The Legal Sustainability Alliance aims to widen and refresh the legal technology debate and improve knowledge about how to make win-win technology choices and decisions. There’s so much to talk about – the following is just a sample of the issues LSA experts will be discussing in their regular blogs.
If law firms are firstly about the people they hire, and next about the knowledge those people have and have access to, then the third piece of the jigsaw is about how they manage documents. Document and information management is the subject at the heart of legal technology and the first place to look for carbon savings. Boxes of documents take up space that needs to be lit, heated, cooled and humidity-controlled to ensure they remain intact. The demand for space to efficiently store information is putting increasing pressure on support services. Switching to virtual storage is an increasingly viable option, although servers and IT infrastructure takes up space and uses lots of power too.
Buildings and IT management
Buildings are largely now running on computerised management systems, with electronic metering, lighting control and power management software. Computer suites demand air conditioning, cable management and power distribution. Offices are also filled with meeting space with AV equipment for presentations and training.
All law firms use huge amounts of paper, no matter how technologically advanced. Legal letters can go to clients on recycled paper, because clients already use it. Secure shredding companies are major suppliers of Europe’s paper mills, turning waste white paper into fresh A4 and legal pads. Why plant a tree to assuage your guilt when you can leave more of them to grow and continue to absorb carbon dioxide? There’s also another lively discussion to be had – not about where paper comes from and goes to, but whether we should use it at all.
Reducing paper consumption, maximising time
Reducing paper consumption and weaning lawyers off personal printers and shredders is a key challenge. A new generation of e-books and tablet PC’s are helping, and more and more business is being done on the move using PDA’s and application-stuffed mobile phones. Making the best use of time is critical in a business where you are paid by the hour. The legal technology market is growing rapidly and many solutions save money and CO2 as well as time.
Business travel and virtual communication
Lawyers’ travel to and from offices, courts and clients creates lots of carbon – business travel is usually the second biggest emissions impact for law firms after energy use from buildings. Linking offices using Video Conferencing helps to reduce unnecessary travel time, increases available billable hours and allows for greater flexible working options. Did you know that you can take depositions by video?
Outside the firm
Much of the control over and use of legal technology exists outside of firms themselves, including the Courts Service, Legal Registries and legal databases. Going forward, the LSA will seek to engage these groups to address environmentally-friendly technology solutions.