Jeffrey Glassman JD '91 spent the first 10 years of his career in typical driven-attorney fashion: working like a crazy person and stressed to the hilt.
"You're supposed to take time to smell the roses," the Boston personal injury attorney says. "I wasn't smelling any roses."
These days, though, Glassman's nose is a lot closer to the blooms. The Needham, Massachusetts, native is the founder and CEO of RainforestMaker, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit whose primary purpose is to grow back the world's rainforests.
In 2001-exhausted from his long hours as a solo practitioner-Glassman made his way to Baja California Sur, Mexico, for a spirituality retreat called Sacred Passage. The program involved going out into the wilderness alone for seven days in order to reconnect with nature and reduce stress. At least, that was the plan.
"I was out in the Baja coast, and it was great for, like, 10 minutes," he says. "I'm so Type A, I just went nuts. Two days later, I packed up all my bags, chucked them in a cactus bush, and hitchhiked back to base camp."
In 2002 Glassman went back to Baja, made it through the whole program, and went on to participate in Sacred Passage programs in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. But whenever he returned to the city, his stress also returned, and with a vengeance. Glassman fought back, buying many plants for his apartment and doing qi gong, a meditative exercise, but nothing worked.
Then one morning, Glassman had a moment of career clarity. "I'm doing qi gong and thinking, What am I going to do with myself? And all of a sudden the word 'rainforestmaker' came into my head." The invented term-a play on the "rainmaker" epithet bestowed on lawyers for their business-generating abilities-set the course for Glassman's career shift.
Soon, Glassman started reading up on rainforests and ecology. "Once I stumbled on the fact that the rainforest makes up 50 percent of the world's biodiversity but only covers 2 percent of the Earth's surface, it made sense to focus on the rainforest," he recalls. Glassman officially founded RainforestMaker (www.rainforestmaker.org) in January 2007, working out of his law offices and using his own money to pay all administrative costs. In partnership with the University of Vienna, Glassman has spent the last year working on a tree-planting project in Costa Rica-a country in which approximately 25,000 acres of land are deforested every year. So far RainforestMaker has helped to replant about 15,000 trees; Glassman's long-term goal is to plant 2 million.
In the future, Glassman hopes to expand his replanting efforts into Brazil; he is also working with the Massachusetts Bar Association to create green guidelines for law offices (according to the American Bar Association, the average lawyer uses up approximately one ton of paper per year).
Glassman is still balancing his full-time personal injury practice with his environmental work, which translates to a lot of nights and weekends in the office. But for a man who's finally discovered his life's work, it's more than worth it.
"I don't want to be known as a great personal injury lawyer," Glassman says. "I want to be known as the rainforestmaker."
- Arin Greenwood
ALUMNI PROFILESPaul Cherecwich Jr.