By Tom Lambotte from GlobalMac IT

computer_on_deskMany Mac Attorneys use their Macs and other Apple Devices both at work and at home. This means that your business Mac, iPhone, and iPad often does double-duty as your personal Mac, iPhone, and iPad. How do you keep your attorney-client confidential documents and business records separate from your awesome selfie collection and world-class cat video library? How can you keep a photos library of family photos apart and distinct from your pictures of the accident site survey? In this two-part series I will touch on several of the biggest concerns regarding using a laptop for both home and work. Although the article is Mac-centric since that is our niche, the same benefits and concerns apply to PC users as well.

In this first part we will discuss the biggest benefits for the Law Firm as well as the End Users. In another post, I'll discuss the biggest security concerns and provide some strategies to address them. Let's dig in!

Benefits for the Firm

Many firms who adopt a BYOD approach to technology reap the advantage of greater employee satisfaction, reduced IT costs, and a more rapid device upgrade cycle than traditional firm IT may permit. The technology your employees are using is more likely to be current: Currency means not only faster hardware, but more up-to-date software including everything from new features to the latest security fixes.

BYOD can save your firm money: Instead of absorbing the total cost of a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad, most BYOD firms split the cost of the new device between the employee and the firm. This reduces the hardware cost to the firm and gives the employee extra incentive for properly maintaining his device. This approach does have the potential downside that an improperly monitored device - i.e. one with overly-permissive permissions or lax installation restrictions - can be a gateway for nefarious code to get onto other employee or firm computers, the removal of which can be expensive. We'll talk about addressing this in the 2nd part of this article.

Employees can use personal devices, hence become more productive: When it comes to people and technology, they are only going to use the technology available to them to the degree that they are comfortable and confident using it. We have all been shocked at one point or another when a parent or grandparent says, "Let me Google that." Why did they never embrace technology until they got that iPad or iPhone? Because they were not confident or comfortable using it. When your employees are able to continue with the devices they already interact with daily, they have a much shorter ramp up time to getting familiar with it. If an employee has one less thing to become competent at for a new job, he becomes more productive at a multiplied rate.

BYOD can lower your IT expenses: BYOD will certainly lower your hardware expenses. That's obvious. It's also possible that software expenses can decrease because newer equipment will ship with the freshest, most secure software.

Benefits for End Users

True Mobility: Life happens. Kids get sick. Cars break down. Inclement weather. Acts of God. Whatever you call it, it is inevitable that something will happen which keeps you from the office. It is not a matter of whether this will occur or not, but what will happen when it does? Unfortunately, filing dates rarely care about your life situations, so the show must go on.

For those without BYOD policies who may only have VPN to access the office, it can be very difficult to work from outside of the office. You'd be amazed at how many people that supposedly have a VPN solution, never use it because it's either broken, unreliable, or so painfully slow that people only use it in the direst situations. When mobile devices are setup and able to access firm email, contacts, calendars, firm files, case management software and billing software, employees are able to do almost 100% of what they need to do at the same speed they are used to doing it when in the office.

Here's one client's experience with getting fully setup on Macs and fully mobile:

"By converting my law firm from Windows to Macs, what GlobalMac IT has done for my ability to live my life and law practice, has been remarkable. For instance, I am in Paris and my secretary is up in her cabin in the middle of nowhere. She is tethered to an iPhone, and my partner is home with a sick kid in Minneapolis. Yet, we are doing business at a high level; it is instantaneous." -Robert Hajek, Hajek & Beauclaire

This is night and day compared to the shoddy VPN connection available to employees.

Easier ramp-up: Most people's computer training goes like this, "Congratulations, you have the job, here is your computer, get to work." Now, at this point in the employer/employee relationship it is not the right time to say, "Oh, by the way, I've never worked on a Mac/PC/tablet/this Operating System, etc. can you show me how to use it?" So they end up doing their best to figure out how to use it on their own, suffering in silence, very often to the detriment of their productivity. When an employee is allowed to use their own laptop, tablet or mobile phone, they already have a certain level of comfort using it, so they ramp up faster.

Allow people to decompress: Users are able to check out of work and into personal things easily when needed. When your home Mac is also your work Mac, you can easily switch hats when you need to. Let's imagine you're traveling out of town for a deposition, you've been working all day long and just spent 3 hours after dinner prepping for the next day. You want to unplug, and decompress, so you then log into Photos and spend some time cleaning up vacation photos to share with your extended family. You check in to Facebook and screen-suck a bit to unwind. Without this, you'd have to travel with two laptops, which simply wouldn't happen.

As you can see, there are many benefits to all parties to embrace a BYOD policy. However, this strategy does introduce some unique security concerns you will need to properly address. Read the second article here and we'll discuss how to cover your butt 🙂

TomLambotteAbout the Author: GlobalMac IT was founded by Tom Lambotte – renowned nationwide as an author, speaker, trusted IT advisor, and cutting edge, successful provider of the #1 complete end-to-end IT solution for Mac-Based Law Firms in the world. Private firms from throughout North America – and as far reaching as American Samoa - running with a staff of 5-50 - have relied on his expertise to help them put their IT headaches behind once and for all. Using his real world experience, where results rule and dollars can't be wasted on negligent computer consultants, he wanted to help managing partners and office managers of Mac-based law firms to put an end to wasting their time and money on IT support that does not work and rescue them from the frustration. Our unique “TotalCare” approach integrates classic IT support with proven proactive support that truly converts IT from something to be dealt with, into a tool that truly increases law firm profits, increases staff productivity, and provides piece of mind that firm and client data is secure and that their security is never at risk.