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Green practice: Putting green into practice

Every Issue

Cite as: Jan/Feb 2010 84(1/2) LIJ, p.71


An inaugural training series has taught young lawyers how to implement “greener” workplaces.

As sustainability has become more important for clients and the community, lawyers and law firms are looking for more education and guidance on how to be sustainable at work.

In 2009, the LIV held several events aimed at raising awareness and standards surrounding “sustainability” in the profession.

Although there are many programs that promote green offices, there has been a lack of information and training targeted towards the unique conditions in which lawyers operate.

To address this, the LIV hosted the inaugural Green Practice Seminar Series from September to November last year. It was aimed at teaching young lawyers how to create sustainable workplaces.

Fourteen lawyers took part in the interactive sessions which dealt with management, creative thinking and communication. The feedback for all of the sessions was positive.

The first seminar was delivered by Mark Boulet and Anna Lohse of the Banksia Award-winning Green Steps program at the Monash Sustainability Institute.1 Mark encouraged participants to assess what they were already doing in their workplace to make it more sustainable. Then he asked them to consider what more they would like to do.

The session focused on helping participants understand their firm’s environmental impact, identified opportunities for improvement and helped participants devise strategies to implement these ideas.

Interesting exercises included breaking down legal practice by work area (advice, administration, travel etc.) and then identifying the environmental impacts of each area.

All trainers found the level of engagement shown by participants encouraging and felt the importance of providing easy-to-access, practical information about making an environmental difference in the workplace was critical.

As Mark Boulet later commented: “Sustainability should not be left in the hands of a few sustainability experts, but all staff within organisations need a ‘green implant’ if a real difference is to be made. ”

Creative thinking consultancy Minds at Work2 founder Jason Clarke ran the second workshop in October.

He worked with participants to help put their ideas into action and posed the question: “How do we get so many different egos to work together?”.

Jason’s expertise is in innovative and lateral thinking and he gave participants a framework for developing a concept from the initial creative phase through to final execution.

Participants were encouraged to explore their creative side, for example by coming up with crazy new designs for traditional objects. Jason also reminded participants to avoid the twin problems of “premature evaluation” on the one hand and becoming stuck in the planning phase on the other.

Throughout the series, participants were encouraged to share the experiences they had trying to raise sustainability issues in their various workplaces.

This proved to be one of the most valuable aspects of the workshops, with a number of people later commenting that it had been useful to hear what obstacles their peers had been faced with and how these had been overcome. Sharing experiences allowed participants to generate and refine many new ideas to improve sustainability around their offices.

In November the final session was delivered by communications consultancy Aticus co-founder Ben Richards.3 Aticus specialises in teaching lawyers how to pitch ideas. One of the most important lessons participants gained from the session was how much (or little) people pay attention.

Ben gave advice on how presenters could maintain the audience’s attention, and encouraged them to simply “speak as they speak” – an idea very counterintuitive to many lawyers. Indeed, a ripple of panic spread through the group when they were told that they shouldn’t aim for linguistic perfection or exhaustive detail when pitching an idea.

The young lawyers also shared a knowing chuckle when Ben noted the curious habit lawyers have of leaving the core message of a presentation until the end.

Meribah Rose and Phillipa McCormack of Blake Dawson noted that the session helped participants understand how to communicate in terms that are persuasive to the audience: “people who probably have too much to do and not enough time – the partners”.

Overall the training series was a great success. Participant feedback demonstrated clear support for the practical, hands-on approach of the trainers.

Tony Petani of Tresscox Lawyers noted that the training “was really targeted at developing the skills to formulate a realistic, rational and ultimately successful environmental management plan and then selling that plan to your firm to achieve actual results”.

Many participants commented that the skills were highly transferable and could be used to formulate and implement any team-based project.

The LIV will offer training again this year and welcomes input from members about future programs.

The path ahead for Green Practice is reflected in this comment from a seminar participant: “We all have a long way to go, but it was really exciting to see that there are people out there who care about the same issues we do and are willing to put in the effort to create change”.


ROLAND DILLON is the Young Lawyers’ Section (YLS) vice-president. This column is coordinated by the YLS. For more information on the YLS, see www.liv.asn.au/Membership/Practice-Sections/Young-Lawyers.

1. See www.monash.edu/research/sustainability-institute/green-steps/index.html.

2. See www.mindsatwork.com.au.

3. See www.aticus.com.

Green Practice Seminar Series

  1. Understanding the sustainability of your organisation
  2. Problem identification and project design
  3. Presenting the business case and pitching to partners

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