I have just retired from the practice of law, which in Iowa means a clean break with the various requirements of being an attorney. Although I continue to use, buy, and evangelize for Apple products, it certainly would make much more sense for a practicing lawyer to be discussing such products in the context of an active practice. So, this is my final column (I have written roughly two a year since 2003). Looking back, I hadn’t realized that I wrote from that far back in time.
It has been interesting, however, to review the topics covered in the various articles and see where this commentary has been headed and to remember back to the early years of my practice.
I graduated from law school in 1976, and after other positions I started my own solo practice in 1983. From then until now, I’ve opined about the use of Apple products in life and law. And it’s been rather interesting to see the shifts and changes of products and their use over time.
By the late 1980s I had an active solo practice, and through then and into the 2000s I had a number of cases in litigation and was supported by three paralegals and three (part-time) law clerks. Early on, I spent money on at least one if not two of the then-latest Apple computers and monitors, and as the machines changed over time, I updated them as needed. As a stockholder, that also made some sense.
The idea behind my column was to discuss the use of Apple and Macintosh computers (and later iPads and iPhones) in a solo or small firm practice. In the beginning, I focused on general topics such as billing software, how a Mac can be of use to a new lawyer, and the various ways to use Macintosh computers in the practice of law, including their place in a firm of the ascendant operating system, Windows. I haven’t ever owned a Windows machine, but through the years, Macs and Windows systems became friendlier and friendlier, and now there’s not that much that distinguishes them. Windows adopted Apple’s graphical user interface (rather than using DOS code to find and use things), and Apple developed its products so they could easily be used in the Windows world. I am writing this article on my MacBook Pro using Pages and will then export it to Word and PDF as needed. If you use almost any text program, I can import and use the text easily on a Mac if need be.
After some time, the iPhone and iPad were developed, and the focus of my articles shifted a bit to include their use in the practice of law. Early on, the mobile phones we used were the size of bricks and frequently tethered to a plug in our office or car, but with the development of smaller and easier-to-use mobile phones, it made sense for lawyers to use them more often and in more places (for good or ill).
It has now become normal and actually required for lawyers to use iPhones (or similar smartphones running other operating systems) and tablets (iPads and others) at the office and in trial. We use them to take photographs, take dictation, outline arguments and case theories, etc. In fact, the iPhone and iPad are on the way to—almost—replacing the need for either a desktop or laptop computer.
With the iPhone and iPad it’s possible to videotape, dictate, and take photographs, which are all relevant to cases and matters in your law practice. And the cost of these is less than half of my very first Apple computer many years ago, with their speed and size lightyears beyond what we first worked with. (If you are interested in the history and specifics of the various computers over time, a good website to access is EveryMac.com.)
I am not totally sure of what machines I first used in the mid-late 1980s and early 1990s, but I probably had some Macintosh LC model, with a 25 MHz processor, 4 MB of RAM, and about 80 MB of hard drive space. Now it’s hard to find an 80 GB hard drive! The LC models cost approximately $1,500, and for the time they were very advanced and useful.
I graduated to a Performa with about 33 MHz speed, 5 MB of RAM, and 160 MB of hard drive space, at a cost of around $1,800 to $2,000. By 2003 there were portable computers, and I owned an early model and over time graduated through the improvements. Then I got the first iPhone and the early iPad and used both in my practice, though I still prefer to draft on my laptop (as I am doing now).
Over time, I have also used various desktop models, huge and heavy machines (the G5, the Mac Pro), and then moved to the iMac desktop model, lighter and much more powerful. Now the external hard drives are so large (I have a 6 TB drive) there’s no need for a large internal hard drive to be housed in a heavy machine and slow down the work of the computer. Computers now move fast, and you can then save the information to a large external drive or in the cloud. (I do both, as readers of my columns over the years have learned.)
Finally, applications have developed. Where initially games and entertainment may have been a focus, computers now are powerful word processors, numbers calculators, estimators, and graphical engines, and they can do almost anything you need in your life. (But not everything!) In the practice of law, having the plethora of applications available has been wonderful. Software for billing, check writing, note taking, database creating, word processing, and number crunching have all improved over time, and the sharing of data between and with co-counsel, experts, etc., has become fairly easy.
One development of particular interest to litigators has been the ability to obtain and use normal discovery (e.g., interrogatories and depositions, etc.) to gather information but also access to social media accounts and the ability to relatively easily obtain on DVDs or hard drives the opposing side’s information and documents that once used to fill rooms on-site. In fact, there’s almost too much data, and we now need to hire experts to sift through the reams (an old word related mainly to paper!) of data to find the nuggets we know or suspect are there.
We are now in the 21st century, and instead of floppy drives and CDs/DVDs and their limited space and utility, we use hard drives and the cloud with virtually limitless storage capacity. I’m sure (and I hope) someone is thinking about what happens to our data if we save it only to the cloud, and the electricity is shut off or an attack on infrastructure destroys the various servers that hold that data.
My parting thoughts are these, and they follow my constant advice over the past 15-plus years: Back up your data redundantly (one to three formats, one or two locations, on- and off-site), maintain good security practices (use password managers and use a different password for each place you need to password-protect—in my case that’s about 1,000), and create some sort of system for when you retire or shuffle off this mortal coil. Don’t make it impossible for those who follow you to represent your clients and handle your cases.
Victoria’s Mac User Columns
“Alternatives to Timeslips Billing Software,” June 2003
“Mac: The New Lawyer’s Best Friend,” December 2003
“Basic Panther Maintenance,” June 2004
“A Failure to Communicate? Not Between Mac and Windows,” December 2004
“Macs on the Internet: The Use of Macintosh Computers to Communicate on and with the Internet,” June 2005
“The Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How of Backup,” December 2005
“Rumbling Around with a Mac,” June 2006
“Windows for the Mac Masses,” December 2006
“Windows to the World,” June 2007
“Time to Switch,” December 2007
“iPhone, You Phone, We All Phone,” June 2008
“Ditch the Laptop, Bring the iPhone 3G,” December 2008
“Macs in Trial,” December 2009
“Note-Taking Applications for Apple Users,” June 2010
“My Working iVacation,” December 2010
“The iPad in Trial and Litigation,” June 2011
“Time to Upgrade?,” December 2011
“Closing a Practice in a Post-PC World,” July/August 2012
“Are Macs Really Cheaper Over the Long Haul?,” January/February 2013
“Planning for the (Digital and Physical) End,” July/August 2013
“Accessibility Options for iOS and Mac,” March/April 2014
“Mac iOS Resources for Litigators,” September/October 2014
“To Your Health: Health Resources for Mac and iOS Users,” March/April 2015
“The Apple Watch,” November/December 2015
“When Should You Hire an IT Professional,” March/April 2016
“Surveying Clients and Striking Gold,” September/October 2016
“Note-Taking Apps: Update,” March/April 2017
“Ransomware Protection for Mac and iOS,” September/October 2017
“Security Issues for Lawyers,” March/April 2018