Moving to Mac – Putting Your PC in the Rearview Mirror

-By J. Benjamin Stevens & Tom Lambotte

Ben Stevens practices in Spartanburg, South Carolina with his wife, Jenny, at The Stevens Firm, P.A. Family Law Center, where his principal area of practice is family law. He is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and currently serves as the Chair for its national Webinar Committee. Ben is also an officer on the South Carolina Bar’s Family Law Council, and he previously served two terms as the Section Chair for the Family Law Section of the South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ). He is also an active member of the South Carolina Bar, American Bar Association, and American Association for Justice, and he is a certified Family Court Mediator and Arbitrator. Since 2004, Ben has published the award winning South Carolina Family Law Blog, which provides useful information to attorneys, Guardians ad Litem, clients, and the general public on a wide variety of family law issues.  He also publishes the wildly popular The Mac Lawyer blog, which focuses on legal technology issues.

Tom Lambotte is CEO of GlobalMac IT, the only IT firm that only supports Mac-based law firms in the world. With this laser focus, they take complete responsibility of everything technology-related for their clients through their unique model of Managed Services. At his core, Tom is most passionate about Macs, business and adding value. The combination of these values are the foundation for GlobalMac IT’s model and are responsible for putting them at the forefront of the Mac-based law firm IT market. Tom is the author of “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms,” a highly sought after speaker, and the most well known expert on the topic of Mac-based law firms.

This post is excerpted from the materials for their ABA TECHSHOW 2015 presentation “Moving to Mac – Putting Your PC  in the Rearview Mirror” to be presented on Friday, April 17 from 8:00-9:00 AM.

There comes a time in every PC-using lawyer’s life when they look at the “Blue Screen of Death” and think, “there must be a better way…”

Tom’s path to Macs:

I’ll never forget the moment I made the switch. In 2001, in the middle of a training seminar I was with over 20 people, my Compaq laptop decided to completely die, via the Blue Screen of Death, from which it never recovered. Around this time, many other managers had switched to Macs and were raving about the experience, so I decided to make the leap.

Wow, was it intuitive and easy! When I first setup the printer I had with my laptop, I knew this was going to be a very different relationship. Instead of spending 30 minutes looking for the proper printer driver and then another 30 minutes trying install it and get it working properly, I simply…wait for it…plugged in the USB cable. That was it. My Mac knew what printer I plugged in, had the driver, and I was printing a minute later. My realization was, “I can actually focus on the task I am trying to complete, as opposed to fighting with it in just trying to get the darn thing to work!”

Ben’s Path to Macs:

My story is quite similar to Tom’s.  I used Macs during college and for a very short time when I began practicing law back in 1995.  However, Apple was in sad shape at that time and PC software providers dominated the legal market.  As a result, I abandoned the Mac and used PCs for the first ten years of my practice.

All of that changed in the summer of 2005.  I grew tired of the constant freeze-ups, viruses, and overall experience of my computer working against me rather than for me.  Apple was beginning its turnaround, and after considering how well Macs had worked for me in past years, the result was that I switched my firm over to Macs in August of 2005, and we haven’t regretted it for a moment since.

Can you really run a Mac-based law firm, or it only a viable option for solos?

Once the door opens and the switch begins to be considered, doubt and fear often quickly creep in. Peers may ridicule them and share with them outdated and misinformed beliefs: “Aren’t Macs just for graphic artists and hipsters?” “There’s no Mac-based software for law firms.” “Macs are too expensive.” “But you use TABS3, how will you track time on a Mac?” “How will you send and open Microsoft Office files?” and many other statements based on outdated facts and hear-say. One of my favorites is “I don’t like Macs because you can’t right click” (it’s a checkbox in the settings, not enabled by default).

The truth is that Microsoft Office now offers a completely seamless experience. A wide variety of businesses run completely on Macs; constructions firms, medical, financial, real estate, trucking companies and many more.  Although they are spread out, there are many law firms worldwide running completely on Macs. Many of them congregate on MILO (Macs-In-Law-Offices), an active Google Group with over 4,500 members which was started in 2006 by Ben Stevens, alongside his award-winning blog. Although this group is the most widely known and used by Mac-using attorneys, the majority of law firms that GlobalMac IT supports had never heard of this group, implying there are many, many more Mac-based law firms out there and they are steadily growing. Tom’s company, GlobalMac IT, only provides complete end-to-end IT services for Mac-based law firms with 5-50 users. They support firms throughout the US and even far as American Samoa, and this business is thriving and rapidly growing. There are thousands of solos and small to medium law firms running on Macs all over the world; the largest we are currently aware of is 37 users, whom GlobalMac IT supports.

One of the common limiting beliefs is the idea that Macs are too expensive. Let’s put this one to rest here first, through basic numerical analysis, comparing apples to apples (pun intended), then through a more comprehensive analysis, factoring in productivity. In an article on TechRepublic, Erik Eckel proves that the MacBook Pro might actually be more economical than a Dell Latitude. The key here is that most attorneys are going to buy a business-class laptop, such as a Dell Latitude, and not the cheapest netbook for a few hundred dollars. When configured with options matching a MacBook Pro, and with the additionally needed software (which does not come with the DELL), the Dell Latitude ends up being $30 cheaper.

However, a basic numerical analysis such as this misses the biggest point in justifying the additional cost. Most people view technology as a cost and not a tool, a necessary thing they have to spend money on, versus a tool that can increase their ROI. How much could we accomplish without our computers? There is no other tool we spend more time with than our computers, so why not get the best possible tool to work with? With attorneys earning an average of $131,990 in 2013 and paralegals an average of $51,170, it is clear that the biggest cost for the most law firms is payroll.

The truth is that for most people, their computer creates a bottleneck in their workflow because our minds often work faster than our computers. Therefore, if we have an outdated computer that is slow, or whose software and interface is cumbersome and not intuitive, it is costing you downtime by impairing you and your staff’s productivity. Over the years, most people have agreed that they easily can waste 15 minutes per day on an older computer, especially on Windows. At $51k, a paralegal earns $25.50/hr. 15 minutes a day X 20 days per month X 12 months, comes out to 3,600 minutes, or 43 hours per year, which is a cost of just under $1,100 in lost productivity. For an attorney earning $130k, this works out to $2,800/year.

Keep in mind, this does not take into consideration actual system crashes, problems and issues with software or email, and complete downtime from a system that has been infected by viruses or malware, and a wide variety of other causes.

Lastly, let’s bring these numbers back into the “Macs are too expensive” point. It is typically recommended that business computers be replaced every 3 years. Using a conservative estimate of 15 minutes in lost productivity per day over a 3 year period, the old computer is actually costing your firm about $8,400 for an attorney ($2,800 * 3 years) and $3,300 for a paralegal ($1,100 X 3 years). Taking that into consideration, focusing on just the price difference in buying a Mac is irrelevant, the justification is easy to make. If you believe the intuitiveness of the Mac Operating System and the speed and reliability of the hardware would simply add only 15 minutes of added productivity per day, the cost is a no brainer, and clearly should not be only deciding factor.

For 7 years in a row, Apple has won the PCMag Reader’s Choice award for most reliable laptops. “No other laptop company comes close to challenging Apple, which wins the PCMag Readers’ Choice Award for the seventh straight year. In every category—overall, work, home, even brand-new laptops— Apple received overall satisfaction, satisfaction with reliability, and likelihood to recommend ratings over 9.0. It’s the only brand to be so highly rated, and consistently so. PCMag readers adore their MacBooks.