GPSolo Magazine - December 2003

Hardware: It’s More Than Just Another Expense

Hardware—it just doesn’t get any respect. We seem to spend all our time focusing on software programs. Although first considering software and then picking hardware to fit it makes sense, in the great scheme of things buying most any capable mainstream hardware running either Windows or the Macintosh operating system will net a reliable system.

This article focuses on key hardware types: stationary and portable PC systems, PDAs, printers, scanners, and more.

A consumer renaissance is taking place in the computer world. If you haven’t noticed, and you’d have to be virtually comatose not to, you can buy extraordinarily powerful desktop and portable PC systems for a mere pittance. Today it’s possible to have a top-of-the-line, business-focused, major name-brand computer on every desk in your law practice for about $900 to $1,400 each. You’d have a ton of RAM, a fast hard drive, Windows XP Professional and probably the Microsoft Office suite, and possibly even a 15-inch LCD flat-panel display. Even three years ago, that was a $2,000 system. If you lease your systems, as little as $30 per month can competently equip each of your lawyers and staff. So you no longer have any valid economic excuse for not being able to run modern legal software systems.

If you’re tired of being chained to your desk, welcome to the era of mobile lawyering. It’s arguable that laptop technology now offers more than the capabilities of desktop computers; taking your law practice anywhere, any time, is a practical reality. Factor in the drop in laptop pricing, and it may be not only possible but also rational to equip all your attorneys with portable systems and stationary “docks” to the office network.

In addition, the variety of handheld computers, both Palms and Pocket PCs, makes portability ridiculously easy and offers options ranging in price from $80 to $800, with every possible permutation in between. Palm (www.palm.com) has pushed the envelope with the sub-$100 Zire, which is surprising useful and housed in an elegantly simple package. At the other end of the spectrum is Sony’s latest “clamshell” model, the CLIE UX50, which opens to provide an unusually large color display and a truly usable keyboard—plus a very functional digital camera, to boot . . . for a hefty $700 (www.sony.com). The ability to hold a law practice literally in the “Palm” of your hand is a reality.

Even though we practice law at a time when e-mail is replacing paper in the communication and document exchange process, getting out the printed word still counts. In printing systems, the “more for less” factor is certainly at play. Today it is possible to have a large-capacity color laser printer for as little as $1,000, with costs per page just a fraction of what the local copy shop charges. As little as 20 cents per page produces lush color output that will focus your clients’ attention to otherwise drab documents. In the realm of volume black-and-white printing, the name of the game is speed, and even a tightly budgeted practice easily can afford a 45-page-per-minute laser printer with multiple paper handling options. Flexibility is the printer standard today, and multifunction copiers offer photocopying combined with high-speed networked laser printing, scanning, and network fax functions—for only nominal additional cost.

So with all that said, our panel of hardware gurus will enlighten, educate, and illuminate—all the hardware tips, guides, and insights to help you jumpstart your techno.systems!

Ross L. Kodner, an attorney, is president of MicroLaw, Inc., a national legal technology consultancy based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached at rkodner@microlaw.com.

 

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