Greening Your Law Practice

treePursuing sustainability through green business practices is not only good for the environment – it can literally mean more green in your pocket.  Getting started is easy.  Review the tips below, take a fresh look around your office, and pick one or two ideas you can implement now.  Bookmark others for the next time you need to replace a monitor or printer. 

How Green is Your Internet?

  • Green your Web site by offering intake forms online.  Clients will appreciate the convenience and so will you and your staff.  Electronically filled intake forms are easy to read and easy to process – design the form to match the information gathered by your practice management software.  Filling out the form in advance means more time to spend with the client when he or she comes into your office, and the money saved in printing and paper costs will add up.  Caveat:  E-mail intake forms directly to prospective clients or use a secure https:// connection.  Proper disclaimers will prevent creation of a lawyer-client relationship where none is intended.  See “Disclaimers for E-mail, ListServes, Usenets, Web Sites, and Newsletters,” www.osbplf.org, then Practice Aids and Forms, then Technology.  Practice tip: Using Acrobat to extend features in Adobe Reader allows clients with Version 7 or later to use your online forms and save a local copy.  In Acrobat, choose Advanced > Extend Features in Adobe Reader…
  • Online collaboration, document sharing, web, and video conferencing are increasingly popular.  You and the client stay put – reducing your mutual carbon footprint – and meeting becomes convenient again.  Read more about this practice at the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/ (see Web and Communication Technology).
  • Put the ultimate power of the Internet to work by accessing your office from home.  Work remotely using www.LogMeIn.com, www.GoToMyPC.com, www.PCAnyWhere.com, Windows Desktop, or a Virtual Private Network.  If your daily commute is 20 miles or more, you can easily save 1,000 miles in a year by telecommuting one day a week.

Make the Most of Your Monitor

  • Consider converting your old-style monitor to an energy-efficient flat screen LCD.  Don’t worry if the purchase is not within your budget now.  When your old monitor needs to be replaced, the newer models will be waiting.  Check the Web sites of PC World and PC Magazine for reviews when you are ready to buy, www.pcworld.com and www.pcmag.com.  If you are a Mac aficionado, use Google® to search the latest discussion threads and forums.
  • Install dual or oversize computer monitors to reduce printing costs.  Nothing beats the convenience (or saves unnecessary print jobs) like being able to compare documents side-by-side.  Dual monitors also mean you can keep a working document up on one screen while your calendar – or time and billing program – sits ready-to-use on the other screen. 

Print Smart and Save Money

Greening your printing practices is one of the best moves you can make.  Fewer print jobs means less paper, ink, chemicals, and plastics consumed.  Consider these possibilities:

  • Share resources by networking your laser printers.  Dedicated printers for each employee make it too easy to hit the “print” button.
  • Require employees to enter a security code before printing a job.  Many printers have this feature, and it is widely used in financial and legal departments of companies where confidentiality must be protected.  The “walk-to” feature eliminates waste in two ways – it makes employees think twice about whether they need to print and whether they want to walk to pick it up. 
  • Use recycled paper.  The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, according to the Federal Network for Sustainability.  No statistics exist for the average worker in a law office, but suffice to say the numbers are likely to be much higher.  Start printing on recycled paper, reuse it, and recycle it again.  (Be careful to protect confidentiality at the end-point of this process.)  
  • Mandate double-sided printing, which Hewlett-Packard estimates can cut paper waste by 25 percent.
  • If a document flows slightly over to a second page, use the “shrink to fit” setting in your word processor’s Print Preview mode to shorten the document to one page.  Note:  Shrink to fit works by reducing font size, which may make reading difficult for some clients.  If this is an issue, adjust margin settings instead.
  • Download free utilities like www.printgreener.com  or www.fineprint.com that print to PDF and remove extra pages from print jobs.
  • Take advantage of the return and recycle programs for laser cartridges offered by manufacturers.  See the directions printing on or inside the box of your new replacement cartridge. 
  • Ditch your paper fax machine and use an e-fax service instead.

Or Just Don’t Print at All – Put the Power of Your Scanner to Work

  • For truly big savings, move toward going paperless.  See “Is It Time To Go Paper-Less?” at www.osbplf.org, In Brief, then February 2009.  Read more about this practice at the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/ (see Law Office Technology:  Software).
  • If feasible, add desktop scanners to supplement networked or centralized scanners.
  • Once you’ve integrated scanning into the work you do for clients, look for other ways to use this technology.  For example, save a trip to the bank by scanning your checks straight into your business account using a service like www.DepositNow.com.

Other Tips

The Future

Compiled from Eco-Friendly Printing:  However small at first glance, these seven changes really add up, http://biztechmagazine.com/article.asp?item_id=542; Going Green, ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/; Going Green to Stay in the Black, http://www.abanet.org/lpm/magazine/articles/v35/is5/pg09.shtml; Ecopreneurist, http://ecopreneurist.com/; and GreenBiz, http://www.greenbiz.com/.   See also, Oregon Sustainability Resources, http://www.deq.state.or.us/programs/sustainability/ and US Government Sustainability Resources, http://epa.gov/sustainability/.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2009

2 thoughts on “Greening Your Law Practice

  1. Pingback: Running a Successful Law Practice « Oregon Law Practice Management

  2. Pingback: Still Pondering Paperless? | Oregon Law Practice Management

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