Adopting green practices is no longer just about protecting the environment — both clients and job candidates increasingly are considering law firms’ sustainability efforts. By focusing on areas such as paper use, energy conservation, smart design and procurement, you make your firm more appealing to these potential stakeholders.
Paring Back on Paper
Law firms are infamous for gobbling up massive amounts of paper. But this habit may be easily contained. For example, you can shrink the margin size on your document templates or implement double-sided printing and copying to get more from less.
Better yet, firms of all sizes are now moving closer and closer to paperless operations, taking advantage of e-filing, e-discovery and e-billing. This continued shift to digital saves not only paper and trees but also the need for off-site storage — and, with it, the need for drives to the storage location that also waste employee time.
Easing Up on Energy Use
Energy consumption is another obvious area where law firms can significantly improve, while simultaneously reaping impressive cost savings. For example, motion sensors and timers can ensure lights are on only when needed. Smart thermostats can manage heating and air conditioning more efficiently.
Physical computer servers eat up a lot of energy (and space), prompting some firms to switch to virtual servers. These virtual servers can “host” several users’ operating systems on the same physical hardware. But the hardware typically is located offsite and accessed through the cloud.
Design plays a major role in a law firm’s energy consumption. Firms launching new construction projects should seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, whether for construction of the entire building or only for certain spaces, such as server rooms.
On a smaller scale, office layouts should be sensitive to, for example, maximizing the use of natural light. Law firm offices also can incorporate energy-efficient lighting, sustainable ceiling and carpet products, low-flow plumbing and climate-friendly landscaping.
To achieve true sustainability, consider looking beyond your own firm. You inadvertently could offset your positive environmental impact by financially supporting other businesses that engage in environmentally unfriendly practices. You can reduce this procurement risk in two ways.
First, search out vendors who offer sustainable goods and services. You might be surprised at the breadth of businesses that now have greener versions of traditional offerings. You can purchase energy-efficient appliances, computers, printers and copiers; office supplies and furniture made with recycled materials; and coffee and vending machine selections that minimize eco-averse packaging.
Second, even vendors of products and services not susceptible to green improvements can pursue sustainable practices in how they conduct business. Do they recycle? Do they use hybrid or electric vehicles? Have they taken measures to reduce their shipping impact (for example, buying carbon credits or using less, or less harmful, packing materials)? All of these matters can be explored through the request for proposal (RFP) process.
The areas discussed above represent a small sample of those where law firms can take concrete steps to become more environmentally responsible. With so many potential targets, though, achieving sustainability can seem overwhelming. A self-assessment will help you get some quick wins under your belt by determining the areas where you can have the biggest effect in the shortest time and work from there. Going forward, develop metrics that reflect your green goals and monitor them regularly.
For more information, contact Rob Swenson at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Law Firm Group.