A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Apple introduced the Macintosh Computer to the world through a television commercial aired during the third quarter of the 1984 Super Bowl.
From the time of its introduction, Apple used a business model that, with the exception of a short-lived experiment, continues to the present day in which Apple controlled the quality of the user experience by building its own hardware, having its hardware use its proprietary operating system, and requiring software developers to follow a template that ensured a basic level of consistency of the user interface and experience from one program to the next.
The Macintosh soon became the darling of the artists and educators, but for many years, remained an also-ran in the business world and, in particular, in law offices. Only a few brave souls dared run their law offices on Macs, and most of them, then, as now, practiced in solo or small firm settings. As the person who created one of the (if not the) first Macintosh-based law office (128K Macs running an AppleTalk network and linked to a 10MB hard drive in 1985), I have watched the evolution of the Mac’s popularity in law offices with more than a passing interest over the last 29 years as Macs grew more powerful, the Mac OS grew more competent, and the Mac experience more popular.
I have long felt that the Mac was ideally suited to use in law offices (particularly in solo and small firm settings) for a variety of reasons, including the facts that, in my experience: (1) Macs generally worked more reliably and consistently than Windows-based machines; (2) the Mac OS has proven less problematic than Windows; (3) the Mac OS has traditionally been more user-friendly than Windows; (4) you can easily run a Mac-based network without your own IT department, but cannot so easily do so with Windows. Over the years, the Mac’s popularity in law offices grew relatively slowly, until recently, when it took off on a rapid growth spurt. There are many possible reasons for the recent growth in popularity, but it appears causally related to the fact that Apple’s iPhone and then its iPad have been so popular and well received. As people started using Apple’s products more and liking them, they got the idea that uniformity in technology could prove beneficial, and so they started using Macs, first at home and later in their offices.
Closely related in time and significance, the advent of cloud computing also facilitated the growth of the use of Macs in the law office. For many years, legal software authors and publishers focused their efforts on Windows-based computers as most law offices used them and only a few used the Macintosh computer. As cloud-computing evolved and browser-based software as a service came along, it became possible to use the same program for both Macs and Windows computers, whose users would access the software housed on the publisher’s servers through browsers on the user’s computer, rather than having to write separate versions of the program for the different operating systems.
Our friends at CLIO have conducted a Macs In the Law Office (MILO) survey every year for the last several years. They have published their survey results annually, and the study has produced some very interesting results. Before telling you about the results, however, a word about the polling universe and process appears in order to avoid misleading you.
The statistical sample used by CLIO is intentionally skewed statistically. CLIO does not disclose how it selected the sample of 838 attorneys on which it based its conclusions. The survey universe is heavily weighted toward solo and small firm practitioners. According to the report, 85.14 percent of the attorneys in the sample practice in solo or small firm settings, 0.92 percent worked as in-house counsel, 1.96 percent worked in firms of 11–50 attorneys, 1.5 percent worked in firms of 50 or more, 0.81 percent were law students, and 9.68 percent were classified as “other.”
The report does not break down as to the adoption of Mac in each practice setting. Accordingly, you should not understand the results as reflecting Mac adoption across the entire legal profession, without regard to practice setting. On the other hand, because solo and small firm attorneys represent a substantial portion of the legal profession, and most of the readers of this column practice in a solo or small firm setting, you should understand the results as of particular significance to you in letting you know how a substantial number of lawyers, in particular in solo and small firms, view the use of the Mac in their offices.
The CLIO study shows that 66 percent of the respondents identified the Mac OS as their OS of choice, and only 33 percent chose Windows. Almost 75 percent of respondents reported that they owned an iPad, representing the continuation of an increasing dominance in that product field over the last few years. In addition, more than 57 percent of the respondents said that they used an iPad in their law office. The study reports that 41.92 percent of the respondents used Microsoft office as their primary desktop software.
In response to the question of what factors most influenced their decision to go with the Mac, 52.62 percent of the respondents chose reliability and security as their reasons. Usability attracted 28.39 percent of the respondents, and 10.85 percent chose familiarity with Apple products due to use at home.
Not surprisingly, 96.58 percent of the respondents who use Macs in their offices say that they would stay with Apple if they had to retool their IT equipment. Of those who have not moved to Apple yet, 16.21 percent said that they would consider switching to Apple products in the next year.
When asked about mobile devices, the study reported on a sea change that has occurred in the legal world over the last several years. The study reports that 74 percent of the respondents use iPhones. Another 9.28 percent said they plan to switch to the iPhone within the next year. The Blackberry, once a primary choice in the legal world has virtually dropped off the charts, with only .60 percent saying that they plan to switch to a Blackberry device.
Looking at study results for the last several years reflects a growth of 11.49 percent of law office use of Apple products in 2013 over the number using them in 2010. Significantly, the study reports that 100 percent the law students responding to the survey favored Apple products for law office IT purposes.
You can see the results of earlier studies by clicking on the following.
Clio has prepared an excellent info graphic comparing the results of its studies over the last four years. You can find that info graphic by clicking here.
Although the Windows OS appears to remain the system of choice in larger law firms, we have seen evidence of a shift there as well. Some of the larger firms have become mixed shops in recent years. I recently sat as an arbitrator in a fairly lengthy case with two large law firms representing the parties. Both of the firms brought several attorneys and a support staff of paralegals and IT people to the hearings. Although the IT people used Windows-based computers for their work, on the other side of the table most of the attorneys used Mac laptops at the hearing. When I commented on that fact, I was told that the firm’s policy allowed attorneys to use whatever computer they wanted. CLIO’s study makes a pretty good case for continued growth of the Mac in small law firms and solo practices.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that we will likely see more and more use of the Apple (although likely in a mixed-shop environment) in the near future, even among the larger firms. Undoubtedly the continued growth of cloud computing and the shift toward software provided as a service through the use of the Internet and browser access will help fuel that growth as more and more legal programs shift to that form of presentation, making them available for those using the Mac OS. Of course, because Macs can run the Windows OS in addition to the Mac OS using Apple’s BootCamp program or third-party programs, such as Parallels or fusion, firms opting to use the Mac and choosing apples Mac OS X as their primary operating system can still run Windows-based software. Although the CLIO study did not address the issue, anecdotal evidence suggest that the growth of cloud-based software as a service appears to have made that a less popular option.
If you use Macs in your office or are thinking about it, you might want to check out Randy Singer’s collection of Law Office software for the Mac at http://www.macattorney.com. You might also want to check out: