A LEEDing West Michigan lawyer

May 31, 2009
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Pat Drueke started his law practice at Rhoades McKee in the fall of 1998 and his passion for sustainability has grown ever since.

“Throughout the course of my time here, I slowly gravitated to doing more and more real estate and construction-related work,” said Drueke. “I started getting more of a personal interest regarding all of the development in Grand Rapids that was geared toward sustainable design and building practices. Certainly, being in the city of Grand Rapids, with it being a leader in the industry for LEED-certified buildings … that certainly sparked my interest.”

With a practice that delves heavily into real estate, Drueke’s interest was nicely matched and snowballed into a LEED accreditation.

“It seemed like a natural transition for me to take the next step and look into the LEED rating system and the other green rating systems,” he said. “I decided that since I was gaining more knowledge in that, I would sit for the LEED Professional Accreditation exam.”

By obtaining his LEED AP, Drueke became part of a very small group of lawyers who have the accreditation — he is the only lawyer in West Michigan to have it. Drueke, however, believes that LEED in law is a trend that will spread quickly.

“I think a number of things will spark an increase. First and foremost, I believe the potential tax incentives and credits that are currently sitting as house bills in the state legislature, to the extent that those are enacted into law, will certainly increase the available work,” he said.

“More people will look at it, from their budget standpoint, as something that will work for them.”

Drueke finds his LEED AP designation comes in handy when talking with clients.

“I think it is educating clients about not only potential tax incentives, but also mandates that some municipalities have begun to enact in their ordinances,” he said.

“The other way I can use (the accreditation) is to talk to clients about not relying on their standard form agreement that they would use for any other project. Green building requires people to know the sustainable design principles and green-building practices, so they can incorporate that knowledge into their green-building contracts.”

While Drueke is the lone lawyer in West Michigan with LEED AP, law firms in the area are being drawn to more exercises in sustainability and adopting different programs. Miller Johnson recently joined the Law Office Climate Change program, a multi-level program designed to help law firms cut down on their carbon footprint.

“All law firms, their carbon footprint is based primarily on the quantity of paper and energy the firm uses. What we’re hoping to do by participating in this program is to adopt practices that will reduce our use of paper and energy,” said Alan Schwartz, a member attorney at Miller Johnson.

Schwartz explained there are two parts to the program with different levels of commitment and gave examples of some steps firms can take.

“Say 90 percent of all your paper would have to contain at least 30 percent of post-consumer recycled content. We’d have to collect and recycle at least 90 percent of all of our waste paper,” he said.

“Law firms tend to use a lot of paper — anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 sheets of paper per lawyer per year. It really adds up.”

Schwartz said Miller Johnson did some rough calculations and found it consumes somewhere around 5.5 million sheets of paper a year.

“It’s a pretty significant issue when you talk about trying to reduce the amount of paper you’re using. Energy is the same thing. With all the copiers and computers we have and the heating and cooling systems in the building — it all adds up.”

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