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Practice Management: Chuck Newton
Greening Up Your Law Firm
By Chuck Newton
Green and being environmentally friendly is the in thing. It is also the responsible thing to do for reasons other than the environment. Many times the green movement will help you focus to reduce your overhead.
I am sure there are a number of different ways you can green up your law firm or law office, such as using low VOC paints when or if you need to repaint your office, adding solar cells, tankless hot water heaters, and wind technologies. These, however, are costly and probably need to wait until your firm is ready for a renovation. In the meantime, here are a few things that will help:
1. Get Rid Of The Books. In the past the books was that for which law firms were known. The more books you had, the more successful you appeared. I remember sitting in my law library with clients and they would ask, "Have you read all of those book". I would tell them no, but you know it left an impression with those who did not ask. Now, however, the books and manuals and the like are almost useless. Getting rid of the books and sticking strictly to online research helps in three ways potentially. First, the books can go to a recycling center and hopefully cut down on further forests being clear cut. Second, it will eliminate all of the printed paper inserts and updates. Third, books mean more space, and more space means a bigger carbon footprint. It is financially beneficial for a number of reasons as well. For one, it is less costly to do research online than it is to maintain an adequate law library. For another, when you eliminate space in which the books would have to be kept, you eliminate overhead in the way of rent and utilities.
2. Get Rid Of All Of The Paper. Quit playing around with this. Just outlaw paper in your office. First, you can be more flexible when your documents are maintained online. Invest in a good scanner. What you cannot collect through email and efax, you can scan. Like getting rid of the books, this will greatly eliminate space, overhead and the use of less paper is good.
3. Recycle. As you get rid of the books and the paper, you should make sure that this type of trash is not going into a landfill. This also goes with old tech like computers and monitors. Make sure this stuff is going to recycling centers.
4. Cut The Commute. If you are like me, you move your practice home. Except for going to Court, there is no commute. If you cannot bring yourself to that, develop a policy for staff to work at home some days, move some of your staff home, move closer to work, encourage staff to move closer to work, move your office closer to where everyone actually lives, develop car pooling plans or utilize public transportation. If all else fails, think about getting a hybrid car for commuting. All of this reduces carbon emissions, yes. But, it cuts costs, time and frustration as well.
5. Get Out Of Non-LEED Buildings. If you cannot move home and you feel you need a traditional office, make sure you rent space in a LEED-certified building and make sure your office space is LEED. Even still, make sure you lease or occupy as little space as possible. It means you use less energy, but it also means you save money.
6. Get New Light Bulbs. Make sure you can use natural light as much as possible in your office. But, when you have to use light, make sure they are energy efficient florescent light bulbs. Make sure all lights are on timers or set with motion detectors so they shut off if nobody is around to enjoy the light.
7. Cut Out The Disposable Dishes. Get rid of all of the paper, plastic and polystyrene cups and plates and make everyone use reusable mugs, glasses and plates and table ware. By the way, there are now studies that show that the residue off of these disposable goods stays in your body and causes major problems.
8. Get Rid Of The Bottled Water. Put in a water filter and stop buying bottled water. Water from the tap is just fine. Frankly, bottled water does not taste that good and it never seems to satisfy because it is dead water.
9. Cut Out The Harmful Cleaning Products. If you get janitorial services, make sure they are using environmentally friendly cleaning products.
10. Bring Your Lunch To Work With You. This will save you money as well. But, it cuts further commutes, it generally taste better to bring leftovers, you do not have to feel rushed, and you will save tons of money.
There are undoubtedly many more things you can do, but this would represent a good start. If you have other ideas, just comment to this post.
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