It’s hard not to feel calmed by Allen Eraut’s warm smile and easy-going demeanor. On top of that, he’s a huge proponent of green living, evident in the way he rides his bike to work and encourages his colleagues to compost. All of his efforts have helped his company become Oregon Business magazine’s 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon – no easy feat. With all of that being said, could you imagine his company being Rizzo Mattingly Bosworth PC, a litigation firm?
Perhaps it’s the unexpected industry for Eraut to be such a green activist in, but we think he’s got it down: your impact starts with the community you live in. As a Shareholder, he’s active in his litigation work and still makes time to make the company culture progress on an eco-friendly path. He shares his passion both in and out of the workplace with us – an inspiration to never stop living fully.
What is one thing someone might not know about being a lawyer?
Other than the secret handshake (just kidding), lawyers are just like anyone else. We share the same joys and frustrations, and try to find happiness and fulfillment in our work. One of the best parts about being a lawyer is the opportunity to connect with our clients on a personal level. Our clients put their trust in us to protect their interests, and this opens a window into parts of their lives they might not normally share. I practice in civil litigation, and for most people, courts and lawsuits are unfamiliar and frightening. Helping guide the client through that process is quite satisfying.
How do you decide which cases you take? What do you do if a moral issue is presented?
We check every case to make sure that our representation of one client does not disadvantage any other client. But for the most part, the cases I handle do not present moral issues. Usually it’s a question about who is at fault for an accident, and how much should be paid, if anything. I have rarely been in a situation where my client wanted to do something that I would consider immoral. In those situations, usually a frank discussion about the limits of what I can ethically do as a lawyer will solve the problem. If not, I have to withdraw as their lawyer.
You’re a big proponent of green energy efficiency. Talk about this passion and how it’s impacted your work.
I love this question. Living and working in a sustainable way is part of the lifestyle here in Portland, and my firm has committed to finding new and creative ways to do our part. One piece of that is how we get to and from work. I ride my bike every day. Eleven of our 16 employees either bike or use public transit. Our Green Team always amazes me with their innovation – whether it be bringing in speakers on recycling, directing our electrical power to come from 100% renewable sources, or locally sourcing our vendors. We even have our own compost container at work, which sounds crazy, but is not messy at all and has allowed us to divert 800 gallons from the landfill. I especially enjoy my firm’s organized volunteer outings to the Oregon Food Bank – a national leader in helping to divert safe, edible grocery items (that might otherwise be discarded) to food pantries. And yes, the post-volunteer pizza party is a nice perk, too. I could go on, but getting our firm onto Oregon Business magazine’s list of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon was an important goal for us, and is part of our firm culture now.
When you’re working with big companies in litigation, emotions and egos can vary. How do you maintain honest and trustworthy communication while still staying professional and making sure no one gets off track?
Not easily. Litigation is stressful. Clients, witnesses, and even co-workers can have very strong feelings about what should happen. It helps to be patient and hear the other person out. I have my own strong feelings, but sometimes the client just needs to express their point of view, and we can work from there. If we are getting too far into the weeds, a firmer hand is needed to get us back on course. But hopefully I have earned enough trust with the client that they will know I want what is best for them, even if I don’t agree with how to get there.
What’s one philosophy you live by in work and play?
I try to be thankful, even on the tough days. If I’m biking home in the rain (or more recently, snow), it’s easy to focus on how wet and cold I am. But just living in a city with good bike paths is a blessing. If I can focus on the many small, good things around me, I’m a better co-worker, husband, and father.