The Green Building Law Cabal

I don’t know when I decided to become a “green building” lawyer. I saw the field was coming, almost four years ago. Green building on the rise, construction disputes emerge in almost any building project, why wouldn’t green building simply exacerbate an already fraught collaboration? My husband is an architect, so I knew about LEED accreditation, and it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the Bar Exam, so I took the test. Passed, no problem. Not nearly as hard as the Bar Exam.

I determined to give a talk at my local Whole Foods about green building. “You can’t do that,” my husband said, “You don’t know anything about green buildings.” He was right, of course, but why let that stop me?

On my “to do” list for 2007 was “start a blog.” Months went by, no blog. As I got more and more furious at myself for procrastination, one day I just started a Blogger blog. Creatively, I called it “Green Building Law Blog.” I put up a post or two and waited. I don’t know what I was expecting.
Then…hits. Lloyd Alter, at Treehugger, reposted one of my first blog posts, “Pink is the New Green” about insulation. BuildingGreen.TV liked a post I did on McMansion taxes, and soon we were off to the races.

In my early blogging days, I “met,” virtually of course, Steve Del Percio of Green Real Estate Law Journal. “Are you getting clients out of this?” I asked him. “No,” he reported. And yet, we kept doing it.

I was in on the first Twitter wave. By then Chris Cheatham of Green Building Law Update had joined us. At this point, a year or so in, I decided to move from a Blogger platform to a LexBlog custom blog.

 Chris, Steve and I competed for the green building law story of the day. Steve broke the Shaw Development v. Southern Builders case. Then I broke AHRI v. City of Albuquerque. Chris followed with Washington DC’s failed performance bond. I looked forward every day to seeing who had come up with something new, both appreciating and despairing when my doppelgangers broke something first.

Others joined us in the “cabal”—Douglas Reiser, Scott Wolfe, Chris Hill, Tim Hughes, Matt Devries. We would comment on each others’ stories, with good natured rivalry as we tried to outdo one another with our insights on this new field. We communicated with rival blog posts and twitter conversations.

I had not met many of these people, yet we were corresponding nearly every day, my modern day Pen Pals. During the course of our correspondence, both Steve and Chris Cheatham got married and I had two children.

From 2007 to 2010, the blog grew in prominence.  I appeared on MSNBC and the Philadelphia Inquirer did a full page spread. The field grew—suits were filed and different controversies emerged.

Honors connected directly to the blog’s prominence developed in 2009. I was appointed to the USGBC’s Legal Advisory Board. Awarded one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 in Pennsylvania. And, highest of the high honors, my “Blawg” made the ABA Journal’s list of the top 100 Law Blogs for 2009. It just so happened that I found this out on the same day that my second daughter was born. Now that was a good day.

I got a call one day last year—we are doing a conference on green building law, would you like to speak?  Why not?  By now my husband had decided I knew something about green building, so the only objection I got was leaving him at home for two days with the kids.

I soon learned that most of the Green Building Law cabal would be there, as well as Stuart Kaplow, who, behind the scenes, was doing more green building law practice than the rest of us combined and Susan Dorn, General Counsel for the USGBC. In short, the best minds in the business.

When we all got together, I discovered that these people I had been virtual colleagues with for years were even better in person. Warm, outgoing, smart and, above all, good humored. If I had a case which I needed help on or a referral to another jurisdiction, I know I could refer without hesitation on any of these people.

If you had told me when I began this endeavor that it would lead me to this place, I would never have believed you. But I am so grateful to these colleagues—no, friends---who push me every day to be more diligent, search longer and try harder to be at the top of my game. It is a pleasure and an honor to work beside you, and I cannot wait to see what we will do together.

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Matt D. - October 15, 2010 8:40 AM

Shari: Great post! I am glad you are all having a great time in New Orleans. BTW, when did Steve and Chris get married? Is that even legal? (JK)


Timothy R. Hughes - October 20, 2010 5:44 AM

I am still getting unburied from the trip and finally getting to the rss feed here ... what a great post! In talking with folks about the New Orleans trip, I have been relating the exact same reaction as you. Fantastic group of folks we have managed to connect with, I am really happy to have jumped into blogging which has made that happen.

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