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4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

This event will be hosted via Zoom.

Lawyering as if the Future Matters

This presentation featuring Irma S. Russell considers what steps lawyers can take to become sustainability leaders. It does not focus on the specifics of the rules of lawyer conduct. It does not, for example, explore detailed rules relating to conflicts of interest, safekeeping client property, or selling a law practice although these are real rules.

Rather, the presentation focuses on the principles and duties that establish the system of lawyer regulation and the ability of lawyers to function as sustainability leaders while complying with these rules. It helps lawyers who want to integrate sustainable development into their practice by considering the relationship of the lawyer’s duty to clients with the lawyer’s duty to society.

Lawyers must protect their client’s legitimate interests. How to navigate these duties is an important challenge, which makes it important for lawyers who want to be leaders in sustainability to know what conduct laws and principles of ethical lawyering permit, require, and prohibit. Some lawyers argue that courts and bar associations should sanction or penalize lawyers who facilitate client practices that cause environmental harm or add to the cumulative effects of climate disruption. Some lawyers fear they lack the tools needed to serve sustainable development or that the duty to serve their clients’ interests prevents them from acting to protect society from the climate crisis.

The truth about legal ethics and sustainability resides in the space between these poles. This presentation will identify the principles of legal ethics that guide sustainability lawyers and lawyers who wish to become sustainability leaders.

1 ethics CLE credit available in Pennsylvania (subject to approval)

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Irma Russell joined the faculty at UMKC in the fall of 2015 as the Edward A. Smith/ Missouri Chair in Law, the Constitution, and Society.  Prior to coming to UMKC, she served as Dean of The University of Montana School of Law (from 2009 to 2014) and as the NELPI Professor and Director of the National Energy-Environment Law & Policy Institute at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Professor Russell is a former chair of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, the AALS Section of Natural Resources and Energy Law, and ABA Section of Professional Responsibility. She currently serves as the Liaison of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources to the Center for Professional Responsibility and the Publications Board of ABA Section on Dispute Resolution. She has served as the chair of the Professionalism Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar and as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism and the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. She has also served as chair of the AALS Section on Socio-Economics, and as a member of the Publications Board of the Center for Professional Responsibility.

In practice, Russell represented potentially responsible parties, government entities, lenders, and others on issues arising under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), wetlands designation, site mitigation, and other environmental issues. She was founding Chair of the Environmental Law Section of the Memphis Bar Association and as Chair of the Tennessee Bar Association Environmental Section. Professor Russell is an elected member of the American Law Institute, the Judicial Conference for the Tenth Judicial Circuit, and the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Professor Russell earned her J.D. from the University of Kansas. She clerked for The Honorable James K. Logan, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and engaged in private practice in Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee.


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