AT DEMOTT MCCHESNEY CURTRIGHT ARMENDARIZ,
a law firm with offices in San Antonio, Houston and Austin, employees
are instructed to try and refrain from printing out emails and other
documents that can be digitally stored. The firm, which employs 18 attorneys and an additional 60 support personnel, recently did away with
paper cups for coffee and other assorted plasticware. Now employees
receive mugs with the firm logo for their hot beverage. To save on coffee
costs, the firm has stopped preparing a big pot of coffee each morning.
Employees now make their own coffee using durable, reusable cups.
Managing partner Ruth McChesney said such cuts
have helped make the firm a little bit more profitable.
“It’s not significant, but it adds up,” said McChesney, who
joined the firm in 1998 and became a partner in 2000.
And those little bits of savings from assorted expenses,
from paper to paper clips, from coffee to disposable cups,
from furniture to catered food, could indeed have a long-term impact on a firm’s profitability and even survival.
Employing smart strategies for saving money on office
expenses while still providing quality service to clients
is fast becoming a priority for law firms, many of which
have struggled financially in recent years.
Harris Love, executive vice-president and partner
at Bottom Line Concepts, a New York City cost-savings
consulting firm, said office supplies are an obvious place
for law firms to look for savings.
He said many law firms get overcharged on office supplies and other expenses such as coffee and catering services. “All these things open themselves up for savings,”
said Love, a former law firm partner.
He said law firms could save money on supplies by
negotiating price locks with vendors. This way, he said,
a pen that costs say, 80 cents this year will remain at that
price and not be subjected to a subtle price creep of about
a penny or two each year.
“With our vendors we do price lock guarantees,” Love
said. “Some suppliers do that, but only if a firm knows to
ask for it.”
He said it also helps for a law firm to ne-
gotiate for shorter contracts on supplies. He
said shorter contracts could sometimes give
the buyer leverage in getting better deals.
Like McChesney, Ruby Powers, a Hous-ton-based immigration attorney who runs
a firm of 10 full-time employees, said she
tries to minimize the use of paper and ink.
She said she tries to have her attorneys and
the clients review documents carefully on
large screen computers before printing
Powers said she also skimps on furniture
purchases. When she first started practicing seven years
ago, in the middle of the Great Recession, she worked
from home, she said.
“The desk I used at home is the same desk I use in my
office,” she said. “I kept that mentality. In a way, that helped
me grow. My desk is from Craigslist. Sometimes in my of-
fice building if someone is giving away something I take it. I
even used my dining room chairs for a while.”
Marty Healy, chair of the In-house and Law Firm
Management Committee of the International Association
of Defense Counsel, said firms have opportunities to save
in a variety of other areas as well, including office space,
IT and library services.
Healy, a partner at Sedgwick LLP, a large San Fran-cisco-based law firm with offices around the world, said
many firms have cut the expense of maintaining hard copy
libraries and rely more on legal research providers.
“My office in New Jersey has no hard copy library. We
do everything electronically. The hard copy library was
expensive to maintain and not nearly as up to date,” he
said. “We vet all our expenses. When we believe we are
overpaying, we go back and renegotiate or find a better
Healy said his firm has merged most of its IT ser-
vices into a single service center, providing real-time
access to lawyers across the country who can view
documents as they are prepared. He said the firm has
CLIPPING THE LAW By Lekan Oguntoyinbo