Written By Amelia Chew, LawTech.Asia

This article is part of the Legal Technology Manual, an initiative by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), and was first published here on 7 May 2018. Head over here for a list of articles contributed by LawTech.Asia members. 


Despite the trend of going paperless and storing documents in the cloud, printers remain an indispensable part of the law firm office today. Lawyers often have to print documents for the court and their clients. When choosing a suitable printer for your office, the decision boils down to what and how much you print, as well as what other non-printing functions is needed for your practice. This article will cover the following topics:

(a) Rental vs purchase

(b) Printing specifications

(c) Additional functions

A. RENTAL VS PURCHASE

There are several options for acquiring a printer: purchase, rental, or a hire purchase scheme.

Renting typically involves contractually paying for the printer on a monthly or per page basis for a minimum duration. The rental may include cost for toner and other consumables. This can be a good option for firms who do not wish to purchase a printer upfront but still wish to record their printing expenditure.

An alternative to renting or purchasing would be a hire purchase scheme. In the scheme, the vendor remains the legal owner of the goods until the hirer exercises the option to purchase the printer or pays the last instalment. This would also reduce the upfront payment required of the hirer.

Regardless of whether you rent or purchase your printer, it is crucial to consider whether the vendor provides reliable technical support services. Having access to a hotline whenever you run into malfunctions or other technical issues will ensure that your printer run smoothly.

B. PRINTING SPECIFICATIONS

These days, the printers available are typically multifunction printers (MFPs). These are essentially printers with incorporated additional functions, such as photocopying, scanning and faxing. In terms of the printing-related features of MFPs, common features include duplex printing, which allows for the printing of a sheet of paper on both sides automatically, and colour printing.

A key decision you would have to make is whether to opt for a laser or inkjet printer. A laser printer uses a toner cartridge filled with fine powder and a heated fuser while an inkjet printer uses liquid ink sprayed through microscopic nozzles onto the paper. Laser printers typically offer faster print speed and better print quality if you are printing black and white documents in large quantities.

Inkjet printers may be more suitable when high quality colour prints are required. This is because as inkjet printers typically use pigment-based ink that is more fade-resistant and work with a variety of paper types. Do note that inkjet prints may sometimes smudge when highlighter pens are used.

A possible arrangement would be to have a laser printer for printing in large quantities and a smaller inkjet printer for the occasion where you have more specific needs.

C. ADDITIONAL FUNCTIONS

As mentioned, MFPs typically offer additional functions:

1. Fax

Most MFPs come with a built-in fax option. However, online fax services, which allow you to send and receive faxes from your computer using either your own fax number or the one the service provides for you with the payment of a monthly subscription fee, are increasingly common. An online fax service allows you to receive faxes as PDF files that are easy to save or print. Thus, the fax function is no longer must-have feature to have in a printer.

2. Scanning

Apart from a copier function that most printers come equipped with, it is useful to have a function that digitises your print documents and sends the files to your computer. A useful feature for the scan function is an automatic document feeder, which allows multiple sheets of paper to be input without manually placing each piece of paper on the scanner.

3. Tracking and accounting

For law firms that charge printing costs to their clients, it is useful to have a cost accounting and tracking function. Such a function typically requires you to type in a client account ID or a billing code whenever you send a document for printing, so that each printing job is tagged to a particular client. This allows you to accurately charge the printing costs to the relevant client account.

As with any other device, when choosing a printer, it is important to select an option that meets both your personal preferences and work requirements. If you require more insights into the pros and cons of any printer model or function, a simple Google search should produce product reviews which would provide more information to help you decide. 


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