Legal trends

2023 Buying Guide to Best Laptops to Buy for Your Law Firm

updated October 24, 2022

What to look for when choosing the best laptop for lawyers

Which laptop is best for professional work? What to look for when evaluating your law firm’s technology

When buying new laptops for your law firm, there are so many choices, it’s hard to know where to begin. Spending to increase productivity within your law firm is a sound investment, but you want to make sure you purchase the right hardware – and not over or under purchase. 

In this post, we give you some suggestions of actual laptops we like so that you can just cut to the chase. We ALSO geek out and provide some very technical specifications of what you should look for in a laptop. (Law students, pay attention)

What are the benefits of a laptop for lawyers?

Having the flexibility of bringing your computer with you wherever you go is the obvious benefit. But what if you don’t enjoy using a laptop everyday? Do you need to buy another computer?

How to Optimize Your Laptop in your Office

LeanLaw suggests that you buy an external mouse, keyboard and an additional monitor or two. This way, you can setup your laptop as if it were a desktop and have the luxury of a larger keyboard and monitors. This is an affordable hack so that you don’t have to purchase two computers.

LeanLaw Recommended Laptops

There are really only two brands to consider in the Windows field, Dell and Lenovo.  HP, Acer, Asus, and others make great machines, but Dell and Lenovo are the proven best sellers and performers.  This isn’t just on hardware but also considers customer support, form factor, and other factors that impact your user experience; here are my picks.

Quick Notes on the Process of Buying a Laptop:

Even if you buy your laptop on Amazon or somewhere else online, it is a best practice to understand how these machines feel before you purchase. Go to a big box store or to the Apple store: feel the keyboard, pick the machine up and see how much it weighs. Look at the screen. Do you like what you see? Which operating system do you prefer to use: Apple (Mac) or Microsoft?

Think about what is important to you about the physicality and durability of the laptop.

  • Does it have the connectivity you are looking for? The right ports (HDMI, thunderbolt, how many USB ports?)
  • Does it include a webcam?
  • Are you looking for a backlit keyboard?
  • Does it have integrated bluetooth or is that an aftermarket purchase?
  • How important is the screen? Do you want a Retina display so your eyes can’t detect individual pixels at a normal viewing distance? Is that important for viewing your documents?

Dell XPS 13″ or 15″ 

We have experience with both the 13″ and 15″, which are both great. The form factors feel smooth and modern, the keyboard is comfortable, and the screen image is terrific.  The 15-inch is bigger and great if it is your primary machine, but it adds size and weight if you are traveling a lot. The 13″ will initially feel small, but you will acclimate to its size.

Battery life is adequate, but it will never perform as marketed.  Most don’t. The 13″ is a great size to work with on an airplane. You won’t feel cramped.  The 15″ is much better as a secondary machine around the house and for occasional travel. 

You may think you want the 17″, but keep in mind it is large.  If you need a larger screen, buy an extra monitor and hook it up to your 13″ up to for a two-screen experience.

Alternative:  Dell Latitude.  Great business-grade machines.  Not very sexy, but practical and well built.  

Lenovo 

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 series. The 10th generation is the newest, but there isn’t anything wrong with the 9th generation, and those will be better deals.  I really like the 14″ screen, as it is a nice compromise between the larger feeling 15″ and the smaller 13″.  The form factor feels a little “plastically,” but that is trivial compared to the performance and batter.  In my opinion, the Dell has a better screen, but the Carbon is perfectly acceptable and will work well for document generation. The carbon series has been historically great.  They don’t feel as fancy as the Dell, but they are super light and have a professional feel to them. If you know the Carbon, then you know the silly red mouse/joystick. 

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air

Both are amazing machines.  The MacBook Air is the smaller, more portable machine.  It’s 13″ and weighs nothing.  It has (according to Apple) 18 hours of battery life and a beautiful screen.  The Apple MacBook Pro comes in 13″, 14″, or 15″.

The MacBook Pro will be heavier and have more high-end components.  It’s also more configurable. If you seek light, a secondary machine to have around the house and travel, the MacBook Air is perfect.  If you plan to use this as a primary machine, you may think of upgrading to the MacBook Pro.  Either will facilitate the daily grind of legal, but the Pro may be a better bet for longevity.

Technical specs: (the geeky stuff)

Processor: Don’t get too hung up on the processor as it is the least important of your components. You’ll want an 11th or 12th generation processor. Anything in these classes will be sufficient for your needs.

While an Intel Core i5 is pretty pedestrian, it isn’t an issue if it is coupled with more ram and a solid hard drive. Aim for an Intel Core i7 but compromise here, if your budget is tight. An Intel Core I9 is awesome, but you are mostly future-proofing here — meaning it will last longer.

RAM: This is your best dollar-for-dollar investment! You’re buying the RAM for future performance. RAM is what keeps all the apps on your computer active. Less RAM means more drain on other resources. Which means a slower running computer. 

Ideally, your laptop will have 32 gb ram. 16 gb ram can work, but the machine will age faster without an optimal amount of RAM f you don’t have a late model processor dedicated to graphics.

Don’t go under 16, and don’t overspend on 64 unless you want to future-proof.

Hard Drive: Only get a Solid State Drive (SSD). 512 gigs of SSD storage is a great number. You will feel scarcity issues with 256 gigs. Do not stress over storage unless you will have a ton of video content on the machine. Target 512 gigs; stretch to 1 gig if you have media. If it’s just legal documents, 512 is ample.

Screen Size and Quality.  Screen size and quality have become more important as we spend so much time on our machines.  It’s worth investing in a higher resolution.  You will actually notice the difference.  It isn’t essential, but a better resolution feels good. 

You don’t need to overspend and get an 8K screen but upgrade from the full HD 1920X1080 if it works with your budget.  LeanLaw recommends 32 gigs of RAM vs. an upgraded screen — priorities and budget.

Touch Screen: Given how we interact with our iPhone and iPads, a touch screen can be very handy. It isn’t displacing the keyboard, but rather, it is augmenting the mouse. Touch has been normalized and Windows is getting far more “app” minded. We have found that adding the additional interface really comes in handy. It’s a nice to have, not a need to have.

Beware of Under Investing in Technology in Your Mid-Size Law Firm

Video Card: Let go of the idea that you don’t need a graphics card (or, GPU) since you’re not editing video. Everything you interact with has animation and video. The system will siphon resources from other areas if you don’t have dedicated graphics. If this will also be your gaming laptop, a dedicated video card becomes more important. 

For your needs, the vendor isn’t that critical. AMD and NVIDIA are good brands. Also, you need to pay attention to the adapters relative to the inputs of your monitor. Most new video cards come with Display Port as the video adapter. This means that you would need a new monitor cable. Something like Display Port to DVI. Make sure you verify so that you can purchase the cable online vs. at a local store where they will gouge you on price.

Takeaways

You don’t want to over or underspend on your law firm (or law school) technology. Think about the lifetime of the laptop and by all means, go to a brick and mortar store and see how they feel. The best laptop for attorneys is the one that feels best to you and ticks off all of the features you need. Whether you’re buying a Mac or PC, your laptop is going to be with you every workday, so make sure you enjoy what you purchase.