|Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2009|
Green Business Initiatives
Thank you for your recent coverage of sustainability and the law in Oregon (“Advancing the New Economy,” October 2009). Barry Woods provided a timely and relevant overview of the emerging area of the law. However, in light of the emerging area of the law, we want to take this opportunity to highlight a few recent developments in the law of green business at the University of Oregon School of Law.
In 2007, Oregon Law created the Green Business Initiative, one of the first law school programs in the country dedicated to the intersection of law, business and the environment. For more information, please visit www.uoregon.edu/greenbizlaw.
In 2008, Oregon Law added a Statement of Completion in Sustainable Business Law to a growing number of green business course offerings and joined with the Lundquist College of Business to offer a joint JD/MBA in sustainability.
Over the same time period, students founded the Green Business Initiative Student Association, created a new Sustainable Business Collection at the Oregon Law Library, and launched an annual sustainable business symposium.
We appreciate your coverage of the emerging area of sustainability law and practice and thank the author for his excellent reporting on the issue.
Kimberly R. Burkland Pray, Eugene
Assistant director, Green Business Initiative
Matthew Shroettnig, Eugene
President, Green Business
Initiative Student Association
A Win-Win-Win Situation?
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after reading Janine Robben’s “Oregon’s Vanishing Civil Jury Trial” (November 2009). It quoted many influential Oregon lawyers and judges lamenting the loss of “jury trial experience” among bar members and how this is a great tragedy that potentially threatens our very system of justice. It discusses the “fixes” a “statewide committee” had begun implementing, among them the creation of lawyer internships as deputy district attorneys and public defenders.
Worst economy since the depression. Tons of lawyers with little trial experience. No new jobs. Massive student loan debts. Start-up lending for those without existing clientele nearly non-existent. Meanwhile, public agency attorneys are farming out available “public work” to the most financially successful private firms in the state. In short, “internship/partnerships” are being doled out to private firm associates with jobs, comfortable salaries and myriad other “profitable legal opportunities” to build their futures while the rest of us struggle to get any work whatsoever.
If the economy was sound and there was plenty of work to go around, I wouldn’t be squawking. But I know too many people in my position who are caught in the positions described above. It isn’t pretty. It’s serious, and it has long-term personal, financial and professional consequences. While our current economic climate isn’t going away anytime soon, some of us are trying not to give up on the dreams we and our families sacrificed for in ways big and small. And it isn’t helping that the longer we are forced to do something else to pay the bills without getting any contemporaneous opportunities within the legal community, the odds increase significantly that we won’t ever get a shot at practicing law. It’s a self-reinforcing dynamic. It’s not like it’s a big secret in the profession.
I understand the financial reality out there from the practitioners’ perspective, but how much does it really “cost” to throw some of us a lifeline. Those who can work for next to nothing, if not actually nothing, simply in trade for the experience and mentoring that gives us a chance going forward to build the skills we’ll need to get the next opportunity? Seriously, at this point most of us at the bottom of the legal caste system would sell an organ, donate plasma or jump all over the chance to be an unpaid intern doing the public’s work. Plasma doesn’t pay the bills, organ sales aren’t yet legal, and apparently the concepts of community and collegiality have given way to battlefield triage.
But, I guess priorities are priorities. Pretty soon we could have private firms do all the public’s work, pro bono of course, and then it’ll be a win-win-win situation. At least for a select few anyway.
Ronald R. Heard, Forest Grove
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Send letters to: Editor, OSB Bulletin, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281.
Readers may have been startled by our reporting that Oregon’s district courts merged into the circuit court in January 2008 (“Oregon’s Vanishing Civil Jury Trial,” November 2009). In fact, the year was 1998, a decade earlier. The Bulletin regrets the error.