Using Technology to Offset the Five Biggest Challenges facing Solo and Small Law Firms
“I don’t want to use Macs, I’m perfectly happy with my Windows PC.”
If that’s the case and you truly don’t care either way (and you don’t often find yourself holding yourself back from throwing your PC out the window), then maybe this article is simply NOT for you.
However, if you find the tiniest bit of curiosity inside yourself about this topic, perhaps you should read on.
There is a category of attorneys that goes mostly unacknowledged as if they don’t even exist. It’s no surprise that the legal sector as a whole tends to be the opposite of an ‘early adopter’ when it comes to technology.
This category of attorneys largely suffers in silence, because they simply think there is no hope for things to change.
This category I am eluding to is what I call the “Mac-Curious, Windows-Using Attorneys.”
Often times they already have iPhones. Maybe they use an iPad. Maybe their kid(s) at home are using Apple computers, or maybe their personal computer at home is an Apple.
I like to say they have ‘seen the light’ and know-how seamless and reliable the Apple experience can be. At times they have wished they could ditch their PC in the office and move to Macs within their practice, but something has always held them back.
In this article, we are going to discuss two key points.
First, why an attorney should switch to Macs in the first place. It won’t be a round of Windows-bashing but will touch on a few key benefits to using Apple computers in your practice.
Next, we will discuss why using Macs in your practice is literally easier than ever before, and lastly, we will do a quick review of all the main tools needed to run a law practice in the modern era.
Why Go Mac?
Many people assume that in my line of work—running a Managed Service Provider that only works with attorneys who use Macs—that I spent a lot of time convincing people they should make the switch.
Years ago, I decided not to do this.
Why not? Instead, I invest my time with attorneys who are either already interested in switching from PCs to Macs, or who are already using Macs in their practice.
Typically, the Mac-Curious, Windows-Using Attorneys would like to use Apple computers in their practice, but they are uncertain about what that would look like and if it would be reasonable.
Many outdated beliefs still exist regarding the limitations of using Apple computers in a law practice.
One belief is that you’d be all alone. Fear not.
According to the ABA’s 2016 National Lawyer Population Survey, there are 1,315,561 licensed lawyers in the United States, of which 75 percent are in private practice (986,671).
If we just take those lawyers in private practice (986,671) and conjecture that 8 percent of them are using Macs, that tells us there are at least 78,933 lawyers in the U.S. who are using Mac computers.
When looking at the percentage of solo attorneys that use a Mac, the figure jumps up significantly to 12% in 2016 and a high of 15.5% in 2015. (Source: American Bar Association, ABA TECHREPORT 2016).
Addressing each of the most popular beliefs would make this a very, very long article.
What I’ve decided to do here is sum them up in four “Outdated Beliefs,” the ultimate quick hit list of the most common outdated beliefs:
Outdated Belief: Macs are Too Expensive
This statement holds up if compared to $300 Chromebooks, but I’ve found that a similarly equipped, high-quality PC does not vary much in cost compared to an Apple and can often come out costing more.
Two other key pieces are a proven lower Total Cost of Ownership and higher resale value. (For example, I just sold my 6-year-old 27″ iMac for $709, which is over 30% what I had paid new (good luck doing THAT with a PC).
Outdated Belief: It’ll be hard to share files with Windows users
That was certainly a difficulty a decade ago, but file compatibility issues are rare these days. All of the common file formats can be read by macOS: Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, images, text files, MP3s, videos, ZIP files, and more.
Outdated Belief: My IT Guy/Gal says it can’t be done!
There are a few reasons this occurs:
The idea of switching to Apple is a threat to their job security.
Next, the overwhelming majority cannot adequately support Apple the same way they can with Windows. It’s not a slight to them, but a simple fact. Because they spend the majority of their time supporting Windows, they lack the training and experience supporting Apple.
Lastly, with their limited exposure to Macs, they often hold many of the limited beliefs listed here.
Outdated Belief: Lack of Software
Simply put, this is no longer the case.
Thanks to advancements in the Cloud, save for a few rare exceptions, the majority of software needed by a law firm is accessible in the cloud, as Software-as-a-Service.
Law firms using Macs have exponentially more options available to them than they did only 5 years ago. (I’ll expand on this in the next section).
So Why Go Mac? Because they work.
IBM says 5% of Mac users call help desk vs 40% for PCs.
I’ll never forget when my Compaq laptop died in the middle of class when I was attending the University of California Santa Barbara.
At that time a lot of my peers were using Macs, so I got one as well. When I got it and first connected my laptop to my printer via USB, I plugged it in…and that was it. My printer was setup!
Compared to the complexity of setting up the same printer with my previous PC, I was shocked. It just worked. I could spend my time doing what I wanted to do instead of trying to get the thing to work (and getting quite frustrated in the process).
Why is it Easier Than Ever?
“Ok, you’re getting me close to the edge of making the switch, but why, exactly, is it easier than ever?
Can you walk me through this?”
First off, if there was one major shift that transformed Macs from something only die-hard Apple-fan-attorneys used into something available to mainstream attorneys, it would be the Cloud.
Thanks to this giant technological leap, the large majority of software titles previously only accessible on Windows have now moved to the Cloud. This means the software companies (for the most part) don’t care if you are using Windows or Mac OS.
Another big contributor is Microsoft, who is committed to platform parity, which means that all operating systems will have the same experience.
Thanks to Microsoft shifting resources to Microsoft’s Apple development team, I can confidently say that the current suite of Microsoft Office apps for the Mac is the best.
A decade ago, the Office apps had significant quality issues, and cross-platform compatibility issues were also prevalent. Today, the Mac applications are rock-solid and continue to improve with every new release.
Ok, so Microsoft Office (Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel) is a big one, a must for all attorneys. What about everything else? Here’s a list of the 80% that attorneys need:
|Email/Contacts/Calendars||Office 365 or G-Suite|
|File Storage||Box, ShareFile, Dropbox for Business, DocMoto|
|Practice Management Software||Rocket Matter, Clio, Practice Panther|
|PDF Editor||Adobe Acrobat (via Adobe DC), PDFpen PRO|
|Time and Billing||TimeSolv, Bill4Time, Time59|
|Accounting||Quickbooks Online, Xero|
This is far from comprehensive and does not get into specific needs for certain types of law. Some of the options listed above are Mac-native apps, while many others are Cloud-based.
Cloud-based offerings run the gamut of litigation support, document review, trial presentation, and much more. For a comprehensive list of options available to law firms using Apple computers, please see the book Macs-in-Law: The Definitive Guide forthe Mac-Curious, Windows-Using Attorney, published by the ABA Law PracticeDivision.
What are you NOT telling me?
I want to be honest: it is rare when a change is all rainbows and unicorns.
If you jump into making the switch from PC to Mac without any planning, you’ll certainly experience moments of discomfort, so what I am saying is: plan it out.
You should also be aware of legacy Windows-based applications that have not made the move to the Cloud. These still exist, and you will want to complete a full discovery of the applications you use now and see whether a Cloud-based or Mac-native alternative exists.
If not, thankfully, virtualizing Windows on your Mac is fairly straightforward. There are multiple ways to go about this, and I recommend finding an experienced consultant to assist with this process.
However you arrived at your Mac-curiousness, you haven’t taken the leap of faith to switch from Windows to Mac.
You might have been hesitant because your computer is something you use every day and you can’t afford to be without it.
Other lawyers might have convinced you that you’re crazy for thinking of switching to a Mac—why make more trouble for yourself?
Or you simply may have lacked the confidence to know exactly what you need to do to make the switch.
I hope this article has re-ignited your desire. Some complexities always accompany change.
That being said, I can confidently say that making the switch will be extremely worthwhile for you. Imagine yourself cocooned in an all Apple atmosphere.
You leave your home Mac, only to be greeted by a beautiful iMac in your office, and then go to court with your iPhone and iPad.
You’re dealing with far fewer IT issues, and now you get to experience the reliability and quality that you’ve enjoyed at home for all these years.
And you no longer need to endure the pain of the blue screen of death or Patch Tuesdays :)