There is real comfort in paper. A simple sheet or large pile, a physical document, one you can carry around and read anywhere, where you can put your highlighter to full use to flag key points and where you can annotate comments in the margins. The legal sector especially, really does love paper.
Although some moves have been made towards paperless or paper-light, the uptake within legal has so far been slow. That said, we have seen a real change in the last few months as remote working has become the norm. Overnight people stopped having access to the office printer and have had to change ways of working.
So what would be the impact of the ‘death of the printer’?
- Environment – no question about it, paper can be hugely costly for the environment. Aside from the trees needed to produce the paper, did you know that production of just one sheet of paper needs half a litre of water? Moreover, for every one tonne of paper produced, nearly a tonne of solidified waste is created. (Source: Green Office.)
- Cost – research has revealed that the average law firm spends up to 3% of its annual revenues on printing and document output. (source: Lawyer Monthly)
- Ways of Working – lawyers have had to get used to new ways of working and now embrace technology. For those who were used to paperwork, this has been a real shock to the system!
- Reliance on Technology – to work in a paperless environment people will need the right equipment and access to reliable and secure applications. Many law firms have seen an increase in IT costs and increased pressure to provide 24/7 access.
- Digital Transformation – the lack of printing has paved the way for digitalisation with many technology solutions available to optimise the review, creation, sharing and collaboration of documents both internally and with clients.
- Health & Wellbeing – the lack of printing and paperwork has meant that people spend more time behind their laptops and monitors. This can put a strain on physical wellbeing with an increase in RSI related complaints, as well as mental Wellbeing, impacted concentration, attention to detail and judgement.
- Electronic Client Experience – most of the information sent to clients, including letters, case information and bills, will now be sent via email or secure portal. Many firms are now looking at the client experience as this electronic route has depersonalised and commoditised client communications.
- Business Support Function – there are clearly immediate and significant changes to the post and printing room in law firms, but further considerations need to be made around the wider business support and secretarial functions to ensure these are relevant and fit for purpose in the new world.
The nervousness to move away from paper is sometimes heightened by security worries. Won’t a digital file be easier to hack than a filing cabinet? There are always cybersecurity risks, but measures can be taken to protect and secure data. Remember it is also not unheard-of for sensitive paper files to be left in public places by mistake!
The ‘death of the printer’ is one of the many ways we see The Future of Work taking shape. If you would like more information, please contact Esther McMorris EstherM@NineFeetTall.com.