Sustainability Essentials: A Leadership Guide for Lawyers

The American Bar Association has just published a short practical guide for lawyers who seek to build climate change and sustainable development work into their law practice, regardless of the practice area. The book, Sustainability Essentials: A Leadership Guide for Lawyers, was coauthored by Matthew Bogoshian, Irma Russell, and me. The book provides guidance to lawyers and law students on how to get started in this work and how to build their skills and expertise. It is rooted in sustainable development, legal ethics, leadership, and the experience of lawyers who are already doing this work.   You can find it here.  

This book is for you if you went to law school—or are going to law school or considering law school—to help move society and the law profession in a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable direction, to protect life on the planet, and to make life better for present and future generations. It is also for you if you did not have this goal in law school, but you now want to incorporate sustainable development in your practice.

We’ve received numerous endorsements for the book:


“This is a great leadership guide for lawyers.  The test for any lawyer is ethics, leadership and sustainable development.”

Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute, former U.S. Secretary of Defense


“The urgency to integrate sustainability into the forefront of business decision making has never been greater, and this book uniquely contributes to this goal.”

Roger Martella, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, General Electric; Former General Counsel, EPA


“This is a must read for any attorney or legal professional who needs the easy, quick, how-to on integrating sustainable development within legal practices.”

Gayatri Joshi, Executive Director of the Law Firm Sustainability Network & Vice President of Vorgate LLC


“This book provides an empowering blueprint for any lawyer seeking to integrate climate justice into every dimension of their work.”

Tim Hirschel-Burns, Amelia Keyes, and Devin Oliver, Law Students for Climate Accountability


“Many lawyers, regardless of their specialties or the stage of their careers, hunger to use their professional skills and develop new ones to address climate change and other environmental threats. Built on the pillars of sustainable development, ethics and leadership, this deeply researched book provides pathways for lawyers to pursue this goal.”


Michael Gerrard, Columbia Law School Professor, Faculty Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


“I am heartened to see a new generation of lawyers seeking to be effective in advancing sustainable development goals in their daily life work. In this book they will find both theory and practical ideas for making a difference.”

Mary D. Nichols, Former Chair, California Air Resources Board


“If law is the heart of the legal practice, then sustainability may well be its soul, moving lawyers toward a legacy of conscious commitment to vital and necessary change to transform society.  This Guide, by three of the most well-known sustainability, leadership, and ethical practitioners in the country, is a helpful walking stick on the pathway to sustainability.”

John C. Cruden, Former Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice


“This book updates both the theory and practice of law so that it can embody a missing set of values—such as offering future generations a livable earth. It is not just timely; it is overdue.”

Hal Harvey, CEO, Energy Innovation


“We need a new generation of lawyers who recognize that we can create the power to confront the climate crisis, the governance crisis, and other existential threats only by combining sound lawyering with organization. This book is an important step in the right direction.”

Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society, Harvard Kennedy School of Government


“Sustainable development has emerged as a foundational framework for life in the 21st century — and Sustainability Essentials offers clear and comprehensive guidance to law students and attorneys in a wide range of settings about how to make sense of this multidimensional concept and fold its principles into their work and professional lives.”

Daniel C. Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and former Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection


“This guidebook is long overdue, thank you! It’s high time more lawyers learn to organize and lead the systemic changes we need in the 21st century.  This book shows the way!”

Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network


“As law students, we’re taught that law structures society. Hardly—if ever—are we taught how to use the law to restructure society in a sustainable way. This Guide not only explains how the law can be used to restructure society more sustainably, but also posits that this is the ethical duty of every lawyer.”

Minha Jutt and Chloe Ketchmark, University of Kansas School of Law, Class of 2022


“Lawyers and their clients talk a lot about sustainability, but what does that mean in practical terms?  Dernbach, Bogoshian, and Russell answer that question and provide a real-world guide in this admirable volume.”

Ken Alex, Director, Project Climate at UC Berkeley, Former Senior Policy Advisor, California Governor Jerry Brown


“Hello to the curious and hopeful — this book is for you! It has all that you need to know on how to become a part of the movement that creates a more wonderful and sustainable planet for us all!”

Arlena Barnes, former Senior Attorney, Bonneville Power Administration


“Innovative, practical, and principled, Sustainability Essentials offers a blueprint for the ethical practice of law while promoting sustainable development.”

Kevin R. Johnson, Dean and Mabie/Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis School of Law


“More than a call to action, Lawyering to Make a Difference gives law students, legal practitioners, and emerging leaders the essential, practical tools to apply this framework without losing sight of the urgency of making our world a better place.”

Randall Winston, Attorney O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Advisory Board Member, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at Berkeley Law


“For too long, many lawyers have forsaken the role of leadership in service of their client needs, trending instead towards reactive lawyering and counseling. This book presents the strong and cogent case for leadership, focusing on the meaningful roles lawyers can – and should – play in our quest for a sustainable future.”

Avi Garbow, President, Resources Legacy Fund; former EPA General Counsel; and former Environmental Advocate at Patagonia


“Corporate leaders need their lawyers to read this practical book and apply it! Only with leadership can we accelerate our transition to a sustainable society.”

Lenny Mendonca, Former Chief Economic and Business Advisor, State of California


“This guide, Sustainability Essentials, is an invaluable resource for all of us working to build a better future”

Fred Kenney, Director, Legal and External Affairs, International Maritime Organization. former US Coast Guard Admiral and Judge Advocate General