General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

SEP 2009

Vol. 8, No. 3

Columns

  • MacNotes »
    Updated iPhone software will even help you find your phone if you lose it.
  • SurvivingEmail
    Could Google-hosted mailing lists make real money?
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Where to go to find out where and how to go: travel websites.
  • TechNotes »
    How to primp your PDFs.
  • ProductNotes »
    Xerox’s Phaser 8860MFPMFP and Quickbooks for the Mac.
  • DivisionNotes »
    Call for Nominations of Officers and Council Members Election—2010/11, 2009 Fall Meeting and National Solo & Small Firm Conference

 

ProductNotes

Xerox Phaser 8860MFPMFP


Picture courtesy of xerox.com

For a long time, I recommended against law offices using, as a primary device, multifunction printers that combined a copier, printer, and fax machine. I had no problem with using them as secondary devices, but I felt uncomfortable with the idea that if one machine broke, the office pretty much went out of business until they could get it fixed, unless they already had backup devices.

Some time ago I discovered the Xerox Phaser printers. I have used them in my office as my primary printers for about eight years. For the last eight or nine months, I have used the Xerox Phaser 8860MFPMFP, and it has changed my mind about the use of MFP devices as primary equipment.

The 8860MFPMFP has proven solid, dependable, and reliable. It also does an excellent job printing and copying in color.

The Phaser technology involves melting and applying ink that you get in solid blocks. You load four different colored ink blocks into the device, and you are good to go. Each ink color block has a different shape than the other three to prevent you from putting the wrong color ink in a slot.

Significantly, Xerox claims a relatively low per copy cost for its printing technology. Recognizing that the ink coverage on the printed page determines the actual cost of printing a page, Xerox did some comparative studies. They determined that with three percent coverage, printing costs with the 8860MFP came to $.01 per page in both black and white and color. A competitive color laser printer cost $.03 per page for color and $.01 per page for black and white. The more the ink coverage, the greater the savings, as with 25 percent coverage, they reported a per copy cost of $.07 per page in both color and black and white for the 8860MFP. The competitive color laser printer per copy cost for the same pages came in at $.08 for black and white and $.22 for color.

Because the 8860MFP uses an energy-saving mode, it takes a while to warm up before you print, but once it has warmed up, it produces copy fairly quickly. Speaking of environmental concerns, the 8860MFP generates significantly less waste than a comparable color laser printer.

Xerox reports that the 8860MFP prints up to 30 pages per minute in both black and white and in color. The “up to” part of that statement is important as the more ink coverage you have on a page, the longer it takes the 8860MFP to print it. A color 8" x 10" picture will take substantially longer to print out than a letter. The 8860MFP prints, scans, faxes, and copies and carries a duty cycle rating of up to 120,000 images per month. Most solo practitioners and many relatively small firms will find that they never approximate that quantity of images. Larger small firms, medium-sized firms, work groups, and the like have a greater likelihood of approaching that level.

The 8860MFP comes with networking built in, and it will accommodate both USB 2.0 and 10/100BaseTX Ethernet. Connecting the printer to a network proved very easy. It amounted to plugging the Ethernet connector into the 8860MFP, putting the installation disk in the computer, and telling it to install the required drivers and operating software. The 8860MFP supports both the Mac and Windows operating systems.

The 8860MFP comes with one paper tray, but you can add up to four additional paper trays to give you the ability to move from one type of paper to another. One tray gets you 100 sheets of paper. The additional trays get you up to 525 sheets each.

The fax/scanner/copy functions use an automatic document feeder that will take up to 50 sheets (although in my experience the frequency of jams increases as you close in on the maximum number of pages.

The 8860MFP provides excellent print quality with sharp detail in both black and white and color. It does a very good job with color pictures, even on standard copy paper. If you want the picture to look particularly good, get some photographic printing paper and use that.

I have no hesitation in recommending the 8860MFP as primary office equipment for use in a small firm, medium firm, or small to medium work group with relatively high production requirements. The more you use the printing function, the more you will save on prints to offset the acquisition price, which starts at $3,995. My only reluctance in recommending the 8860MFP to a solo practitioner is the acquisition price, as unless the solo has exceptionally high production demands, it may be hard to justify the acquisition cost.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. Graves & Allen is a small firm in Oakland, California. Mr. Allen also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO Magazine. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for lawyers and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, Jeffrey has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You can contact Jeffrey via email at jallenlawtek@aol.com. Mr. Allen blogs on technology and the law at www.jallenlawtekblog.com.

Quickbooks for the Mac 2009

For some time QuickBooks has enjoyed a reputation for providing a solid, if somewhat basic, accounting software for small-business use. Although Intuit has largely favored the Windows side of the street, it has shown a friendly attitude to the Mac side of the street. This year Intuit gave us the Leopard-compatible 2009 iteration of QuickBooks for the Mac.

While Intuit has two versions of QuickBooks on the Windows side of the street (QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier), they offer only one version on the Mac side. The offered version (QuickBooks for the Mac) is more or less the equivalent of QuickBooks Pro for Windows. In analyzing the feature comparison chart offered by Intuit on its website, the only significant feature available in the Pro version that does not come on the Mac version is the ability to track international sales in multiple currencies. Conversely, the Mac Version offers some Mac-only features that do not have Windows equivalents; those features include the ability to back up to MobileMe, synchronization of contacts with the Mac OS X Address Book, and adding reminders to iCal.

One of the primary reasons for a Mac attorney to consider QuickBooks for the Mac is the ability to read company information created on a Windows-based system. To test this function out, I took a database created by one of my clients in QuickBooks for Windows. QuickBooks for Mac immediately recognized the database and told me that it was built with an earlier version of QuickBooks that required me to upgrade it to the version I was using. I told it to upgrade the database, and it did so in short order. As soon as it finished upgrading the database, it opened up for me and displayed all of my client’s accounting data without a problem.

As my practice includes litigation of disputes where accounting issues may have relevance or even be the basis of the dispute, the ability to read accounting data files, whether created on a Mac or a Windows version of QuickBooks, is a major sales point for me. The program costs only $199, and I would buy it just for that feature and think I got fair value, as I do not want to have to use a Windows machine every time I have to look at an accounting file. Although not all accounting files come in on QuickBooks, for whatever it may be worth, most of the files I have received from clients or through discovery have, in fact, been QuickBooks files.

I see no reason that you could not run the basic accounts for a law firm on QuickBooks, using it to print checks and track your expenses and receipts. It has no built in payroll; however, it gives you the choice of two add-ons that Intuit believes will work satisfactorily with QuickBooks and handle your payroll tasks. I did not have access to current versions of either of those options and did not include those features in my analysis for this review.

Although the program does have the ability to generate invoices and some ability to track time, it does not provide the type of time and billing interaction that most law firms need; so if you use QuickBooks for your law firm’s basic accounting needs, you should plan to do your billing through another program.

Though a fully integrated program would be desirable, not having one does not cause the world to come to an end. It does involve some duplication of effort, as receipts would be entered separately in each program; but that does not create a major problem for most solo or small firm practitioners. It is a greater problem for larger firms. The more clients you have sending you checks, the more work it is, as each requires entry both in the accounting system and the billing system. Despite that apparent inefficiency, I have chosen to do that in my firm to create a doublecheck for recording errors.

If you need your accounting program to handle the processing of credit-card transactions, Quicken does not do that. I am not sure how much of a problem that will prove to be; I do not currently use credit cards in my practice. I did it some time in the past and terminated the practice when it became more trouble than it was worth. On the other hand, the economy has created a situation where more of my clients and prospective clients ask about using a credit card, and I am considering setting up that facility again. I expect to see more attorneys taking credit cards in this economy, so that may be a feature you need to think about before using QuickBooks to run your practice.

QuickBooks Mac 2009 requires a Mac running a G4 (876 MHz) or later and faster processor (G5 and Intel processors welcome), Mac OS X v. 10.5.4 or later, a minimum of 512 MB Ram, 150 MB of available hard-disk space, and an optical drive if you do not buy the download version and have them send you a CD. You will also need a printer if you plan to print checks, invoices, reports, and so forth.

QuickBooks comes with a number of built-in report forms. It also affords you the opportunity to massage the report forms and create customized forms to suit your personal needs.

For those of you that have the previous version, QuickBooks for the Mac 2007, you will find the new version offers a very much-improved interface. The update incorporates an interface that facilitates your interaction with the program. The new version also does add features to bring it to substantial equivalence with the Pro version on the Windows side.

QuickBooks for Macs
QuickBooks Mac 2009 Comp

The bottom line is that if you are a Mac lawyer who deals with accounting issues either in litigation or in an advisory manner, you will want to consider QuickBooks for the Mac 2009 as many small businesses use it as their primary accounting system, and it will give you the ability to read their data. I think you will want this software, even if you do not plan to use it to run your own firm’s accounting.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. Graves & Allen is a small firm in Oakland, California. Mr. Allen also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO Magazine. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for lawyers and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, Jeffrey has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You can contact Jeffrey via email at jallenlawtek@aol.com. Mr. Allen blogs on technology and the law at www.jallenlawtekblog.com.

© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.