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Making the Transition from PCs to Macs in Your Law Office
Apple products are gaining traction in the legal field, particularly among solo and small firm lawyers. As more software and apps are being created for Apple computers and law firms are working in the cloud, using Macs in your legal practice is becoming a better option for many attorneys. But often, it can be intimidating or seem challenging to make the switch to a new computer. Changing operating systems seems like an unnecessary added task, especially for already busy lawyers, but you might find that an Apple computer better suits your practice.
In this episode of The Legal Toolkit, Heidi Alexander interviews Jenny Stevens, also known as Mrs. Mac Lawyer, about her switch from a PC law office to one using exclusively Apple products. Stevens was converted by her husband, The Mac Lawyer, when they merged their family law practices. She had the benefit of already having a cloud based office, so she was able to access all of her files and applications in the same way. She was also already using an iPhone so she understood the way that iOS works to a certain degree. Stevens explains that there was not much of a learning curve and she mostly had to adapt to new keyboard shortcuts. Switching from Microsoft Office to Mac applications Pages and Numbers was easy, she explains, and her practice improved when she added other apps such as Dropbox, Keynote, Rocket Matter, and Textexpander. While switching to a Mac is certainly not for everyone, Stevens encourages attorneys who are thinking of making the switch to jump in with both feet. When she didn’t have access to her PC, she learned to use the Mac much faster.
Jenny Stevens co-owns and practices family law at the Stevens Firm in South Carolina with her husband. Before they merged, Stevens worked for an all PC law office in Charleston, South Carolina. She has nicknamed herself Mrs. Mac Lawyer and frequently contributes to The Mac Lawyer, a blog about using Apple products in your legal practice. Jenny is also a frequent speaker at local, state, and national continuing legal education seminars.View transcript
Legal Toolkit: Making the Transition from PCs to Macs in Your Law Office – 1/21/2015
Advertiser: Welcome to the Legal Toolkit; bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm. Here are your hosts – experienced lawyers, writers and entrepreneurs, Heidi Alexander and Jared Correia. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Heidi Alexander: Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Legal Toolkit here on the Legal Talk Network. I’m your host, Heidi Alexander. I’m also a law practice advisor with Massachusetts LOMAP. LOMAP provides free and confidential law practice management consulting services to Massachusetts attorneys. For more information on LOMAP’s offerings, visit our website at massLOMAP.org. Here on the Legal Toolkit, my co-host, Jared Correia and I, provide you with a new tool each month to add to your own legal toolkit so that your practices will become more and more like best practices. This episode of Legal Toolkit is no different. Today we’ll be talking about making the transition from a PC to Mac law office. I don’t think any of you will be surprised to hear that Apple products are gaining traction in the legal field. Particularly among solo and small firm attorneys. And while this podcast is not an advertisement for Apple – okay, maybe in a subtle way it is – it’s for those who have already drank the Koolaid or have been enlightened, whichever way you choose to see it; and thus working towards setting up a viable Mac law practice. Joining me today is Jenny Stevens, otherwise known as Mrs. Mac Lawyer, the better half, of course, of Mr. Mac Lawyer, Ben Stevens. Jenny practices family law with the Stevens Firm in South Carolina, which she co-owns with her husband, Ben. Before Jenny and Ben merged forces, jenny practices in an all-PC law office. When she and Ben merged, they turned their practice into an all-Mac firm. She’s got some great insights into the conversion process as well as thoughts generally on how to set up a successful Mac law office. Thanks for joining me today, Jenny.
Jenny Stevens: Thank you for having me, I really appreciate it.
Heidi Alexander: Alright, let’s begin about chatting about how you went about converting from PC to Mac. While I suspect that your husband might have been slightly persuasive in your moving from PC to Mac use, how did you personally come to the decision to move from PC to Mac, and how did it go? Was there a significant learning curve?
Jenny Stevens: The long answer to a couple of short questions is no, there was not a significant learning curve. But to say that Ben had even a slight influence on me is the understatement of the year. We were introduced by a mutual friend; both of us single at the time, obviously, and the romantic connection kind of hit it off pretty quick. And we started talking because I was practicing, actually, in Charleston, South Carolina where I was born and raised, and he had been practicing for several years here in Spartanburg, South Carolina – which is about 200 miles away from Charlestown in the upstate of South Carolina. So we not only had to figure out how to merge our firms, but how to move me and my family here to Spartanburg and then merge our practices together. We had already been practicing family law, so that was not the hard part. But when he found out that I was an all-PC firm, and actually when we met, I was still using a Droid phone at the time, which I think his skin crawled when I pulled it out at our first date. So he became very invested in the fact that I needed to upgrade to an iPhone, and then when he proposed marriage; he made it very clear that we could not have a mixed marriage. So when I was packing to move to Spartanburg, he helped me put my PC’s in the box that would carry them up here, but he promised me that he had an iMac waiting for me at my desk in Spartanburg, and he had a bet that I would not even need to open those boxes with the PC’s in them once I arrived in Spartanburg. I was not sure about that, but to say the least – and I will say this in a recorded session, obviously, so he will probably play this back multiple times during our marriage – but he was right. And I never opened up those boxes until it was time to wipe those computers and actually give them away. So I have been all Mac, all the time, for two and a half years now.
Heidi Alexander: Wow, a true Mac love story; absolutely.
Jenny Stevens: The learning curve was nerve-racking because my experience with Mac had been very little. I used Macs when I was very young, probably back in elementary school when they became the new thing. My dad had one for work and I played on that but really no more than just games and stuff; and then my exposure to an iPhone. What I was most surprised about was the fact that there really wasn’t a learning curve. Once I figured out my iPhone, I was able to use just about any Apple product that had been put in front of me after that.
Heidi Alexander: And I think that’s how many Apple users feel. So after you were enlightened, you saw the light, how did you then approach the transition in terms of your law practice?
Jenny Stevens: Well my law practice in Charleston, even though it was PC based, was already very much Cloud based. And by that I mean Ben and I without even realizing it were already using the same case management software, we use Rocket Manager. So that is obviously a Cloud based and accessed through just your web browser. I was already using – instead of a traditional server setup for my files and my documents – I was already using Dropbox, which had already been also used and endorsed heavily when he does his practice management seminars and gives consulting advice to other law firms. So really, other than the fact that I was now going to be using Pages and Numbers and Keynote for my document creation, instead of Word and Excel and Powerpoint, there was very little to have to actually set up as far as the transition. Because once I turned on my iMac and just set my preferences and logged into all of my services, I just had to open up a Chrome window in my web browser and start logging in to Rocket Matter or Dropbox. We both used GMail, business apps, accounts for our email services, so that was all web-based as well. So the fact that I was logging in from a Mac really didn’t change much of anything. I could access everything that I had accessed in my office in Charleston the very first day I was in my office in Spartanburg logging in with an iMac. I would say that the learning curve came in because some of the shortcuts are a little bit different on a Mac, but they’re not so tremendously different. Within two weeks, I had already been able to learn shortcuts on my keyboard that I use every single day. There’s still a few things that I still have to go knock on Ben’s door and say how do I do this, or how do I do that. But usually, he only has to show me something once or I can Google a YouTube video to figure out how to do it pretty quickly and I’ve been able to catch on. The wonderful thing about Macs, I had found, is that when something went wrong with my PC and I Googled for an answer, it would take my hours to figure it out and be my own little help desk. Or I would have to call an 800 number to either Dell computers – because that’s the computers that I had before – or some software help desk. My call would be going over to India, and besides translating what the person was saying to me on the phone, I’d have to sit there for hours waiting for somebody to answer the phone call in the first place. With Macs, most of the people that use Macs are already so tech-savvy that they’ve got YouTube channels and videos and usually if I have a problem, I Google what the problem is and I’ve got an answer in maybe 5 minutes. and it’s usually something that I can fix myself, which is wonderful. Because my downtime has significantly decreased since transitioning into an all-Mac environment.
Heidi Alexander: So it sounds like a lot of the process was pretty easy. Did you find any sort of compatibility issues? I understand that much of your practice was in the Cloud, which is great, but was there anything that was difficult other than the keystrokes? Any sort of compatibility issues?
Jenny Stevens: To be quite honest, I really don’t remember any at all. We have Word and Excel for the Mac; we have those versions of the software, because there were certain court forms and some charts that I had; currently using in some cases that would’ve been just too time-consuming to try to transfer into pages and what not during that period of time. So I was able to open those on a Mac with no problem. As for as my document generation though, once I came up here, the decision was made that from that day forward, I would create all of my new documents and any new case forms or whatever that I needed in Pages using templates that Ben’s practice was already using. Because he’s been all-Mac since 2008 or 2009. So I was really lucky walking into his firm because he already had a clash of forms already designed with Pages and Numbers. But from a document creation standpoint, I can do just about anything I need to in Pages and Numbers. And then if I need to export, say I’m working with another attorney who is using all Word products and Excel, I can export those documents into a Word or Excel compatible document that the other attorney can then work with if need be. Or I have the ability to print anything I create in any software program to a PDF copy. So even if I created, say I’m using ap articular app that maybe not a lot of people use. Ben has been very lucky, he gets a lot of test products and test apps that aren’t really on the market yet for us to kind of help work out the bugs and kinks; so we’ll create things with those that other people are not going to have. But we can actually generate a PDF to be able to share what we’ve created in those apps with other people who don’t have that software. So the compatibility issues have been probably nil as far as I’m concerned. Which was surprising, I was prepared for a lot rockier transition. And like I said, I was not happy when Ben won that bet.
Heidi Alexander: So based on your own experience, what advice do you have for other attorneys that are going about transitioning from PC to Mac. Anything that you learned along the way that might be helpful?
Jenny Stevens: There’s an element of truth to sometimes you’ve just got to jump in with both feet. I’m not good with change, I don’t think many attorneys are. We like our stability and our ability to control the elements as much as possible, so change kind of freaks us out sometimes. But with this process, I think it was better for me that I just kind of jumped in, feet first, and said I’m already Cloud based, I should be able to access everything, I’m just going to do it. And quite frankly, I think that I learned it a lot faster, not having access to a PC. Because Ben didn’t even allow me to unpack my laptops, so it was either learn how to access this stuff and learn how to work with this stuff or I was going to be treading water for a long time and not doing what I needed to do and not getting the work done. But it really was a very simple transition. Macs are very intuitive to the way that people think and operate, and everything is app based. So if you already have an iPhone and you’re still using a PC at the office; ask yourself how many times you’re having to struggle transferring information – especially with smart phones. I can seamlessly transition what I’m working on at the office to my iPad, to my iPhone, and see very little interruption of work, if any at all with most things. Whereas with a PC, I was having to worry about did I save that in the Dropbox, can I download it, did I do it in Word, am I working with a PDF? What file am I working with here and then having to track down how the best way was to get to that was if I was trying to work on my iPhone and then direct it to a PC. I’ve not had any of those issues with a Mac.
Heidi Alexander: Yeah, that was a really good point; and now with Yosemite, the newest upgrade to the MAcs and iOS 8 on your iPhone and iPad, you can actually be typing up an email on your iPhone and iPad and then pick that right back up on your computer.
Jenny Stevens: Absolutely, and in our office with our staff and the way our workflow flows through the office, we use chat messages a lot to get messages back and forth between staff and attorneys or between Ben and myself; because our offices are on opposite sides of the building and it’s just more efficient that way. But with Yosemite and the new upgrades and how everything just flows from one device to the next, he may not know that I’m in a conference room with a client or maybe I’ve already left the building to head to court but he’s got to get a message to me about something that’s going on in another case. He can send that message to me from his desktop and it’s going to follow my devices until it gets to me. So I’m not tied to my desktop all day long, I’m not tied to my phone all day long, I’m not tied to my iPad. Whatever device is in front of me, my staff can reach me, my partner and husband can reach me, and I can get messages to them when things come up and I’ve got clients waiting, or I’m supposed to be somewhere else and somebody needs to call and tell them I’m running late. So it’s been a huge benefit in that respect, whereas my PC, if I wasn’t sitting in front of my PC or I wasn’t sitting in front of my laptop with a LogMeIn account or something like that, I was kind of out of touch. So it’s been a huge benefit as far as what I can tell.
Heidi Alexander: Absolutely, I think it’s a great feature and clearly can help attorneys to be a little bit more productive. But we do need to take a quick break, so stay tuned, because after the break we’ll be talking about what a working Mac law office looks like.
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Heidi Alexander: Welcome back to the second half of our show with Jenny Stevens, Mrs. Mac attorney, and co-owner and attorney at the Stevens Firm. In this half of our program, we’re going to address some of the technicalities of operating a successful all-Mac law office. So let’s start by talking about the Stevens Firm’s current office setup. Jenny, why don’t you tell me about what hardware you are using, so Macs, servers. mobile devices, and all about the like.
Jenny Stevens: We’ve got the entire Apple catalog at work here in our office. We’re a living, breathing ad for Apple when people walk in here. But basically, the attorneys and the staff, we each have the 27 inch, big iMac on our desk. We all have iPhones and the attorneys use different variations of ipads. Ben and I both have iPad minis that we carry with us. We travel a lot, Ben gets a lot of speaking engagements all across the country. He’s one of the main speakers on the Mac track at ABA Techshow every year. He has helped coordinate MILO, the listserv for Macs in the law office and thus we go to MILOfest in October each Fall. So obviously we travel, we stay on the road quite a bit. So our iPad Minis are what we take along with us while we’re sitting in the airports to read case files or to read law articles or new cases that have come out. We can annotate a lot of paperwork that way when it comes in as PDF’s and transfer that information back and forth with the staff. We’ve got a Mac Mini that we set up in North Carolina; we have a child support guidelines calculator hat is actually a Windows-only based software. They do not have a Mac version. It’s very frustrating for us Mac lovers. But what we’ve done is we set up a Mac Mini running Parallels that we run that software on and then we log into that Mac Mini from any computer or device in the office when we need to access that software so that all of us are not having to run Parallels and have that software loaded on each and every computer in the office. And we do that with a couple of other Windows-based software. For a while we were using the actual software for Quickbooks, as an example, but we now switched to their web-based version so that that’s no longer necessary. Which is wonderful, the more services that are web-based the better in my opinion. We don’t use a traditional server. We don’t have a server room in the Stevens firm which is a wonderful thing as far as I’m concerned. We use Dropbox and Box accounts to manage our closed files. We scan everything in the Stevens Firm so that it could be stored digitally in a Cloud-based storage system. And that’s what we use for our current cases as well. Everything is scanned and then goes through a different series of folders within the office depending on which person is responsible for what item. It’ll flow through the workflow just like that. Our scanners that we use our ScanSnap. For those of you that are listening, they were at ABA Techshow, I think it was last year. We saw them demo their brand new – it’s the highest in – machine that they have, but it blew through a stack of different-sized pages and business cards and different thicknesses of pages. It was a stack of maybe 25 documents and it scanned at maybe about 4 seconds and Ben and I were sold. So we’ve got two of those that our staff use to scan everything in. And other than that, we use more apps than anything because all of our different devices can do multiple things and we try to find the best selection of apps that will give us the most functionality out of every device that we’re using.
Heidi Alexander: That all makes a lot of sense and the Fujitsu ScanSnap I think also is a great product. I think you’re talking about the IX-500. That’s the newest, wireless version. And I think in the past, it’s been a little bit more difficult to make sure that all these programs are compatible with your Mac. And I know you’re using a program like Parallels you could be using VMware; there’s a number of different programs. But fortunately, as you’ve mentioned, with most of the software now going to Cloud-based products, it really doesn’t present much of an obstacle for Mac users. So that’s a really great point. So you did talk a little bit about software, I know you use Rocket Matter, which is a law practice management program which we’ve talked about previously on this podcast. You use DropBox, you use Box, you use GMail, the business solution, you use Pages, Numbers, Keynote. Any other software software or even apps that you use that you might even recommend to other folks?
Jenny Stevens: One thing that Ben has been using for several years now, I have only just gotten on the bandwagon probably in the last year, year and a half, is TextExpander. And I can’t recommend it enough for attorneys especially. We’re all used to having to create document templates. And then we’ve got to sit there, even if we have the template done – maybe it’s a marital settlement agreement that’s 30 pages long of standard boilerplate language for what typically gets divided up in a divorce or a child custody matter. If it’s just a document template, you’ve still got to sit there and scroll through and find all the little blanks and the missing parts that you’ve left in there that need to be filled in and you’ve got to make sure that the tenses are right and the gender pronouns are correct. TextExpander takes all that and automates it. You can open up a blank document, have created a TextExpander, for example, we issue a lot of subpoenas for bank records and school records and therapy records and stuff like that. Ben has gone through and created a TextExpander for South Carolina’s version of a subpoena. So I can open up a blank page in Pages and type in the little special code that he has created for TextExpander and then it will literally populate the document and then give me little call-out boxes for all of the spaces where I need to fill in the client’s information or the opposing party’s information or the witness’s information, whatever it is that I’m sending a subpoena out to get. It’s going to actually prompt me to say I need this person’s address or I need the date that you’re going to serve this subpoena or I need who is actually serving this subpoena, what is that person’s name. And then I fill in those boxes and hit enter and my document is done, that’s it. What used to take me probably an hour to sit there and type and flip through the file and get all this information and go back and proof and make sure that everything’s in there before I send it out the door, is done in a matter of minutes. And you can do it with any kind of document, you can do it with email. We have some canned email responses, because like I said, Ben handles a lot of listservs like MILO and some other things that he’s involved with in these national organizations. So he get a lot of the same types of inquiries every day from people just needing certain information over and over. And instead of typing those emails out every single day over and over and over, he’s got TextExpanders and he types in a little one or two-word code that he has assigned for that particular information, and it populates the email and all he does is hit send. And it took me a while; I don’t know why, because I guess I don’t like change and I’m stubborn and Lord forbid that my husband be right about stuff. But once I finally watched him use it through some processes that I was becoming frustrated with, and he showed me the benefits and showed me how easy it was to use those TextExpander, I hit the ground running. I’ve got them for all kinds of things at this point. And it has saved me probably more time than anything else that I use.
Heidi Alexander: I know attorneys who just swear by TextExpander and they also now have TextExpander for mobile devices. I just started to try that out and that’s a great software as well. And you also mentioned that you use the chat messages and so were you referring to Apple’s messages?
Jenny Stevens: Yes, we use iMessages, because now with Yosemite, it allows you to send and receive messages from people who don’t have iPhones. Whereas before, if the person didn’t have an iPhone, it’s not going to show up on your desktop or your iPad. Now, it will. So that has increased my use of it even more. I can basically turn my phone off during the day when I don’t want to be distracted by everybody just calling to chitchat, and put that in my purse. And if I need to see a message from them, it’s still come through on my desktop, so I’ll be able to know that I need to pull my phone out and speak with them directly.
Heidi Alexander: I think that’s a great idea. So you talked about a number of advantages. Any other advantages of an all-Mac office versus a PC-office that you want to share with us?
Jenny Stevens: Well the biggest one, and again, I’m going to steal from my husband’s cadre of advice, is when you’re in a PC-office, everybody will take about that blue screen of death. And what made him transition to an all-Mac office all those years ago was he came in on a Friday and I think he had a big hearing or something that day; and his assistant’s computer came up with the blue screen of death, and that was the end of it. He was like, that’s it, I’m not doing it anymore, because it would cost hours of time, you have to call your I.T. department, you’ve got to call your I.T. guy, whatever. And then you sit and wait, and they’ve got to figure out what’s going on. And if it’s a hard drive that’s gone bad, you may or may not have lost everything that was on that computer. So he got fed up and I think he went out – this is pre-Jenny days – but I think he went out to the local Apple store on the next Saturday, the next day. So his office left work on Friday afternoon with PC’s in the office, and he went Saturday, bought a bunch of iMacs, and brought them into the office and spent the weekend setting them up. So his office staff came in on Monday morning to brand new computers and they were all Macs, everywhere. So he kind of took the plunge, feet first, as well. But in my practice in Charleston; my practice had only been open for just over two years when we made the decision to for me to move up here. My computer was brand new when I opened my practice and I had that blue screen of death even with a brand new computer 3 or 4 times. And it never happened on a weekend when I had tons of time on my hands. It always happened when I had a hearing coming up, or deposition, or something that I was desperately trying to get prepared for. And as attorneys, we all wait until the last minute to do most anything. So when I would come in that morning to print stuff up and I couldn’t even access what I needed to, it was very frustrating. And I could say in the two and a half years that I’ve been up here in Spartanburg, had been all Mac, all the time. Other than when I need to upgrade my memory, just because I’ve got so much on my computer, it’s trying to keep up with me; there have been no issues. And usually, you add that memory, it speeds it back up, and you’re back on track. And those are even easy fixes versus a PC. So there really has not been a downside, I can’t recommend it enough. I know I’m biased at this point, but I wouldn’t have taken the Twitter handle “Mrs. Mac Lawyer” if I wasn’t all in and willing to share the good news with everybody.
Heidi Alexander: Well it sounds like you’re pretty happy with your current office setup. The next podcast I’m going to have to get someone on here who is an all PC office user.
Jenny Stevens: Those are fun debates, maybe we could do it together.
Heidi Alexander: Yeah, that’s a great idea. So finally, do you have any resources that you could suggest to other folks who are either thinking about transitioning or who already use Macs in their law office?
Jenny Stevens: Absolutely. We have a blog that my husband started several years ago called TheMacLawyer.Com, and it is entirely devoted to how to use Mac products and Apple products in your law office. There’s a lot of good advice. He writes most of the articles, I have just started contributing every last couple of years because he has found my perspective of transitioning to be useful. But we review a lot of new products that are out there too. So if people are just kind of scratching the surface for what products they want to use, it’s a great resource to kind of go and check out what are we using, what have we liked, what have we found issues with, or what do we recommend. Another one is MILO, the MILO listserv. And the information on how to join that, you can find that at TheMacLawyer.com. But that is a listserv of about – I believe the other day when we saw the last title – it was a little over 4,000 attorneys and professionals that use Macs in their professional offices. And the great thing about that listserv, is if you were just taking a plunge or even if you’re just considering it; you have got a whelp of information from attorneys all over the country that had either already set their offices up as Mac law offices, or they’re in the same process as you are, maybe they’re just researching. So instead of just sitting at home Googling about this on a Friday night trying to figure it out all by yourself, you’ve got all of these other people who have already been down that road; they’re willing to share their advice, they’re willing to share their recommendations. Most of the time if you post a question, say you’re looking for maybe the best scanner to bring into your office so that you can start going paperless. You can post that question and you’re going to have responses almost immediately; it’s a little bit scary sometimes. But it’s wonderful to be able to share that knowledge with people and they are very, very generous with their time and their knowledge. I can’t recommend that enough, especially if you’re new to this, because that’s the place. If you don’t have the built in Apple guy in your office like I’m lucky enough to have ,you can go onto this listserv and say hey guys, how do I do this? I used to do it this way in Word, but how do I do it in Pages? And almost immediately, you’re going to have responses with people telling you, it’s easy, this is step by step how you do it. So that’s been enormously beneficial to me.
Heidi Alexander: Those are great resources and I’m just going to add one, which is a new resource that the Mass LOMAP office has developed and it’s basically an offshoot of the MILO group. There was a bunch of folks who came together and wanted to meet up on a regular basis. So we developed this group and you can find it on our website, at MassLOMAP.org. We call it LOMAC, law office Macs, and we have a Google group and meetup group so folks can get together on a regular basis and talk about how they use Macs in their law office. But unfortunately, we have reached the end of another episode of the Legal Toolkit. So I want to thank my guest, Jenny Stevens, from the Stevens Firm, for taking the time to drop by our virtual studio. Jenny, if any of our listeners would like to learn more about you and Mr. Mac Lawyer, how would they go about doing so?
Jenny Stevens: They can obviously find his blog at TheMacLawyer.com. Both of our Twitter handles, his is @TheMacLawyer, and mine is @Mrs.MacLawyer; and you’ll find links there to our Facebook and LinkedIn. Our firm website is SCFamilyLaw.com, and there’s a blog there as well that offers some advice for family law attorneys if that’s their practice area and give some legal technology advice there as well.
Heidi Alexander: Well thank you, Jenny, for joining me on the Legal Toolkit. And remember you can check out any of our shows at any time you’d like at TheLegalTalkNetwork.com. So until next time, happy practicing.
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