join now
advertise with us ABA Journal Blawg 100 Award 2009 ABA Journal Blawg 100 Award 2008
Subscribe (RSS Feed)TechnoLawyer Feed

SmallLaw: Macs in Law Firms: Get Them for the Right Reasons, Not "Just Because"

By Ross Kodner | Thursday, November 13, 2008


[Publisher's Note: This issue of SmallLaw has sparked a fierce debate in TechnoLawyer and elsewhere. I would like to clarify one issue in particular. We wrote the original title of the column, not Ross (Why Macs Don't Make Sense Once You Look Past the Cool Factor). It's common in publishing for the production team to write titles as opposed to the author. We have changed the title to prevent any confusion about the nature of the article. The article itself remains unchanged. I think people who read the article will find it well-reasoned even if they disagree with Ross' suggestions. Thank you for the lively debate. Please keep it civil. (I'm writing this note on a 2008 Mac Pro.) — Neil J. Squillante, November 25, 2008]

Originally published on November 10, 2008 in our free SmallLaw newsletter.

I hate evangelism. I hate it in the context of religion. I hate it in the context of computer operating systems. Evangelism always seems like an attempt to supercede reality with surreality, overriding fact with embellished opinions masquerading as fact. It's dangerous because it's often presented by those who sound convincing and well-informed.

Recently on the ABA's Solosez listserver, subscribers posted questions such as: "I have to replace my computers. Should I switch to Macs?" Responses, from the MacEvangelistas appeared nearly immediately as: "of course." Neither qualifying questions, nor any inquiries into the software being used by these folks on their Windows systems. Just a quick "yes!"

Let me say that I absolutely love Mac OS X. It's what Windows should have been. I am actually "bi-platform" (I run Tiger on my late '05 vintage PowerBook G4). But the discussion of why small firms should switch to a Mac seems all too often based on misinformation and personal preference versus sound business logic and appropriate needs analysis.

If you want a Mac at home, get a Mac! Born without impulse control, I quiver when I walk into an Apple Store. I experience a nearly uncontrollable urge to splurge (I know I'm in trouble when the "rationalization-of-buying-random-crap" voice in my head starts to play through the "so how many frequent flier miles would this MasterCard charge get me" script).

But when outfitting your small firm, apply business logic. If the apps you want to run come in native OS X versions, great — get a Mac. But what if the apps you need are Windows programs? For example, you use Time Matters, PracticeMaster, PCLaw, Abacus, Amicus Attorney, etc. You use Worldox GX to manage your documents and email. You're an Outlook addict. You have the Tabs3 or Timeslips billing system. You have a slew of Windows utilities like Payne Group's Metadata Assistant, Levit & James' CrossEyes, Payne's Numbering Assistant. You have BestCase Bankruptcy. You're using HotDocs 2008 to generate estate planning documents. Etc.

It makes no business sense to run these Windows apps on a Mac. Period.

Why Not Run Windows on Your Mac?

  • Software Costs: You have to buy Windows, rig up the machine for dual-booting with Apple's Bootcamp or virtual machine operation with Parallels or Fusion.

  • Time Costs: You have to pour time into getting Windows working, install and configure each app, download all the Windows updates, and move over all your data.

That's at LEAST a half a day or more of time. If you do this during the business day, each hour costs $150-$300 of otherwise billable time.

  • Technical Support: If you plan on running the Windows system in a "virtual machine" you can kiss most legal software technical support good-bye. Most legal software companies won't support you if they find out you're running their programs under an "unsupported" operating system. Logical? No. But in an era of technical "unsupport," vendors will look for any excuse to blame problems with their software on you.
  • Hardware Costs: Is Mac laptop pricing comparable to Windows machines? Yes, but comparable to higher-priced Windows machines. Many sub-$1000 Windows laptops and sub-$500 netbooks exist. Mac laptops are usually more expensive than the comparably spec'd Windows laptops people actually buy. Plus Apple's bundled iLife suite won't help you much at the office so it's not as much of a bonus as it is for a home user.

You Can't Run a Business on "Cool"

Are Macs cool? Sure, we've all been manipulated by 24 years of the cleverest product branding and advertising anywhere. But can you run your small law firm on "cool?" If you're running Windows apps primarily, does it make sense to opt for form over function? Likely not — unless you make a conscious choice to defy common sense. Paraphrasing Monsieur Voltaire, I may not agree with your choice of computing platform, but I will defend to the death your right to do so.

The "Macs Cool, PCs Suck" mantra of the evangelists is too simplistic. But some Mac evangelists are wiser and use a different argument.

They claim you can just use Web applications (a.k.a. SaaS — Software as a Service). Technically true. But I'm just not convinced they're ready for prime time for practical and logistical reasons. Many experts argue persuasively that it's premature to use Web apps for mission-critical needs.

Now, before all Mac-addicts turn on their flamethrowers, let me be clear. Again. I love Macs! I use a Mac! But I use it the way it was intended to be used — running the objectively superior OS X. I use it with OS X native apps — in particular Microsoft Office 2004 and 2008.

And let me be even more clear by making a much needed public outcry right here: We need legal software developers to produce Mac OS X native versions of their products. When these products exist for my clients, I'll tell everyone: "Get a Mac" — if you can justify it using sound business logic of course.

Photo by Etchasketchist. All rights reserved.

Written by Ross Kodner of MicroLaw.

How to Receive SmallLaw
Small firm, big dreams. Published first via email newsletter and later here on our blog, SmallLaw provides you with a mix of practical advice that you can use today, and insight about what it will take for small law firms like yours to thrive in the future. The SmallLaw newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Networking/Operating Systems | SmallLaw
home my technolawyer search archives place classified blog login