” paired with the familiar recycling symbol of stylized arrows in a triangular formation. My colleagues and I and all our staff enthusiastically use the recycling bins � it’s so easy. Here are a few more very simple ways lawyers can jump on the “going green” bandwagon: • Use both sides of legal pads. Lawyers use reams and reams of paper: computer printouts, photo copies of legal documents and trial exhibits, and hundreds of thousands of yellow legal pads. All legal pads are lined on both sides of each sheet. But I would hazard a guess that maybe 0.5% or less of all lawyers in the profession write on both sides of the page. Legal pads are not made from recycled paper. So, by simply writing on both sides of the page on their legal pads, lawyers could cut their consumption of canary yellow paper pads in half overnight, thereby saving thousands of acres of prime forest land from the pulp mill. • Read law books. Contrary to popular misconception, most lawyers no longer read law books. Lawyers under the age of 35 may never have opened a law book in their professional lives. Law firm libraries have shrunk to mere shadows of their former grandeur because of Lexis, Westlaw and other familiar research tools available online. Instead of reading legal decisions from official case reporters such as F. Supp. or F.3d, lawyers make copies of the opinions they can take to court or read on commuter trains or at home. With the simplicity and thoroughness of online research, lawyers download the cases directly to their desktop or laptop computers. But then, instead of perusing the decisions quickly on their computer screens to see if they are useful, many lawyers simply click on the print icon and reproduce hard copies of thousands of pages of text which, on later review, may prove useless. Law offices and so many other businesses have belied the promise of the so-called “paperless office.” With a little forethought about environmental impact, we can all do better. Court filingsBe brief . . . or at least try to be briefer. Lawyers are not known for brevity. We are notoriously long-winded, and have been well trained in the fine art of expanding a simple declarative sentence or contract provision into a lengthy multiple-page treatise. Trial lawyers present arguments to judges in documents ironically called “briefs.” Before the courts cracked down on verbose lawyers by limiting briefs to 15 pages, litigators routinely prattled on for 50 to 100 pages, as if they were being paid by the pound. In an effort to circumvent these page limitations, some lawyers snuck more content into their written pleadings by expanding margins and reducing the font size on their computers. As a result, several courts have countered by adopting local rules setting mandatory specifications on margins, fonts and footnotes. The battle against long-windedness continues. • Avoid redundancy, savor simplicity. Complex litigation (antitrust, securities, patent and all class actions) generate gigantic case files. Moreover, each case spawns multiple, duplicative paper files maintained in a variety of offices. The court’s clerk maintains the primary file, but the presiding judge may have what is known as “a courtesy file,” filled with pleadings delivered directly to the judge’s chambers. Plus, all of the parties maintain their own pleadings files. So, for example, if the official court file in a complex case with seven parties (hardly a rare event) reaches 10,000 pages (also not unusual), the total paper generated would exceed 90,000 pages in pleadings alone. The volume of paper generated by complex litigation is a direct consequence of the complexity of our laws, so there may not be much we can do about it. But we all should be mindful of the environmental impact of practices we consider to be routine. At the very least, the wasteful duplication of pleadings and records should be fixable. Many courts have implemented electronic filing procedures to simplify and expedite court filings. As more courts turn to electronic filing, paper waste in litigation should be reduced sharply (that is, if we don’t print out hard copies of all filings in triplicate!). Like so many other Americans, lawyers are guilty of engaging in wasteful habits that have a direct impact on our environment. Caught up in the endless urgency of daily practice, we just don’t think about the environmental impact of those bad habits very often. In the interest of “greening” my own practice, maybe tomorrow I’ll start using a ceramic mug for my morning coffee in lieu of the Styrofoam or paper cups provided by our firm. Gerald Skoning is a senior partner at Chicago’s Seyfarth Shaw.

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