Warming Practices Heat Up:

This story from The Recorder on notes that law firms are beginning to develop practice groups to specialize on the legal issues related to climate change.

While scientists ponder how quickly the polar ice cap will become a tropical resort -- and California turns the heat up on the auto industry -- law firms are starting to wave their green flags.

Soon after California Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced he was suing carmakers over vehicle pollution, and the state passed a new law to limit greenhouse gas emissions, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman announced it was putting together a new climate change and sustainability practice group. And Morrison & Foerster announced an event to discuss the new Global Warming Solutions Act.

One consequence of this is that the number of professionals with a vested interest in complex and costly climate change policies will increase. Just as many tax lawyers and lobbyists are predisposed to oppose a dramatic simplification of the tax code, in my experience, few practicing environmental lawyers and lobbyists spend much effort trying to significantly simplify environmental regulation -- and this is true even (perhaps especially) if their clients are regulated firms.

Salaryman (mail):
For law firms' marketing departments, this would seem to have all the upside of the Y2K problem -- plausibility of threat and the happy fact that no one can unequivocally disprove the threat or the necessity of expensive legal services to guard against it, at least not right now -- and none of the downside -- i.e., the risk that at some date certain in the near future it will turn out that the whole thing was bullshit.

Plus, it helps lawyers feel like they're doing good while doing well and pokes GWB in the eye. How perfect is that?
10.19.2006 9:45am
Daniel San:
Contra. Consider the reaction of many defense-side trial lawyers who left the American Trial Lawyers Association when its primary emphasis shifted to politics. Maybe those attorneys weren't going to spend a lot of effort lobbying for legislation that would help their clients, but they didn't want to be associated with the primary efforts lobbying against their clients. The attorneys who left the ATLA weren't just high-profile firms whose clients would notice. Many attorneys who left represent small businesses who are only vaguely aware of the ATLA and wouldn't know or care whether their attorney was a member.

I'm not meaning to bring up the tort reform debate here, or to claim that ATLA attorneys or positions are not principled, or that their opponents are always principled. I am just pointing out that attorneys do sometimes take legislative positions that are contrary to their own interests and in favor of their client's interests, even when no one is noticing.
10.19.2006 10:06am
thedaddy (mail):
Daniel San
With due respect to your last sentence.
Lawyers (and law professers) should not be allowed within a thousand miles of making the laws that they are supposed to be using in practicing their unproductive craft.
Defense and Class action lawyers don't create anything, all they do is move things around and in general provide a huge amount of friction into the affairs of the country.
I am not saying that lawyers are not needed, but the importance and brilliance they think they bring to the table is vastly overated.

10.19.2006 10:23am
Nobody Special:
Daniel San-

You should go get a copy of the latest issue of the ABA Journal. It has a rather large article on tort reform in Texas, highlighting how defense lawyers there are all out of business and very unhappy about it.

Yes, defense left ATLA. However, DRI, the defense side equivalent, isn't exactly tort-reform city.
10.19.2006 10:48am
Nobody (mail):

few practicing environmental lawyers and lobbyists spend much effort trying to significantly simplify environmental regulation -- and this is true even (perhaps especially) if their clients are regulated firms.

Do you have a citation for this libel, or are you pulling it out of the air?
10.19.2006 11:15am
Houston Lawyer:
Although it creates a lot more compliance work for corporate securities attorneys, you will find very few of them who wouldn't support a repeal of the Sarbanes Oxley changes to the securities laws. Some attorneys will support laws that will make their clients' lives easier, even at the cost of forgone professional fees.
10.19.2006 11:24am
Surely the law firms will also be adding some white-collar defense attorneys to their climate change groups.

After all, the environmentalists are proposing Nuremberg-style war crimes trials for climate change deniers.
10.19.2006 12:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
Perhaps if their clients didn't fight against national standards, they wouldn't have to comply with a hodge-podge of local standards and it would have saved them money.

Thus is the price of ignoring reality.
10.19.2006 12:36pm
Anonymous Government Lawyer (mail) (www):
TheDaddy, Unfortunately for our nation, non-lawyers are allowed to be legislators and executive branch leaders. If anything, there should be a rule that only licensed lawyers--who passed the bar exam on their first attempt, unlike Charlie "playboy" Christ in Florida, for example, who failed it twice but is about to [unfortunately] be elected governor, to succeed non-lawyer JEB!, who also has done his best, along with the non-lawyer Republican-controlled Florida legislature to ruin a lot of the Florida Statutes--can be elected to office. All of the bad legislation that exists in this country, at the local, state, and federal levels, was pushed by non-lawyers who often did not understand what they were doing--or didn't understand basic concepts of our common law heritage that made our country great. As an anonymous government lawyer, I see legislators in action, up close, daily. The only things a person should never have to see are (1) the making of sausage and (2) the making of legislation by non-lawyer no-understanding politicians. I could give you 1,000 examples, but I have to get back to work representing these non-lawyer, egomaniacal fool.s
10.19.2006 1:09pm
Broken Quanta (mail) (www):

The citation was right there, in that part of the sentence you elided from your quote:

in my experience, few practicing environmental lawyers and lobbyists spend much effort trying to significantly simplify environmental regulation...

You can think the cited source is unsatisfying if you like, but it's really not fair to claim that the citation isn't there at all (much less to use this false claim to brand the statement a "libel").
10.19.2006 2:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Salaryman comments on: 'the happy fact that no one can unequivocally disprove the threat.'

Although I doubt the believers will abandon their faith, I think there are offers of proof against the alleged threat.

There was an unconscious one this morning that made me laugh out loud.

An NPR report said that the Antarctic Ozone Hole this year is the biggest it's ever been. Since I know the conditions required for the hole to form -- it has to be very cold -- I awaited the follow-up.

Sure enough, the reporter blandly announced, late in his summary, that this is the coldest winter in the history of Antarctica. I'm not a lawyer, but if I were, I wouldn't mind going before a jury to crossexamine an expert witness who claimed that the globe is worming and asking, "So, explain to me how global warming resulted in the coldest winter in the history of Antarctica?"

I don't imagine there are a lot of Perry Mason moments in tort law, but that would be one.
10.19.2006 4:07pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Harry Eagar,

All the SUV's driven on Mars have caused Mars to warm up considerably over the past 5 years.

Have you ever noticed how Global Warming Theory is like some kind of unified field theory of the universe or string theory or something, because to the believers NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, its proof of and predicted by Global Warming. If its colder, its predicted by global warming, if its dryer its predicted by global warming, if its wetter its predicted by global warming, more hurricanes yep global warming, no hurricanes the next year yep global warming, Mars heats up yep SUV's on earth driven by big oil execs global warming, end of the ice age yep predicted by global warming theory, increases in teen pregnancy yep global warming making for more love making to avoid thoughts of the heat.

Anonymous Government Lawyer,

I loved your post. Who says liberals are all self-important all knowing elitist snobs??

Florida won't be doing better in its laws until they get rid of all the idiots who were on the Supreme Court in 2000 and enact legislation requiring election of judges to limited terms on the basis of contested, party affiliated ballots. Also, these party affiliated ballot slots for contested judicial races should be part of the straight party ticket vote lever that exists in most states.

Want to make these people get out their ivory towers and end their corrupting self-delusions of greater knowledge and importance, make them run in contested, party affiliated, subject to straight party ticket voting races. Works like a charm in the few states smart enough to have this kind of system.

Says the "Dog"
10.19.2006 8:38pm
TokyoTom (mail):
Jonathan, congrats on winning tenure.

Contrary to the wailing of some of the commenters here and the implication of your own post that the development of a climate change bar is a BAD thing, isn't it the natural consequence of the success of the fossil fuel producer/user lobby in winning support from the Administration and Republicans to block federal action on climate change?

And isn't it the libertarian position on climate change that the frustration of policy on the federal level (other than widening the spigots on the flow of pork-barrel funding of various pet energy projects) a GOOD thing, so that those who are worried about the economic and ecological damages that result from climate change have to seek solutions through voluntary actions and transactions, the common law doctrines of private and public nuisance, and through actions by states and local communities?

In other words, isn't it precisely the libertarian position that what you seem to be warming of here should be PRAISED - that if a thousand points of climate change action bloom, then that's just the way things should be?

Or do I misunderstand the principled liberatarian position? Perhaps you'd care to share your thoughts on your own position as well, and how it differs from a libertarian one?

Are you in the camp of Sen. Inhofe, who has filed an amicus brief in the action filed by the six NE states against the major Midwestern electric utilities (Connecticut v. AEP) now before the Second Circuit, in which Inhofe insists that climate change policy is "a political question that should be decided by Congress rather than by the courts"?

This is a complex matter, but the growth of the bar in this area is responding to client need, NOT creating demand. The Bush administration itself is responsible for the existence of such demand. While the right (and the industry interests they have backed) may bemoan the political opportunities that this has created for Democrats, they have only themselves to blame (which makes their criticisms of Lockyer etc. rather rich).
10.20.2006 1:56am
Anonymous Govt Lawyer:
Dog, we'll just have to disagree, but you nailed the issue on its head. The idea we "liberals" (including the Founders) believe in is that, yes, the judicial branch is non-elected so as to provide a check on the other two "political" branches. Yes, the rednecks (90%) of America and their mob will do have to be kept in place, and yes I guess that makes me an elitist. One of the problems in Florida is that trial court judges are elected--and even appointed judges are politicians--truly smart folks who understand the law don't become politicians, because they can't stomach it, and thus don't become judges, legislators, governors, or presidents. We just sit and get depressed over our leaders' collective stupidity.
10.20.2006 3:18pm