|Starting a Law Firm - Basic Office Needs|
Basic Office Needs
Office equipment needs will vary greatly depending on the office setup you have chosen as in section IV. Office Space Considerations. A virtual or home office will have significantly different needs than a traditional firm.
Embracing technology is important for small firms as technology can level the playing field by allowing sole practitioners or small law firms to compete with much larger entities. From finding clients to processing documents, and even everyday tasks such as message management and scheduling—you can find applications, software, and services that do much of the heavy lifting for you
At the bare minimum, a new law firm will need the following:
2. Printer – Any office that runs even one PC needs a printer to create hard copies of electronic documents and files. Despite the promises of paperless offices in the future, that era has not yet arrived. All sorts of business documentation needs to be printed, whether the business is a product- or service-oriented industry. Examples of common office documents include invoices, packing slips, flyers, and letters. Printers can be used not just to generate transfer electronic files to paper but also to create composite documents containing digital information and scanned images.
3. Scanner – Whether you plan to go paperless or less paper, the scanner has become an indispensable piece of office equipment for anyone practicing law. Electronic copies of just about any document are now possible with the help of a scanner. A scanner copies can copy papers that were not created electronically and convert them into useable digital formats so that they can be modified and stored electronically.
Basic scanners should:
Take up very little space (easy to keep on a desk for quick access)
4. Max Machine/Service – Due to email and the expansion of the paperless environment, faxes are used less and less in the practice of law. You absolutely need a business fax number, which means you’ll want to compare the costs of an online fax service versus a traditional fax machine. The ISBA uses an online fax service because it makes sense in terms of cost savings and convenience. You should do what makes sense for your particular business needs.
Below is a comparison of the traditional fax machine with online services:
Review best Fax Services of 2017 – Via PC Magazine
5. Shredder – Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., one of the most important pieces of equipment for any office to own is a shredder. Tearing papers into bits by hand is not only time-consuming and tiring but is not always as effective as it needs to be. Shredders range from inexpensive units that fit over a wastebasket to large, heavy-duty machines that can destroy several pages at once; every firm needs to consider the needs of the office and take them into account when making a decision on which type of shredder to buy. The more rugged shredders can handle stapled papers and can also shred plastic credit cards and other such cards with identifying information on them.
6. Smart Phone – The ability to practice from anywhere is a must for today’s attorney, so having a smart phone is mandatory to provide the practice mobility needed. Few lawyers clock a typical 9-5 day, so you cannot afford to lose time waiting and a smart phone allows you to practice anywhere in a pinch.
7. Office Furniture – Depending on the setup and size of your practice you will need a variety of office furniture. Determine your furniture needs, considering the number of staff members, number of offices, file storage needs and meeting or conference rooms.
Even if you consider yourself a tech geek, you will want to find a local IT expert to assist you with getting your firm up and running and keep it running. Technology is changing rapidly and will become too time consuming for an attorney to maintain their office’s technology needs. Your time will be better spent practicing law rather than updating software.
1. Office Suite Software – Microsoft Office is currently leader in office productivity software offering both a Mac and a PC version. Other options include Google Docs, WordPerfect Office, IBM Connections Docs and Open Office, but you need to be comfortable with using these programs to convert documents back and forth to Microsoft format. Many of these office suite products are available as local install or as software as a service for a monthly fee as little as $9.99.
2. Adobe Acrobat Software – that allows users of different computer systems and software to convert and share documents to one another in portable document format (pdf) without changing how the original document looks. Acrobat Reader is a free program that allows you to read all pdf files, but you will need to invest in Acrobat Standard DC to take advantage of the many other benefits of Acrobat such as converting files to pdf, combining files, annotating files and much more.
3. Practice Management Software – Practice management software helps attorneys track all information relating to client matters, including contacts, calendaring, documents, and other specifics by facilitating automation in law practices. There are several you can choose from, depending on your firm’s needs. Do your research to determine which software package is best for you. Ask other lawyers you trust what system they use, how long they have used it, and what they like about it. Don’t forget to discuss what they dislike about their software.
Choosing the Right Practice Management Software provided by CLIO
4. Document Management Systems – Document management systems are electronic filing cabinets that provide a framework for organizing all digital and paper documents. A basic system will work with scanners, allow access via mobile devices, track edits, restrict access at various levels, monitor and record who is accessing, search system by keywords, and allow various document types. Document management systems can be a self-hosted or a cloud-based solution, you must determine which best fits your practice. Both version provide a robust array of functionality, but have significant differences.
Document Management Systems: A Buyer's Guide provided by Business News Daily
5. Document Automation Software – Many attorneys spend as much as 40% of their time creating documents, so implementation of a document automation software in your practice is a must. With document automation, you can standardize documents, reuse client information and access them from anywhere. You can think of document assembly as templates that can be used over and over. A good document automation system also allows the variable client data to be used over and over. Document automation software simply makes you more productive. There is a short list of services to consider: Hotdocs, Pathagoras, Epressdox, and TheFormTool.
The Iowa State Bar Association has provided a document automation software with more than 500 templates for the past 15 years. For more information about this program please visit http://www.iowadocs.net/
6. Backup Software is pretty simple: Make a copy of your files from your hard drive. Storage of these files can be on an external drive, a NAS, or by an online service. The value is being able to restore documents if lost due to a disaster or simple error of deleting or overwriting them. With a proper backup, you should be able to restore the files or the entire computer within minutes if not hours.
With improved internet access speeds and greater file compression online services have become the norm for the industry. These services eliminate the need to have onsite backup devices which need to be taken offsite daily to ensure the ability to restore in the event of a disaster. Online services can be purchased for as little as $50 annually depending on needs.
7. Security Suite Software – Security software helps protect your computer—and the personal information you have stored on it. Anytime you are connected to the Internet you are exposing your system to hackers and virus creators, whose intent is to cause harm to your computer or steal your data. How do you protect your computer system, keep your private information private, and your computer safe from hackers? You must employ a Security Software Suite. Security Suites offer a variety of protections, but at minimum your service should include the following protection:
The Best Security Suites of 2017, PC Magazine
8. High Speed Internet Connection – Every firm regardless of size will need a Broadband or High-Speed Internet. Your phone company, cable company and your wireless provider all have a variety of solutions for you to consider. The broadband technology you choose will depend on a number of factors. These may include whether you are located in an urban or rural area, how broadband Internet access is packaged with other services (such as voice telephone and home entertainment), price, and availability.