Last week, Ross Kodner published an article on the TechnoLawyer Blog which cautioned against using Macs in your law practice. As you might imagine, Mr. Kodner's post generated a good bit of discussion in the Macs In Law Offices forum, and I am pleased to present the following response from MILO member Brian Sajdak:
In his recent SmallLaw post entitled "Why Macs Don't Make Sense Once You Look Past the Cool Factor", Ross Kodner concludes that Macs are just not cut-out for the legal marketplace. I, and thousands of other Mac-using attorneys, couldn't disagree more. I will respond to the various points Mr. Kodner makes in a moment, but first, a little background.
My computing experience started in the mid-1980s with an Apple ][c. I was in grade school and was the first kid on the block to whose family had a personal computer at home. That was followed quickly by am IBM clone runing Windows, and by 1990 I was well-entrenched into the anti-Mac crowd. I went through high school, college, and law school completely on Windows machines.
Then in 2002 I started to hear about this new device call an iPod. After playing with and drooling over my computer-geek brother-in-law's iPod and iBook, I was hooked. I was struck by the way that they just simply worked together, and I would purchase my first iBook in 2004. I write this now on MacBook, my third Apple computer.
However, even though I a Mac for personal use at home, my life in a relatively large law firm meant that I was using a PC at work. My house is still home to two Windows machines (although both have been relegated to nothing more than file servers). In June of this year, I swiched to a small firm where my computing choices were not made for me — and I've made the switch to a Mac-based pratice. The bottom line is that I know the pluses and minuses to both systems.
Back to Mr. Kodner's conclusion that Macs don't make sense for the law office. Aside from the fact that this conclusion is directly contrary his his prior opinion on the subject (see his earlier article, "The Legal Mac: A Practical Option for All Lawyers"), it is clear that this post was nothing more than an attempt to get people talking about him. (There is no such thing as negative publicity, right?)
Why do I say this? Well, Mr. Kodner starts out with an ad hominem attack in which he essentially calls Mac users Neanderthal zealots who can do nothing more than run around grunting "Mac good, Windows Bad." What that has to do with whether Macs are suited to the law office is anyone's guess. However, if you want to get a mac user's attention, start throwing around the terms evangelical, cult, faithful, etc — it works every time.
After warming up the flamethrower, Mr. Kodner then moves on by noting that there are many Windows-only programs for law firms. However, he argues, it "makes no business sense to run these Windows apps on a Mac. Period." Never mind the fact that he makes a living supporting and selling many of the products he lists. Let’s look at his justifications for this conclusion:
- Software costs. Ok, I do have to buy Windows (if I don't already have a version I can use) unless I want to use Codeweaver's Crossover which runs windows programs without Windows (yes, it doesn't support all windows programs, but it is an option). I also might POSSIBLY want to buy a third-party application like Parallels or Fusion to run Windows (although Apple's built-in BootCamp does a wonderful job running Windows). However, if the benefit to the user outweighs these costs, it is well worth it (quality is remembered long after the price has been forgot).
- Time costs. Yes, that's right, he includes the time and costs of getting your applications installed and set up to download the Windows updates, etc. However, if I'm buying a new Windows-based computer, I'm spending that time either way (whether on the Mac or PC). What he doesn't take into account is the quality of the Mac and the time that it saves the user. When I use my Mac, I don't have to mess around with making sure my virus scanner is up to date. I don't have to repair my wireless connection every few days like I do on my Windows machines. I don't worry about my machine crashing. The slogan "It just works" is true. The time I save not having to maintain a Windows system more than offsets any additional costs associated with the Mac. But hey, some people like to torture themselves.
- Technical Support. I have no experience with this, and he may be right. However, the reason I don't have experience with it is that I'm not running any PC-only applications. There are Mac substitutes for nearly every product on the list. They may not be law-firm specific, but they get the job done. If you're thinking about making the switch, join one of the two Mac Attorney User groups, Macs In Law Offices or MacLaw, and ask the users what they are using as a replacement for a particular program. There are also plenty of blogs out there by Mac-using attorneys who may have ideas for you.
- Hardware Costs. Assuming that the premise is correct (that people buy lower-spec'd Windows computers), he's right. Macs may be more expensive and the built-in iLife apps are not as useful for businesses (although I have used iPhoto and iMovie in my law practice). However, when comparing similarly spec'd machines, Macs are competitive with Windows machines based on price. And again, go to your local Best Buy or Apple Store and see/feel the new MacBooks or MacBook Pros — there is nothing in the Windows world that is this well-made.
Mr. Kodner does conclude with two points that I can agree with. First, web-based services may not be ready for prime-time. Plenty of people will disagree, but I like having my information locally-stored and accessible; not on someone else's server that I cannot control. I am also often in a position where I have not internet access. More importantly, web applications are not needed. There are plenty of Mac-using attorneys who are practicing every day without these web applications, you don't NEED them either. That said, it sure would be nice to have Mac versions of many of the legal-specific applications that are available so that I don't have to turn to alternatives. So yes, legal vendors, please do create Mac versions of your software — the demand is there, and its only growing. In the mean time, however, if you're thinking about switching your firm to a Mac, come on in! The water's fine!
Brian C. Sajdak
Brian C. Sajdak is an attorney practicing in southeastern Wisconsin. His practice focuses on eminent domain, property tax assessment, zoning/development and general municipal matters. He can be contacted through his firm’s website.