In recent AusLSA Legal Sector Environmental Insights reports, it has been noted that in many law firms, business travel (primarily flying) continues to increase and now represents nearly 40% of the total emissions of an average law firm. While the motivation for reducing travel often comes from a desire to reduce costs, reducing business travel has an added bonus of greatly reducing the associated environmental impacts.
AusLSA Members are now measuring the environmental impacts of their firm travel but how are they managing it?
The AusLSA Travel Policy and Procedures Survey sought to understand how Australian law firms are currently managing their business travel by asking what alternative technologies are being implemented as well as what policies and procedures are being utilised.
• 85% of firms use webconferencing
• 90% have videoconferencing facilities.
• 44% are using Microsoft Lync
• 33% have telepresence
Three-quarters of firms are using virtual meeting platforms for internal meetings, but nearly 2/3 of firms are using virtual technologies for meetings with clients (30% frequently and 30% occasionally).
Nearly 60% of firms think that technology has had an impact of = the firm’s need for travel, only 15% of firms believe it has been a significant impact.
A number of barriers were thought to exist to greater use of virtual meetings, including a lack of knowledge of virtual technologies (30%) and inadequate understanding of their functionality (30%).
Habit was identified as the most significant barrier (60%) to greater use of virtual meetings. This analysis indicates that training and communication campaigns on virtual meetings would significantly increase take-up.
However, nearly 90% of respondents think that virtual meetings can’t completely replace the value of face-to-face meeting indicating that business travel will continue to be a necessary component of legal practice for the foreseeable future.
TRAVEL FOR MEETINGS
In most firms (nearly 90%) all staff are required to fly economy class for shorter flights. Business class is made available only for longer flights (more than 5 – 8 hours or overnight).
Most of the surveyed firms use the services of a Travel Management Company (90%). However, nearly 40% of firms DON’T have a policy and/or procedure for approving flights for business and 1/3 of surveyed firms still allow staff to book their own flights. From this is can be inferred that many law firms could improve their management of business travel including increasing control or oversight of travel taken by their staff.
TRAVEL FOR LOCAL MEETINGS
Many firms do not have programs to encourage travel to local meetings by means other than taxi. 30% of survey firms make public transport tickets readily available for staff to travel to local meetings
Generally where a car is needed to travel to a meeting, firms reimburse staff for personal car use, or arrange a hire care. One firm has started to use car share schemes for some journeys.
Nearly a third of firms don’t have facilities that encourage staff to cycle to work but 25% support their staff to purchase long term public transport tickets (but note that this is not an option in all Australian cities).
In a win for flexible working objectives, 90% of firms allow working from home occasionally and 82% allow working from home on a regular basis.
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