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Small Firm Startup: Hardware Wish List for 2015

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By William Peacock, Esq. on January 05, 2015 10:37 AM

We haven't done one of these in awhile: a big list of every tech-related item that would come in handy if you were to start a law firm in 2015. Today, we cover hardware -- laptops, monitors, printers, and more. Later this week, we'll tackle software and miscellaneous gadgets (including landline or VOIP phones!).

Think of this series as a wish list, for those of you on a budget. Or a checklist, if you're loaded.

Laptop

I still maintain that my MacBook Air is the best damn laptop I've ever used -- hands down. However, you might not want to go Mac, especially if the software your practice requires is Windows-only (a predicament a friend ran into when starting an estate-planning practice).

One more note (that I learned the hard way): MacBook Airs can't run two external displays unless you buy a ridiculously expensive Apple Thunderbolt monitor, so if you're going Mac and want a dual-display setup (something I would highly recommend), go for a MacBook Pro.

Finally, go for a laptop over a desktop. If you ever have to make a house call for a client, you'll thank me. Minimum specs to look for are:

  • A Core i5 processor (look for "Haswell" or "Broadwell" in the detailed specs), which should be enough to handle pretty much anything a normal law office would throw at it;
  • 4 GB of RAM;
  • A 128 GB Solid State Disc (SSD) Hard Drive (these are flash-based, which are way faster than traditional hard drives, but you do compromise on storage capacity); and
  • Screen size. This is a matter of preference, but I find my 13-inch MacBook to be the perfect compromise between usability and portability

Monitors

We've said way too much about monitors lately (seriously, read that piece before buying your next monitor), so here's the short version: Get two monitors, and 1080p is the bare minimum -- an even higher resolution will reduce instances of eye fatigue.

If, like me, you didn't consider ergonomics when snatching up two monitors on clearance, look on the back of your monitor to see if there are four holes in a square-shaped arrangement. If so, you can get a two-armed VESA monitor mount to raise them to eye level and tilt them upwards or downwards as needed.

Printers and Scanners

Again, we recently posted an in-depth piece on printer specs to look for, so we won't repeat it all. Get yourself an auto-duplexing multifunction monochrome laser printer with a two-sided ADF and fax (don't worry, that will all make sense after you read our printer guide), and always check the cost of refill ink before you buy that "bargain" printer.

As for scanners, most multifunction machines can scan documents adequately, but if you do a lot of scanning, and want the best possible machine for massive amounts of two-sided scans, we've heard nothing but great things about Fujitsu's SnapScan line of standalone scanners. They're pricey, they do nothing but scan documents, but if you're scanning thousands of pages of financial records, or double-sided checks, and you're sick of clogging up your printer's document feeder, it might be worth the investment.

Stay tuned for software, gadgets, and other miscellaneous stuff to invest in when you start your firm. And if you have a suggestion for a must-have, tweet us @FindLawLP.

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