by Carolyn Elefant on February 22, 2006 · 4 comments
in Law Practice Management
David Swanner, a solo South Carolina Trial Lawyer gives us his tips for starting a practice, which are followed by a discussion of the merits of Mac v. PC.
Good article, thank you. I’m starting up a solo practice in Columbus, Ohio after leaving a big firm that used Windows computers. I’ve used Macs at home for four years now and am excited to be able to use a Mac at work – in my case, a G4 PowerBook. I think it’s very do-able. One issue, as the comments to the article suggest, is time management software. I’m going to try to work without one of the pre-packaged programs, which all appear to be fairly expensive and many of which are not Mac-compatible, and to manage things with a collection of other programs, some of which are built into Mac OS X (iCal, Address Book), and some of which are not (e.g., Billings (www.marketcircle.com) and QuickBooks Pro for Mac). I’d appreciate hearing from anyone else who uses a Mac in their solo practice.
I just started my solo office and I have a new partner coming in the beginning of the month. A few things about technology and cost: I look at technology as a way to reduce overhead. If I can invest in 10K of technology and software that will last three years and keeps me from having to hire a headcount at 30K+ a year, I will do it and save the 60K over three years. And I have. However, it takes commitment to reap from the technology. If you are not willing to maximize the use of the technology, you are wasting money. I am running a “paperless” office, and can’t recommend it enough, although it takes some change of habits.
As far as computers go, I use a slate (Motion Computing). Once you use a pen based computer, you just won’t want to go back. Get a large extra monitor for your desk and a docking station so you can use both screens simultaneously. Use a key board with the docking station. Also, invest in a good voice recognition software such as NaturallySpeaking. It takes a change in habit, it feels slower than typing, but it is actually faster. (For some reason it is, at first, easier to accept that your fingers are not doing what you tell them to, than to accept that your computer is not listening to you.)
There are excellent web services that I believe are cost-effective. For example, I use efax to receive my facsimiles as electronic documents through e-mail – easy to receive and send, easy to store. For snail mail I use stamps.com to print posted envelopes. VOIP is also a real and viable alternative to land lines. Geting voice mail as a wave file in your email is very handy.
To fully utilize cost effective technology, I recommend moving to a paperless process. As an example, all incoming documents are scanned. A discovery document, for example, is scanned into an Adobe Acrobat file, and processed with optical character recognition software so that the document is searchable. The discovery document is logged into TimeMatters. A copy of the discovery document is then moved into an independent directory. Each individual document is logged into CaseMap. Then, I have a working database of each document, its contents, relevant parties, and facts. While there is some administrative time in scanning and logging the documents, there is huge time savings in having a ready index and database that allows easy and immediate access to relevant information. |And I know the case. To find the source for a fact, just click on the link and you are To fmmediately looking at the pinpoint source information. Hard copies of original documents are filed for back up, but rarely used.
TimeMatters also allows you manage your billables and automate your billing and accounting procedures. A huge time savings. Also with TimeMatters you can integrate HotDocs to automate populating your templates. Another huge time saver.
All of these systems take time to set up, but once they are set up, you save time, and you have the ability to actually build your knowledge base. My two cents worth, anyway.
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