Lawyer Tech – Macbook

Walk into the average law school classroom, and you’ll likely find a mix of computing platforms. At the University of Louisville, some suggest that we are a little Mac heavy, but I think that the ratio of PC to Mac platform is fairly close to equal. While many have an opinion on which platform is preferable, particularly in the practice of law, in the end, the real question is whether or not the machine is actually helping you get the job done. 

I currently use a Macbook as my primary law school computer. For the specification nerds gurus out there, my Macbook is the late 2008 Aluminum Unibody model (MB466LL/A), with a few end user upgrades completed by me to keep this machine running competitively, even at nearly five years of age. In particular, I replaced the stock 2Gb of Ram with 4Gb, and replaced the 160GB hard disk drive with a 120GB SSD. Both upgrades were relatively easy to perform, and I am still quite pleased with the performance offered by this computer.

I’ve run every version of OSX since Tiger 10.4.8 on this machine. Some versions work better than others, but I’m currently running Mountain Lion 10.8.2. With the SSD, boot time is less than 30 seconds from a cold start, which is important when I want to get to work immediately. The nature of what applications one might need is really an individual determination, but I’ll break down which apps I use frequently.

Apps I love and use daily:

  • Mail – Apple’s default mail program more than adequately meets my needs. I manage five email accounts with ease.
  • Google Chrome – My default web browser, I like the peppy response, and the stability.
  • Messages – With the iMessages connectivity, as well as gchat and facebook chat, this handy application helps me stay connected for quick messages with friends and peers.
  • Day One – I love this journaling app. It has an iPad and iPhone app that allows you to keep one synced journal across all of my devices. Day One allows you to take a quick note with a quick hotkey combo, and allows for more robust journaling as well. It has a password feature, but many users are critical of its implementation. I’m the only one with access to my devices, and I secure each of my devices in such a way that the journal couldn’t be accessed by someone other than myself.
  • Dropbox – I tend to forget to carry a flash drive, so Dropbox has saved me more than once. From any internet connected computer, I have access to all the files I’ve saved on my Dropbox folder. The best feature is the automatic syncing between multiple devices, so I can open a draft brief on my laptop and finish it on my desktop at home. You start with 2GBs of free space but you can start with 2.5 just by clicking my link.
  • Alfred – Spotlight works for most things, but when it comes time to launch apps quickly, I prefer Alfred.
  • Pages – Apple’s Word Processing Application is great for creating beautiful documents, and works well between my Macbook and iPad.
  • Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac – Although Pages and Numbers now make it easier to work cross-platform, sometimes you just need guarantee that a file will work with a client or co-worker. For that, I keep Office installed.
  • VLC – Quicktime works for MP4s videos and AVIs. I prefer a more robust video viewer, and VLC has everything.
  • Twitter – I use the basic, bland, boring Twitter app because it has everything I want and nothing that I don’t. (Follow me on twitter – @bstrunk )
  • Skype – For video chatting.
  • TeamViewer – I occasionally offer remote tech support to close friends, and this application allows me to connect to the other computer and offer quick support.

Check back for future LawyerTech posts, as I detail what apps will be useful on an iPad and an iPhone. Eventually, I’ll even detail how to make these devices maximize your productivity.