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    Running a Mac-Based Law Firm: Managed Services Option


      In previous discussions of How to Run a Mac-Based Law Firm, we looked at the DIY and Hourly Consultant models.

      The third option of running a Mac-based law firm is the Managed Services model.

      Managed Services is the opposite of the reactive, hourly model. The biggest benefit is being able to budget IT costs and shifting the support approach from reactive to proactive. The majority of Managed Service offerings are offered in a tiered model, such as Bronze, Silver or Gold. Bronze, for example, provides only phone support, with Silver providing slightly more, etc.

      My company ceased providing hourly support when I realized the business model I built the company on (hourly support) was a break/fix model with many flaws. I would set up my clients or resolve their issues and then say, “call me when you need me.” I prided myself on my ability to resolve issues promptly and enjoyed working with my clients. However, there was always a subconscious voice in my head telling me I could prevent many of the reactive issues coming I dealt with. There had to be a better way. When I discovered the Managed Services model, I embraced it fully and we haven’t looked back.

      Law firms using Managed Services benefit from fewer problems, less downtime and far less unexpected issues. This pro-active approach takes the role of managing IT out of the firm and puts it into the hands of experts. At least that is the promise of Managed Service providers. Like any business, whether they deliver is another story. You must do your due diligence in choosing an IT company. See: What Every Attorney Must Know About Hiring An Honest, Competent, Responsive And Fairly Priced Apple Consultant.

      Managed Services provide a dramatic improvement over the options of DIY and hourly support. However, as our experience grew working with Managed Services, we saw some shortcomings with the tiered model of Managed Services. These insights led to the evolution of our current services. The tiered model means some things are included and others are not. Items such as Project work, training, after hours or emergency support, setting up new staff members, office moves, on-site support, for example, are rarely included, and therefore billed hourly. I found this tiered model often made clients feel they were being nickel and dimed. The overall impact of this model ends up hurting your firm in several ways.

      First, one of the big benefits of Managed Services is being able to budget your IT costs. But if project work is not included, how can you budget accurately? The biggest problem this leads to is the delay of important projects that would be beneficial to the firm. Because the cost is not in the budget, projects that are important but not urgent are often pushed off and delayed. This impacts the firm’s profits, assuming the new solution would have addressed a bottleneck in the firm or boosted productivity in some way. For example, we have seen many firms fail when trying to roll out technical solutions on their own. The data is often neither migrated not configured properly, and they don’t provide proper training. Ultimately, the staff does not buy into the solution and it fails after the firm spent a LOT of money trying to get it off the ground.

      Not knowing the level of support will cover an issue may deter your staff from calling the IT company, because they don’t want to rack up additional bills for the firm. This leads to small issues developing into bigger issues.

      A word of caution: Windows-based Managed Services Companies.

      Managed Services in the Apple World is a fairly new model, with less than 100 all-Mac Managed Service Providers in the nation. This means many Mac-based law firms looking for a proactive support option often only come across Windows-based Managed Service Providers who say they can support Macs.

      The number ONE issue with most Windows-centric Managed Service Providers supporting Macs is that it is financially impossible for a Windows-shop to provide the same level of support to Macs as they do to PCs. They cannot justify spending the same amount of resources on training, tools and support for the 5-10% of their computers that are Macs. Because of this you will not receive the same caliber of support provided to their PC users. In the majority of cases, when they say they can support Macs, they have one person who’s the “Mac expert.” When that person is out of the office, Mac-using clients are out of luck.

      Simply becoming Apple Certified does NOT make one an expert. It is a step in the right direction, however, there is still a long way to becoming proficient at supporting Macs. I have heard many stories where the client ended up knowing more about Macs than the support person they are speaking with! Talk about a horrible experience. If you are an all-Mac law firm, you need to do extra diligence if you are considering hiring on a Windows-centric IT company to support your firm. Not everyone out there is negligent in this area, but sadly I can say from experience that the majority are not able to fully support Macs.

      To find out more about these options and the 10 pillars of running a secure, productive Mac-based law firm, join our webinar: How to Run a Mac-Based Law Firm.

      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.

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