Of all of the professions, law firms do the most printing. Apart from the impact on the environment, printing costs firms a great deal of money. But just how much it costs firms each month is invariably ignored, since it is offset by disbursements to clients. There is also a belief that ‘printing costs what printing costs’.

However, there are simple ways that firms can substantially reduce their printing costs. Some of these suggestions are a simple once-off setup. Others require a change in the way employees work.

But since all printer drivers are different, you’ll need to feel your way around a bit when making the changes offered below. And if you don’t know your way around printer drivers, I’d recommend you get someone in to make the changes for you. Unfortunately, not all suggestions can be forced, so it will be up to each operator to have the discipline to implement them.

Here are 14 ways that firms can save money on printing:

  1. Draft printing
    • Most laser printers have a draft mode, which reduces toner usage. This can be selected from the print dialogue at printing time by selecting ‘Properties’ and then selecting the ‘draft’ or ‘grayscale’ setting. The problem is that this is a hassle, so operators pretty soon stop doing it. The trick is to make the draft setting permanent.
    • The way to do this is to create a duplicate virtual default printer driver which always prints in draft mode. Then, if the operator wants to print in ‘quality’ mode, they simply select the (old) quality printer driver at print time. To create a duplicate driver, select ‘Control Panel’ from the start menu, then select ‘Printers and Faxes’. Now select ‘Add Printer’, and then follow the wizard. You’ll need to choose your printer and specify the printing port. If you’re confused about which port to use, go to the old printer driver, right click on the printer icon, and select ‘properties’, then select ‘ports’. That will show you which port the printer is connected to, and you can use the same port for your new printer driver. When the wizard asks you if you want to keep the existing driver, say yes. Once you have set up the duplicate printer driver (or had your hardware technician do it for you…) you’ll need to set the draft printing mode, and then make the draft printer your default printer. You might want to add the word ‘Draft’ to the name the default printer, and ‘Quality’ to the name of the high-quality driver. That’s all there is to it. Of course, you’ll need to let your staff know how to select the quality driver, or your final documents aren’t going to look that good! There is a great short video on the PC Magazine website which explains this in more detail.
  2. Print in black, not colour
    • It isn’t clear whether coloured toner is that much more expensive than black toner these days. But assuming that it is, you may want to create a virtual driver which prints in black (or grayscale) as explained for Draft Printing above. Then, when the operator is ready for a final print, they can select the Colour driver.
  3. Print double sided
    • To save paper, you can also print documents double sided, assuming that your printer has the ability to do that. For final legal documents double sided printing may not be practical, but it could certainly save money on draft documents.
  4. Print 2 pages side by side
    • For draft printing, you can print 2 pages side by side. Sure, it makes them a little difficult to read, but it saves toner and paper. To do this, in the print dialogue select ‘Pages per sheet’, then select ‘2’.
  5. Proofread your documents
    • Probably the quickest way to savings is for staff to proof-read their documents on the screen before printing. In this way, they won’t waste time walking to the printer more often then they need to, and they won’t waste toner and paper. An added benefit is that during proofreading they can increase the size of the text on the screen, making the text documents easier to read.
  6. Read the print dialogue carefully
    • Ensure that the correct printer is selected for the job, and that the printer settings are correct before printing.
  7. Email documents rather than printing them
    • Electronic documents save money. If you need to send documents to someone for signature, rather send them as a PDF file via email.
  8. Read articles on screen
    • This applies to articles on the Internet or documents that are emailed to you. Wherever possible, read these on the screen rather than printing them out. If you are going to read the documents at home, forward them to your home computer using email.
  9. Do not print directly from websites
    • If you want to print something from the Internet, some websites offer a printer friendly version of the document. If that’s not available, copy the text you require to a word processor before printing so that you don’t waste money printing high colour advertisements.
  10. Make margins smaller
    • By reducing the margins of a page at print time you can save paper.
  11. Use a smaller font or a different font
    • A 12 point Univers font uses approximately 50% more toner than a 10 point font, and an eleven point font uses 25% more toner than the 10 point font. Also, a Century Gothic 10 point font uses about 40% less toner than a Univers font of the same size. So choose your fonts and styles wisely.
  12. Check your firm logo on letterheads
    • Some firms make use of a very large firm logo on their letterheads. In some cases, the logo alone can cost one Rand per page. Firms should rather opt for a more conservative look, or use an outline or greyscale logo to save toner.
  13. Refurbished cartridges
    • The debate around refurbished cartridges goes on an on. Some manufacturers claim it voids the warranty. Some resellers will tell you the reason your printer failed was because you are using refurbished cartridges. But the fact is that refurbished toner cartridges are a massive business all over the world, so they are clearly finding a market somewhere. It may be an idea to source some pricing on refurbished cartridges to assess if the ‘risk’ is worth taking.
  14. Shop around for paper and toner prices
    • There is a massive variation in what firms are paying for paper and toner. The easiest way to get better pricing is to send 5 emails to the larger suppliers (their contact details will be on the Internet) stating your annual volumes, and asking them what their price would be for the same product you are using at present. Once you have the prices you can take a decision to change supplier, or to put pressure on your existing supplier to give you more competitive pricing. Remember too that long standing suppliers sometimes lose their competitiveness after a while.


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