Nerino J. Petro Jr. and Bryan M. Sims 2015-03-25 23:22:35
Going solo without breaking the bank. Starting a law practice is a challenge for any lawyer, even one with unlimited funds. Costs rapidly accumulate and being frugal is not a choice—it’s a necessity. The solutions for equipping a new office that we’ve outlined below will not be perfect for everyone and costs will vary, but the principles should get you well on your way. IF YOU HAVE A TIGHT BUDGET AROUND $1,000… Computer. I prefer buying a computer made for the business world, which usually means ordering one. The real benefit is the tech assistance, which often is on-site, next-businessday support. I am also a big proponent of using a laptop as a main computer because you’ll have the ability to work from a variety of locations. I aim to get a decent computer that costs no more than half of my budget. Printer and Scanner. To run a paperless office, you will need a printer and a scanner to get documents onto your computer, and a combination unit helps you stick within a limited budget. Look for something around $130 that prints and copies at about 27 pages per minute and includes automatic duplexing, as well as the ability to scan to file and scan to email. Software. If you are on a really tight budget, you might want to use the free Open Office or Google Apps (starting at $50 per year). However, the most common choice (and my choice) is Microsoft Office. Many companies give you the option to purchase the software when you buy a computer, or you can get an affordable one-year subscription to the cloud-based Office 365 Small Business Premium. Some sites, such as mychoicesoftware.com, offer great deals for Office Home and Business 2013. You also need software to handle PDFs. Adobe Acrobat is not affordable on this budget, so a possible choice is Nitro Pro 9, which has almost all the features of Acrobat Professional for significantly less money. Another option is Power PDF Advanced from Nuance, which is comparable to Acrobat XI Pro. Although it is possible to do all accounting and billing on paper or within Excel, both are far from ideal solutions. Fortunately, QuickBooks Online gives you invoicing and accounting capabilities in one place—and keeps us close to budget on the day we open. Backups. You should regularly back up data. I would start with using storage available from companies such as Dropbox, Spider Oak, and Box, which are free as long as you don’t exceed data limits. Is this setup the best available? Of course not—we had a tight budget. However, with these items, you can run a law office quite well and without any problems. Bryan Sims IF YOU HAVE A MID-RANGE BUDGET OF ABOUT $2,500… If you have a slightly larger budget, your options expand a little. My basic principles do not change; however, I can make some improvements. Computer. Definitely go for a little more power, such as a model with an Intel i5 3.1 GHz processer, Windows 8 Pro, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Plan to spend about $900. Printer and Scanner. On a larger budget, I recommend separate devices. For a printer, I would aim to get a monochrome laser printer that prints at 40 ppm, includes wireless and Ethernet connections and automatic duplexing, holds 300 sheets of paper, and costs around $180. For a scanner, I would go with a machine around $420 that works at 25 ppm, scans both sides of a page at the same time, and includes a copy of Adobe Acrobat X Standard. Software. I see no reason not to go with Office Home and Business 2013 or, if you prefer to not use Microsoft products, you can use WordPerfect. To handle your PDFs, consider Acrobat XI Pro—which has a few features, including redaction, PDF comparison, and form creation, that attorneys need—or the less expensive Nuance Power PDF Advanced. For accounting, I would likely go with QuickBooks Pro 2015 (check prices on Amazon) and a monthly subscription to cloud-based law-practicespecific software for time and billing functions (such as Clio, Rocket Matter, or MyCase). Backups and Security. For a local backup, an external hard drive will work fine, as well as a remote location to back up your data, such as MozyPro, Carbonite, and CrashPlan+ Unlimited. You should also have antivirus software. I choose the one that has the best balance of price and reviews, typically between $15 and $40. You should also protect your computer with encryption. I can use Microsoft’s Bit- Locker encryption (included with Windows 8.1 Pro) or another encryption product, such as Symantec Endpoint Encryption. Tablet. We have some cash left to spend on a tablet. I would likely get the 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (check for deals offered by online discount stores like overstock.com) and add a 32GB microSD card. If I wanted to save more money, I would go with a Google Nexus 7 32GB tablet or even consider the 16GB iPad Mini at walmart.com. Any of these choices give you a great device at a reasonable price. — Bryan Sims IF YOU HAVE A GENEROUS BUDGET OF ABOUT $5,000… Computer. I would start with a dedicated desktop machine around $800, like something with Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit, a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, and 802.11 and Bluetooth wireless capabilities. A wireless keyboard and mouse combo is a good choice, as are two monitors at around $130 each. You’ll need a dual-monitor stand that will make it easier to rotate them between portrait and landscape mode. Printer and Scanner. I agree on having separate devices. Something like the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 would work well. I’m going to go with an inkjet printer, as many models now cost no more than laser printers to operate. Plus, I like the ability to print in color. Look for something around $180 that can attach to a network or wireless device, has built-in duplex printing, and comes with two 250-sheet paper trays and a starter set and full replacement set of ink cartridges. Software. I will go with Office 365 Small Business Premium. I’m a long-time Acrobat user, but if I had to buy it new, I would upgrade and save by choosing Nitro Pro 9. I’ll opt for online products such as Clio for practice management and Xero for accounting or ActionStep, which includes accounting. I also like FileCenter because it works with both desktop and cloud-based storage. Backups and Security. I’ll opt for two of the new Transporter Sync devices and pair them with two STBV2000100 Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 3.0 external desktop hard drives. With one at the office and the other at home, I get backup and a private cloud with no ongoing monthly charges. I’m still going to want to back up my critical data online, so I will select CrashPlan because I like its ability to back up to external drives as well as continually do online backups of selected files. When McAfee LiveSafe subscription (which came with the computer purchase) expires after the first year, you can renew or use another product, such as Avast Internet Security or Norton Security. Because I opted for Windows 8.1 Pro, I can use Windows built-in BitLocker encryption. Laptop and Tablet. There are times when you need a laptop and times when you want something you can hold in one hand. Microsoft has the Surface Pro 3, which I think is a great product. On its own it is a 12- inch tablet; add a keyboard cover and it becomes an Ultrabook computer. Add a second power supply, an Inateck HB4005 USB 3 hub and Ethernet adapter, and a mini display port to VGA or DVI adapter. Since I opted for Office 365 Small Business Premium, I can install Office on up to five PCs or Macs at no additional cost. If I want a full PDF solution, I will add a second copy of Nitro Pro 9. Anti-virus software is required. Finally, while most software now comes via download, I will add a Samsung USB Ultra Portable External DVD Writer. Nerino Petro NERINO J. PETRO JR. is chief information officer for HolmstromKennedyPC in Rockford and Byron, Illinois. BRYAN M. SIMS is with the Sims Law Firm in Naperville, Illinois, concentrating in commercial litigation and civil appeals. Reprinted and edited with permission from Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, an official publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
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