Sustainable working – The Wilkes Partnership

The Wilkes Partnership is a mid-sized law firm with offices in Birmingham and Solihull. Following on from the impacts of Covid-19 on office work, Wilkes is going through a period of time re-evaluating the whole firm’s values and processes. As part of this, a new Sustainability team has been introduced with the aim of promoting sustainable working across the firm. This has involved looking at all aspects of office work, from the setup of the offices (including recycling), to hardware and software use, to case and file management. The team also created a new sustainability vision for the firm:


We are committed to minimising our impact on the environment. We will do this by being energy efficient, working in a paperless manner, recycling as much as possible, reducing waste and encouraging each other to be more mindful to protect the planet


Paperlight working

Prior to the lockdowns, Wilkes was heavily reliant on maintaining paper files. This obviously caused initial problems when the firm was forced to close its doors and have staff work from home. While some departments were deemed to be essential workers and therefore still had access to the office, the majority of staff had to dramatically shift their way of working.

Once the dust of the initial disruption settled, the firm adopted a “paperlight” approach. This meant prioritising the use of paperless and hybrid files (for those departments unable to work in a paperless manner). Training was rolled out across all departments to standardise the use of the case management software and existing paper processes were changed and adapted to electronic working. Office hardware was changed to ensure that everyone had access to double monitors to make screen work more efficient and new software packages were introduced to move paper-heavy activities (eg. the preparation of Court bundles) to computer systems. This was further prompted by the Courts who themselves are pursuing the use of electronic bundles.

Results of sustainable working

The prioritisation of sustainable working is new to Wilkes, and there is still work to be done across the firm to make it a truly sustainable workplace. A recycling trial is about to start and run for a month so that the team can assess how much recycling is possible in the multiple offices.

An examination of printing data across the firm shows that from pre-Covid figures to 2022, Wilkes has managed to reduce their printing by 86%. There is still scope to reduce this figure further and the Sustainability team is in ongoing discussions with senior management as well as the IT team to work out how we can encourage departments to move to more paperless working, and whether that includes different hardware or software to achieve the goals of the firm.

What else are we looking at?

There are a number of options for Wilkes going forward. Considerations include the footprint of our necessary office space, reducing printing equipment, reducing the energy footprint of our secure servers, and introducing flexible working to reduce the carbon footprint of employees (commuting etc.). The firm is also researching ways that we can offset our existing carbon footprint by partnering with companies that plant trees.

What can you do?

It is never too late to examine the way that your business operates and how you can mitigate the impact that your work has on the environment around you. If you want to find out more about how the Sustainability team works at Wilkes, you can contact the Sustainability Partner and Head of Planning Department, Leenamari Aantaa-Collier at [email protected].

  • Leenamari Aantaa-Collier

    Leenamari Aantaa-Collier

    Partner & Head of Planning

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