Going green is pretty much a cliché these days- even in Mississippi where our embracing of forward thinking ideas is proudly often as slow as our speech.  It feels more like a marketing pitch than it does a commitment to our planet.  I would be lying to you if I said that I always make a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint.  My wife drives an SUV, we take our recycling bin out about once a month because we are hit and miss with putting the right stuff in it and despite my best efforts, we still use a ton of paper in my office.  So why would you, a potential divorce or family law client in Mississippi, care anything about a small law firm’s ideas about going green?  Well, let me tell you some of my thoughts and you can decide for yourself.

I would like my firm to be as paperless as possible and to operate “in the cloud.”  When operating “in the cloud”, your attorney is not relegated to his office to have access to your file.  We have implemented technology through Dropbox which allows us to access files from any computer with an Internet connection, from our phones, from our iPads– anywhere.  The other morning for example, I had a breakfast meeting with a client about his prenuptial agreement.  I was able to access his file from my iPhone, email him a draft copy of the document, and also provide him with another item that we had scanned for him to reference- all while sitting in a café.  Not being chained to our desks creates an environment conducive to thought and creativity.  You want your lawyer to have time to think and be creative.

We scan and digitally store our mail each day and when we do, we email our clients the information they need to know about their case. They have the data sometimes minutes after we have it and it saves our client’s money because they are not paying for copies, postage, file folders, file tabs or other useless crap that some big firms use as a revenue source but put you no closer to your legal objective.

Going paperless means that we do not need as much storage space, so our offices are smaller and less cluttered and our overhead is lower because we are not housing boxes and boxes of old paper.  After a divorce case is final, a great deal of the old information is no longer useful due to the concept of res judicata- that’s a Latin phrase used in legal terminology which means “what’s done is done.”’  Now it certainly is important to keep hard copies of certain things, but for the most part you are trying to start a new life and all of that old stuff is like an ancient, heavy rock you and I are being forced to continue to hold.  Having the stuff tucked away on a server in the Rocky Mountains is so much better.

We are a small firm and our new office has energy efficient lighting, the best insulation available and soundproof weather stripping on all office and conference room doors.  This will help lower our energy consumption and maintain your confidentiality because although we are pretty loud, animated people, what we say to you and what you say to us behind closed doors will stay behind closed doors.  I also installed a dishwasher in the new office so that we can use real glass products as opposed to filing landfills with our numerous coffee cups.  I confess that I am a caffeine junky.  Admitting the problem is the first step in recovery, right?

I think most importantly, going green creates an efficiency mindset.  In the grand scheme of things, usually the best resolution to your legal problem is going to be the fastest resolution to your legal problem.  Sometimes we have no control over how long a case can drag on, especially if there are complicated issues of equitable distribution, child custody or alimony, but when your counsel is wired to think about efficiency , you are better off.

So, what do you think?  Do you want your attorneys to be green?

Craig Robertson is a family law attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.  

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