When I started my own law firm several years ago, I made it a priority to use technology to become more efficient, more organized and most importantly, more profitable. In this article, I will share with you some of the things that I use and do to help me streamline my law practice that may help you professionally and personally. Let me first start with the caveat that I have been an Apple Mac user since 2004. If you are a Windows and Android user, I’m sure there are similar products and apps to the ones that are mentioned, so please continue to read on. Perhaps, you’ll be persuaded to switch to Mac after reading.
Friends and colleagues often ask why I switched from Windows to Mac. The answer is simple. Macs, in my opinion, are more user friendly, easier to network and to maintain the network and less likely to be infected with a virus compared to Windows. And, I am still able to use software that I used on Windows such as Microsoft Office without having Windows installed on my Mac. Coincidentally, with the software program Parallels, I even have Windows installed on my Macs to run any Windows applications that I cannot run on the Mac alone. Thus, having a Mac with Windows installed thru Parallels is in essence having the best of both worlds in one computer with both platforms able to run simultaneously.
As for computers, my primary office computer is an Apple iMac desktop. The iMac is available in two different screen sizes: 21.5 inch or 27 inch. I opted for the 21.5 inch model rather than the 27 inch model. My recommendation for personal use is the larger screen size, especially if you view and save your digital photos and videos on your computer. In addition to my iMac, I also utilize a 13 inch MacBook Air. I chose the MacBook Air over Apple’s MacBook Pro mainly because it is lighter and more portable. Since I only use this laptop as a secondary computer away from the office, portability was the main factor. However, if you are going to use a laptop as your primary computer, the MacBook Pro would be the better option because the hard drive typically is larger and the processors are much faster than the MacBook Air.
When the first iPad was introduced in 2010, I was probably the first and only attorney who used the iPad in court while other attorneys were still lugging around files in their briefcases on wheels. Now, at least half the courtroom attorneys are carrying iPads or other tablets to court. Believe it or not, I use my iPad more than my iMac and my MacBook Air. I can do almost everything on an iPad that I would be able to do on any computer, especially for the everyday tasks of reading and composing emails, word processing, surfing the internet, etc. In fact, by integrating my iPad into my law practice, I created an almost paperless office. No longer do I have to carry physical files to court because all of my files on my “network” are accessible with my iPad. I’ll go into more detail how I am able to do this below.
There are three essential apps and/or equipment to become paperless. The first is a scanner. I highly recommend the Fujitsu Scan Snap Scanners which have models for both Mac and Windows. Unlike printers, these scanners are not compatible on both platforms, so beware of which one you purchase. Another scanner and software that has received great reviews is a scanner called Neat. Second, a program called Dropbox should be downloaded to your computer and onto your iPad. Dropbox is a free program that allows you to save documents in the “cloud” and allows you to create a “network” and sync folders and files across your various computers and tablets. While there are other cloud services such as Google Drive and iCloud by Apple, Dropbox is the best in my opinion. Dropbox provides you with 2 gigabytes of storage at no charge and you can purchase more space if needed. Third, an app called PDF Expert should be downloaded onto your iPad. With PDF Expert, you can access all of your PDF files via Dropbox and you can even fill in PDF forms. I utilize this app to do all of my client interviews and for the execution of retainer agreements and other legal documents. Any changes made on the computers and iPad to any of the files in Dropbox and PDF Expert will automatically sync and are available on all of your computers and devices.
Other Software and Applications
Reverting back to the question “Why Mac?” and my previous answer that it is simple, the same applies to Apple’s free software on both the Mac and iPad. Apple’s Calendar, Email, Contacts and Reminder programs are so simple to use and seamlessly sync across all of your Macs, iPads and iPhones. It also syncs your Google based email and calendars, which many small businesses and people use. By using Apple’s free apps, you can avoid buying the more costly Client Management Software.
Speaking of Google, one of the best recommendations I can give you is to get a free Google Voice Number, especially if you work from home and regularly use your personal cell phone or home phone to call customers and clients. You will need a Google email account to get a Google Voice Number. When choosing a Google Voice Number, you can select available numbers in any area code that you want. What a Google Voice Number allows you to do is to use and give out that number to your clients or customers which gets forwarded to your cell phone or land line so that your clients and customers won’t call you directly using your personal cell number or home number. You can also download an app on your iPhone or Android phone which allows you to make phone calls on your cell phone using your Google Voice Number which Caller ID will appear rather than your personal cell number.