Office Equipment Essentials
I was dusting my office yesterday and realized that office equipment is a big question for people starting their firms. What do I need, what do I NEED, and what do I just want?
You can absolutely run your entire practice from a laptop, a printer, and a cell phone. If you have the laptop and use Google Voice, you don’t even need the phone. Eventually you’ll want to expand on the bare minimum, especially because those are business expenses, so here are my suggestions, in the order you should get them…
1. Fujitsu ScanSnap: $400-500
This is the piece of equipment I use the most, after the computer, the phone, and the printer. I run a (mostly) paperless office, so every piece of paper gets put through this little miracle machine. It scans multiple sheets at a time, can handle sheets of differing sizes at once, and scans both sides of each sheet. You can then have the resulting scan show up in a jpeg, a PDF, send it to your e-mail application, print it, or OCR (optical character recognition) it. It takes up very little space on my desk and I keep it within arm’s reach. Oh, and the best part is it comes with a FULL version of Adobe Acrobat. That’s worth the sticker price right there.
2. Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo: $80-100*
I don’t even want to think of how much of my life has been wasted struggling with sheet labels and aligning templates and running the same sheet through the printer multiple times, only to have it jam every single time. I do recommend the Twin Turbo because you can load one side with address labels and the other side with postage labels, so you can print your very own stamps. More on that later. Online merchants put these on sale pretty frequently, so keep an eye out. The rolls of labels aren’t cheap but they’re worth it considering how much wasted postage you’d use estimating overweight envelopes or standing in line at the post office.
3. Dymo Scale: $20-100*
To pair with your LabelWriter, get yourself a scale so you can weigh those envelopes. These scales range in complexity, but I went cheap and it’s been more than sufficient. The model I have even connects to your LabelWriter.
*To use these, get a free Dymo Stamps account. You load your account with money and it will deduct from your balance each time it prints a stamp. If you get the paid version of the software you can send certified letters. I’m *this close* to upgrading to save me having to go to the post office.
You can of course use a laptop or even (heaven forbid) a legal pad to take notes at client meetings, but I use my iPad. I don’t like using a laptop because I think putting a screen between the client and me contributes to the unease people feel around lawyers. It’s weird, I know, but it’s off-putting to me when someone in a meeting throws up a laptop screen and starts typing. Right now I use LocaytaNotes as the app because it syncs with Dropbox. I know everyone swears by EverNote but it did something weird to my files at one point in time and I haven’t gone back.
Hm, I thought this would be a much longer article. Apparently you don’t need a ton of office equipment to manage a law office. I’ve gotten by with a computer, a printer, a phone, and the first three things listed above for over four years now and have no real need for anything else. Technically the iPad was a gift so I’m not sure I’d have spent the money for that. Instead, I desperately want a MacBook Air, but that’s a WANT, not a NEED.