Attorneys unknowingly create a substantial amount of electronic waste in the course of their work. Here’s how we know that and how law firms - big and small - can change the tide - just in time for Earth Day.
As the world overall is just starting to work more remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing, lawyers have been working outside of traditional offices for a long time. The availability of mobile devices has made it possible for legal professionals to do their work from home and while traveling. In fact, a survey published by Lawyerist.com on the American Bar Association website found that 85% of lawyers work from home at least 10% of the time.
Working remotely means that lawyers often use multiple devices to do their work.
Lawyerist.com found attorneys use their laptops most often as their primary remote-work device (44%), followed by smartphones (30%), tablets (13%), and non-work desktop computers (12%).
In the world today, there are now 1 Billion more smartphones in use than there are people. People on average are upgrading and replacing their phones at an interval of 18-24 months. That raises the question, “where do all those devices go that are being replaced?” The same concern arises for the replacement of other devices such as computers, printers, tablets and so on.
If attorneys are replacing their computer every 18 months as recommended by some legal firm consultants they are then faced with deciding what to do with the old device. This decision ends up being complicated and risky. Many of those devices end up in drawers and back storage rooms gathering dust until it’s time to clean them out.
Some users may sell or give them away, participate in manufacturer buy-back programs, or trade them in for the new model. Unfortunately, many replaced devices end up in landfills with disastrous consequences for the planet. Whatever the route law firms and legal professionals decide to go, the disposal of these devices poses an even bigger problem for attorneys and their clients - keeping the confidential data they contain safe. The way devices are disposed of can pose enormous security and liability risks if not handled properly.
Any device that contains confidential data and is discarded can be mined for the data it contains, even if the previous owner has attempted to erase or wipe the drive clean. Handling replaced devices properly is not only important to the environment, but it’s also essential to protecting the concerns of legal firms and their clients.
Tips for Safe Disposition of Electronic Devices Containing Confidential Information.
- Re-use. Keep an inventory of all devices used by members of your firm whether in the office or at home. Reassigning replaced devices to someone else in the firm to extend their use is an option and can be tracked through your inventory. Establish a policy for when to retire devices and track each device. Reusing devices can also save money and resources for your firm. Device manufacturer buy-back programs are not recommended because you cannot be assured your data has been completely removed and therefore your data could be compromised.
- Recycle with an R2 Certified Electronic Waste Recycling firm and insist on a Certificate of Destruction for all hard drives. Hard drive destruction or shredding is the only way to assure that data is not recoverable and that your data cannot be compromised.
Your Next Steps
Protect the environment and your company by gathering up all the old, not being used electronic equipment in your firm and contract with an R2 certified electronics recycling company proper management.
Next, take an inventory of all the electronics still being used by anyone in your firm containing client and company confidential information. Develop a Digital Device and Data Security Policy and Plan that manages who has access and, where, how and when devices will be replaced. Need assistance in creating a plan for managing data security and digital devices? Mayer here to help.
Mayer Alloys Corporation, in partnership with OmniSource Electronic Recycling, an R2 Certified Recycler, provides peace of mind that you are disposing of your organization’s electronic waste safely and responsibly. All electronic waste is recycled in an R2 Certified facility. All hard drives are destroyed and Certificates of Destruction in compliance with Department of Defense (DoD) security standards are provided. For more information about electronic recycling check out our Ultimate Guide To Corporate Electronic Recycling and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.