Law firms have seen substantial growth in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives from corporate clients over the past few years — and rightly so. ESG is now an essential standard for corporate success.
ESG is a three-pillar framework that measures a company’s sustainability. Environmental factors consider whether a company is a good steward of the planet, social factors focus on how a company connects with its people and community, and governance factors take into account how decisions are made at the board of director, manager, and shareholder levels. Using this framework, stakeholders and investors can evaluate a company’s operations and performance, and companies can innovate and gain a competitive edge.
Fifty percent of law firms created an ESG practice area in the past three years, and 18% plan to create one within the next three years, according to the 2022 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey. But simply providing legal counsel on ESG does not go far enough. The study shows that two-thirds of legal departments ask their law firms to provide ESG policies and sustainability credentials and 30% more plan to ask in the near future. Yet, only 20% of law firms answered that they are “very prepared” to meet these demands.
Law firms can prepare to become more ESG-compliant, including taking a “green” approach to electronic discovery that reduces their energy footprint. An eDiscovery provider can help identify specific areas to address and execute a strategic plan.
Take advantage of green eDiscovery
eDiscovery can involve massive amounts of data that must be accessed and stored over time, and that energy usage means staying compatible with ESG factors can be a challenge. As a result, companies are turning to “green eDiscovery.” An eDiscovery provider can help your law firm implement green computing strategies, such as efficient document repositories and storage options, that look at the design, use, and disposal of technology. Having green computing strategies in place can minimize your impact on the environment and put your firm in a more favorable position with your ESG-conscious clients.
Use a document repository
A document repository is a shared digital storage space where approved employees can store and access Word documents, emails, PDF files, photos, graphics, and more. A team of people working within a document management system can access documents from the document repository as needed. Because a document is stored only once in the repository rather than on each team member’s individual computer, the document repository reduces the amount of storage space needed and simplifies the backup and file recovery process — aims compatible with ESG measures. In addition, a document repository provides a secure environment for sensitive information.
Compare nearline storage vs. coldline storage
Nearline and coldline storage are innovative, cost-effective ways to store large amounts of data that are not frequently accessed. Companies typically use nearline storage for data that is accessed once a month or less. A few of the best uses for nearline storage are document and media archives, storage for regular backups, and disaster recovery. Companies use coldline storage for data that is accessed quarterly or even less often. The best uses for coldline storage are archival data and backups.
Consider cloud storage vs. local storage
Companies typically use both cloud storage and local storage in the course of a business day but for different reasons. Cloud storage functions as an online space for data storage with multiple servers and locations, and users can access files stored in the cloud from anywhere. This storage option is generally a secure method for storing large data files such as photos or an oversize file sent through Google Docs or Dropbox. Also, with cloud storage, a company can minimize the expense of server equipment and maintenance.
In contrast, local storage saves digital data on physical storage devices such as hard disk drives and external storage devices. Local storage can be faster than cloud storage, but achieving high speed can be costly. An important advantage of local storage is that a company controls its own access to data. A company should choose the storage type that offers the most efficient use of energy, space, and resources for the data being stored.
Law firms have seen substantial growth in ESG initiatives from corporate clients, but simply providing legal counsel on ESG does not go far enough. Firms need to take strides toward creating their own ESG policies and sustainability credentials, and implementing a green eDiscovery strategy is a great first action to take.