October 23, 2012

The Fine Art of Practicing Law on a Mac

The Mac Difference: At Your Office

Setting up a PC-based law office network, with file sharing, permissions and shared printing is not an exercise for the faint of heart, and it often requires costly consultants (and your valuable time). The same set-up using Macs is often as easy as plug-and-play. Not only are Macs easier to set up and network than PCs, but the ongoing maintenance costs may be much less.

For word processing operations, Microsoft has made a Mac version of its venerable Office suite available to Mac users for decades. Documents created on a Mac using Word can be shared, read and fully edited by any PC user with a copy of Word. The same goes for Excel spreadsheets made on a Mac and for PowerPoint presentations, as well.

Apple’s iWork suite is a reasonably priced, competent, direct competitor to Microsoft Office. The Apple iWork suite, consisting of Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets and Keynote for presentations, costs only $60 at Apple’s App Store, compared with $150 for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011.

When compared with Microsoft Word, Apple’s Pages offers a much more intuitive interface and increased capability to integrate graphics, titles and charts easily and efficiently. Apple Pages is compatible with Word—documents you created with Pages can be shared, read and edited almost seamlessly by Word users.

Numbers is Apple’s spreadsheet program and a competitor to Excel. Numbers has the same basic capabilities as Excel, but adds an element of readability. With a Numbers spreadsheet, you have the ability to export your data to any number of easy-to-read templates. Numbers can import and export Excel documents seamlessly.

Keynote is Apple’s easier-to-use answer to PowerPoint. In Keynote, building elements in and out and creating motion (both within a slide and between slides) is easy and intuitive. Guides snap elements into place, both on the slide and relative to each other. Graphics are wholly integrated into the presentation, meaning you’ll never again spend valuable time repairing a link to a photo or chart as PowerPoint users do.

With a Mac, there’s more than just the ability to produce Office documents that you can easily share with a PC user, or the option to be more creative using Apple’s iWork suite. Apple’s operating system, OS X Lion, has a number of built-in advantages, as well.

By simply plugging in an external hard drive, Apple’s built-in Time Machine program provides you with an automatic, invisible and totally reliable backup of all your valuable data on the hour, every hour, every day. Restoring a document that you inadvertently saved over or deleted is as easy as entering Time Machine, selecting the most recent version, and clicking “Restore!” Should you ever lose your computer, or should your hard drive meet an unfortunate demise, everything can be reset on your replacement Mac.

Spotlight, which is integrated into Apple’s operating system, offers extensive search capability with the click of a mouse, allowing you to easily and quickly search your computer. Spotlight automatically indexes not only the title of your documents, but also the content of every document.

In your office, at your desk, the Mac difference is apparent whether you’re writing a brief, drafting a contract, working on a client’s spreadsheet or preparing for your opening statement. However, that’s not the only place where the Mac competitive difference comes into play. 

On the Road

When you’re on the road, you need your technology to work flawlessly. Many built-in features of the Mac operating system give busy attorneys an edge that’s lacking on even the most cutting-edge PCs.

For example, all Macs have the built-in ability to natively print directly to a PDF document—something that requires extra software on a PC. No matter where you are, you can print a document directly to a PDF that can then be shared with anyone in the world.

The ability to integrate your iPhone and iPad with a Mac is also a huge advantage over PCs. With a Mac, your mail, calendar and contacts all sync—painlessly and wirelessly—with all of your other iDevices. This means that the contact information you entered into your iPhone for that new client is on your office Mac, as well as on your iPad at home.

Macs also have many advantages when it comes to taking and organizing notes. All Macs now come with a built-in iSight camera and quality microphone, something you won’t find on most PCs. While this is useful for FaceTime video conferences with friends, it can also come in handy on the road. You can have a client “sign” a document using Apple’s built-in PDF software, Preview and the iSight camera. Have your client sign a blank page, show it to the iSight camera, and Preview does the rest.

SpeakWrite (www.speakwrite.com/web) is available for your iPhone, iPad and your computer, and allows you to dictate a letter, including attachments, in very short order. You receive the finished product via email as a Word document for about a penny a word. Evernote (www.evernote.com), also available for your iPhone, iPad and your computer, allows you to “Remember Everything.” 1Password (www.agilebits.com/onepassword) is a fantastic piece of software that manages your passwords and confidential financial information. With 1Password, you create one master password, and the software handles everything else. It will create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, restore them, and allow you to access them whenever and wherever. SpeakWrite, Evernote and 1Password are not unique to Macs, but their availability on and integration with the iPhone and iPad gives Mac the advantage here. 


Whether you’re before a judge or arguing to a jury, when it comes to courtroom presentation and organization, Macs truly shine.

However amazing your opening statement or closing argument slides may have been in PowerPoint, they will be even more impressive in Keynote. Many jurors suffer from “PowerPoint fatigue”—repeatedly seeing the same bullet points, the same tired animations, the same backgrounds and themes. And, while it’s possible to get creative in PowerPoint, it certainly is not easy or intuitive.

With Keynote, slides come alive. Backgrounds and themes are refreshing and new. Trial after trial, we have heard positive remarks from jurors that even simple Keynote slides seemed “fresh” and “clean” to them.

Things are different for the courtroom for Mac users. Clarity Legal (www.claritylegalllc.com) has produced an excellent set of products to provide Mac users with the same functionality and abilities as Sanction and Trial Director, but in a more user-friendly package. DocSmart, Clarity’s document management and review software for the Mac, allows a user to manage files of all sizes—from those with a few hundred pages to those with millions of records—all in a well-designed, easy-to-use interface.

Clarity’s TrialSmart does everything that its PC competition does, but more efficiently. TrialSmart is compatible with all video and document formats, has the same functionality as either Sanction or TrialDirector, but it is designed from the start to be easy to use and intuitive.

Many attorneys who report that they need a full-time assistant (or two!) to sit with them to run their TrialDirector systems observe that they are able to run the TrialSmart software themselves, while conducting a cross-examination or closing argument.

As an alternative, if you don’t want to bring a laptop computer to court, there are a number of apps for your iPad that will allow you to put on a full-featured, robust presentation to judge or jury right from your iPad! Both TrialPad (www.trialpad.com) and ExhibitView (www.exhibitview.net) allow you to access key documents, use tools like callouts and highlights, and present evidence to a jury just as you would have from your laptop.

Something also should be said here about the legendary reliability of Mac computers. PCs are notoriously finicky in deciding when, how and how well they will work with external monitors, networks and projectors. Trial is the absolute wrong place for this sort of itchy and unpredictable temperament. No one can guarantee that everything will work 100 percent of the time, but with a Mac, you can have a high level of confidence that your equipment will work how, when and where it is supposed to do so.

This kind of edge—both in the hardware and in the software—is what gives Mac users justifiable confidence in the courtroom.

Even When You “Need” a PC

As every Mac user knows, there are just some programs made for PCs that are not available natively on a Mac. For those times, there is virtualization software.

By installing this software, you are essentially creating a completely separate computer on your Mac. You can then install whatever other operating system—from Linux to Windows 7 (or Vista, if you dare)—directly into that new “virtual computer.” Once this is done, your virtual computer runs exactly like a stand-alone, independent computer would: You can boot it up, shut it down, install software on it, etc. The virtual machine uses your existing network settings, mouse, keyboard and other peripherals.

So, if you have specialized software that is not available natively for a Mac, never fear! With virtualization software, you’re able to have the best of both worlds. The three best examples of this are Apple’s built-in Boot Camp (www.apple.com/support/bootcamp), Parallels (parallels.com/products/desktop) and VMware Fusion (vmware.com/products/fusion).


It’s easy to switch from PCs to Macs, in three simple steps.

First, buy your hardware. The new 27-inch iMacs are beautiful desktop computers, but consider also a reliable 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop computer. With an external monitor (or two) at your desk, your portable laptop becomes a capable desktop.

Add an Apple Magic Mouse (www.apple.com/magicmouse), a Bluetooth Keyboard (www.apple.com/keyboard), and you’re ready to go. A paperless set-up can be accomplished very easily by adding a Fujitsu Scan-Snap 1500 (www.fujitsu.com), which comes bundled with a copy of Adobe Acrobat 9.0.

Second, get your software. Every attorney should own a copy of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), as well as a copy of Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Download a copy of Google Chrome (www.google.com/chrome) browser. You can use Apple’s built-in Mail.app for your email, iCal for your calendaring needs and Address Book for your contacts.

Third, get going! Plug yourself into your network, get familiar with your new setup and start representing your clients more effectively, efficiently and creatively.