Posted by: washingtonlawyers | March 8, 2008

2020 Vision Retreat Discussion Summary

Nine of us met for the “2020 Vision Retreat” of Washington Lawyers for Sustainability last Saturday morning, March 1, graciously hosted by Marcia Mellinger at her home.  The purpose of the retreat was to envision what we would like the organization to become and to be accomplishing by 2020.  Those who participated were:

Amy Bann, King County
Jed Barden, Riddell Williams
Erin Watanabe Croman, Riddell Williams
Sean Croman, Wilson Sonsini
Alexandra Filutowski, Wiener Lambka Deutscher
David Frankel, Law Office of David R. Frankel, interim coordinator
Barbara Lither, EPA
Marcia Mellinger
Cliff Villa, EPA

Meeting Notes

After each of us introduced ourselves to the group by describing our backgrounds, areas of practice and interests in sustainability issues, we started the 2020 Vision discussion by recapping the four broad and overlapping areas of focus we have identified in prior meetings:

1) Becoming a trusted resource and conduit for information relevant to sustainability;

2) Leading by example by developing and implementing sustainable practices for law firm operations;

3) Incorporating sustainability into counseling of business clients; and

4) Identifying changes to existing laws and regulations that would promote sustainable practices in such areas as land and resource use, building codes, etc.

Brainstorming about the role of a lawyers’ sustainability organization

The group spent the first half of the morning brainstorming about what we as lawyers are uniquely suited to contribute to the promotion of sustainability, and what values and activities we think would characterize an effective, successful organization of lawyers committed to sustainability principles.  Marcia acted as facilitator and recorded summary statements of our suggestions.  Our ideas, which I have clustered somewhat thematically here, included:

  • Leading by example
  • Producing more action than organizational process and structure
  • Producing tangible results on specific issues
  • Encouraging participation by others interested in various aspects of law and sustainability
  • Developing a sense of community through the organization and its activities, including a fun, social component
  • Earning and maintaining a reputation for credibility and integrity
  • Influencing policy and decisionmaking
  • Vetting claims made by business and government re sustainability
  • Defining the roles that lawyers can fill concerning sustainability in various contexts
  • Embedding the concept of sustainability into legal practice
  • Heightening corporate awareness of sustainability through all phases of business
  • Engendering systems/long term thinking
  • Encouraging incorporation of environmental justice concerns into the sustainability framework
  • Acting as liaison between the legal profession and other groups addressing sustainability issues
  • Becoming an umbrella organization for spin-off groups focused on specific issues or functions related to sustainability
  • Functioning analogously to “Washington Lawyers for the Arts”
  • Developing a referral service to and for lawyers and providers of other services addressing sustainability issues
  • Broadening law firm pro bono policies to encompass sustainability-related projects
  • Fostering a pro bono sustainability bar
  • Providing education and training to lawyers on sustainability issues and best practices
  • Starting and running law school sustainability clinics
  • Developing attorney and law firm sustainable practice standards and certifications
  • Developing checklists for spotting and analyzing law-related sustainability issues in various contexts
  • Developing and publishing a set of accessible, plain language legal documents relevant to sustainable practices in various areas
  • Identifying funding sources to support the organization and sustainability projects

Breakout Working Groups

After some social time during which we explored the pond and wetland area behind Marcia’s home (which was preserved through the her efforts and those of her neighbors), we reconvened and decided to split into two working groups to focus on 1) education and training; and 2) developing roles for lawyers in promoting sustainability.   Most of us expressed interest in participating in both working groups going forward.

Education & Training
The participants in the Education and Training breakout group were Barbara Lither, Cliff Villa, Marcia Mellinger, and Alexandra Filutowski.  Alexandra reported back on the ideas generated by their discussion, as follows:

1. implement Dick Roy’s 7 Steps of Engagement
2. list book lists and Law Review articles on WLS’ website (Barbara has many resources to list)
3. bring outside, non-lawyer speakers to WLS monthly meetings to provide us with further resources and knowledge on sustainability.
4. publish quarterly e-newsletter (Barbara knows someone from work who publishes a sustainble business practices newsletter with summaries of various news articles re: domestic and international sustainability)
5. develop a speaker kit that WLS can bring to various non-traditional sustainability groups and CLES (real estate section, corporate law section, etc.) and give mini presentation on how sustainaiblty is involved, affected, or should be considered by that area of law.
6. host a corporate social responsibility (CSR) CLE on how to develop a CSR and sustainability practice.
7. launch an online or email survery to gain accurate demographic info on those intersted in our group or who might be interested in our group.
8. advertise in Bar News, KCBA, etc.
9. publish article(s) in the above.
Sustainability Roles for Lawyers

The participants in the Sustainability Roles for Lawyers breakout group were Amy Bann, Jed Barden, Sean Croman, Erin Croman and David Frankel.  Erin reported back on the ideas and action items generated by their discussion as follows:

1.    Developing checklist/guidelines for the role of a lawyer in the area of sustainability
  • The group determined that we would create a draft checklist/ guidelines for areas in which law intersects with sustainability (e.g., environmental, land use, intellectual property, employment, corporate).
  • Amy will forward a copy of a short working draft she has to Erin.
  • Erin will incorporate Amy’s draft and begin a working draft of the group checklist.
  • David will provide names/email addresses to Erin of additional WLS members who had previously expressed interest in working to develop a checklist/ guidelines for the role of a lawyer in the area of sustainability.
  • Erin will then forward a copy of the working draft to the group for comments.
2.    Pro bono network for sustainability related legal work
  • The group discussed developing a pro bono network for legal matters concerning sustainability. Debate ensued regarding whether WLS should approach pro bono coordinators at large local law firms to gauge interest and in determining whether sustainability legal matters would be supported by law firm pro bono policies.
  • As a first step in gauging interest and determining the parameters of law firm pro bono policies, Sean and Erin will inquire with their respective law firms.

Other Agenda Items

Naming the organization
After several participants expressed the opinion that our working name to date, Washington Lawyers for a Sustainable Future is a bit longer than it needs to be, and observed that the concept of “sustainability” embraces concern for the future, the entire group discussed whether to adopt a different name.  We rejected options that implied that we are a bar association or affiliated with the state bar, and opted to stay with a name that is descriptive, implies action in the present to promote sustainability, and evokes our relationship with Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future, with whom we hope to continue to cooperate closely:  Washington Lawyers for Sustainability (WLS)

Legal Entity
We discussed pros and cons of forming a nonprofit corporation and of seeking 501(c)(3) status.  The discussion tended to favor incorporating at some point so that when we need to approach law firms and other organizations we will be more than an amorphous group without legal status; but was more inconclusive regarding 501(c)(3) status, which might preclude us from some advocating for changes in the law in some ways.  We will need to revisit these issues.

Oregon Lawyers for a Sustainable Future Retreat

Dick Roy and OLSF have kindly invited David Frankel and another WLS founding organizer to attend their annual retreat on Sunday, March 9, in Portlan.  Cliff Villa will be in Oregon that weekend and offered to attend.

Social events

All of us who attended the retreat enjoyed the energy, creativity and commitment of the group, and agreed that in addition to regular meetings for conducting business, WLS should organize social evenings every month or so at congenial watering holes so that we can meet and brainstorm in a less structured way.

Thanks to Marcia Mellinger and John McAlvay for hosting us!

The next regular meeting of WLS will be at noon on Thursday, March 20, 2008, at the EPA offices. I will send out a reminder notice closer to the date.


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