Choosing the Right Hardware - Articles

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Posted by: Barry Kolar on May 7, 2014

Computer
As an initial matter, you must take sides in a battle that has been raging for many years and will continue to rage for years to come:  Apple vs. PC.  Odds are, you are already well entrenched into your particular operating system of choice, but as you begin the new chapter of opening a solo or small firm practice, we encourage you to put away your arms, call a temporary cease fire, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of both systems in an attempt to determine which would be the most beneficial for your practice.

An important consideration is the system with which you have the most familiarity and feel the most comfortable.  Starting a law practice is stressful enough without having to learn a new computer system.  Also important is compatibility between devices.  Iphones and Ipads will naturally work better with Apple computers, and Android phones tend to interact better with PC’s.  Likewise, consider the networking of multiple computers between you, your present or future assistant and other employees, and other attorneys.  The general consensus is that it can be easier if all computers and peripherals are of the same operating system. However, most modern software, legal platforms and software tools are platform agnostic and can reduce the anxiety of picking sides.

When surveyed, many solo and small firm attorneys recommended a laptop versus a desktop, as solo attorneys often must be flexible, and the portability of a laptop can be very useful.

Printer
As you choose a printer, be sure to consider the ongoing cost of operation.  Some printers may be cheaper on the front end but ultimately cost much more to operate due to increased ink/toner, drums, etc.  Look for the expected page yield for the original and replacement cartridges to determine which will be most cost effective for you.  Most attorneys utilize cost effective laser printers for increased quality and speed.  You will also need to decide between color versus black and white.  Color laser printers are more expensive to purchase and operate but yield impressive documents.

Copier
Depending on the volume of your practice, you may be able to utilize an “all-in-one” copier, printer, and facsimile.   Obvious advantages are a lower initial cost, less space, and simplicity.  However, in the event there is a problem with an “all-in-one,” you may find yourself without a printer, copier or fax. 

If your volume demands a standalone copier, you have the option of leasing a copier.  Often, the copy company will charge a set rate that includes a certain number of copies, with a per page charge in excess.  Be sure to review and compare details regarding base fee, included copies, repair, lease term, etc.

Tablet
With the influx of apps available for Apple and Android devices, tablets are proving themselves to be extremely useful in the practice of law.  There are available apps for legal research, time keeping, dictation, credit card processing, and countless other necessary functions.  Certain apps permit the user to log in to a remote computer and provide remote access to an entire network just as if the user were sitting behind her desk.  There are tablets of various specifications and sizes to meet your particular needs.  Consideration should be given to maintaining operating system consistency between the computer, smart phone, and tablet for familiarity and ease of use across devices. Some purchased apps can be used on all devices of that same operating system, whether phone, tablet or desktop

Scanner
There are several excellent options for scanners available.  Many copiers have an option to be connected to a network and function as a scanner; however, some attorneys have found it more convenient to have a separate dedicated scanner.  In addition to being an excellent scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap[AD1]  usually comes with a version of Adobe Acrobat, which can be extremely useful in creating and editing pdf documents and forms.