Greener Litigation launches toolkit to drive “cultural change”


Wybraniec: Scheme is open to all

Greener Litigation, an initiative which brings together law firms, chambers, legal tech and litigation support businesses to reduce the environmental impact of dispute resolution, has launched a toolkit as part of its push for further “cultural change”.

Olivia Wybraniec, co-chair of the Greener Litigation steering committee, said every recommendation in the toolkit was cross-referenced with court rules or guidance, enabling lawyers to “conduct litigation in the most sustainable way possible”.

Members of Greener Litigation sign a pledge committing them to take steps to reduce the environmental footprint of their practices, including “actively promoting practical steps in litigation” while maintaining the highest standards.

Ms Wybraniec, a managing associate barrister at Mishcon de Reya, said the number of law firm signatories to the pledge had increased from 43 in the summer of 2022 to around 75 now, joined by a dozen barristers’ chambers.

Legal tech firms and other litigation-related businesses took the total number of signatories to 121.

Greener Litigation also has six associate members, companies which participate in litigation without being litigation businesses and sign their own associate member pledge. Virgin Media O2 became a signatory in January this year.

The toolkit contains “fictitious yet realistic” examples of the impact made by different litigation choices, with carbon emissions calculated by sustainability certification organisation Planet Mark.

In one of them, a partner, three associates and a trainee fly first to Edinburgh, then to Hong Kong and Texas for witness interviews. Travel schedules are not coordinated so they all arrive at different times and take taxis to their five-star hotel.

Each witness is sent two lever arch files of documents beforehand in hard copy by courier. Once the witness statements are approved, hard copies are sent to them to sign and return to London by post.

The resulting carbon footprint is calculated at 51 tonnes of CO2, the “vast majority of which” is caused by the flights and is equivalent to “around 45 return flights from London to New York”.

An alternative way for the case to be conducted is for a senior associate and a trainee from the law firm’s Glasgow office to conduct the more important witness interviews in person in Edinburgh, travelling by train. They take an iPad to show the witness the necessary documents.

The less important witnesses in Hong Kong and Texas are interviewed remotely and given access to an electronic bundle of documents. Witness statements are signed by e-signatures. The carbon footprint for this approach was calculated at only 0.02 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of a return car journey from London to Reading.

Ms Wybraniec said that everything had a carbon footprint, even email when copies of documents were repeatedly emailed to people; document-sharing platforms should be considered instead.

One signatory to the pledge, 39 Essex Chambers, has invested in training its clerks in legal tech, so they could help barristers make better use of Pdfs and e-bundles, she said.

There was “a lot of debate” at the moment about whether court hearings should be heard in-person or remotely, but many interim hearings could be heard remotely.

Steering committee members from the law firms Kennedys, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Addleshaw Goddard led development of the toolkit.

Ms Wybraniec said Greener Litigation made a “conscious choice” not to have reporting requirements because it wanted to avoid having a “regulatory quality” and instead be “open to all organisations in litigation whatever their starting point”.

It was important to include not only those organisations “in a position to commit to sustainability” but those wanting to “start making changes”.

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