June 12, 2009

Kermit was right: It’s not that easy, being green

by Cary J. Calderone, Esquire

At a recent ARMA Golden Gate chapter meeting presenters gave real-life accounts of two law firms that had taken on the challenge to become “Green Certified.” Even if you do not believe Al Gore’s reasoning for going Green and that “the debate is over,” going Green may serve an unintended but very useful purpose. It is one more justification for updating the document retention practices and policies in your organization.
One obvious and continuing hurdle to becoming document retention and electronic discovery (“Dred”) ready is the cost. IT, Legal, Compliance may need to make significant investments in new technology to better manage electronic data. Even if you have adequate hardware and software, employees may have to devote more time and effort to help the company achieve and maintain this goal. Even though it is less obvious, the work involved can be substantial and it may affect HR, IT, Legal, Compliance and every other department in your organization. Unless your company is currently operating with under-worked and under-utilized employees (LOL-very doubtful) the people in these departments already have full-time responsibilities and making the move towards Dred-ready means a lot of extra time involved in reviewing and updating retention schedules, policies and procedures. It would be nice to be able to dangle another reward carrot and justification for doing the work. Going Green can really help justify the cost and effort of this often arduous undertaking.

At this talk, I expected to learn of great new paperless approaches to records management but instead the “real-life” examples centered on trying to save paper by mandating duplex printing, while at the same time demanding that 100% consumer recyclable paper was being used. I was surprised to learn that this type of recycled paper can cost 3-4 times more than standard copy/printer paper. This conflicted with my stated purpose of using “greening” in connection with Dred to make it more compelling. However, from my perspective, pushing towards Dred compliant and avoiding most of the printing of electronic documents would make for a much “Greener” approach and avoids the issue of spending extra money for more expensive paper. I certainly can respect that law firms would have an awful lot of time, money and focus on paper, so firms in less paper dominated fields should find it easier to pursue Green Certification.

And, although I was hoping to learn about some new groundbreaking scanning technologies or other methods to avoid using paper, we all should recognize that paper will continue to fade away in importance as better electronic document and email management systems are adopted. These types of systems work pro-actively which is by far the best way to avoid the need to print and store information on paper. For example, the Federal Courts have used the Pacer system for electronic filing for a number of years. California law has recognized email is the equivalent of a “writing” since about 1998. California has been considering adopting rules simlar to the Federal Rules of Civial Procedure demanding that Electronically Stored Information ("ESI") is exchanged to perform litigation discovery. These changes to the law, and the practices that are modified to comply with these changes to the law, will continue to reduce the need to focus much time and investment on scanning and other paper management technologies. The obvious flip-side to this is that file and email management and archiving will continue to grow in importance.

Since this blog is focused on Dred, I will not bore or disgust you with the helpful hints about recycling and composting office waste for the achieving a rating of Green. It is always nice to avoid waste but in a word, yuck. And you thought keeping the company lunch area clean and odor-free was difficult before! Given the volume of articles written and the number of presentations scheduled at trade shows, one thing becomes certain; in this day and age going Green has become hip. In summary, I will close with more of the insightful and, as it turns out, prophetic lyrics sung by Kermit the Frog, “Green can be cool and friendly-like.” (For Kermit singing on you tube : ) .

No comments: