Steven A. Reisler, who spearheaded the Law of the Commons Seminar here in Seattle, and Elaine Y. L. Tsiang have a great article up about running an open source legal office over at law.com. The article is realist and post out both the positive aspects and the challenges here is a sample:
I am not a computer geek and, chances are, neither are you. I did not go with FOSS on my own, any more than I tell clients to try their own lawsuits or do their own brain surgery. Although loading Linux onto your computer is now close to “one-click,” the occasional glitch — particularly with laptops — can make you feel like a pro se litigant. Some companies, like EmperorLinux, sell laptops preloaded with FOSS. The other option (the one I chose) was simply to hire an expert — someone who knows what she is doing — to put together the right platform for me.
Now if you balk at the notion of paying for technical expertise then, my friend, you are in the wrong profession. Lawyers are like software programmers. Lawyers charge for our knowledge in running the legal code that runs our lives; programmers charge for their knowledge in running the digital code that runs our computers. The code for FOSS, like the law, is free; and, like the law, FOSS can be incomprehensible to the average layperson. What clients pay for is knowledge, expertise and experience about how to “hack” it and make it do what you want it to do. The cost of installing free and open source software was, for me, no more than the cost of proprietary software, but with the added benefit that the end product is cleaner, more reliable and more stable than the Brand X system that I used to use.