Law Firms and Linux?

As I was browsing the Backbone magazine that came with my Globe and Mail last week, I came across an article listing 10 tech-related pre-New Year resolutions (yes, it’s almost that time of year again…).

One of those resolutions (scroll down to #8) is to try running the open-source Linux operating system on your desktop PC. And before you ask, “Why would I ever want to do that”, they add that Whitelaw Twining, a medium-sized Vancouver law firm, has managed to reduce their hardware costs by 20% and their software maintenance costs by 30% after switching to Linux.

I have been experimenting with Linux myself recently, and over the next few weeks, will have some comments on the benefits and drawbacks of going with open-source software.

(For more details on Whitelaw Twining’s experience, here is another good article.)


  1. Evan, I love linux at the server level, but we’re still a ways away when it comes to running it as a desktop OS. WT’s implementation is a citrix solution, with linux simply running the emulation software. They’re still running Windows.

    What goes around comes around I suppose… This solution is very similar to the dumb terminals we ran 20 years ago.

  2. We at Davis LLP moved our website to a Linux platform earlier this year and we have been happy with the results. Our website connects with some of our other systems and automates a lot of business tasks that once took ages to perform.

    In a realated note, I also run Linux on the desktop at home. While I have run into a few challenges in the past I have been pleased with the level of stability on the system I run. Over the three years I have been using Linux at home I haven’t had to worry about viruses and constant upgrades nearly as much as my Windows and Mac friends. Be sure to run a “stable” version though, or you’ll have some of the same headaches.

  3. As a working librarian who has tried different distros on a “home machine”, one aspect of Linux that I’d like to see better automated is the downloading and installation of software apps – most of the instructions that I’ve found on the ‘net – and have sometimes tried to follow – seem to require a lot of Unix knowledge at the command-line level…
    I hope this conversation about exploring the potential of Linux continues on SLAW, because at its base, the concept of Open Source is fundamentally linked to the Linux paradigm.

  4. Pete: some Linux distros have great tools for installing software. So long as you stick to the distribution you will be fine, installing what I call “foreign” software (not bundled with the OS) can be more difficult though.

    The preferred distros generally come from the Debian/Ubuntu family of Linux. The easiest one out there is Linspire which has a “click and run” website interface to do the job.

    The RedHat’s and Suse’s of the world are much more difficult to manage installations because you can install one software package but it might require six more, so you often have to get each of those manually. This is an advantage to businesses, but not to home users. Good luck!

  5. My law office will open with Linux on the desktop and servers. There’s simply no point in spending bundles of money on software licenses and expensive hardware to run over sized operating systems. Using Linux in any office seems like a “no brainer” to me. I recommend you try PCLinuxOS.