Back in 1985, when I started practicing law, a firm could distinguish itself by using high quality word processors to create documents. The firm I worked for had a state-of-the art Wang system. The documents that lawyers created looked spectacular when they were printed out (to a special room that housed the Wang equipment, and was protected by special cooling equipment).
The firm also had a room staffed with people who could make copies, and bind documents with comb-binders. There were no color printers back then, but I'm sure today the firm has a state-of the art color printer in the file room. I remember being in complete awe of that file room, and all of that fancy equipment. And back then that equipment was expensive.
Back then only large firms could afford to create fancy documents. Which is why clients were willing to pay those firms top dollar to handle their legal matters. But today clients are looking for value and pressuring firms to lower their cost. And today that fancy equipment is affordable by pretty much anyone.
Let me give you a few examples from my own practice.
I don't own a color printer. I could afford one, and actually owned one for awhile, but I found that I rarely printed to it and so the extra overhead, and occasional troubleshooting, didn't make sense. My 'letterhead' is a color logo that I automatically insert in the letters that I infrequently send. Most correspondence these days is by email. Still, I do occasionally need to send a letter.
The other day I had to send a demand letter for a client, which required me to create “impressive looking correspondence.” That is, you don't want to send a demand letter that makes your adversary's attorney think 'gee, this is lawyer seems to be practicing law out of his knapsack.' But, no color printer, so how can I create that 'big firm' appearance?
As it happens there is a FedEx Office store about 8 blocks from where I work, and obviously they have color printers (and lots of other fancy and expensive equipment). It would cost me about $1.00 to print my letter. That's fine, but I really don't want to take the time to traipse over there just to print out one letter. No problem.
Here's my solution: I 'print to PDF' from my computer (which is what I always do anyway because I keep all my outgoing correspondence in electronic form). Then, I upload the file to FedEx's online site, and direct the print job to go to the store close to my office. I can then pick it up later on when I'm doing errands in that area. FedEx notifies me by email when the document is ready, and the few times I have used this service the documents have been ready in less than an hour.
“Okay that's fine,” you say, “but what about large print jobs that need to be delivered to somewhere else?” Yes, big firms can afford courier services. Or their clients can, because those firms just pass the cost on to the client. Well, here again FedEx is the solution. It's free for anyone to get a FedEx account, and there is no monthly cost; you only pay for the shipping cost when you use the service.
So, let's say I had to send a large document production to opposing counsel and they wouldn't want an electronic version of the documents (large firms like paper!). I could upload the documents (cause I definitely am keeping everything in PDF form), or bring a disk to FedEx, if the file was too large to upload. Then I simply direct FedEx to ship the paper to the opposing counsel. If the documents need to be bound with card stock covers, FedEx can do that.
The point is: whoever receives my documents gets the same high quality presentation that a large law firm with vast resources would create (at probably greater expense). And I can 'create' those documents simply by engaging the services of a company that is highly expert in both the preparation and delivery of documents.
Sure I could afford to own a color printer. And I suppose I could print and bind my own documents. But why would I want to? I'd rather have someone do it for me, as long as it doesn't cost too much or take up too much of my time. And it turns out that's totally possible.
So, solo lawyers rejoice! You don't need expensive equipment, and you don't need staff to help you prepare great looking documents. Get a FedEx account and you can do what large firms do, at a lower cost, and without any hassles. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.