Many happy with computerThis is the next post in my discussion on why attorneys and law firms should switch from Windows or Mac OS to a Linux-based operating system. My last article explained Linux to lawyers, hopefully in a way that wasn’t overly confusing or “techie.” I explained that law firms, who need to purchase new computers, can buy systems with Linux pre-loaded through companies such as System 76 and others. In my coming articles I’ll discuss the many, many, many (many) benefits to those who make the switch. I’m going to use this article to address what is probably the most obvious question – will law firms run into issues with compatibility or not being able to run certain software. Let’s get to it.

If you’re going to switch operating systems then, for obvious reasons, you want to do it with as little disruption to your practice as possible. Disruption leads to lower profits. Fortunately, in my humble opinion, attorneys should be able to make the switch to a Linux OS without much hassle. I’ll look at three things – setting up Linux with your current infrastructure, common software currently available for Linux, and alternatives to software packages which may not currently be available. I’ll then close out with why I believe that you can get the functionality you need from any OS and why Linux provides additional benefits on top of such functionality.

Law firms will be able to use much of their current infrastructure and software after switching to Linux

My primary computer is a Dell Inspiron laptop on which I typically run a flavor of Linux provided by Ubuntu. My machine is currently a “dual boot,” which means that when I start it up I get asked if I want to boot into Linux or Windows. One thing I very much notice is how much faster things are up, running, and usable when I boot into Ubuntu. We’ve all used Windows machines where you feel like you have time to go get lunch while you’re waiting for things to be fully running. On my machine I can attest that Ubuntu is noticeably faster than Microsoft’s operating system.

Our office is a shared suite. As with many law firms, everyone in the building shares a conference room, mail area, etc. Our building also has a shared large scale printer/copier which is similar to what is used in many law offices. My Linux PC connected to it and was able to print right away without any issues. There were actually fewer steps involved in connecting my Linux box to the printer than there were with Windows. The scanner doesn’t have an option for scanning straight to a particular computer, as some do. Instead it sends a scan to our email. In short, we have the exact same functionality with the office printer on a Linux machine as we do on Windows. As far as home goes, I have an HP Office Jet all-in-one. Without installing any software, my Linux box connected to and it was both printing and scanning with no problems.

Many software items which law firms currently use are available on Linux. These include the Chrome and Firefox browsers as well as the sync client for Dropbox which many law firms use to share files between computers. If you store your files in Google Drive instead, as we do, then an application called Inysnc shares files between computers just as if you were using the Drive client from Google. In other words, you won’t have to switch browsers or file storage systems by switching over to Linux. If you’re still using Microsoft Office then 1) you’re out of date and 2) Linux runs perfectly with LibreOffice. We have no compatibility problems when opening Word documents in LibreOffice. Also, LibreOffice allows you to save any documents in Word format by default. In other words, this free of charge open source software is a great replacement for Micorsoft’s overpriced option. It also works well with Word formatted legal pleadings. Finally, Linux has plenty of options for attorneys who are still married to Microsoft’s Outlook software (although, if you’re still using Outlook then I’m assuming that you drive a car with a cassette deck and that you’re waiting for VHS tapes to make a comeback).

Much of the software used in today’s law firms is actually OS agnostic due to the fact that it runs in the cloud. I’ve previously written on why attorneys should be using G Suite to power their email, calendaring, word processing, etc. That software runs one-hundred percent in the browser and is not impacted by your choice of operating systems. This is also true for many of the popular “case management” and billing options such as Mycase. Furthermore, when you consider that there are web-based options such as Quickbooks Online, as well as others, then you quickly realize that most of your computing can be done in the browser anyway. This means, again, that using Linux will allow you to use the same applications which you should be using on Windows.

Using Linux provides law firms with many benefits and few (if any) drawbacks

Let’s face it. The “cloud” is not new at this point. Most computing tasks have been completed in the browser for the better part of a decade and, in terms of functionality, one’s choice of operating systems really hasn’t mattered since the days of Windows XP. If you’re set up in a way that’s not software agnostic then you’re likely operating an inefficient practice which is bleeding money due to technological inefficiencies. Switching from Windows or a Mac to a Linux based operating system shouldn’t be a problem for most law firms in terms of functionality.

Switching to Linux will provide lawyers with a great number of benefits. These include much, much, much, much (much) better law firm security, the elimination of many software costs (such as those associated with Microsoft Office), and much lower lifetime costs associated with the ownership of a computer. These benefits lead to higher profits. I’ll discuss why Linux provides these benefits in my coming articles.

Have you considered using Linux in your law firm? Please chime in through the comment form below.