There have been several posts here about Linux in the law office, both as a server environment and as a workstation. My main concern with it on the desktop has always been the lack of native Linux applications that would be needed for lawyers, such as time and billing, financials, and case management. One solo attorney, who also blogs on small law office technology, posted about what he currently uses in the Linux environment. It is certainly worth a read, and his blog, www.solosmalltech.com, is in my blogroll. Feel free to check it out.
In a recent e-mail to me, he indicated that he eschews practice management software like Time Matters in favor of other apps for calendaring, to-dos, contact management and the like. In the Linux world, from what I have seen so far, there appear to be three alternatives:
- Native Linux apps (e.g. GNUCash for financials)
- Online applications (e.g. Freshbooks for financials)
- Running Windows applications through WINE on Linux (see my post on that)
Personally I believe option 1 to be the best, as it also promotes development of Linux (or multi-platform) apps, which can only help to strengthen Linux’s market share and make it a more attractive option overall.
As to option 2, I am skeptical of this because it makes you dependent upon an Internet connection to work, although it does have the added advantage of allowing to do work from anywhere (with a connection) using any OS you choose (Windows, Linux, Mac). It also makes you dependent upon the stability and security of a technology infrastructure that is outside of your control. This topic was the subject of a debate in August of last year on a blog site called The Inspired Solo run by Sheryl Sisk Schelin, a solo working in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In it, attorney William Paul Slough, who blogs on the Linux Law Office, takes the Pro Position, while Aaron Rittmaster, a Missouri attorney, takes the Con Position. Between these two articles, and their comments, the subject is covered very well.
Option 3 is a possibility as a stopgap until option 1 is viable, and, as Sam Glover of Solo Small Tech tells me, “Most practice/case management software is using pretty basic code . . . and will run perfectly in WINE.” I have been experimenting with Linux at home, and plan to test this assertion with Time Matters and my bankruptcy software (which uses the same database engine). A well-equipped Linux machine with WINE and some vertical market apps to complement OpenOffice, Firefox for browsing, and Thunderbird for e-mail, may just be the trick until option 1 becomes more viable. I will let you know what happens.