The answer? Like all things, it depends. Our practice is run almost solely in Apple technology.
I preface this with a thought… this is a stupid post. If you’re considering starting a law practice, start here, and maybe read this. The choice to use Apple or PC isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Whatever direction you choose won’t have all that much of a bearing on your practice. It’s like asking if you prefer to eat eggs for breakfast or cereal. It’s a preference.
It won’t win the trial or make you lots of money anymore than your Fruit Loops will. (Actually, your choice of breakfast may have an impact on your effectiveness at trial. Your choice of Apple products, not so much.)
That out of the way, these are my musings about running a law practice on Apple…
The advantages of running your practice on Apple.
1. It just works. Apple has done a fabulous job integrating technology like Dropbox and Google Apps. My calendar, email, and Dropbox is synced seamlessly with my iPhone and my iPad. I can access just about every element of my practice from my phone or iPad. Calendar, client file, you name it. It’s at my fingertips. Acrobat Professional, Dropbox, and Google Apps all feel like they are native to Mac.
2. Seamless PDF integration. “Print to PDF” is also integrated into OSX. This means you can draft a document in whatever format and easily convert it to a PDF.
3. Apps are cheap, and many of the best ones are free. Mail, Calendar, and most other programs are native to iOS. Pages, Mac’s word processor, costs about $20. Comparatively, MS Office is quite expensive. (though you can use free open source programs like OpenOffice, Thunderbird, etc.) Overall, you spend less money on software with Macs.
4. Looks cool. During my last major jury trial, the lead trial attorney did all our exhibits from his iPad. We polled the jury afterwards, and they said the iPad made us look modern and they liked the presentation. YA RLY. After that, my former (and still current) firm made almost a complete switch to Apple. (of course, I did a hearing last week off my iPad and I think the judge thought perhaps I was trying to be a little “too hip”.) Our non-scientific research has shown that people think Apple products are cool.
5. Macs are capable of producing great looking documents. If you haven’t read Typography for Lawyers, you should consider it. When Leo first made me read it, I laughed at him. “That is the stupidest idea ever.” Until we integrated it into our practice and judges and clerks started commenting on how professional, polished, and easy to read our papers come off.
6. iOS / OSX is so much better than Windows 7. It runs better, I don’t have a virus scanner installed, and it never freezes on me. It’s intuitive and it works well. Windows 7 is still clunky, it’s hard to find stuff, etc. The integration between iOS and OSX is incredible. Apples also don’t come pre-loaded with a bunch of crap on them or spyware. Using my Mac is a pleasure, but using my PC is “Ugh, this is so clunky… why doesn’t it have the cascade feature???”
7. A lot of the publishing companies have started to make the books you actually need available on your iPad. This is great if you don’t want to lug around the Rules of Evidence, Rules of Civil Procedure, and local rules with you every time you have to go to court.
The disadvantages of running your practice on Apple.
1. Collaboration. If you do a lot of collaborative work with others, most of them will not have Pages. You’ll be drafting stuff in one format and then converting it to another. At the very least, you will either need to have OpenOffice or MS Word installed on your Mac in order to collaborate.
2. Macs are expensive and difficult to upgrade. My laptop is a PC. It cost me about $800 and it’s totally souped up. My iMac cost considerably more and there is a limit to how much RAM I can add to it. iMacs are expensive and they become obsolete after about four or five years. There isn’t anything you can do about it, either. PCs are easier and cheaper to upgrade, buy parts for, etc.
3. Proprietary software is kind of a bummer. For instance, we use “Billings” for timekeeping and billing. It’s a great program, but it’s not available for the PC. For me, this means I can’t bill at home.
4. You still need access to a PC. There are many programs, some court or practice specific, that will require you to have a PC. At the very least, you will need access to one.
5. There are still some websites that require you to have Internet Explorer, the worst browser ever. You can’t use Explorer on a Mac, though. (Firefox is the best alternative).
6. If you use case management software (we don’t), some of the non-cloud based programs still require a PC. For instance, I don’t think Needles is available on Mac.
7. There are rarely times you’ll find yourself saying “Damn, I wish that program was available for PC.” Having a PC will rarely put you at a disadvantage.
You can run a law practice with a yellow pad and a hard calendar very effectively. Same with a Mac or a PC. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Apple is great if you want your entire practice integrated with your phone and your iPad, and you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks. But the advantages of Apple aren’t so great that your practice will instantly become infused with awesome for making the switch, either. You’ll never find yourself at a disadvantage for being PC based.
Personally, I prefer Apple because it’s easy and intuitive. But your mileage may vary.