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Old Apr 28, 2008, 05:29 PM   #1
laxmax613
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Small Law Firm

My parents are setting up a small law firm soon and i think they should convert. what pieces of equipment to we need to do this and how will it all fit together?
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 05:31 PM   #2
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 05:33 PM   #3
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the business techncian at the store said that for good back up a server would be the best choice, how would we go about that?
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 09:09 PM   #4
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for a backup server i would use time capsules bridge together so all the macs can use Time Machine and backup
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 09:18 PM   #5
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I would use a mini for a central server and a raid box for backup.

The last thing you would ever want is to lose your files.
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 09:20 PM   #6
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the mac mini is a good server but using time machine on time capsule is the best way to go, that is what my company does we have about 130 mac uses and we have about 15 time capsule and it works like a charm
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 09:22 PM   #7
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how small is small?

My parents run a small law office. You need to first figure out what sort of billing programs you will be using. It may turn out that you need a windows PC for the billing program.

You also need to figure out how you will submit forms to the courthouse. For this, we use a windows PC.

Note: the PC used for accounting is not the same one that is used by the secretary for e-filing.

Finally, how will you network them? If you need at least two windows PC, and XP can not reliably talk to OS X in a business environment*, you have to seriously question what you would gain by using OS X over Windows.

*I was on the phone with Apple for over 2 hours, and eventually we all just gave up. They (plural people) said everything short of telling me to just install Windows on the mac, which is what I did, and since then it's worked flawlessly.

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the mac mini is a good server but using time machine on time capsule is the best way to go, that is what my company does we have about 130 mac uses and we have about 15 time capsule and it works like a charm
I agree 100%. HOWEVER. don't use wireless. If you're running a law office, chances are you're going to have confidential information floating around, the last thing you want is someone being able to just sit down with a laptop and (30 minutes later) walk away with all of your clients confidential information.
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Old Apr 28, 2008, 09:24 PM   #8
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well, there are two issues--shared files like forms and the like, and backing up.

The only thing I have against TC in this situation is the lack of redundancy- I always want my client files double backed-up. For the small marginal cost, the benefit and peace of mind is very much worth it.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 07:48 AM   #9
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It is quite tough to answer this question at the moment, mainly because you have not shared enough information about the document workflow of the firm.

Honestly, I would probably recommend using Windows XP for a law firm. However, since the OS is being "discontinued" by Microsoft on June 30, I would hate to recommend technology that will not last for years to come.

Though I do not have much firsthand experience with Vista, the little time that I have used it, I absolutely hated it. Also, the bad reviews seem to outweigh the good reviews.

As much as I would like to recommend Mac OS, many business applications used by lawyers (document management, cost recovery accounting software for billing back clients, etc.) are made for Windows only.

We all really need to push software developers to make the switch, as XP is becoming "outdated" and not many want to adopt Vista. Hopefully, we will start to see a transistion to more business apps for Mac OS in the future.

By the way, I work in sales for Canon in the office products division, and though I have seen some attorneys using Macs as their personal computer, they usually have the rest of the office (receptionist, paralegals, etc.) using Windows PCs.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 08:09 AM   #10
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This might depend on how small small actually is, but anyway, things to consider...

I would think or hope that law firms fall under some sort of regulatory body, this body will have IT requirements that must be met - these would be along the lines of data protection, retention, resilience etc. This would cover everything including e-mail and normal data. If this body exists and they do have requirements like this, you absolutely must meet them. Suffice to say a Time Capsule or two isn't even close to being up to the job.

As cmcbridejr brought up, going Mac might not be the best choice in terms of interoperability with clients and other firms. Running a law firm the last thing you want to have to think about is if you will be able to open the Microsoft Project, Visio, and Access files you might need (none of which you can open btw). That's before you take in to account specialised Legal software.

I think you need to find out about all this stuff, and probably hire an IT consultant to make it all happen.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 08:18 AM   #11
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I think you need to find out about all this stuff, and probably hire an IT consultant to make it all happen.
I agree. Unless the law firm is two people small, I would hire a consultant--preferably one who knows macs well--to help set things up. It's not worth losing business (or the whole business) doing this on the cheap.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 01:32 PM   #12
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I agree. Unless the law firm is two people small, I would hire a consultant--preferably one who knows macs well--to help set things up. It's not worth losing business (or the whole business) doing this on the cheap.
it is, but i asked them and they said that they usually(right now) use only microsoft office files, and i saw that there is software for client management for mac and considering the new iPhone apps coming out, it might be worth it.

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By the way, I work in sales for Canon in the office products division, and though I have seen some attorneys using Macs as their personal computer, they usually have the rest of the office (receptionist, paralegals, etc.) using Windows PCs.
what about paralells then?
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 02:02 PM   #13
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thejadedmonkey,

I DO agree not to use wireless if the company IT people don't know what they are doing. WEP is very easy to bypass. But with proper setup, wifi can be used securely in most situations.

Question, why do you think XP can not reliably talk to OS X in a business environment? What were you trying to do? On a Mac, if i want, I can control, send file, get file from a windows machine securely and easily. Perhaps you don't know how to set things up or ask the right questions.

In addition, do you know that they do make law firm softwares for Macs?

Just because you don't know doesn't mean it's not possible. See:

http://www.apple.com/business/solutions/legal.html
and

integration of Mac and PCs
http://consultants.apple.com/at_a_glance/prescient/
but even the time tracking software has equivalent on the mac. Just search versiontracker or macupdate

Last edited by Consultant; Apr 29, 2008 at 03:46 PM.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 03:58 PM   #14
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My wife (she has her own law firm) is using a Mac. She only needs Office, Acrobat (reader), email and a web browser, so she's fine on software. All of the forms she needs to deal with are available as .pdfs.

You do need to make sure the software your parents will need is available, though Parallels/Fusion remain an option. My wife used to do the occasional real estate closing for existing clients and the software she needed for that was Windows only. She's happy to have an excuse not to do those anymore. But if she needed to use Windows daily for some reason, I wouldn't have her runnning on a Macs.

For her, the main thing is to be able to work both at home and at the office (and at the courthouse). Her setup is:

Computer: Macbook Air. This is where her files live.
Office: Airport Express providing printer and internet access.
Home: Time Capsule providing a backup server (for Time Machine), printer and internet access.

(I'll probably switch the locations of the TC and Airport Express--it's better to get the hourly backups and access to them at the office.)

For offsite backup, I have a script that also syncs her files to an offsite location. (This addresses the redundancy issue).

This system works well because she needs access to files on-the-go but does not need to share files with nyone. The master location for her files can be on her laptop. If you need to have files shared by multiple people, you'd need a different setup. Which one is best depends on where you would need access to the shared files.

If you only need to access shared files in one location, then it is pretty straight forward (use some kind of local file share). It gets more complicated if you want on-the-go access to shared files.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 04:13 PM   #15
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If you only need to access shared files in one location, then it is pretty straight forward (use some kind of local file share). It gets more complicated if you want on-the-go access to shared files.
iChat and encryption software. Easy. =)
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 04:17 PM   #16
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My wife (she has her own law firm) is using a Mac. She only needs Office, Acrobat (reader), email and a web browser, so she's fine on software. All of the forms she needs to deal with are available as .pdfs.

You do need to make sure the software your parents will need is available, though Parallels/Fusion remain an option. My wife used to do the occasional real estate closing for existing clients and the software she needed for that was Windows only. She's happy to have an excuse not to do those anymore. But if she needed to use Windows daily for some reason, I wouldn't have her runnning on a Macs.

For her, the main thing is to be able to work both at home and at the office (and at the courthouse). Her setup is:

Computer: Macbook Air. This is where her files live.
Office: Airport Express providing printer and internet access.
Home: Time Capsule providing a backup server (for Time Machine), printer and internet access.

(I'll probably switch the locations of the TC and Airport Express--it's better to get the hourly backups and access to them at the office.)

For offsite backup, I have a script that also syncs her files to an offsite location. (This addresses the redundancy issue).

This system works well because she needs access to files on-the-go but does not need to share files with nyone. The master location for her files can be on her laptop. If you need to have files shared by multiple people, you'd need a different setup. Which one is best depends on where you would need access to the shared files.

If you only need to access shared files in one location, then it is pretty straight forward (use some kind of local file share). It gets more complicated if you want on-the-go access to shared files.
that sounds like what we would do. Time Capsule looks like a good tool for dealing with important legal documents.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 04:50 PM   #17
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My parents are setting up a small law firm soon and i think they should convert. what pieces of equipment to we need to do this and how will it all fit together?
A lot depends on the size of the office. Either way, though, you want to have a good file server (maybe an Xserve) and redundant, extremely reliable backup systems. There are few computer calamities worse for a law firm than losing important files on the eve of a major deadline.

You'll also need to figure out what software they'll be using for scheduling and billing.

One online resource that could be helpful is http://www.maclaw.org/, which is a discussion group of Mac-using attorneys. Because they're more familiar with the specific needs of law firms, they'll probably be able to offer much more well-tailored advice than Macrumors.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 08:00 PM   #18
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A lot depends on the size of the office. Either way, though, you want to have a good file server (maybe an Xserve) and redundant, extremely reliable backup systems. There are few computer calamities worse for a law firm than losing important files on the eve of a major deadline.

You'll also need to figure out what software they'll be using for scheduling and billing.

One online resource that could be helpful is http://www.maclaw.org/, which is a discussion group of Mac-using attorneys. Because they're more familiar with the specific needs of law firms, they'll probably be able to offer much more well-tailored advice than Macrumors.
thanks for the link, io'll discuss it with my parents.
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Old Apr 29, 2008, 08:32 PM   #19
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My mother runs her one sole practice firm as well. She's not on a Mac but here are some simple suggestions.


1. Get a good document scanner. Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M is my recommendation. Any new firm should be paperless from the start. Clients come in ...you scan their documents and hand them back. A full version of Adobe Acrobat comes with the S510M

2 Time Billing apps. Many that are tailored for Macs are really expensive. You've be surprised at how much a small firm can accomplish with rather general apps.

3. Get notebooks. If you've done the whole paperless thing right you have the power to go up against bigger firms because of remote access.

4. Look up reverse calendaring. It's hard to find but there are a few calendars that will have it. What it gives the attorney is the ability to calendar items and have automatic actions added at prescribed dates. So lets say you file a motion and the rules state that motions must be actioned no later than 60 days from the date of filing a reverse calendar would automatically add a reminder say 55 days from the date of entry.

Some products I've looked at

http://www.marketcircle.com/daylite/ (Contact/Calendar)
http://www.billings2.com/ (Billing software-though not tailored for legal)

http://www.brightlightsoftware.com/ (EasyTime Time & Billing/doc Mgt)
\http://www.nowsoftware.com/nighthawkSubsite/index.html (supposedly will have a Legal Plugin that does reverse calendaring)

Legal Blogs

http://www.pdfforlawyers.com/
http://gdgrifflaw.typepad.com/home_office_lawyer/
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 11:06 AM   #20
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search for time tracker at versiontracker.com or macupdate.com

This one looks good. $40
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/16795/officetime

nuckinfutz,
There is at least made for law firm (search bill time or something like that) for $200. Not sure why you would call $200 expensive for a law firm.
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 11:18 AM   #21
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search for time tracker at versiontracker.com or macupdate.com

This one looks good. $40
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/16795/officetime

nuckinfutz,
There is at least made for law firm (search bill time or something like that) for $200. Not sure why you would call $200 expensive for a law firm.
No I mean some of the more ambitious case mgt/t&b apps like LawStream

http://www.lawstream.com/
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 11:35 AM   #22
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thejadedmonkey,

I DO agree not to use wireless if the company IT people don't know what they are doing. WEP is very easy to bypass. But with proper setup, wifi can be used securely in most situations.

Question, why do you think XP can not reliably talk to OS X in a business environment? What were you trying to do? On a Mac, if i want, I can control, send file, get file from a windows machine securely and easily. Perhaps you don't know how to set things up or ask the right questions.</snip>
Basically, I think that OS X can not reliably talk to XP because I spent hours on the phone with Applecare, and we were not able to get it to work. That's not to say that it doesn't ever work, but in an office where everything must work perfectly all of the time, it was unacceptable.

Also, WEP can be decrypted in minutes. MAC addresses can be spoofed. What's left? better encryption.. so it'll take an hour instead of a minute, Security through obscurity (in the form of an obscure password) is not secure enough for me.
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 12:20 PM   #23
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iChat and encryption software. Easy. =)
Hmmm....
So, you use an IM account (on the server) to locate the file server when remote??? That's interesting. Definitely easier to setup, use, and maintain (and understand) than a DNS/IP-address type-thing.

But how are the files shared? Does iChat let you mount a share or something?

I was also thinking about connectivity issues. You need be be able to connect and connect at an acceptable speed (fast-ish internet access). There are various kinds of "work-while-disconnected" schemes where a copy of the shared files is stored locally for use while disconnected. But if there's any possibility that a file could be modified in two locations there will be problems. I don't think asking lawyers to resolve sync conflits is a good idea.
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 01:06 PM   #24
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Also, WEP can be decrypted in minutes. MAC addresses can be spoofed. What's left? better encryption.. so it'll take an hour instead of a minute, Security through obscurity (in the form of an obscure password) is not secure enough for me.
There's always WPA2 encryption which is pretty standard fare nowadays. Much, much harder to crack than WEP so long as you use a long, secue passkey.
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Old Apr 30, 2008, 06:10 PM   #25
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Hmmm....
So, you use an IM account (on the server) to locate the file server when remote??? That's interesting. Definitely easier to setup, use, and maintain (and understand) than a DNS/IP-address type-thing.

But how are the files shared? Does iChat let you mount a share or something?

I was also thinking about connectivity issues. You need be be able to connect and connect at an acceptable speed (fast-ish internet access). There are various kinds of "work-while-disconnected" schemes where a copy of the shared files is stored locally for use while disconnected. But if there's any possibility that a file could be modified in two locations there will be problems. I don't think asking lawyers to resolve sync conflits is a good idea.

Nope, I use a proprietary client to access the server. Encrypted transfer. Works for both Mac and PCs.

IM is for transfer between users quickly.

If 2 people worked on a document, ms word can compare the documents and highlight the changes.

Just some ideas for you to get started. I am not here to provide a complete solution for free.
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