In a paperless practice, screen size is critical. Don’t skimp on the screen real estate. You have two choices: jumbo monitors or multi-monitor setups. I’ve opted for the jumbo monitor. Here’s why:

Multi-monitors are great for segregating programs to different screens. They look very cool. But if you are reading this, you are an attorney, not a day-trader. You will spend the majority of your time at your computer doing two things: reading and writing. Most of what you do falls in one of those two categories. And for those purposes, jumbo monitors excel.

But Aren’t Jumbo Monitors Expensive?

By jumbo monitor, I mean 27″ or larger. There was a time where these monitors were prohibitively expensive. Not so now. Numerous jumbo monitors can be had in the sub $300 range. Are they going to be the equivalent in pixel glory of the Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display? Probably not. But they will do the job.

Aren’t Multiple Monitors Better?

Like I said, you are going to be spending most of your time reading and writing? You are a lawyer, it’s what you do. Whether you are reviewing contracts or medical records, researching, drafting pleadings or legal documents, you are mostly reading and writing. That is significant because most material you will read or write will be formatted (at least originally) to the standard 8.5″ x 11″.  Sure, you can scale down, but that is harder on the eyes. A typical dual monitor set up will consist of 2 20″ or 22″ monitors. That’s a lot of screen real estate. But despite that fact, you still can’t display a full size document without having to scroll.

As a trial lawyer, I spend a vast amount of time reviewing medical records. A large monitor allows me to have a full page medical record up on the screen side by side with a pleading or memo in Word. The same goes for depositions or any other written material.  In fact, I can usually increase the size to 125% of the original or more without having to scroll to see the entire page. This is an efficient way to view, edit and work with any kind of document. With smaller monitors you either have to reduce the size or you are constantly scrolling. That is not efficient.

Although the typical multiple monitor set up gives you a lots of screen real estate, the landscape orientation does not allow for full sized viewing of documents.  Some types of documents, like spread sheets, lend themselves to this set up. If you find yourself constantly working with spreadsheets, you may prefer the multi-monitor setup.

Multiple Desktops Offer Many of the Benefits of Multiple Monitors

Apple OSX offers  multiple desktop functionality on a single monitor with Mission Control. It allows you to assign applications to specific desktops, as if you had multiple monitors. You simply swipe to access the other desktops. You can set up 3, 4 or even more desktops. By assigning a keyboard shortcut you can view all the desktops at once and move windows and documents between desktops. There are certainly options for doing this within Windows.

Bigger is Better

My bottom line is this: In a paperless office you need to be able to do your primary work as efficiently and comfortably as possible. I believe a jumbo monitor set up is the best way to achieve that. You maximize your functionality in performing your primary tasks–creating and reviewing documents.

Of course, if a single jumbo monitor is great, you could always try two …

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lukeredpath/3428884858/