A Spartanburg-based family attorney is making a name for himself nationally. Ben Stevens is the Mac lawyer, the No. 3 blogger in the American Bar Association Journal’s Blawg 100. On April 2-4, he headed two technology seminars at the annual ABA Techshow in Chicago. In addition to www.themadawyer.com, Stevens of Stevens-MacPhail PA shares his thoughts at www.scfamilylaw.com, fully embracing technology within the legal profession.
GSA Business: For starters, how did you become this guy enthralled with Mac computers?
Ben Stevens: The Mac part came about out of frustration in dealing with PCs. With the expense and downtime we got to the point we couldn’t afford to have them in a busy practice.
Having worked with Macs in college and law school, I knew it was a stable platform, and we just decided as a firm to bite the bullet and make the switch. Since then our tech support and overhead has dropped to basically nothing. We do still have a (Microsoft) Windows server, so our computer guy comes every once in a while to do that. But as far as the Macs, they work and they keep us working.
GSA: I imagine some people would say you are limited in terms of software systems and compatibility.
Stevens: PC people have a lot of excuses why they shouldn’t use Macs. And most of those are tech people who don’t want to lose their jobs, and I understand that.
There are more programs written for Windows than Mac, especially in the legal software community. But there are two things.
One, most software is going Web based. The practice management software, our email and our electronic paper filing system are all Web based. As far as PC programs, we can run them virtually. I can do anything PC people can do and my Mac stuff, while they can just do their PC stuff.
GSA: Tell me about your recent trip to the ABA Techshow.
Stevens: It’s the largest legal technology show in the world. They do it once a year in Chicago. In 2008 they added a track for Mac-using lawyer. They had two sessions they asked me to speak at and they were all very well attended.
We talked about reasons to switch, integrating Macs into PC networks and using Mac programs for trial lawyers. I had one co-presenter from California and one from Ohio.
The other cool thing we had at the Techshow was we had an iPhone roundtable this year, talking about (applications) that attorneys can use. What I think Apple is doing, which is really smart, is they are using the iPod and the iPhone as kind of a gateway drug to get people to see how easy their products can be.
GSA: How can technology shape the courtroom, especially in cash-strapped South Carolina?
Stevens: The more efficient we can be the less expensive it’s going to be for the client to use us. One of the problems we have in family court is we have too many cases and not enough judges.
The Legislature doesn’t want to appoint new judges. They don’t want that additional expense, so we are stuck with the number we’ve got and the caseload is going up every year. The more efficient we can be the smoother everything is going to run, and that benefits everybody.
A lot of trial lawyers for high-level trials are moving over to Macs. Jurors love CSI, they see all the things on TV and they have become more visual over the past 10 years. They want to see the computer-generated reenactment of the accident, and it’s a lot easier to show them on Macs than PCs.
There’s nothing worse than running some type of computer-assisted presentation to a jury and you get a blue screen or something freezes up. They hold it against the client, not against you.
GSA: What did you find most interesting at the ABA Techshow?
Stevens: One of the things that impressed me was how many vendors there were presenting Web-based software. There were a couple last year, and this year there were 10 to 15. Case management, time and billing. voice over Internet telephone and video, all those things are going over the Web.
I prefer to be face-to-face to size up the witness, but if I’m doing a deposition for somebody outside the state, doing a video deposition is going to save the clients a lot of money not having me fly to where they are. I think that’s where everything is heading very quickly.
You can hear more from Stevens in Episode 62 of our "What’s All The Hype?" podcast at www.gsabusiness.com. Click Interactive Media, then Podcast. Stevens discusses family law, social media, tort reform and private investigators.
Source: "The Mac Lawyer – Family Attorney Turned Apple Guru" by Francis B. Allgood, published in GSA Business.