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    Call To the Bar: Local Lawyers Organize to Fight Climate Change

    “Well, what is the bar of the nation doing about this?” 

    In 1963, this question inspired 46 lawyers from around the country to bring attention to civil rights and spark the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    In 2016, that same question inspired a national collaboration of lawyers to fight climate change through law. Philadelphia attorneys (and Villanova Law School classmates) Steve Harvey and Yolanda Pagano are spearheading the efforts, with participation by active local attorneys including Brad Molotsky and Melissa Muroff.

    Where it Began

    Cases. Evidence. Files.  (Ask what kind of paper.) By nature, attorneys have a paper-heavy industry organizing hundreds or thousands of records.

    In his Center City law office, Steve Harvey sits surrounded by paper. “It’s necessary. But I’m just one law firms of many in the city.” As Harvey considered the size of law firms are in Philadelphia, he knew there was potential for a big change ahead.

    Based in Pennsylvania, Call to the Bar is a nonprofit organization trying to engage lawyers to address the issue of climate change, between setting goals, create legislation and educate the legal community.

    We chatted with Yolanda Pagano, Director of Sustainable Strategies & Solutions at O’Brien and Gere (where she leads the sustainability practice), to hear about the Call to the Bar and pathway moving forward.

    Call to the Bar: Bringing lawyers together

    The organization began with efforts to unite bar associations to create a resolution that climate change is real and that lawyers should address this situation. Ultimately, lawyers are advisors to the business community and can navigate the risk of climate change.

    There’s also going to be a push for communication efforts to enable lawyers to speak about climate change issues with intricacies and details. “There are several different pathways, but we’re trying to figure out where we can participate without duplicating the efforts of anyone else,” says Pagano.

    There’s a business case for Call to the Bar, too. Ultimately, lawyers are advisors to the business community and can help clients navigate climate change risks, both in business operations and potential gaps. Driving further efforts in the business community is especially important with the national partisan environment.

    “If we don’t act soon, the higher the costs and worse the implications will be.”

    a legal climate change summit in dc

    Call to the bar - conference in DC

    The First National Conference of Lawyers Committed to Addressing the Climate Emergency occurred on April 28th, the day before the Climate March in Washington DC.

    About 300 people gathered at American University to address the solution. National experts talked about the urgency of climate change, including how lawyers have helped and halted progress. As Pagano explained, “Ideas range from supporting and pursuing litigation happening within the NGO community to civic advocacy to support the scientists who are being questioned in regards to their research to advocacy on all levels – local, state, federal and international.”

    As talks began with the urgency of climate change, the discussions got into case studies in the legal community. As one lawyer discussed, one climate change researcher at a university was requested to turn over his emails to climate denier groups. The lawyer worked with the college, stressing that there was no legal requirement to turn over the climate research.

    At the end of the conference, many participants are providing feedback to stir the movement further.

    Get Involved with Call to the Bar

    Lawyers and supporters can sign the Call to the Bar’s petition for action on climate change.

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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