Macs are becoming an increasingly popular choice for legal offices looking to reduce costs and improve the security and reliability of their employee’s PCs. While most of the software legal professionals rely on today is available on both Mac and PCs, there are still a few notable gaps. For one, you may have already experienced the headache caused by the fact that there is no Essential Forms for Mac.

While it’s technically possible to run Essential Forms on Mac, there are five big problems you’ll likely encounter.

In this post, I’ll cover:

  • Why Essential Forms is still PC-only.
  • Outline a few issues you’ll run into when trying to run Essential Forms on a Mac.
  • Helpful suggestions and workarounds.

Why is there no version of Essential Forms for Mac?

Without getting too technical, let’s dive into the specific reasons why Essential Forms isn’t supported on Mac or available on your web browser.

It all comes down to how the software was originally designed. To provide a truly cross-platform solution, CEB would have to rewrite the entire Essential Forms code base and reconfigure their process for maintaining and updating legal documents. What makes this transition even more difficult (and less likely to ever occur in the future): CEB would have to retrain their entire customer base on the new interface and delivery mechanism.

With a cloud-based application, you avoid all of these current and future headaches. The Lawyaw cloud-based solution works “over-the-air,” so you never have to update your software or worry if your document workflow will break when Microsoft releases a new version of Windows or Apple comes out with a new edition of macOS.

As a legal professional, you shouldn’t have to worry about software compatibility issues or spend any time thinking about the impact of future changes in the PC industry. The job of software is to figure that stuff out for you, so you can do what you do best. Next, I’ll cover a few of the common complaints I hear from legal professionals using non-cloud based software solutions like Essential Forms.

5 reasons why running Essential Forms on a Mac = 1 big headache

Problem 1: Installation.

Shortly after high-speed internet access became the norm in workplaces around the country, most professions eventually turned to cloud-based software solutions for reasons of convenience, security, and reliability.

One of the most popular software solutions for legal professionals, Essential Forms, is still only available on a CD-ROM. And as you probably know, none of the computers Apple currently sells come with a built-in CD-ROM reader. Sure, you can buy an external CD-ROM drive and hook it up to your Mac via USB, but that seems like an unnecessary cost (Apple sells one for $79) for a piece of hardware you’ll only use a few times a year.

It also means that in most cases, you have to wait up to six months for a forms update, when CEB ships you a new CD-ROM in the mail. Cloud-based software like Lawyaw is automatically updated on an ongoing basis and never requires you to install a new piece of software. All you need is a web browser and access to the internet.

Problem 2: Running the software.

Ever since 2006 when the first Intel-based Macs were released, Apple users have been able to run the full version of the Windows operating system on their iMacs and MacBooks. It’s not exactly a frictionless experience, but it gets the job done.

An important note: Both Parallels and BootCamp require their own Windows license— a separate ($199) purchase per machine.

Although it’s not the most elegant solution, Apple includes a way for Mac users to run Windows software right out-of-the-box with Boot Camp. The benefit of this approach is that it’s free to use (after you purchase a Windows license).

The downside: Every time you want to run a Windows application like Essential Forms, you have to log out of your Mac and restart into Windows. This not only adds time to your document creation workflow, but it also makes it more difficult to share files between your standard Mac documents and applications and those you need to run on Windows.

Another way to run Windows legal software like Essential Forms on a Mac is with a virtual machine application, a separate product that lets you run Windows apps right on your Mac desktop, without restarting your Mac.

Parallels is one of the most popular choices, but a subscription to the product will set you back $100 every year. Don’t get me wrong: Parallels is an excellent piece of software and lets your trusty Mac run pretty much any program ever built. But it does require a bit more training and expense to your legal document workflow.

Problem 3: Essential Forms for Mac isn’t officially supported by CEB.

The CEB’s FAQ section on their website directly address the issue of Mac support:

”Essential Forms will not run in the Macintosh operating system. Some customers use programs such as Parallels or Boot Camp to run Essential Forms on their Macintosh, but this is not supported by CEB.”

That means if you need any help troubleshooting your Essential Forms account or run into unforeseen compatibility issues, you likely won’t be able to use CEB’s customer support. This might not be a deal-breaker for you, but is an important point to consider if your office relies on Essential Forms.

Fortunately, cloud-based legal drafting software like Lawyaw only has one system requirement: a web browser. So if you primarily use your work PC to edit documents but occasionally use a Mac, you can seamlessly pick up where you left off with Lawyaw.

Problem 4: Syncing your data.

While Essential Forms can be run on a local PC network, it doesn’t support cloud-based drafting, editing, or sharing of legal documents. In practice, this means you must be in the physical office on a Windows PC to work on your Judicial Council form related matters or rely on third-party services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive to sync your documents in the cloud.

This makes it much more difficult to access your documents on-the-fly, or get some extra work done while traveling for business—not to mention the task of keeping track of different versions and revisions of your documents as you circulate them within your organization.

Here’s what it takes to use Essential Forms with a third-party cloud-based storage service:

    1. Signup for a free Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive account
    2. Assess your storage needs, and decide if you need to upgrade to a paid account (you can always make this decision later, too)
    3. Download and install the software provided by your cloud storage provider
    4. As part of the installation process, a new folder will be created on your computer’s hard drive. Let’s call this your sync folder
    5. To locate the sync folder on your Mac, open the Finder. Then press ⌘ + shift + H to open the Home folder. This is where you’ll find your sync folder, usually named after the service you chose (i.e., Dropbox, or Google Drive.)
    6. Any document or folder you place in the sync folder will automatically copy over to your cloud account. As long as you have an active internet connection, the folders will remain in sync.

Here are a couple of additional helpful tips:

      • Make sure you keep your folders organized. We suggest organizing your documents by client and matter, so you can quickly locate the right document in the future.
      • Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t easily support collaboration, since there’s no easy way to see who’s actively working on a given document. We suggest you implement a “check-in” and “check-out” policy for your forms and keep the lines of communication open, so you don’t accidentally create duplicate work.

Another important note: relying on a third-party cloud storage provider also means you’ll incur an additional cost. While Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive offer free tiers, you’ll likely have to pony up some additional funds to upgrade your account to more storage.

Of course, you can save yourself time and additional hassle by using a cloud-based solution like Lawyaw. I wrote a more extensive piece about the benefits of cloud-based Judicial Council form software in this blog post.

Problem 5: If it’s harder to use, it’ll be used less.

It’s a truism in software and life: If something is difficult to do, it will be done less.

When it comes to time-saving legal drafting software, this should be one of your top concerns. If the software is too complicated for your employees to use, your investment in automation will never realize its full potential ROI. When using Essential Forms for Mac, you have the additional hassle and time investment required to install the software via CD-ROM, on every employee’s Mac, twice a year.

Then there’s the day-to-day experience of using the software. Lawyaw was designed to be so easy-to-use, it magically disappears into your workflow. Our legal document platform was built from the ground up to be easy to implement, learn, and maintain. In short: Lawyaw is pleasant to use, which means it will be used more.

The solution: Cross-platform, cloud-based form and document automation software.

Until Lawyaw, Mac-loving legal professionals in California had few places to turn to streamline Judicial Council form drafting. Lawyaw’s cloud-based software works seamlessly with Mac because all you need is an up-to-date web browser and an internet connection. It’s the modern way to draft and edit court forms and legal documents.