How important is it that your legal technology, knowledge management & SaaS vendors are committed to sustainability? Have you considered that a genuine commitment to environmental matters may impact your firm’s reputation? Do you know who in your firm could be sustainability champions? Sustainability inspiration can pop up in surprising places. Would you expect one of your information officers to make a real difference to your firm?
Sustainability and technological transformation are closely linked. This blog post focuses on how library and information teams have been leading the way in legal tech over the past few decades and have been instrumental in encouraging the use of more sustainable SaaS solutions. I conclude with a list of questions that we should be asking vendors to ensure that they are committed to sustainability.
Information people were taking the lead from the start
It is clear that competition drives innovation and in the late-90s the legal publishing world was on the cusp of a brave new world. In the UK, Lawtel and Practical Law were amongst the first online databases of their kind, and library and information people were keen to introduce end-users to these new services.
Initially, it was a challenge to get lawyers to trust these new online services but after a number of years of encouragement and acceptance, these services are now essential parts of a lawyer’s toolbox. Everything has changed in that are no print versions of certain titles and instead, they are part of online subscription services. This obviously presents other challenges – not least the question about free access to the law but that is another story.
In his book “Innovation and Entrepreneurship”, Peter Drucker made this observation about industries that rely on knowledge-based innovation. “For a long time, there is awareness of an innovation about to happen…then suddenly there is a near-explosion, followed by a few short years of tremendous excitement, tremendous start-up activity, tremendous publicity…Later comes a ‘shakeout,’ which few survive.”
Introducing SaaS solutions like Vable
Drucker could have been talking about the legal tech industry. Over the past few years, we have seen the explosion in legal technology solutions and are fast approaching the inevitable consolidation and shakeout. Regardless of the type of service offered, it is the development of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) solutions that has made many of these applications possible.
The SaaS model is among the fastest-growing segments in the IT industry. It is the main way for all types of organisations and businesses to access software applications. Naturally risk adverse, lawyers were somewhat hesitant to make the shift to the cloud, but it is safe to say that they are now largely onboard with it.
The main reasons for this success include:
- Flexibility – firms can scale services to fit their needs and as long as they have a stable internet connection, they can access services from anywhere in the world.
- Efficiency – firms can get up and running quickly, without worrying about underlying infrastructure costs or maintenance.
- Value – firms can rely on cloud services to use the most innovative technology available.
- Security – firms can be sure that the most stringent cloud security is in place.
- Sustainability – firms can choose their cloud services based on how sustainable they are. Companies such as Amazon Web Services are designed at scale and built for efficient energy.
For instance, from AWS, “the results of a study by 451 Research show that AWS’s infrastructure is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median of U.S. enterprise data centers surveyed. AWS data centers are more energy-efficient than enterprise sites due to comprehensive efficiency programs that touch every facet of the facility”.
What should we be asking our vendors
Environment, social and governance (ESG) issues are exerting an increasing influence on the management of law firms – environmental issues are becoming as important as knowing your client, or the importance of data protection. Everything is connected and everyone must work together (both inside and outside the organisation) to ensure waste is minimised, if not eliminated. How can all departments ensure the sustainability of their vendor choices?
- Check with your current vendors’ sustainability practices.
- Get in touch and ask them about plans for the future.
- If they are cloud-based, ask about sustainability best practice
- Are they willing to meet and discuss ESG commitments with leaders in your organisation?
- Are they willing to work with professional and membership organisations to make a real change?
We are in a position where we must make much better decisions about our vendor choices – if we want to use them and stay in line with our firm’s ESG commitments, we need to know what our vendors are doing in order to look after our environment.
A genuine commitment to sustainability is critical for all law firms and vendor organisations to remain relevant and competitive in this changing world. Much like digital transformation, driving sustainability requires law firms to transform their business from within. Given that vendors are also bound by ESG promises, they are offering sustainable products, services and processes to transform the way we work because we are all in this environment together.
About the author. After 25 years in library and information services, Clare Bilobrk switched careers and opted for a flexible life in the legal tech market. She now specialises in end-user communication through B2B digital marketing, social media and content creation. She does not sell – she educates, empathises and encourages visitors to the Vable website.
This post was originally published on the Vable Current Awareness Strategy Blog and has been edited to reflect a broader audience. Vable is a news aggregation and publishing platform allowing for automation of information distribution workflows within a firm or business – contact us for a demo and see how Vable can transform your current awareness delivery.