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Technology and the Power of One

The following is an article from Michael D. Delcour, my senior associate. He is not only a great legal writer and editor, but he manages this office's IT. Here, he shares some solid ways to save money for firms and their clients on typically expensive IT costs.

Lawyers do not like technology. Lawyers, who often bill by the tenth of the hour, are impatient people, and learning how to use technology takes time. Lawyers are generally Type-As who need perfection, and office technology is always breaking and being fixed. Lawyers also hate to look stupid--confidence can be as important as knowledge of the law--and learning how to use new technology makes people feel like idiots. Ultimately though, lawyers are often small business owners, and technology is expensive. The hardware, the software, and the support staff is just too much.

Nonetheless, there is no way that a successful small business of any sort can function without a strong technological backbone. The trick is finding the right software and hardware combinations that allow small firms to do the things that big firms can do, but at a fraction of the cost. Firms need to assess their actual needs. Is it really easier to manage all of your documents electronically? Do you really need a full subscription to WestLaw? Do you really need full-time IT support? This article will the the first of many to provide a blueprint for technology in a small law firm. Many of these solutions will also work well for small businesses.

One of the most expensive aspects of maintaining an office network is the need for IT personnel. The process goes something like this. Lawyer buys computer. Lawyer cannot work computer. Lawyer asks an IT guy how to work the computer. IT guy gets computer working, and suggests other things the Lawyer needs. Lawyer, not wanting to look stupid, agrees and gives IT guy carte blanche. IT guy sets up network with servers running Linux, connecting Mac and Windows computers together with printers and scanners. IT guy also sets Lawyer up so he can host his own website and email on his own servers, and even installs Citrix so Lawyer can work from home. After writing a check for thousands of dollars, Lawyer thanks IT guy and gets to work. Three hours later, Lawyer can no longer access the internet, his copier will not copy, and he cannot receive his email on his BlackBerry. Panicked, Lawyer hires IT guy to maintain this network.

It does not need to be like this. Over the past decade, most of the services small business depend upon no longer require a local server. Get rid of the server and you can limit the need for IT support staff. Need to share documents? Check out DropBox (www.dropbox.com). Need access your computer remotely? Give LogMeIn a try (www.logmein.com). Need to have email that is accessible through iPhones, Android phones, and BlackBerry? Look at Google Apps (www.google.com/apps). Now, these services are not fool proof, and it is probably a good idea to have an IT professional set everything up, but at the end of the day, there are solutions out there that are significantly more reliable than any in-house setup.

Don’t worry, we are just getting started. When we are finished, you will be able to see how technology can actually be an asset to your office, and not simply something you need to live with.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice from The Eichner Law Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this blog should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.