Greater access to information through legaltech, like the notification of actions needed or the automation of signatures, reveals the problem of waste in the legal industry as well.
Companies attempting to reduce their environmental impact usually cite how they lower their individual emissions or greatly reduce travel. Although these are all worthwhile goals, ‘going green’ shouldn’t be a superficial endeavor for today’s organizations.
For starters, those trying to make a real impact must be intentional in their practice. This involves adopting a ‘green’ mindset that permeates the entire business. And with in-house legal teams and law firms rapidly adopting technology to streamline processes and reduce waste, it is a good time to ask how legaltech can also help facilitate an organization’s mindset around the environment — for the betterment of internal company culture and the rest of the world.
There are obvious practices with which to start. Using legaltech, like contract lifecycle management (CLM) platforms, greatly reduces the need for paper, a notorious source of waste in the annals of legal history. Just imagine it: no more carrying around binders of briefs and documents (no more challenging the back strength of junior employees either!). And far less trees sacrificed to the dated inefficiencies of legal work. A clear win-win.
The turn in the COVID-19 pandemic to remote work, along with the attendant realization that not all meetings need to happen in-person, has reduced the need for travel significantly. Communication tools have allowed necessary discussions and meetings to continue — and, yes, even multiply — helping companies stay out of the air as much as possible. Formerly, large corporate teams were known to jump on a plane and circle the globe for a two-hour meeting. Now, we have greatly reduced the carbon footprint of air travel simply by Zooming around the planet.
So, less paper and travel are the clear ways that legal teams have gone greener. Now on to that change in mindset, which is an even greater achievement but much harder to define or measure.
Adapting a greener mindset is a necessity for legal teams these days. This green mindset includes an understanding that reducing waste is not only a physical, material issue (less paper), but also a philosophical one. Simply put, the reduction of waste has a positive influence on companies and the people who work within them. In this particular mindset, eliminating waste means improving efficiency — that “E” word that often conjures images of workers, as automatons, plugging along on an assembly line. But efficiency, in the green context, is not just a corporate buzzword.
Greater efficiency leads to less wasted time, brainpower, and effort amongst your employees. For example, AI-driven platforms that expedite legal processes, like research or contract work, allow employees a healthier brain space. They do not have to waste their time on manual, repetitive tasks, instead taking on more pertinent, higher level ones. After all, lawyers are famously high-level thinkers, and giving them more space and time for that kind of work is not only good for the business, but also good for them as human beings.
Going green is also an imperative for members of younger generations, the future general counsels that will lead legal teams. Given the problems of attracting and retaining talent currently, and younger workers’ needs to align with the values and purpose of the company they choose to work for, being publicly dedicated to addressing climate change can help in the recruitment process. Here is where we see that added benefit of having a green mindset. It allows companies to reduce waste in the hiring process (so many interviews, negotiations, and offers!) by closely aligning with the values of younger workers who have already internalized sound environmentalism.
Greater access to information through legaltech, like the notification of actions needed or the automation of signatures, reveals the problem of waste in the legal industry as well. By cutting down the need for massive mailings or significantly reducing the time spent tracking down every party for their signature, legal teams can make the whole legal process more speedy and efficient, and less reliant on transportation and hampered by delays.
At the end of the day, adopting a greener mindset means attempting to reduce organizational waste. And, as I have pointed to here, legal teams have been awash in waste for decades. But with the influence of a younger workforce and the improvements brought by developing legal technologies, we can decrease the amount of waste that plagues our planet, while reducing the inefficiencies that weigh on workers mentally. This will certainly make the world — and the people in it — a whole lot greener in the process.