Pro Bono for the Planet

earthTomorrow is Earth Day and our attention has turned to environmental sustainability. Environmental degradation and climate change pose serious threats, and over the past few years, there has been increased local, national, and international concern for the health of our planet. As we previously reported, lawyers can put their legal training, skills, and expertise to use to propel environmental progress. There is an opportunity, which bypasses both traditional and positional conflicts, to suit the interests and talents of every pro bono lawyer, including partnering with environmental organizations, advocating and litigating on behalf of endangered species, engaging in global environmental pro bono projects, and more.

A number of Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Challenge® Signatories are devoting significant time and resources to eco pro bono work. A few noteworthy examples include:

• Arnold & Porter*† has represented several environmental organizations in their efforts to protect national parks against the damage caused by all-terrain and off-road vehicles. The firm litigated and advocated on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and successfully defeated the National Park System’s proposal to increase the number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park in 2013.

• Davis Wright Tremaine*† provides pro bono legal services to Zenger Farm in Portland, Ore., which operates as a nonprofit and runs programs for underprivileged kids and adults that promote sustainable agriculture. The firm’s pro bono assistance has included help with trademark, real estate, and land issues, guidance on an employee and volunteer handbook, and more.

• Paul Hastings*† advised the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative in its efforts to establish regulations to create a shark sanctuary in the territorial waters of the Cook Islands. Increasingly, the international community is adopting measures to protect sharks from unsustainable commercial fishing practices that threaten their very survival. The protected area that was created as a result of these regulations now makes up one of the largest contiguous shark conservation areas in the world.

• Since 2006, White & Case*† has worked with various environmental nonprofit organizations to arrange debt-for-nature swaps in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Cambodia, and Indonesia. They have arranged more than $100 million in debt forgiveness for these nations in exchange for their commitment to the environment.

Through pro bono engagements and partnerships with environmental organizations, pro bono lawyers can have a significant and meaningful impact, be at the forefront of current and ongoing environmental legal efforts, and fulfill our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. To learn more about eco pro bono opportunities and strategic partnerships with public interest environmental law firms and advocacy organizations, check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Saving the Planet, One Pro Bono Matter at a Time, which is available in our Resource Clearinghouse.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

Hat tip to PBI intern Lily Liu for her help with this post.