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20% of you still use Windows XP: Why clients should fear you. Is Linux an option for lawyering?

According to Legally India’s monthly visitor stats, 19 per cent of our readers are still on Windows XP, and they (and their clients) could very well get into serious trouble 10 days from today.

If you haven’t yet heard, Microsoft, Windows’ creator, will pull the plug on Windows XP on 8 April 2014, more than 13 years after its release, meaning that there won’t be any more security updates coming your way.

Many are predicting that hackers will have a field day, and your and, much more importantly, your client’s privileged information could therefore be at serious risk.

In a story I wrote for Yahoo Originals today, I explain some of the risks (and alternatives).

In a nutshell, upgrading is an option, but buying a new Windows 7 or 8 licence for every one of your staff can get expensive (around Rs 7,000 for consumers, and while you can probably get some bulk corporate discounts from Microsoft, one law firm took Microsoft to the Competition Commission nearly four years ago, lost, and dragged them to the Supreme Court).

Upgrading to 7 or 8 also rather painful, and if you have to roll it out to dozens or hundreds of computers, you and your tech team may have weeks of testing and user headaches ahead. And, if your existing computers are a bit ancient, they might not run the newer Windows as well as they did XP.

Second option, is to buy new computers for everyone, after doing good backups. Also not cheap.

The reality is, that you seem to have very few choices other than that. Windows (and more importantly, Microsoft Office, and a number of other proprietary software such as some document comparison tools or billing software only available for Windows) are still the gold standard in the corporate environment and particularly in law firms.

Judges are doing it, could you?

Legally India recently asked lawyers on social media whether an option for corporate and litigation lawyers could be Linux – the free (open source) operating system that’s known for being ultra-secure but not very user-friendly (and uses a Penguin as its mascot). Here’s what they said. It has alternatives for Microsoft Office such as Libre Office and Open Office, which are also available for free.

Advocate Nandita Saikia, tweeting @nsaikia, is a rather unusual example of a tech-literate lawyer (having grown up with astro-physicists who used Unix in the 80s). She wrote: “I used Ubuntu [Linux] till quite recently. I used it for everything… Changed mainly [because] Open Office formatting didn't always look the same on Windows which, for me, was a major irritant. As was having to contend with blank looks all the time.

“For formatting, I've found Google Docs to be reasonably useless. [Microsoft] Word just works best because everyone uses it and it's a pretty safe bet that docs formatted on Word won't look bizarre to others.”

Manish (@jimanish), says is on Linux too and he and @_justice1 rightly add that most courts use it too. (The Supreme Court moved to Ubuntu in 2011, and a number of other government departments and courts have moved to Linux too for security and costs reasons).

However, while Saikia says she would recommend Linux to other lawyers, when asked whether she thinks law firms would try Linux, she notes: “Have found there's MUCH resistance to experimenting with anything new & the money isn't [very] relevant to many law firm lawyers...”

Indeed, that could be the biggest problem in migrating to an open source operating system for your office, alongside the need to train your staff and tech team (if you have one) in how to install and administer Linux.

Do you have any experience of doing legal work with Linux? Do you know any law firms that are using Linux? Or XP? Can it become the future standard in Indian law? Please leave a comment below

Ps: If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, do check out the Yahoo Originals story today, or ask away in the comments for some useful links on how to install Linux or anything else.

Pps: A grand total of 1.9 per cent of Legally India visitors are using Linux on their computers right now (excluding Android mobile devices, which technically are a version of Linux). And, for the record, 3 visitors last month were apparently still on Windows 98.

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