The payoffs from using Linux tend to go well beyond the cost of licenses. Any career system administrator will tell you about hours spent dealing with seemingly mundane problems. Every blue screen of death, every illegal operation, and every crash means time out of the admin's day, not to mention that of the user whose PC has just choked. Fixing such a problem could take a long time, particularly when dealing with a remote installation. Now, if a Legal Aid Manitoba user has a problem, it's simply a matter of connecting with a secure shell ("I'm a command-line kind of guy," Balneaves explains), doing what needs to be done (killing a process, for example) and disconnecting.
In the past, the remote locations provided some other interesting challenges. If a remote Windows workstation broke down, it could take up to three days to get that workstation back into production, especially in the winter. Getting hardware reconfigured and ready for a new user required hands-on technical expertise. With the new Linux thin client devices, they simply plug in a new unit, turn it on, and in minutes they're back in business.
It's a huge savings in time; and time, as they say, is money.