If you are a recent law school grad, or a someone just starting out in a solo- or small firm practice, one of the challenges associated with opening a new office is obtaining the tools necessary to get the work done and compete. Costs are everywhere, from office space to Internet access and subscriptions for research services. Word processing and publishing software is a modest, but still significant component of the overall cost of getting the office up and running. This is one reason, though not the only one, why you may want to consider an “open source” solution.
If you choose a commercial, “off-the-shelf” suite of office software from a company such as Adobe or Microsoft, you will be getting the state-of-the art applications, for word processing, database, spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, as well as industry-specific modules or add-ons for affidavits, pleadings, motions, letters–all the “bells and whistles” that expedite and standardize work flow. You’ll pay from $350 to over $1,500 for these name brand software applications.
Or you can choose an “open source” based application.
One such suite of tools is Apache Open Office. Available at OpenOffice.org, the application suite comes fully equipped with Open Office Writer, a word processing application that has all of the functional capabilities of Microsoft Word for Windows, plus a more robust user interface. In addition to text-based work, the suite enables you to create PowerPoint-like presentations, databases, graphics and Excel-esque spreadsheets, just like the brand product does, but at no cost. The office suite is fully supported by Open Office cadre of open source programmers, as well as a very active user community.
In addition to the standard functional applications, the writing platform is augmented by dozens of legal-profession specific templates, available at no cost, for virtually every paper, form, notice, letter or other document generated by a law firm or sole practitioner.
All documents are fully compatible with Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite (FrameMaker, Acrobat, etc.) documents, and the documents you create can be saved in a broad array of formats, including Word, (.doc) Adobe Acrobat, (.pdf) plain- or rich-text, as well as in HTML or Hypertext Markup Language, for documents intended to be displayed on a website or otherwise delivered via the Internet. Furthermore, the applications fully support Content Management Systems (“CMS) that allow attorneys and legal writers to tag, inter-reference and reuse phrases, passages, or entire documents, to avoid redundant work effort. The suite also supports Cascading Style Sheets (“CSS”) for systematizing and standardizing the format and appearance of documents, presentations and web content.
Where cost effectiveness is the goal, in those cases where every penny counts, as it often does in the start-up phase of a new solo or small-office practice, using “open source” software applications is a good and painless way to economize, while still ensuring the most professional output for documents and web pages.
This article was written on behalf of Stokes Injury Lawyers featuring an Atlanta bicycle accident attorney defending you and your right to cycle after an accident.