The Best of Times…
With due apologies and credit to Dickens, this column focuses on how far the worm in the Apple has turned in recent years. Truly, for the lawyer using the Macintosh computer and the Mac OS X, we have reached a far better place then we have ever reached before.
Interestingly, although the Mac has had an operating system and hardware package that, for some time, had greater stability and reliability than most of its counterparts, Apple could only garner a small piece of the computer market, particularly in the legal field. Apple introduced the iPod and more recently the iPhone, showing great leadership in design, creativity in function, and foresight in market appeal and acceptance. The popularity of the iPod helped make the iPhone successful. The consumers’ interest in Apple piqued by the iPod, and later the iPhone transferred into computers as well and more and more users, including attorneys, chose to look at the Mac platform for personal and, ultimately, professional use.
As a pioneering Mac attorney, I learned to deal with the fact that many, even most, considered the Mac an inferior platform for lawyers. I remember listening to the legal consultants telling us that the Mac platform lacked the program support to justify using it in a law office. I don’t deny that, even now, some publishers continue to favor less stable and less friendly platforms; however, a variety of factors has made the Mac even more viable in a law office.
In the old days (1985–2000) a Mac attorney, in most cases, had to learn to make do with software not designed for attorneys. We did have some notable exceptions. The Amicus program came out, originally, for the Mac. TimeSlips worked on the Mac and both Word Perfect and Microsoft Office worked on the Mac, although the Mac versions usually had fewer features and were generally less robust than other versions. Ironically, now that the Mac has seen significant growth in popularity among attorneys, TimeSlips, Word Perfect, and Amicus no longer work with the current version of the Mac OS.
Interestingly, Microsoft has seen the wisdom of supporting the Mac platform and has, for many years, regularly updated its Office software to provide substantially similar capabilities to its software for its own Windows OS. To be sure, the Windows software has some features that the Mac versions do not, but the simple fact of the matter is that for most solo and small firm practitioners, the missing features have no real significance.
Apple, in its effort to make things better for the Mac user, has now created the iWork software that provides word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software with better features in many cases than the Microsoft equivalents, plus compatibility with their Microsoft Office counterparts.
We still have some issues with programs that do not work on the Mac OS. We still have some functions that need better software for the Mac OS. But those instances have continued to diminish in quantity and significance.
We now have reached the point of having readily available software for the Mac that works as well as or better than that available on other platforms in doing many, even most, of the things attorneys do on a day-to-day basis. From word processing to trial preparation and presentation, we have functional software that, more often than not, has a more user-friendly interface and works as well or better than equivalents on other platforms.
In addition to Microsoft’s Entourage and Apple’s iCal and Address Book, we now have Daylight and Fast Track Schedule 9 to assist us with functions that consultants like to group into what they call “case management.” We have Circus Ponies’ Notebook to facilitate not only the storage of miscellaneous information, but also as a tool to prepare and organize trial materials. Clarity Software gave us TrialSmart and DepoSmart to deal with trial presentation and deposition transcript issues.
Adobe has long supported the Mac platform. While Adobe’s Creative Suite offers graphics capabilities far beyond what most attorneys need, the suite includes several programs that provide great utility to attorneys and may make purchasing the suite cost-efficient. Many of us find good use for Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator. I have, for some time, included Adobe’s Acrobat (now Acrobat Professional) in the list of must-have software on both the Mac and Windows platforms. If you want Illustrator and Photoshop, it makes sense to get the Creative Suite as buying those two programs plus Acrobat separately will pretty much cover the cost of the suite. At a minimum, you will want Acrobat. Adobe deserves kudos for making the Mac and Windows versions substantially equal to each other in features and robustness. Interestingly, Adobe created a less than full-featured version (Acrobat Standard) on the Windows platform, but apparently felt that Mac users would not as readily settle for less as Adobe made no Mac version of Acrobat Standard. Do not consider that a slight or a disadvantage. Adobe left most of the special features that will facilitate your legal work out of the Standard version, so you will want the Professional anyway.
In many cases, vendors have moved their programs to the Internet and, in the process, made them platform agnostic. Most of the legal research sites work that way now, for example. An attorney can log into Westlaw or Lexis or many of the less well-known sites either from a computer running on the Mac OS or one running on another platform. Without much difficulty, one can find platform agnostic online software and facilities for billing, document generation, research, legal research, and data storage. Virtually all Internet search engines work on both the Mac and Windows platforms.
Some publishers still write only for the Windows platform. We Mac attorneys do not find that particularly daunting. After all, the new Macs can run Windows as well as or better than most built for Windows hardware. The new Mac laptops and desktops, using the same Pentium Core 2 Duo chips used in many “built-for-Windows” computers, come from the factory with the ability to boot into either the Mac OS or Windows. Apple’s BootCamp software feature in OS X (10.5) makes that happen. Macintosh hardware, booting into Windows . . . what a world! If you don’t like the idea of having to reboot to run a Windows program, no problem: several virtualizing systems will create a virtual PC computer running on the Windows OS within the Mac OS. My favorite of this lot, Parallels, even lets you move the Windows window into the graphic structure of the Mac OS windows, so that you run the Windows-based software and switch between it and Mac OS programs instantly.
Certainly the field of legal software includes some important programs that do not run on the Mac platform. High on that list in my book are the CaseSoft programs: CaseMap and TimeMap. The good news—they run just fine in a virtual PC through Parallels or on a Mac running Windows in BootCamp.
Perhaps the Mac’s very versatility will dissuade some publishers from creating Mac OS versions of their software. The only downside to that from the perspective of the Mac attorney is that it means we have to continue to run an OS supplemental to the Mac OS on our Macs. From my perspective, we still have the upper hand, however. How many built-for-Windows computers can also run the Mac OS? The bottom line: Mac attorneys have the ability to take advantage of all the software written for the Mac OS as well as that written for the Windows OS, while Windows attorneys are unable to take advantage of the software written for the Mac OS.
If not the best of times, at least the best of times to date!
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 e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2008, American Bar Association.