About five years ago I met a lawyer from the Vancouver area who told me he lived on an island “off the grid.” In other words, he generated all his own electricity. I was impressed, awed even, that someone so close to a city that provided ample electricity with easy access would choose to take this difficult (and likely expensive to set up) route to powering his property. At the time, clean, renewable energy was neither in fashion nor easy to procure. Let’s not even talk about the cost.
Things sure have changed in the last few years. Canadians’ attitudes about the environment, fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, energy use and generation, and even recycling have dramatically changed. Green business is booming and a new language and economy are growing out of that. And that’s good news for lawyers, particularly those who are looking for new and innovative areas of practice as well as interesting and enthusiastic clients. Our cover story looks at the growth of practices relating to the clean technology sector. Windmills and solar panels used to be the purview of the granola set, but they’ve gone mainstream and Canadians are innovating and coming up with new products and new methods for better, more efficient, and more economical ways of generating renewable energy. The B.C. government has put out a call for proposals on clean ways to generate energy for that province, and the sector is buzzing. Lawyers, along with these entrepreneurs, are learning a new industry and it’s building lots of excitement.
There’s also carbon trading and the growth of that new market, which is providing new and interesting work for lawyers on the finance side. Judging from the carbon-trading markets in other parts of the world, this area is just getting going. Construction and real estate are also changing in this new reality. The green lease is in; read all about it in this month’s real estate column on page 21.
But it’s not just about the new opportunities for your law practice. The green revolution is hitting everything from IT to office supplies. Using less power and even less paper makes good business sense. It’s good for the environment but it also saves money, and in many cases improves internal processes, making your firm attractive to clients looking for legal counsel that reflect their ethos about the environment. There are lots of ideas about what your firm could be doing better in our 10 tips to green up the office on page 48, and a couple case studies about greening your IT in Gerry Blackwell’s technology column on page 27.
While advances are being made and Canadian consumers and businesses are mostly becoming better environmental citizens, there are still many battles to be fought. In this month’s managing partner interview, Devon Page, the recently appointed executive director of Ecojustice, talks about his organization’s continuing struggle to ensure federal and provincial legislation protects this country’s animals, waterways, earth, and sky.
Our IP story on page 53 also looks at ways regulators are trying to make sure consumers don’t get “green washed” with false claims of environmentally friendly products. There’s a need for vigilance on many levels.
I do hope readers find our mix of “green” stories to be enjoyable. It was definitely extremely interesting putting this issue together.
— Gail J. Cohen