Daily Dispatch

All Mac Practice, Part 1

Still Want an All-Mac Law Office? What You Need and How You Can Do It

By | Aug.19.15 | Apps, Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Legal Technology

Mac Law Office

Three years ago, I wrote a primer for Attorney at Work on setting up an all-Mac law office. For this new two-part series, in addition to updating that earlier article here, I’ve reached out to four Mac-using lawyers — Victor Medina, David Sparks, Ben Stevens and Jeremy Worley — for their insight and advice. You can read their full replies tomorrow on Attorney at Work.

How Many Lawyers Are Using Macs?

There are two reasons lawyers contemplate using a Macintosh in their practice. One is because they’re already using an iPhone or iPad and a Mac would complete their Apple-y experience. (Some call this the “halo effect.”)

The second is that many lawyers have a Mac at home either for their own use or a family member’s (e.g., for offspring attending college). They’ve become enamored with the “it just works” dependability and yearn for the same experience on their work computer.

We’re not completely sure of the total number of Mac-using lawyers, but in the 2015 Legal Tech Survey conducted by the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, 8.1 percent of respondents reported that they use a Mac in their practice. That’s a noteworthy jump from only 5.8 percent in the 2014 survey. The biggest chunk of those Mac users were solo practitioners (15.5 percent), and small firms (2-9 attorneys) were next.

Why solos and small firms? I suppose because they are more flexible in choosing the equipment they want to run their practice. Larger firms strictly limit what their lawyers use, although the stealthy invasion of BYOD is expanding beyond mobile devices to computers as well.

A completely separate survey by Clio asked 886 lawyers, paralegals and law students why they chose to use Macs instead of Windows PCs. Fifty-two percent of them simply reported that Macs were more reliable and secure. That’s the reason Jeremy Worley says he led his 13-attorney firm to switch from Windows to Macs — they wanted the most reliable machines they could buy, which would “pay for themselves in saved IT costs, time and energy.”

So why aren’t all lawyers using Macs? One reason may simply be that their firms won’t let them. Many midsize and large firms provide a computer for their lawyers and they’re certainly not giving out Macs.

But the main reason is still the lack of legal-specific, Mac-native software. Legal software developers can’t justify spending time and resources on a product that only 8 percent of their customer base would use.

Then there’s still the misguided perception that Macs cost more than Windows computers. The imaginary price gap, however, shrinks dramatically when you compare a Mac and a Windows computer with the exact same components. Sure, you can buy a $400 Windows laptop, but how long will it last? And why subject yourself to the persistent frustration of a low-powered cheap alternative when your computer is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your practice?

BusinessCaseforGoingAll Mac copy

For additional insight, here’s a graphic, courtesy of MyCase, drawn during a 2014 ABA TECHSHOW session titled, “The Business Case for Going All Mac.” (Click the graphic to enlarge it.) ABA TECHSHOW features a full-day “Mac Track” for legal professionals looking to use a Mac in their practice.

Which Mac Should You Buy?

For a desktop, I still recommend the 27-inch iMac. (Go Retina 5K if you can but it’s not necessary.) You can still go for the Mac mini but you’ll need to supply your own keyboard, mouse and monitor. Consider a SuperDrive if you still need to access CDs and DVDs since no Mac today has an internal drive.

The laptop side has gotten a little confusing since my previous article. I still recommend that most folks look first to the 13-inch MacBook Air, but consider the 13- or  15-inch MacBook Pro if you want a Retina display. The MacBook Air boasts plenty of power for lawyers, but the Retina display on the MacBook Pro is truly dazzling.

In March 2015, an unusual new laptop entry hit the shelves simply called the “MacBook” with no additional descriptor. The 12-inch MacBook is thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air but boasts a Retina display. Based on reviews so far, you’ll either love it or hate it. The MacBook probably has the bare minimum of power I recommend for a lawyer, but most folks complain about the keyboard and the single connector (for power, USB and everything else).

The absolute best thing you can do is visit an Apple retail store and get your hands on all the models to see which works best for you. And if the price is still too scary, consider purchasing an Apple Certified Refurbished machine. 

What About the Software I Need to Run My Practice?

Every Mac-using lawyer I interviewed expressed frustration with the lack of legal-specific software for the Mac. Some Mac lawyers will actually keep an old Windows computer running in the office just for one or two programs they need, but a more elegant solution is to run a virtual Windows environment on your Mac using Parallels or VMware Fusion. (Apple’s own Boot Camp is another option but that takes you completely out of the Mac environment.)

Ben Stevens uses Parallels to run “mission-critical” programs that are Windows-only (and not web-based) such as the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. David Sparks has done the same to use CaseMap, but he says “putting Windows on your Mac is like putting your dad in a dress.”

The Mac operating system comes with built-in software for email, contacts and calendar. Some say these applications are consumer-focused, but many Mac-using lawyers find them extremely practical and flexible enough to fully suit their needs. The three applications can connect to almost any back-end found in a legal environment (e.g., iCloud, Google, Exchange).

For legal-specific, Mac-native software, I’m sticking with the three suggestions from my previous article:

  • Daylite (business management)
  • TimeNet Law (“firm management” suite with time entry, accounting and reporting)
  • qd documents (document review software for litigation)

One addition to the list is DocMoto, which offers document and email management for law firms. Victor Medina says he has used the product for several years in his practice and finds it extremely valuable.

Juggling Microsoft Office and PDF Files

Every Mac-using lawyer should purchase Microsoft Office for Mac. While there are other software packages lawyers can use, including Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote, you will save yourself unnecessary frustration by using the tool everyone else in the business world uses. Microsoft just released Office 2016, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote, as well as access to Microsoft’s OneDrive online storage service.

To purchase Microsoft Office for Mac, you’ll be well-served to obtain a subscription to Office 365, which will allow you to install the software locally on your Mac, as well as liberate the full functionality of Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPhone and iPad.

Every Mac-using lawyer should also invest in a full-powered PDF software application. Mac OS X comes with Preview to view and annotate PDFs, but lawyers need the additional power that’s found in tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro or PDFpen Pro.

If you can afford a subscription for Adobe Acrobat Pro or “Adobe Document Cloud,” go that route. Personally, I get confused with Adobe’s pricing and frequent re-branding attempts, so I would suggest that lawyers look at PDFpen Pro, which costs much less and offers just about all of the same features.

Other Mac Software Lawyers Use

There are numerous non-legal software utilities and tools for Macs that lawyers can use. David Sparks says he uses these utilities to “run circles around opposing counsel” simply because the software is well-designed and allows him to get more done in less time.

The six utilities I mentioned in my previous article still hold strong:

In fact, all four Mac-using lawyers I interviewed mentioned using TextExpander because it makes them more efficient.

I am adding 1Password to the list, too, for managing passwords and securing personal information. Originally designed only for the Mac, it can now work across your iOS devices and even Windows.

Cloud-Based Services that Mac Lawyers Use

More lawyers than ever can use a Mac in their practice today because so much of what they do can be done “in the cloud” — which means it doesn’t matter what computer or mobile device you use.

Here’s a short list of the cloud-based legal services I see Mac lawyers using today.

Practice Management:

Time and Billing:

Document Management/Storage:

Litigation Support/Document Review:

Resources for Current and Future Mac Lawyers

For more information on using Macs in your law practice, I recommend following Ben Stevens’ The Mac Lawyer blog, the MacSparky blog from David Sparks, and my own Macs in Law blog.

If you want to converse and interact with over 4,600 other Mac-using lawyers and legal professionals, consider joining the MILO (Macs in Law Offices) Google Group.

Also, consider attending the annual MILOfest Conference, which this year is November 12-14 at Disney World in Orlando, as well as the “Mac Track” at ABA TECHSHOW 2016, March 17-19, in Chicago.

Be sure to read Part Two, “Lawyers Who Use Macs: Why They Do It and How” — a Q&A with Victor Medina, David Sparks, Ben Stevens and Jeremy Worley.

Brett Burney is Principal of Burney Consultants LLC, an independent legal technology consulting practice. Brett provides litigation support for law firms and assists corporations with e-discovery questions. Brett also provides Mac and iPad training for lawyers seeking to learn how to use their Macs, iPhones and iPads more effectively and productively. Brett, a past ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board Chair (2015), blogs at Macs in Law. You can follow him on Twitter @BBurney and email him at brett@macsinlaw.com.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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11 Responses to “Still Want an All-Mac Law Office? What You Need and How You Can Do It”

  1. jackl
    19 August 2015 at 6:39 am #

    Amen to that. I’ve been a computer enthusiast since the first day back in the St. Reagan era where I realized there was an alternative to writing briefs on yellow legal pads with pencils (or dictating) and then having ones secretary laboriously type each draft anew from the top on her IBM Selectric.

    But, alas, in my tenure in many medium size law firms, either the IT department or my skinflint partners wanted the cheapest commodity computers (usually Dells) for all. Until the cost curve came down to double digits, even a second monitor or big flat panel rather than klunky CRT was a hard sell.

    “But if we get X for you, we’ll have to get one for everybody” was the rationale. No matter that my time was being billed in triple digits per hour, they never saw that efficiency (and even pleasure in ones work) was a benefit.

    The day I became a solo was the day I chucked the Dell and got a MacBook Pro and external monitor, Anthro desks, and now a 27″ iMac on an electrical adjustable Anthro standing desk. Work in the integrated Mac OSX environment is much more seamless than Windows as well with contacts, calendaring and timekeeping (Harvest) synchronized between desktops, laptops, tablet, iPhone and Apple Watch.

    I also second the authors’ recommendation to join the free MILO google group.

  2. Tom Lambotte
    19 August 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Great article Brett! with some new options I’ll have to look closer at for our clients.

    To add some interesting tidbit of information in terms of the market size: something that always fascinates me is that the overwhelming majority of Mac-based law firms I speak with have never heard of the MILO group.

    So taking into consideration that there are over 4,600 members in the MILO group and that most of the ones that find our firm have never heard of MILO, makes me think the market is even bigger than most people realize. To provide some context, we provide complete end-to-end IT solution ONLY Mac-based law firm.

    Looking forward to part 2!

  3. David Addleton
    28 August 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Almost ready to convert.
    I absolutely despise MS Word and have remained tied to Microsoft OS because of WordPerfect.
    Can I use WordPerfect after I convert to Apple?

  4. jackl
    29 August 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    As an old WP user under Windows 3.1 from 1987 until my partners decided to standardize on Word because the clients (finance) used it, I know how you feel. They almost had to pry my cold dead fingers off WP and I’d draft in WP and let secretaries convert to Word.

    But, alas, the technical answer to your question is “yes” but the real and practical answer should be “no”. The problem is Corel long ago abandoned and orphaned WP for Mac before OSX so older versions don’t run. There is an intrepid group (on Google) who run WP Mac under OS9 on a virtual OS emulator called “Sheepshaver”, but I don’t recommend that, nor do I recommend running WP WIN on a Mac using a virtual program like Parallels. You’re trying to get away from the Winblows experience so why make your Mac into a windows machine. It’s kind of like putting a sundress on a man, or a dog.

    Here’s my workaround: I draft documents on a “clean screen” very simple word processor called IA Writer. It’s very similar in function and user experience for writing without worrying about fancy formatting or impenetrable “auto formats” like old WP. Then I export the finished document as an .rtf file and import into Word for Mac (Office) and prettyfy with fonts, margins, spacing, etc. An added benefit to IA Writer is that it’s cross-platform and you can use iOS versions to work on the same draft document on your iPhone or iPad and then save to the cloud and then on your desktop hard or SSD drive (or office LAN).

    Another Mac word processing program called Nisus Pro handles .wpd -> .txt or .rtf or Word .doc conversions very well. So you can use your old WP documents and forms on the Mac and ultimately make IA Writer or Word for Mac documents out of them.

    It’s too bad Corel orphaned Word for Mac because it used to work quite well, but the current Mac OS X Yosemite is to the 15 year old pre-Intel chip OS9 Classic as Windows 10 is to Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. You want a Mac, but you don’t want anything to do with running OS 9 or Windows on it.

    As an old WP enthusiast, my quirky workarounds work very well for me and make it easy to draft documents focusing on contents and not appearance and fighting the word processing system trying to make it undo things you don’t want it to do (except for spellcheck, which is built into the Mac OS and works under IA Writer as well).

    I also use a few TSR type utilities called Cute Clips (a cut and paste buffer storage), Typinator (paste repeatable predefined boilerplate), PopChar (a special character inserter), and KeyCue (pop up keyboard command shortcuts).

  5. Brett Burney
    31 August 2015 at 8:28 am #

    @jackl – thanks for your comment! I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve heard “but if we get X for you, we’ll have to get one for everybody!” mostly from mid-size to larger firms that have to keep as much tech-consistency as possible with everyone at the firm. I’ve heard this same rationale when firms refuse to purchase multiple monitors for certain people that are doing document review or something similar that actually NEED multiple monitors.

    I am also a HUGE Anthro fan and glad you found their desks. They are expensive, but I’ve been using my Anthro for over 10 years and STILL love the quality and adjustability. It’s holding up three computers and 4 monitors.

  6. Brett Burney
    31 August 2015 at 8:29 am #

    @David Addleton – I hear ya on the hating Microsoft Word, but alas, it is the world we live in that the vast majority of business professionals utilize the Microsoft Office suite. I know many Mac-using lawyers that use Pages (Apple) just fine, or even the free NeoOffice, but you MUST always remembers to convert your document into Word format before you share it with anyone that’s using Word (which again, is just about everyone). That’s why for the majority of Mac-using lawyers I still recommend getting a copy of Microsoft Word 2016 just so you don’t have to do extra work.


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