Apple Envy Redux: Using Macs In Your Law Firm

November 22, 2009  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I just finished reading through the materials for the presentation by Ben Stevens and David Sparks at the 2009 ABA Tech Show called “Got Apple Envy? Macs in a PC World.” It’s a great introduction to using Macs in any business, but with a special emphasis on the business of law.

Since I missed it the first time around (the tech show was in April), I thought I would add my input. What has changed since April? There’s new software, of course. And I also have seven months of additional experience to draw on. So here is what I would add to “Got Apple Envy?” given the chance.

Office Suites

Ben and David did a good job of laying out the office suite options. But there are plenty of good word processing options outside of the suites.

One of my favorites is Nisus Writer Pro. I love the interface. Nisus Writer Pro makes it very easy to work with styles. It’s much better than Pages’ combination of styles drawer and inspector.

I’ll also give a shout out to AbiWord. It has the advantage of being free. But the real reason it’s valuable is because it does a good job of opening Word Perfect files. The PC version of Microsoft Word can do this, but Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac OS X doesn’t appear to have this capability. So I keep a copy of AbiWord around for those occasional Word Perfect files (yes, firms still use Word Perfect).

Task Management

People using Entourage probably use its built-in task management tools. But anyone using Mail has to choose between iCal’s tiny capabilities and using a third-party solution. The good news is that there are plenty of good Mac applications for task management (aka Getting Things Done – GTD). My current favorite is The Hit List. But I have also used Omni Focus and Things at various times. I plan to make a final decision sometime in the next six months, but it’s difficult. They all have their strong points!


I have to disagree that Bento has limited usefulness for a law practice. For a hypothetical firm that has a large budget for database design (or purchase) and someone experienced in charge of processes? Yes, Bento has limited usefulness because it just isn’t very powerful.

But many firms are still using pen-and-paper or Excel spreadsheets to track client work. Bento could absolutely help these firms if someone with just a little knowledge helped them set something up. Bento would definitely be a step up for countless small firms.

Research Tools

Another category of software that might be useful to attorneys are the research tools. Applications like Yojimbo, DEVONthink, and Together come to mind. I don’t have much to say on these other than that I know they exist.

I have used each of them, but I just prefer keeping my research data in a folder hierarchy rather than a single application. Ok, there is one exception. I have taken a liking to Little Snapper. I find myself using it much more than Paparrazi.

Anything Else?

I’d love to expand on the existing topics into the other kinds of applications that I use. But I doubt that most attorneys enjoy dabbling in law / marketing / design / programming like I do. Still, if there is a category of application that you want an opinion on, all you have to do is ask.

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