Sustainable Development in Law Practice: A Lens for Addressing All Legal Problems

69 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2016 Last revised: 10 Jan 2018

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: March 6, 2017


While it is widely recognized that lawyers have an important role to play in fostering sustainable development, and while a growing number of lawyers describe themselves as doing sustainability work, it is less clear what they actually do. This article, which is based on interviews with 26 lawyers who practice or have practiced law related to sustainability, provides a first assessment of what this work actually entails. It describes what these lawyers understand sustainability or sustainable development to mean — both as defined and as applied. It explains who their clients are and what they do for them, and provides insight into the dynamics of attorney-client conversations related to sustainability. It describes key personal and professional qualities of these lawyers — how they became interested, and what they like and do not like about doing work related to sustainability. Finally, by exploring what these lawyers see as obstacles to sustainability and where the jobs are in sustainability-related law, it sheds light on the future of sustainability in law practice.

Keywords: sustainable development, sustainability, sustainable, law firm, law practice

JEL Classification: K00, K3, K19, K32, N5, O13, Q2

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Sustainable Development in Law Practice: A Lens for Addressing All Legal Problems (March 6, 2017). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 95, No. 123, 2017, Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 15-44, Available at SSRN: or

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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