In the race to evolve without destroying our planet, many industries are reluctant to disrupt traditional procedures or established centers of influence. However, without innovation, we can’t solve for the new threats to our physical and digital worlds.
On the spectrum of legal practices, litigation is arguably the most costly. The number of people involved, the outdated protocols, and inefficient processes make it time consuming and wasteful. The true sum of litigation is much greater than the law firm invoices. It is hard to estimate the full impact on the environment, but the legal industry’s past is littered with boarding passes, rebrands and uneaten food. While some firms now recommend paperless-meetings and tighter travel budgets, a 2021 Law.com report found nearly 2.5 million tree seedlings would need to be grown for a decade to offset the annual emissions of the Top 50 UK law firms.
Thankfully, legal tech has played a positive role in advancing environment-friendly progress. Legal tech tools have significantly changed industry standards by increasing efficiency, improving access and decreasing reliance on the physical world. Take law firm libraries as an example. Once large percentages of real estate maintained by a team of librarians, the modern law firm library would now appear greatly diminished. The capabilities of online tools caused firms to give up the ascetic of grand libraries for powerful search engines and digital resources.
Westlaw and Lexis revolutionized legal research. Relativity changed the way attorneys approach document review. LegalZoom provides small businesses digital access to legal forms and basic legal advice which previously sat solely within the purview of attorneys. Practice management software like Clio allows attorneys to better manage their caseloads. With all this innovation, the days of weaving your way through knee-high stacks of paper to reach an attorney’s desk should be long gone.
Tech companies have answered the call to help an aging and wasteful legal system, but the practice area of litigation remains a threat to the planet, one that we need to address and remed holistically. These particular new tools only alleviate certain symptoms, they do not provide a cure for what is ailing litigation and hurting our environment.
In order to truly change the litigation paradigm, we have to present alternatives to litigation itself. By its very nature, litigation is protracted and difficult. Without a capable attorney, it is almost impossible to navigate despite the allowance for pro se representation. Process and procedure abound, timelines are long, dockets are clogged and resources are strapped. But what if there was a legitimate alternative? An alternative organization guiding resolutions, while also building solutions that reshape and streamline litigation for the sole purpose of facilitating timely resolutions. An organization not beholden to traditional methods of litigating and, instead, able to develop an evolved process.
Enter New Era ADR, we are a technology company creating technology-based solutions that drive alternative methods of dispute resolution. New Era’s strategy is not based on how it can facilitate existing litigation. Instead, New Era has developed improved processes that redefine how disputes can be resolved outside of traditional litigation. ADR has always stood for alternative dispute resolution, but New Era is redefining the term by providing technology driven alternatives that allow for mutually beneficial shortened litigation timelines, fixed fees and elimination of travel.
New Era ADR is proud of our environment-friendly structure and we continue to look for ways we can reduce our collective carbon footprint. We operate as a dispersed workforce meaning no air-polluting commutes or unnecessary waste that comes with office life (printers and plastic utensils come to mind). We also travel sparingly; sending representatives to strategic conferences and meeting infrequently as a team. We believe projects, culture and innovation can thrive in the remote work setting. We operate like the model we have built; communication, decisions and agreements do not require flights, rental cars and conference rooms.
In acknowledgement of our ethos, we recently signed the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations pledge. The Campaign for Greener Arbitrations was founded by International Arbitrator, Lucy Greenwood, in 2019, with the aim of significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the arbitration community. The campaign is made up of a group of arbitration practitioners committed to achieving sustainable change in the way arbitrations are managed.
The practice of litigation has long been a drain on resources, but that can change. Technology has given us the ability to resolve disputes online, now it is up to us – the legal ecosystem – to choose tools that prioritize the health of our planet and address the impact on future generations. It’s time to change, it’s time for a New Era.
Rich is the CEO and Co-Founder of New Era ADR. Prior to starting New Era, Rich was the General Counsel at Civis Analytics, a fast-growing, venture-backed data science technology company born out of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He served on the executive team, led legal, cybersecurity, and compliance, and helped lead and evolve the company through rapid growth (600%+ in his tenure) and over $50M in funding.
Prior to Civis, Rich was SVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Livevol, a financial technology company that he helped to build, grow, and sell to CBOE Holdings (BATS: CBOE). Rich also serves as an advisor, board member, and investor in technology startups and venture funds and in a leadership role in the Economic Club of Chicago.
Passionate about solving the access to justice gap in the United States, Rich also serves on the national Leader’s Council of the Legal Services Corporation (a U.S. Senate-funded 501c3) and on the board of Illinois Legal Aid Online. He holds a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.