Running a Mac-Based Law firm: The Do It Yourself (DIY) Option
Let’s assume you’ve gone all Mac or plan to in the near future. Who’s going to take care of it and manage the technology for the firm? We love working with the Apple Business Teams but once the Macs pass through the glass doors, you’re on your own. Is it true you don’t need to do anything with Macs? That they just work? Can you do it all by yourself? Should you?
In this three-part series, you are going to discover the four types of technical support available to a Mac-based law firm, and the pros and cons of each. Some of my viewpoints will likely be seen as controversial, and I won’t hold back in sharing with you the real impact of decisions in regards to your options for IT support.
Why should you pay attention to what I have to say? I run GlobalMac IT, the only IT company in the world that invests 100% of our resources to supporting ONLY Mac-based law firms. It is the only thing we do and because of the method of service we provide, we’ve been able to create repeatable processes to allow firms to really leverage their IT and use it as a profit generator. We support law firms with as little as 5 users and all the way up 50, across North America and as far reaching as American Samoa. We’ve been around the block and have seen it all. More importantly, as I have grown this business, I have traversed all of the IT options we will be discussing and am intimately familiar with the pros and cons of each. My goal is to challenge some popular and misguided beliefs, and to educate you on the things you don’t know you don’t know. Many of these things are a threat to your sustainability and your business and are often underestimated. At the end of the series, you will find yourself more confident in being able to make an informed decision when looking for IT support for your Mac-based law firm.
The three-part series which will be followed by a webinar, covers the pros and cons of the following IT options:
- Outsource to an hourly consultant
- Managed Services
Today we are going to cover the most popular way solos and small firms use to manage their Macs: Do-It-Yourself. I commonly refer to this as “Wearing the IT Hat.” I define this as the person who is the primary go-to person for IT issues at their firm. This individual deals with the bulk of things related to technology and often prides themselves on the cost savings in being able to do it themselves. They often have an hourly IT person to call in dire situations. The real problem, however, is that the hidden costs of taking care of IT yourself far outweigh the perceived benefits. In the majority of cases it is easily costing these firms tens of thousands of dollars per year. Most people calculate the ‘perceived’ savings simply by looking at their P&L and seeing close to nothing on the line for IT services. The soft costs that in reality quickly eclipse the cost of paying for proper IT services are never factored in, much less even realized. See: The Hidden Cost of Handling Your Own Law Firm IT.
In Jurassic Park, after the dinosaurs escaped and were ripping people to shreds all over the island, Ian says: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In his introduction to my most recent book, Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation, Ben Stevens, Family Law Attorney and Publisher of The Mac Lawyer stated:
“Most attorneys still bill by the hour, so they undoubtedly understand that time is money. However, whether it’s pride, stubbornness, cheapness, or a combination of these, too many lawyers forget the time = money equation when it comes to running the business side of their practices. I hate to say that, but I say it because I believe it’s the truth. Why else would smart attorneys spend time trying (for free) to solve problems for which they are not trained, instead of hiring an expert to do so and spending those hours practicing law? When you look at it that way, it just doesn’t make sense, does it?”
I remember a decade ago, before I started being an Apple Consultant, how I spent close to 6 hours setting up port forwarding. In my naive days back then, I never thought about how much money I could have brought in if I worked on making calls and selling for 6 hours. It was a LOT more than what I would have paid to hire a consultant who could have done this in an hour. Not only did I spend 6 hours to get it to work the first time, but I repeatedly had to mess with it for it to keep working. Are you doing this? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Huh!? That stands for: What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. You might still be thinking, Macs are easy, I can take care of it all myself for my eight-user firm and I don’t need help from anyone. How would you explain to a client that your service differs from LegalZoom, where they can pay $200 for a will? I am guessing it would revolve around expertise and all the little things they could not think of or foresee using LegalZoom that would come back to haunt them. Same applies here. Mac OS X is indeed very intuitive and easy to use, I’m not here to say otherwise.
But there is a LOT below the surface that needs to be considered, planned and addressed, that goes far beyond just daily Mac usage:
- You need to be thinking about Mobile Device Management – how is the firm data stored on mobile devices secured and what policies do you have in place to regain control of firm data?
- You need think about your network security.
- How do you maximize the tools you are using?
- How often are security definitions updated on your router?
- Do you have a firewall that is properly configured on your network?
- Is your wireless network secure?
- Is your Guest wireless network properly configured (and secure)?
- How is all of your data backed up and is it encrypted as well?
- How is data being secured when employees leave? Got a plan for that?
- Backups? Email? File Management? VPN Access?
- And a whole lot more…
The biggest take away here is that your firm’s IT includes far more than just applying updates on your Mac and the role and state of your technology makes a giant impact on your firm’s profitability. Should the rainy day ever come when you need to prove before an Ethics Board whether you did your due diligence in protecting the Client-Attorney Privilege, you’ll be able to make your case. If you say you set everything up by yourself out of the box the best you could, it’ll be a tougher case to make.
In closing, I hope that I’ve challenged your belief about doing everything on your own. Where do you generate ROI and is your time well spent taking care of your IT. One last time: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Of course, I’m talking IT here, but this question applies to many things. Where are you spending your time?
And the other takeaway is that there is a lot more included when IT/Technology is discussed. There are many things that you don’t know you don’t know. The overwhelming majority of the law firms we support, when we first started, had many holes in their setups and in their security. They also had a lot of unnecessary bottlenecks that were costing their firm lots of lost productivity and there were many resources they already had but were not utilizing to their fullest and also many opportunities available to them they had not used. These are are things that are often unnoticed and therefore unused when managing your IT all by yourself.
In the next installment of this series, we will discuss the pros and cons of using an hourly IT consultant and how to work best with them to get the most value of that relationship.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tom Lambotte is CEO of GlobalMacIT, a company specializing in providing IT support to Mac-based law firms. Tom is the author of “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.” He is a popular speaker at national events such as ABA TECHSHOW and MILOfest, a Mac Lovin’ Lawyers Event. Twitter: @LegalMacIT.