There are a number of ready-to-go applications for lawyers and law firms adopting the Macintosh platform. Here’s a snapshot of some favorite ones you can put to use in your daily practice.
If there is one consistent thing about law firms, and the lawyers in them, it is that they resist change. Whether it is a solo practice or a large national firm, that resistance seems to be ingrained in most lawyers’ psyches. Yet, surprisingly, we are now seeing greater numbers of lawyers and firms abandoning this stagnation when it comes to their computing platforms, as more and more lawyers adopt Apple Macs into their practices. This change seems to be going viral, and thus lawyers are more frequently asking what Mac programs they can put to use in their practices on a daily basis.
The following covers some of my favorites. Note that, since most converts to Macs are often embedded in a Windows law firm environment, I include, where possible, applications that allow transportability of information between the “two worlds.”
Daylite and Bento
Every law practice requires a good case management solution, and two affordable options stand out for the Mac. For the solo to small firm office, Bento, which requires a small amount of work to set up, does a great job of providing a networked custom client and case database. Created by FileMaker, Bento is truly just a personal database application. It allows the inclusion of media files such as video depositions or deposition transcripts and encryption for the entire database. While not as powerful as FileMaker, it also is not as expensive at only $49 retail.
More specific to the law practice is MarketCircle’s Daylite. Daylite offers full integration with e-mail, a fully functioning iPhone app, networkable rules-based calendaring and delegation of tasks. Daylite has even provided a sample work flow with tips on how to customize Daylite to a personal injury, divorce, estate planning and general litigation practice. A great many lawyers already use this program in their practices, and it seems Daylite offers excellent customer support and is always looking to polish its amazing product.
TrialSmart and DepoSmart
Perhaps one of the true necessities for any litigator is the ability to display exhibits or depositions to a jury. Windows users who are familiar with Sanction or Verdical will find that two programs – TrialSmart and DepoSmart, both from Clarity Legal Software – offer the same functions as their Windows counterparts for displaying nonlinear presentations. DepoSmart covers annotations and links within depositions, preparing them for display in TrialSmart. Together, these two programs can tag portions of depositions with issue tags for later reference, synchronize video with transcripts and create links from a deposition to an exhibit. Furthermore, networkability is much easier than it is with their PC brethren, with full access and movement of database files a breeze.
Where both of these Mac programs truly shine is in their ease of use when compared to their Windows counterparts and their price tags. Whereas Sanction and Verdical require a multiday training session costing thousands of dollars, TrialSmart and DepoSmart can be learned in a few short hours intuitively or through online training videos. Plus, as every Mac-using lawyer will attest to, Mac software is usually cheaper and Clarity Legal’s software is no different. TrialSmart costs $249 and DepoSmart costs $349, with upgrades less than $70 per program. Such affordability in software, mainly unheard of in the Windows environment, is directly attributable to the ease of programming within Mac OS X.
While not solely a Mac application, Evernote is a must-have information storage tool. Available for Macs as well as Windows, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices, Evernote is the digital attorney’s dream application. It seeks to gather all of the miscellaneous bits of information we see every day via Web pages, digital photographs, scanned documents and any other information you see on your computer. Evernote makes it accessible in one centralized location from any computer or mobile device with Internet access. For example, Westlaw users can create a Web clipping of an open case being researched and store that page in Evernote with one click. Users also are given the option of assigning keywords for the clipping or simply naming the file. Evernote then stores that page for later review, making it searchable by the keyword, or tag, you placed on the clipping or even by any text in the clipping viewable from your smartphone, any computer with Evernote installed or through its Web site.
What truly makes Evernote a must-have, though, is its optical character recognition applicable to photos. I recently had a meeting with another attorney where we brainstormed an outline for our upcoming trial and Evernote allowed me to take a photo of the whiteboard using my iPhone, upload that image to my Evernote account, and make it accessible to all of my computers with Evernote installed. However, Evernote does not stop there—it then recognized the words in the photograph of the whiteboard and made the image searchable (even with my chicken scratch for handwriting). Evernote offers free storage of up to 40MB on its site, with an upgrade to 500MB and stronger SSL encryption of data transfers for $5 per month.
An Internet postage application, Endicia can reduce postage and shipping costs for the technologically savvy law firm within months. Using the standard Endicia service for $9.95 per month, you can buy postage through the application online, ship packages and standard mail, print labels with custom graphics, and connect to the optional scale and DYMO label printer for large envelopes and packages. The application automatically updates changes in postage rates, negating the cost of having postage meters updated when leasing equipment.
For the $249 bundle, users get 12 months of the standard Endicia account, a 10 lb. USB-connected postage scale and a DYMO printer. The application connects directly to these devices, allowing users to weigh packages and print postage and a label in minutes all from their desk. For any lawyer starting a firm or looking to cut back on costs in the current economic times, Endicia is a sure winner.
Most Mac-using lawyers seek to limit their reliance on Windows and other Microsoft products, a break that is usually possible except, unfortunately, in one arena: word processing. Microsoft’s stranglehold on the office word processing market is still felt in every law firm, especially with WordPerfect disappearing into obscurity. However, there is hope for Mac users yet—it comes in the form of OpenOffice, which is a free productivity suite created by Sun Microsystems and truly a respectable alternative to Microsoft Office.
OpenOffice outperforms Apple’s Pages application in the legal market owing to its similarity to the standard MS Word interface and the ability to open and save documents in almost any file format, including WordPerfect. With 100 million downloads, OpenOffice is no longer the hacker’s word processor seeking freedom from the Microsoft monopoly, and its reliability and stable platform have resulted in an application that is more dependable than Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac.
But OpenOffice’s tricks aren’t only in word processing. It is a whole productivity suite that also has a spreadsheet application, presentation software and database app. In effect, it is everything Microsoft Office offers to users—but it offers it for free. It is compatible with PowerPoint, Access databases and Excel spreadsheets as well as many of the other standard spreadsheet formats. For those concerned about OpenOffice’s credibility due to the open-source nature of the application, here’s something that should be an affirmation of the program’s credibility: Microsoft’s recent job posting at Microsoft Careers for a “compete lead” against OpenOffice specifically to "win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux."
Finally, a must-have for any lawyer’s Mac is Quicksilver, a small application designed with the main goal of saving time. Quicksilver allows users to hit two keys, preassigned by the user, which brings up a small window on the user’s screen. You then type in the name of a program you would like to run and the application opens. So, for example, if you’re in OpenOffice working on a document and want to open Mail, you would press Command – . (that’s a period) and type “Mail” and Mail opens up when you press Enter. Quicksilver also integrates with your bookmarks and address book, allowing you to type a person’s name and open an e-mail to that person with only a few keystrokes.
While this may seem like a small thing that only results in a few seconds of saved time, the ability to open applications and send e-mails without taking your hands off of the keyboard can, over the course of a single day, add up to a great deal of saved time.
Finis Price maintains a personal injury practice in Louisville, KY, and is also Co-Founder of TechnoEsq Presentations. He teaches trial technology at Chase School of Law and Solo Practice University and is co-host of MILO Chat Weekly, a weekly podcast by the Macs in Law Offices group. He blogs at TechnoEsq.com.
Source: "Mac Daddy: Solutions to Put to Work in Your Law Practice" by Finis Price, published at Law Practice Today.