Use of Macs gaining popularity in more solo and small law firms

By Maura Mazurowski
BridgeTower Media Newswires
RICHMOND, VA — After 10 years, support for Windows 7 is coming to an end.

The 8-10% of law firms using Macintosh computers by Apple will be unaffected. But on Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security and software updates for Windows 7. While computer users can continue running Windows 7 software, without updates devices will be at a greater risk for viruses and malware, Microsoft said in a press release.

“Now is the time to update to Windows 10,” Microsoft said.

Windows has been the preferred operating system for more than 80% of the computer world and for most law firms since Microsoft was founded in 1975.

But more solo and small firms are switching to Macs than ever before. In 2018, 14% and 9% of solo and small firms reported using Mac OS as their primary operating system, respectively. Though the increase is small, this is a step up from the 8% of solo and small firms combined using Mac OS in 2016, according to the American Bar Association’s TECHREPORT.

The ABA defines small firms as having between two to nine lawyers, a size range that Brett Burney is most familiar with. Based in Cincinnati, Burney has been working with lawyers who want to integrate Macs, iPhones and iPads into their practices since founding Burney Consultants in 2007.

“We find these small law firms have more flexibility on the kind of computers they get to use,” Burney said.

This “flexibility” usually stems from solo and small offices not having an IT department providing all of their software. Because of this, Burney said these firms have more leeway to choose their own devices.

Mike Maschke, CEO of Sensei Enterprises in Fairfax, said he only sees Macs in solo or small firms. However the larger firms he works with have been Windows-based “for decades.”

“We see Apple computers are more prevalent in the solo and small firms where you have younger attorneys branching out and starting their own firm right of law school,” Maschke said.

Burney said this is because young lawyers are usually more comfortable using Macs, which could be a contributing factor to the recent rise of Apple products in law firms.

There may be some truth to this idea. MBLM, a company that calls itself “The Brand Intimacy Agency,” conducted a study last year analyzing more than 54,000 brand evaluations from 6,000 consumers. They found that Apple has the strongest “emotional bond” with millennials, with Disney and YouTube as close runner-ups.

“Macs are what [young lawyers] grew up on… They don’t know any different,” Burney said.

Making a switch from one platform to the other can be challenging. After graduating from the University of Virginia law school in 2018, attorney Candice Lund­quist joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in California. She had used a Macbook Pro throughout college and law school but was given a Lenovo Sync Pad as her work computer.

Lundquist said she went through a “noticeable learning curve” when transitioning to a Windows device.

“It’s definitely less intuitive than Mac products,” Lundquist said. “There are a lot of features about filing your emails and scheduling your meetings that takes some training because it’s not what we’re used to.”

Lundquist said her firm of about 70 attorneys can opt for a MacBook over a Lenovo computer. However, most people choose the Windows device out of convenience.

“I don’t know of anybody who [chooses a MacBook] because our system is so entrenched with Windows,” Lundquist said. “Mac products aren’t compatible with our internal system, so they don’t appeal to most attorneys. We don’t have time to try and deal with that.”

Burney admits that switching to Macs isn’t the right move for all law firms. He suggests lawyers continue to use PCs if they run Windows-specific software, such as Time Matters, ProLaw or PC Law.

In many cases, it simply isn’t worth a firm’s time to learn how to use a Mac.

“If you have people who only know how to use Microsoft, then you’re going to have to use non-billable time and calculate if it’s worth it to learn everything,” Burney said.

But adjusting to Macs is often a more organic transition than lawyers think. Even though 90% of law firms use Windows, most lawyers use iPhones and other Apple products. In 2017, almost 75% of lawyers had iPhones, followed by 23% with Android devices and just over 2% with Blackberries or Microsoft phones, according to the ABA.

“Any law office that I go into – I don’t care how big or small – if they’re using Windows they absolutely are using iPhones and iPads too,” Burney said.

Lundquist said her entire office uses iPhones as their work phones. And although Sensei Enterprises is a “straight Windows environment,” Maschke said he uses a MacBook and an iPhone at home.

“That trend follows even with the lawyers,” Maschke said. “They all run Windows computers at work, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have Apple computers at home.”

Burney said “Mac-curious” lawyers often want to transition to Apple because they believe their products are more secure than Windows.

This is true to an extent. When hackers create a virus, they are more likely to target software that will affect the largest audience as possible. Since Microsoft dominates as the most popular operating system, malware is more likely to impact Windows users. Therefore the historical lack of malware targeting Apple systems is often linked to the company’s own lack of market share.

This is an example of “security by obscurity,” Burney said.

“If you were someone bent on creating a malicious code and you wanted to take over computers, would you write a virus for Windows or write something for Mac?” Burney said. “You would write something that would hit the most people as possible.”

The last time Windows users were on alert for hackers was in 2014, when Microsoft discontinued support for Windows XP. Customers – including many law firms – were made wary to hackers who may take advantage of computer users who had not updated to Windows 7.

Despite the increase of Macs in solo and small firms, Burney anticipates Apple’s growing popularity will be a “slow increase.”

“It takes a while for lawyers to be comfortable with something new,” Burney said. “It’s going to take a long time for this tide to change.”