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   May/June 2002


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How to Automate Your New Office for $5,000 By Storm Evans

When you’re setting up a new office, budget is always a concern. But living without technology necessities will ensure that your life is miserable and your profits less than optimum. Why risk the grief when a reasonable $5,000 will get you what you need to outfit a one-person law office? The chart in the next column lists the absolute necessities, some vendor recommendations and item prices.

This chart doesn’t specify how many gigabytes to buy for your hard drive or how much RAM you’ll need. That’s because the demands for those resources change dramatically every three to six months. Do your own research by going to the hardware companies’ Web sites. Make a chart showing the minimum RAM required to run the software you are buying. Then, double it. If the software manufacturers recommend a minimum of 128MB RAM, buy 256. If the slimmest, cheapest PC you can buy comes with 256MB RAM, buy 512. As I write this, home computers are coming with 1GB of RAM and 80GB hard drives. New operating systems demand more RAM, as do enhanced software packages. If you increase the RAM, you will extend the usable life of your computer.

Things to Remember—Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t skimp on the tape backup system. Learn to use it right away.
  • Don’t skimp on the monitor. The bigger the monitor, the happier you will be.
  • Don’t skimp on professional help for configuring and learning to use your software. Yes, you are a smart person and you can probably figure it out. But ask yourself if you really want to spend time struggling to learn software when you hope to start earning money right away.
  • Do get involved if you want to keep consulting services to a minimum. Turn off the phones, devote your full attention to the trainer, and learn everything you possibly can. Use the consultant to teach you more so you can resolve problems you haven’t yet encountered. Take responsibility for your installation and for solving problems for yourself.
  • Do buy on-site maintenance. The cost for a three-year maintenance plan may be as little as $300. Having that plan will keep you from having to ship off your computer for repairs.
  • Don’t skimp on ergonomically correct furniture. Comfort and usability are extremely important when you spend long time periods at the computer.
  • Lastly, if you have more than $5,000 to spend, do schedule the consultant for more training and to fine-tune software to really make you productive. Add document assembly, litigation support and presentations software, and buy a personal digital assistant (PDA).

Storm M. Evans (storm@evans-legal.com) is a practice support consultant in Philadelphia and the Law Practice Management Articles Editor.

Technology ItemSample VendorCost
   
Computer and monitorCompaq – www.compaq.com
Dell – www.dell.com
Gateway – www.gateway.com
Winbook – www.winbook.com
$1,500
Sheet-fed scannerVisioneer – www.visioneer.com$200
Laser printerHewlett Packard – www.hp.com$700
Tape backup with tapesColorado – www.hp.com$300
Word processing softwareCorel WordPerfect – www.corel.com
Microsoft Word – www.microsoft.com
$300
Adobe Acrobat WriterAdobe – www.adobe.com$230
Case management softwareAmicus Attorney – www.amicus.ca
Casemaster – www.stilegal.com
Time Matters – www.timematters.com
$200
Time & Billing SoftwarePCLaw – www.alumnicomputer.com
TABS III – www.stilegal.com
Timeslips – www.timeslips.com
$250
Document management softwareWORLDOX – www.worldox.com$350
Accounting softwareG/ L – www.stilegal.com
PCLaw – www.alumnicomputer.com
Quickbooks – www.quickbooks.com
$350
Virus protection softwareMcAfee – www.mcafee.com
Norton – www.norton.com
$100
Configuration and training$670
  
Total$5,000

Note: Prices are based on Internet research conducted in January 2002. Software prices are averaged because there are several options in each category. The consulting fee for configuration and training assumes little knowledge of the product being installed, but self-reliance after one training session.