If you want a green law firm, we are probably as good as it gets!
In 2017 I embarked on a project to try and make our law firm greener – mainly by reducing the amount of paper we produced. Everyone thought I was mad. In law, a world renowned for paper, often in duplicate, with files piled high in every room, how was I going to make this happen?
Paper is the enemy!
The first job was to look at why we produced so much paper (and associated printing costs) and what happened to it. We had a clunky, but manageable, electronic case management system, so why did everyone feel the need to print everything and keep a hard copy too? There were many reasons for this, and these are the main ones that affected us:
- Fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of change. What if the system crashes? What if I can’t find the electronic copy? What if we have to have a hard copy? What would a paperless system even look like?
- Habit. When the new electronic system was introduced, it didn’t replace the old system, and so people stuck to old habits. Print and file, print and file.
- Convenience. It felt easier for most of our team to go to the drawer and get the paper file out and leaf through it. They only had one screen, and so people wanted a printout to work on next to the electronic file.
Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine how much time we wasted with paper; whole trays of emails and documents that had been printed out waiting for someone to physically file them, someone constantly searching for a file they had laid down in the office somewhere and forgotten, the scanning back of documents at the end to store them. Then add in how much physical space they took up in our offices. We have freed up so much space as we no longer need rows and rows of filing cabinets. It is a much healthier and more streamlined environment.
If you think, not only of the paper, but the printing, storing and then shredding and destroying, this has significantly reduced our carbon footprint. Post is now scanned in the mornings straight to the electronic file on our new, more versatile and easy to use system, Leap. Unless it’s a precious document that we have to keep (like deeds), it then goes straight to shredding. No filing, no storage, no copies needed. With every member of staff having two screens, we don’t need to print off documents to review anymore.
Once we were set up to be paperless (almost), we then had to focus on how we brought our clients along on that journey. Interestingly, the pandemic forced the issue. With people unable to attend, we had to be creative, and many rules were changed to accommodate what had to be achieved nationally. We introduced the following client facing systems to help reduce what we had to send out and make other people print, and the need to attend the office:
- Our own App for Conveyancing, soon to be other areas of law as well. This has all initial documents built-in for clients to complete online. No paper, no printing, and a clear view of what you have done and have yet to do.
- eCOS. The electronic client onboarding system that allows you to upload your ID using a smartphone or other device, and then does a biometric test on your face, to prove your ID. It also verifies source of funds by linking directly to your bank account. No need to go to the bank and request months of paper statements. Not having to attend the office or your bank, means fewer journeys.
- DocuSign. You can now sign many forms electronically, again saving the time to come to the office and print out the paper. The government is now looking at how forms that still need a ‘wet signature’ in law, can be moved safely to the electronic system.
- Video calls. Save yourself the journey time by meeting with us online.
It is difficult when you work in an old and listed building to know how you can reduce your carbon footprint. We started by putting secondary glazing in, which significantly improved temperatures and noise. This meant we could turn our thermostat down by a few degrees. We already had good carpeting, and so we went about trying to stop drafts and shoring up any gaps we had that made things not so fuel efficient.
We also started buying new toilet paper, a small but important contribution to our waste management. We found ‘Who Gives a Crap’ paper as being the highest rated for ethical processes. You can find their story here: uk.whogivesacrap.org.
Some members of staff wanted to continue to work from home, and we said yes, why not? Fewer cars on the road, less journeys travelled, all good!
We then offered spare space to some Altonians who didn’t want to commute back to London but also didn’t want to work from home anymore. This saves their journeys and means our office heating isn’t wasted in those rooms. Sharing resources is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Did you know a website can leave a carbon footprint on the environment?
We recently changed our hosting platform to SiteGround, which assists with reducing a website’s carbon emissions. The platform optimises our hosting infrastructure for a faster site and, in turn, lowers the carbon footprint as the website loads faster, making the power consumption lower.
Again, this is a small but essential contribution to our goal of going greener and looking after the environment.
Find out more about SiteGround’s quest to lower the carbon footprint of websites.
We are constantly striving to be greener and more aware of what we produce. Just this change in our ideology means we produce less waste than ever. Nobody thought a law firm could be this paper free and, for that, we were nominated by the Law Society for their ‘Excellence in Technology and Innovation’ award. As one of our national governing bodies, this is the highest accolade we could achieve. You can read more about that here.