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Paperless or paper-less? Study highlights paper-free law firms may never happen
UK News

AltoDigital logoJust 19% of UK law firms will be paperless in 10 years, 93% consider printed page ‘mission critical’ to their firm 

A new study by Altodigital, the UK’s leading independent supplier of digital print and document solutions, has revealed that far from heading towards a paperless office environment, UK law firms are in fact going the other way, with inefficient document storage practices, and an ever-increasing volume of wasted paper, energy and consumables across the UK. 

The research questioned 102 decision makers at different law firms across the UK, to help Altodigital understand evolving workplace print and document storage trends, as it continues to help companies make the transition to a more digital environment.

Despite ongoing talk within the legal sector of UK firms moving towards a paperless environment, the study paints a contrary picture, with just 11% believing they will be paper-free within the next five years, or ten years (19%). A further 93% believed the ‘printed page’ would remain mission critical to their firms’ operation.  

There also emerged a less-than-frugal attitude towards staff’s print behaviour, with 86% always printing in colour as opposed to black and white, 81% opting to print single sided as opposed to duplex, and 96% regularly printing out emails to read.

‘Doubling up’ also emerged as a trend, with 93% of law firms storing important documents both electronically and in hard-copy form, while only 44% choose to store their files electronically over hard-copy.   

There appears to be little excuse for this wasteful practice; a colossal 89% of firms already have print and document management technology in place allowing staff to track costs and manage documents in a smarter and greener way. However, the reason could be that nearly a third (40%) of law firm managers did nothing to inform their staff of the ‘green’ print and document technologies at their disposal.

This comes against the context of 70% of law firms having internal and external targets in place to reduce their paper consumption in the future.

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When questioned about the reasons for failing to move towards a paperless environment, a third of law firm decision-makers claimed they prefer the convenience of having a hard copy document to hand, 26% ‘didn’t trust’ storing or using electronic documents over hard copies, while 48% believed printing a hard-copy document carries more gravitas than an electronic version. A further 22% thought ‘going paperless’ was too complicated and expensive, while 7% had a ‘print it out’ culture in place across their firms.

Tony Burnett, group sales director at Altodigital, said: “The paperless office is not a new trend by any means, but as the research shows, we’re seeing real resistance from staff up and down the country when it comes to putting it into practice. This is surprising given the very real benefits of moving towards a paper-free environment, such as significant cost and efficiency savings, not to mention the ability to operate in a greener capacity.

“There is also a general misunderstanding into what a paperless environment is, and it’s not just a case of printing less. A shift towards a true paperless office also involves examining how you use paper in its broadest capacity, for example, electronically filing and sharing documents, reducing storage costs and improving efficiencies.

“Perhaps we need to stop talking about going ‘paperless’ and instead focus on what is realistic; reducing our reliance on the printed page. We call this the ‘paper-less’ environment, and with the right technology and guidance businesses can escape the inefficiencies and limitations of paper-based systems.”

Altodigital provide products that can help make the paper-less journey a reality, starting with a managed print service through to document management and digital workflow processes, leading to financial savings that make law firms more productive and less wasteful.

 

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