The economic and environmental costs of filing cabinets

Managers of law departments overlook the total costs of filing cabinets. “If the average four-drawer cabinet holds about 20,000 pages, that equates to 360,000 additional pieces of paper.” [I am not clear just what that sentence says; perhaps 20,000 documents.] According to InsideCounsel, April 2008 at 44, a large file cabinet typically has a footprint of about 14 square feet. But you also have to leave clear about 12 square feet to open the cabinet and as much more to have room to stand in front of the cabinet and pull files. In other words, the quiet and unassuming file cabinet eats up about 38 square feet.

If your law department is charged back what amounts to a market-rate rental for its space, you may be absorbing costs in your budget on the order of $40-$50 per square foot. That file cabinet, holding old documents and perhaps rarely used, costs you nearly $2,000 every year.

Additionally, as the article points out, “less office space means less heating, air conditioning and lighting, which not only means more cost-savings to the company, but also less strain on the environment.” Does an eyesore add a cost beyond economic and environmental? Entranced by all this, you can read more about filing in legal departments (See my posts of Dec. 10, 2005: telecommuting reduces used of filing drawers; May 4, 2007: most lawyers prefer piles to files; April 23, 2006: electronic filing obviates paper storage; and Oct. 18, 2006: RFID devices for filing.).

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