Conserving the Canvas: Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Legal Briefs by Re-imagining Court Rules and Document Design Strategies

10 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2010

Date Written: Fall 2010

Abstract

This article advances an important argument as to why we should be redesigning our lawyering documents. Not only is readability an important issue but so is the environmental footprint of our document design choices. So here is the bottom line advice that I offer today - judges and attorneys can easily cut down on the environmental impact that our documents have by making three easy and simultaneous changes to court rules and practices: 1. allow and encourage or even require double-sided printing; 2. move to 1.5 line spacing rather than double spacing; and 3. adopt court rules that limit documents by word counts while simultaneously eliminating font and font-size requirements.

These recommendations do not involve going paperless. Eliminating all paper filing is certainly the best thing that we could do for the environment but is probably not completely realistic at this point in time. Moreover, even in those jurisdictions where attorneys submit documents by electronic filing, hard copies are nevertheless being printed by those people who have to read them. Computer screen reading is just not feasible yet for long documents so it does not behoove us to ask people to completely buy into paperless everything. Until we can all afford and are ready to use personal document readers, we will realistically still have a world where we prefer to read longer documents in hard copy. For that reason, this article will make its conservation recommendations based on the somewhat more temperate concept of sustainability.

Suggested Citation

Robbins, Ruth Anne, Conserving the Canvas: Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Legal Briefs by Re-imagining Court Rules and Document Design Strategies (Fall 2010). Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 7, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1650128

Ruth Anne Robbins (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

217 N. 5th Street
Camden, NJ NJ 08102
United States
856-225-6456 (Phone)

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