Does a law school "going green" mean training prospective lawyers with a sense of sustainability?
NYU Law, according to a new "Sustainability" section of their website, is going green:
"Believing that small incremental changes do matter, a group of concerned students, administrators and faculty came together to institutionalize the Law School's commitment to sustainability across the community"
So, what exactly does sustainability mean at NYU School of Law?
"It means recognizing the interconnectedness of today's world. It means the ideas taught in the classroom must extend beyond the campus to make a positive impact on society. It means understanding that individual decisions affect our communities-- local, national, and global -- and believing that together, collectively, we can make a big difference. It means looking boldly to the future, beyond the visible horizon, to find creative solutions that will leave the world a little better than we found it."
The School has also set up a sustainability committee with faculty, students and administrators to solicit ideas and implement them across the university. They also have a pretty cool logo for the initiative (see left.
What's missing, however?
No mention of new curriculum or discussions around connecting the many facets of sustainability with the legal sector. For example, if the committee is working on energy conservation, fluorescent bulbs and certifying the school buildings as LEED, are students learning how to take these conversations with them to work this summer?
Will they be equipped or motivated to drive the same changes at their law firms?
From Vault's 2010 Law Firm Survey, I can tell you that law firms are not the most environmentally-conscious institutions out there, although outliers do exist. As is the reality for much of the professional services sector, "going green" isn't as directly linked to their bottom line as it is for the consumer products and technology sectors.
It requires some, shall we say, digging and contextualizing.
For example, we received comments that ranged from utter dislike ("Unlike most people here, I like to print on one-side and I am not sure why that should be an issue") to avoidance ("Don't really know. They do stuff but I don't pay attention") to complete dedication ("We are working to become—if we're not already—a green firm. For example, we eliminated our branded bottled water program for water pitchers"). Will NYU Law School's commitment to green its campus translate to long term sustainability at law firms in coming years?
For now, let's hope that the school leverages the momentum of these sustainability initiatives to drive a bigger cultural change in the classroom, already sweeping through numerous business school campuses.
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