Essential free software for your law practice

Issue January/February 2016 By Samuel A. Segal

Software is at the heart of any successful law practice. It is the engine that keeps the gears turning. For young lawyers, small firms and solo practitioners, cost is a large factor in deciding what software to use. There are many problems that are addressed with software, and if you know where to look, there are many free and fully functional programs to use. The following are some of the best free software that almost any law practice can use.


Piriform's CCleaner is a utility program that removes unneeded temporary files and data from your computer. With every web page you visit and email you download, your computer saves a bit of the data to your hard drive. Over time, this data accumulates, taking up ever-larger portions of your computer's memory. This makes your computer run slower, because it has to sort through this unneeded data to get to what you want.

CCleaner is the solution. It will delete these unnecessary leftover files to clear up space on your hard drive. This, in turn, will allow your computer to run faster like it did when it was newer. Running the program takes just a few minutes and can revive computers that have slowed down with age.

CCleaner can also be used to clean up your computer's registry. This will erase old and unneeded registry keys that slow performance and startup speed.

Neither removing old temporary files nor cleaning your computer's registry will affect your significant files in any way (client files, emails, contacts, etc.). You do not need to worry about accidentally deleting important files with CCleaner.

CCleaner can erase saved Internet passwords, however, so you will likely have to re-log into email accounts and other browser programs once it is done. Make sure you know your passwords.

CCleaner should be run about once per month for best results. A premium version is available, but not needed.

Download it at


AVG Free edition is a powerful anti-virus and anti-malware program to protect the security of your systems and files. The security of your client files and documents is paramount and you should not be lax in your computer protection. Using a program like AVG is a good first step. It provides virus and malware scanning features with automatic updates.

However, it also helps to know basic Internet safety. For instance, do not open attachments on emails that you do not recognize. Many hackers attempt to install malware on computers through fake "fax" emails that insist you have received a fax. If you do not recognize where the email came from, do not open the attachment. If you are unsure whether an attached file is a virus, you can right-click the file select "Scan with AVG" to see if it contains a virus or piece of malware.

Overall, you should be scanning your computers for viruses and malware at least monthly. This is the best way to ensure your electronic information, including confidential client files, is protected.

The best part of AVG is that the protection never expires. Many anti-virus programs come with a trial period, after which they will stop protecting you. AVG does not. There are also premium versions available, but these are generally unnecessary.

Download at is the closest thing to Photoshop a lawyer should ever need. It is a fully-functional image manipulator/editor. One problem I encounter regularly in my practice is forms being filled out incorrectly. is your solution. With client assent, you can use it to revise the forms to correct the information for submission.

A second problem I often encounter are documents that are too dark to print or fax. With, you can turn up the brightness on the image and erase unwanted streaks so that it transmits properly. is a souped-up version of the Paint programs built into most computers, and it easily eclipses them in terms of functionality. It is also relatively easy to use with its built-in Help database to learn how best to achieve your goals.

It should be noted that works with image files, so you will need a program like Adobe Acrobat that can convert documents to image files and back again.

Download at


SyncToy is a free Microsoft Windows application that makes file backups and synchronization fast and easy. It has multiple functions, but the one I will discuss here is Echo. Echoing allows you to pair to folders, such as a client folder in your work computer with a backup external hard drive. When run, SyncToy then checks both for changes and copies all of the changes from one into the other, making two identical copies of your folder in two places.

Creating backups of client and other vital digital files is a must in this legal age. SyncToy offers a free method of creating these backups without paying the expensive cloud storage and backup fees offered by many commercial competitors.