Most trusts-and-estates practices are devoted to the Windows operating system and related networking. The recent popularity of Apple products, however, may make you wonder whether Apple's Mac might offer some superior capabilities in a trusts-and-estates practice environment.
The Mac definitely has its advantages. It offers a stable operating system, an attractive interface that enhances the computer operating experience, simplicity of hardware installation, a wide variety of portable and desktop machines, built-in software and hardware for video work and a growing list of law practice applications.
The Operating System
The Mac Operating System (OS X, currently available in a version called "Tiger") is built on a uniplexed information and reporting system (UNIX) foundation. What that means for you: If an application crashes, the system does not. For Apple's take on this, see "Why you'll love a Mac." The UNIX base also helps safeguard the Mac against viruses and spyware. Although most viruses are not capable of working on a Mac, there is a greater likelihood that writers of malicious viruses will pay more attention to Macs as Macs grow in popularity. MacWorld suggests installing antiviral software on the Mac and discusses some of the product options available.
Another plus is that the Mac OS is integrated with the computer's hardware and is not bound by the legacy needs of hardware manufacturers. Because both the machine and the OS are manufactured and designed under one roof, troublespots can be identified and eliminated. For the user, this means less time troubleshooting and more time working. This is not to say that the Mac is trouble-free. It can be prone to Internet connectivity problems, particularly with wireless networks through the Airport connection.
Despite Mac's pros and cons, many claim that Mac OS X is the operating system that Microsoft wants Vista to be. For a detailed comparison of Windows Vista and the OS X, see "Vista vs Apple," PC PRO (June 5, 2006).
Little Things Mean a Lot
Many little aggravations are just not part of the Mac experience. For example, Apple machines come with most necessary drivers for peripherals. In the PC world, you often have to install a driver for your new hard drive or printer before using it.
The Mac equivalent of Windows Explorer (the Windows interface for accessing the filing system), called "Finder," has a view option that makes it easy to see the directory structure and the path in the file hierarchy. Mac's "Spotlight" is a very powerful search feature that helps you search through a multitude of things -- from files to emails, as well as contacts and calendar events.
The Mac works well right out of the box (see "Awesome out of the box") and requires no tweaking or adjustments to get you started. The interior of the Mac tower has an appealing modular design and extra cable ports on the front of the tower for easy access. If you are switching from a PC and live in a city with an Apple store, the store likely will transfer your programs, data and documents for you and get you ready to roll. Another plus: the interface, called Aqua, looks great. It is clean and easy to navigate. Ironically, many people think it is more difficult at first, only to exclaim later, "Oh I see. It's too easy!"
The iLife programs that are bundled into every Mac -- like iMovie, iDvd, GarageBand and iPhoto -- are fun and easy to learn and use. These creative programs quickly find a place in your work for depositions, personally produced podcasts and courtroom presentations (and even group presentations in the trusts-and-estates context.) Mac hardware built-ins include a video camera for conferencing (on the laptops and the iMac -- a video camera may be added to other Macs) and a remote control that can be used for playing DVDs or running slideshows in iPhoto or Keynote (an Apple program, similar to PowerPoint.) The Mac also has a built-in capability to render PDF files, while the PC requires third-party software to create and manipulate PDFs.
Legal Software for the Mac
Microsoft Office applications are available for the Mac. All documents created in Office on either Windows or the Mac are readable and writeable on either platform.
There are many legal applications developed for the Mac, such as billing software (Lawstream, Billings and Brief Accounting), case management software (Daylite) and courtroom software (VISYNC). Circus Ponies Notebook is software for notetaking and basic organization of information and processing ideas. Timeline charts can be created with Bee Docs' Timeline. Optical character recognition software for scanning documents for the Mac includes ReadIris Pro II. Many law-related software applications for the Mac are listed on the Apple website. Other law office applications are described on the MacAttorney website.
If you are bound to Windows applications, it is possible to run Windows simultaneously, or separately, on Apple machines built with Intel processors, which Apple began using in 2006. There are currently two options for this scenario. You can try BootCamp from Apple, which is available in a beta version. The newest OS X release, called Leopard, is coming in October and will include BootCamp. The other option is the third-party Parallels software. With BootCamp you must reboot to switch platforms. With Parallels, you can run both operating systems simultaneously. When running Windows on the Mac, Windows must be purchased and installed separately. Also keep in mind that the computer would become vulnerable to viruses to the same extent as a PC. For more on running Windows on a Mac, see "Dual Identities" at The Macintosh Guild website.
Mac Resources for Lawyers
There are many online resources geared specifically for lawyers using Macs. MacLaw Online is an email discussion group for legal professionals using Macs in their practices. The Mac Lawyer.com provides discussions of operation of the Mac (see "The Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Mac Safe on the Internet" for a discussion of Internet security) in the practice of law and publishes The Mac Lawyer email newsletter. There is also a Google Group called Macs In Law Offices (MILO) requires that you apply for membership on the web page. Apple maintains a web page for law office applications for the Mac at www.apple.com/business/solutions/legal.html, which discusses hardware selection and law practice software.
For stories of law firms that have switched from Windows to the Mac, see David Levy, "Small Practice, Big Presence" and "Swim With the Big Fish," emphasizing the Mac's time-saving abilities and the "unleashing of creativity" in a Mac-centric law office. Smaller law offices may find it more feasible to experiment with the Mac. But the Mac may be a useful addition to a law office of any size for work with graphic-based presentations and demonstrative evidence exhibits. The ability to mount both Windows and the Mac OS on one Mac machine should facilitate migration from Windows to the Mac. Obviously, an office firmly grounded in Windows would not be eager to convert to Macs wholesale, but specialized use of individual Macs may both facilitate graphics work (for example) and offer insight into the things the Mac has to offer on a wider scale.
iPod and iPhone
Your kids aren't the only ones to benefit from Apple's ubiquitous little white music players. iPods also can be used for continuing legal education. You can buy them from the American Bar Association Center for Continuing Legal Education (ABA-CLE) preloaded for Business, Antitrust, Employment Law, Estate Planning, Family Law, Practice Management and Tax Law. You also can purchase additional CLE programs for download and subscribe to monthly podcasts. A podcast is a pre-recorded digital "show" that can be downloaded and played on your computer (using iTunes) or a player like the iPod. Podcasts of ABA books, such as Wilmington Trust's 2007 Future Vision of Estate Planning, are available from Leimberg Information Services Inc.
Anyone can make a podcast. To learn more about this capability, including the use of the GarageBand software, see Apple's GarageBand Support, "Working with Podcasts" and Cyrus Farivar's "Start your own Podcast," MacWorld (April 22, 2005).
While entertaining the possibility of joining the Mac world, you may wonder if your handheld organizer or cell phone can work with a Mac. There is a growing list of cell phones and PDAs that are compatible with the Mac and its bundled-in iSync program. This program can synchronize the information on your handheld device with your computer. If you are in the market for a new phone and organizer, you might consider the new iPhone by Apple. It incorporates conferencing, email, calendar and full Internet access, along with the usual iPod capabilities for music, photos and video.
Maybe there is something to all the Mac hype. At least this article should give you a peek through the window (no pun intended), so you can see what the Mac offers.
* Brenda A. Kelley is a freelance photographer and digital coach. She lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where she teaches Photoshop, as well as the Mac, to people who are learning to shoot, adjust and print their photos.
Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley -- a respected connoisseur of software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.
Donald H. Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of Intuitive Estate Planner Software (Thomson - West 2004). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel. He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at email@example.com.