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The Dirty Little Secret Only BigLaw Knows: How To Create Mobile Apps To Attract Clients

Millennials or just the “recession generation” use apps for everything, Uber for taxis, Tinder for dating, Washio for laundry, and WhatsApp for texting. It’s a wonder that tools and utilities not connected to an app ever get used anymore.

That’s why BigLaw has caught on to this trend.

It’s even a good way for small firms to get big notice. How? Hop on the digital app train.

Let’s take a few examples. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has a global sourcing app that helps users calculate costs in outsourcing contracts.

Baker & McKenzie has an app summarizing legal and tax issues for public companies granting employee stock options overseas.

O’Melveny & Myers provides an introduction to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its app. The app also reports on related enforcement actions and settlements.

Above the Law, who reported on the app trend, also has an app—for both iPhone and Android.

Latham and Watkins is the most dedicated Biglaw app developer, with an entire library of “The Book of Jargon” to explain legalese to clients who are—well, justifiably—confused. Now they have an app that helps clients learn more about overseas anti-bribery laws.

In fact, of the 2013 AmLaw 200, approximately 36 firms (18%) produced a total of 53 mobile apps. This amounts to an increase of 63 percent in firms having apps than last year [22 firms], according to The Law Firm Mobile (LFM) blog’s third annual research report.

Of the 2013 Global 100, 28 firms (28%) produced a total of 50 mobile apps. This amounts to an increase of 22 percent in firms having apps than last year [23 firms], according to the same research.

So basically, BigLaw is producing a lot of apps. But who is using them? It turns out, the days of the BlackBerry are officially over. Of the lawyers or clients making use of this new technology, the vast majority are iPhone users.

Of the total apps produced by Biglaw firms, 96 percent are offered on the iPhone, 6 percent are offered on the BlackBerry, and 29 percent on Android (35%). Last year, only 17 percent of apps were on the Android platform.

Finally, you may be thinking that these BigLaw firms are just creating apps for employee recruitment or human resources. That’s not true at all.

On the contrary, only three apps of the 68 (4%) were focused on recruitment, eight (12%) were produced for events (internal or external), 15 (22%) presented general firm information (similar to a website), and a whopping 42 (62%) provided legal resources of various types. Law firms have figured out that providing useful information gets your app trending among techy legal services types. And, once your app is popular, so becomes your firm.

A full list of BigLaw mobile apps can be found here.

So the last question you should be asking is, does my firm have an app?

In size or caseload, a small firm may not be able to compete with a large one. But in cyber space, everybody is equal. There are only app developers and audiences. So once you’ve identified yours, your firm—boutique or BigLaw—stands on equally footing.

Your app could be the “next big thing” to beat out BigLaw in wooing and winning over clients.

In addition, developing an app does not have to break the bank. Brainstorm with younger associates and your IT Department about what services your new app could provide clients or other lawyers. Think about what needs are not yet met online in the legal services industry. Carve your niche by making an app for that skill or service your firm (or its lawyers) truly excel at.

Because in a world where everything is an app—transportation, talking, dating, and more—there’s only room for an avatar lawyer to match.

Not yet convinced that apps are the way of the future? Learn more with The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s training course: Mobile Discovery: Emerging Challenges of Texts, Tweets, Apps and Emails, in the Realm of BYOD.

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Introducing Exhibit B… & Other Efficient Uses For The iPad At Law Firms

Imagine a world where a new client walks into your office. The receptionist welcomes him and hands over an iPad and tells your guest to press “Start”. There’s a short, automated video introducing your firm, its practice areas, and its partners. Afterward, a new client form appears, ready to fill out. Once your new client is done, your receptionist has an already digital copy of important information pertaining to this person’s case and business. And, the client can keep the iPad and browse your home page while he waits for the name partner to see him.

Streamlined, efficient, modern. The iPad is changing the way lawyers operate.

Patrick A. Wright, founding partner at The Wright Firm LLP in Lewisville and Dallas, is board certified in family law and is an active member of the ABA Law Practice Editorial Board. In an American Bar Association article, Wright said about his first use of the iPad in a court case:

“When I bought my first iPad, I decided that the best way to experiment and see if it was as versatile as it seemed to be was to use it in a high-profile case. The Cooke County case was an experiment. I intended to see if the court would allow me to play a few videos on the iPad through the VLC app while questioning a witness. With the iPad, I could quickly pause the video, replay an exact point and further emphasize what I wanted without the awkward television on a cart and a temperamental DVD player. I could control everything from the palm of my hand—if the court would allow it. The experiment worked. The court did allow me to use my iPad, and the videos and the iPad supplied the dramatic moment in a long custody trial that I ultimately won.”

Today, traditional PCs barely overtake sales of tablets. However, by 2015, predictions by Gartner Inc. believe that worldwide shipments of tablets will outnumber that of desk-based and notebook computers.

On the whole, worldwide combined shipments of devices, which include PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones, are projected to reach 2.4 billion units by the end of 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from 2013, Gartner Inc. reported this week.

It’s not surprising that lawyers are making better use of slimmer, more portable technology.

Tablets are not just great to present courtroom exhibits, they also organize client files, allow regular contact with colleagues, courts, and clients, and facilitate the immediate access to records, codes and criminal procedures, or Fastcase when out of the office.

There are a myriad of apps designed specifically for law firm professions available for bothe the iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices.

Tablets are also capable of running programs like PowerPoint of Apple’s Keynote app, even Excel spreadsheets.

If you’re worried about typing on the tablet’s touchscreen, most tablets now allow Bluetooth connection to wireless keyboards.

Finally, the iPad is low-profile and ultraportable, which means when you take notes during a meeting or courtroom appearance, you don’t have that distracted look on your face behind a giant laptop screen. It gives (at least) the illusion of concentration, with a 10 to 20-hour battery life.

In fact, iPads or other tablets are becoming such common place in the practice of law, clients are starting to expect it. Technology is a reflection of your firm’s willingness to get creative, be flexible, and innovative—key to surviving this cutthroat industry.

With the traditional PC market on the decline, it’s clear law firms need to get with the times by going mobile. Instead of using a laptop, consider using an iPad—going paperless is both practical and productive.

Update your firm home page to accommodate mobile devices. Create an internal app for employees and clients, and a public app to attract new business. Make sure your IT department is up-to-date on all social media.

The iPad may not have the old-school cache of a yellow legal pad, but where it remains deficient in tradition, it will likely exceed in expectations and outcomes for efficiency.

Of course, there are always liability issues when it comes to data-sharing and digital devices. Attend C4CM’s training course, “Smartphones and the Law: Avoiding Legal Liabilities in the Workplace” to ensure your policies and practices are air-tight.

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Do Lawyers Need The iPhone 5S? Look At These New Legal Apps & Decide

This week, Apple announced the new features and selling price of the iPhone 5S and 5C.

Equipped with a newer, faster chip to provide desktop computer-esque performance, an improved camera, and a fingerprint security scanner, Apple’s senior vice president, Phil Schiller, claims the 5S is the “most forward-thinking phone perhaps anyone has ever made,” according to the Telegraph.

Now, instead of remembering four numbers (which, let’s face it, was just your birthdate) the circle button that has traditionally served as the iPhone’s home button will now work as a fingerprint sensor, called Touch ID (I guess Apple lost the trademark battle for iTouchID).

The iPhone 5C is a cheaper version of the iPhone 5S. Both are available in a variety of colors, and both have prices that will make you grown as loudly as the stock market. Right after the unveiling, Apple’s stock price declined. Why? Investors—along with consumers—were unhappy about the price.

“The timing of this launch is crucial as the industry is getting close to the end of the third financial quarter and the iPhone’s performance during this period has been largely below expectations, particularly in China where the growth rate is falling rapidly,” said Malik Saadi, analyst at Informa, said to the Telegraph.

“It is becoming obvious that Apple can no longer afford to address the whole world as a single market for its iPhone.”

The iPhone 5S will set you back $649 or £549 for 16G. Along with the additional power, customers will receive additional battery life.

Whatever your opinion on the new iPhone, you don’t need an upgrade to enjoy its mobile apps. Lawyers have been making the switch from Blackberry to iPhone in recent years, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The ABA Journal is free on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • The American Lawyer is free on the iPhone and iPad.
  • California lawyers can download California+ app for $4.99 to get detailed information about all members of the California legislature.
  • Cliff Maier of Waffle Turtle Software sells several iPhone legal reference apps for Federal Rules and various state statutes (including California and New York) at affordable download prices ranging from $0.99 to $8.99.
  • Courtroom Objections app is only available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, so lawyers can review lists of common objections to admissibility and objections to form on the go and on the spot. Select from categories like, “authentication” under “Objections to Admissibility,” and see suggested language for and an explanation of the objection. Then click “Rule” to view the relevant rule of evidence.
  • Lawyers make use of LawBox for iOS devices, a legal reference app that provides access to the text of the United States Code and state statutes from Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
  • Smart Dockets app by American Legalnet Inc. is a new legal calendaring app for the iPhone and iPad that helps you to calculate dates and deadlines using court rules…. for free.
  • TrialEvidence is an app available for iOS devices. This reference tool helps attorneys review common courtroom evidentiary foundations used to admit items into evidence. 

To see more legal apps, see UCLA’s School of Law website’s complete guide.

In sum, to get these great apps and more, you don’t need the new iPhone. But, to get these great new colors… well… that part’s up to you.

-WB

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Law Firm Security In The Age Of Technology–Human Error & Some Things That Never Change…

Security is on the minds of Americans these days. And, it seems, at least one law firm has developed paranoia.

King & Spalding announced to its employees this week that private e-mail will no longer be accessible at work. And, in the event firm network blocking measures are inadequate, employees have been advice not to open personal email accounts from a firm computer, according to a King & Spalding e-mail released by Above The Law Blog.

“The firm’s internal security experts, as well as our outside security experts, have advised us that accessing Personal Email Accounts from firm computers creates a significant security risk,” the widely-circulated e-mail states.

“The firm has installed a wireless network called ‘ksmobile’ in each office. This wireless network is reserved for K&S personnel (not clients or visitors who should be directed to the ksguest network), is a direct route to the Internet, and is appropriately sized to accommodate the many personal devices that are being used by K&S personnel.”

So, although checking personal e-mail on firm computers is prohibited, responsible and irresponsible Internet browsing is permitted on mobile devises, like smartphones. With network firewalls and digital security measures improving day-to-day, some wonder if this announcement isn’t a bit technologically too late.

However, what any number of firewalls, complex passwords, and e-mail prohibitions can’t solve is human idiocy.

Seriously.

“There’s no device known to mankind that will prevent people from being idiots,” Mark Rasch, director of network security and privacy consulting for Falls Church, Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), said to Bloomberg.

Rasch is responding to an experiment conducted by The U.S. Department of Homeland Security where, in order to determine how easy it was for hackers to manipulate employees or gain access to computer systems, Homeland Security employees secretly dropped computer discs and USB thumb drives in the parking lots of government buildings and private contractors.

Not only did workers pick up those devises, but 60 percent of them plugged in the USB drives and inserted the discs into their office computers. If the devise displayed an official logo, 90 percent of workers installed the drive.

It turns out, curiosity does kill the cat—or, rather, scrambles the cat’s computer screen, steals its social security number, and swipes its confidential data through viruses, clandestine computer programming, and general digital mayhem, describes The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s law blog.

“The test showed something computer security experts have long known: Humans are the weak link in the fight to secure networks against sophisticated hackers,” reports Bloomberg.

And, because 92 percent of lawyers agreed that email was the primary function of their smartphone in an ABA Legal Technology Resource Center survey, perhaps King & Spalding’s reaction isn’t as misguided as first believed. Accessing personal e-mails from a smartphone, according to participants, was more important than making a call, which goes to show how frequently lawyers rely on electronic communication, concludes an article about attorney mobile phone use.

Coupled with curiosity, perhaps law firms should consider even more stringent Internet policies.

It’s surprising how many liabilities and issues accompany Internet access in the office. And, smartphones open up an additional can of worms for curious cats.

Write a smartphone policy that addresses:

  • Handing data breeches
  • Use of company phones outside work
  • Wage and hour compliance
  • Text, talk driving issues
  • Text harassment
  • GPS tracking
  • Lost devices
  • Etiquette
  • Employee productivity
  • Photography in and out of the office

If you’re unsure how to draft a policy, including what kind of language and tone to use, take C4CM’s audio conference on crafting a bulletproof workplace policy for smartphones.

In the end, it’s important to write and implement a concrete and clear policy regarding Internet access, e-mail, and mobile phones. It’s important to highlight the security risks and repercussions for both employees and clients.

Make sure your employees know how to safely navigate the world wide web, only then will law firm managers have piece of mind when engaging in legal technology and software.

Remember, the “smart” in smartphone refers to requirements of the user, not the gadget.

-WB

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Six Reasons Why You Should Update Your Website

Almost a month after the iPhone 5 was released, customers remain impressed with the numerous upgrades to the phone’s touch screen, light weight, and high speed.

But, even such a well-received product has its flaws.

For example, critics instantly seized the opportunity to censure Apple’s foray in the navigation app market—iMaps. The search function is too complicated, locations flat-out wrong, and typos abound in place names.

Critics have also complained about wifi issues, excessive scratching on the back of certain models, and confusion over Passbook and other Apple apps.

Nevertheless, Apple iPhone 5 demand remains high ands its reception warm. Both tech analysts and the general public have welcomed this new phone with open arms and willing fingers.

Why? There’s no such thing as the perfect product or service. But, with proper updates and maintenance—like Apple iPhones have shown over time—companies (and law firms) can come close.

With this in mind, law firm managers should seriously consider the following six reasons for why it’s important to update your business website.

1. Attract more clients

If your Fall is feeling blue (not green), a change in your website may be just what you need to add some color to the firm’s billable-hour tree.

These days, legal services are found via the world wide web. Your firm’s website—specifically your home page—is akin to a first meeting with a new client. The first impression your site imparts should embody your work style and attitude.

For former or return clients, a stagnant website sends the message that your firm’s practice might be too. Instead, send the message that your firm is modern, up-to-date, and tech savvy.

Before he closes his browser, a client should feel as satisfied and confident with your legal services simply by perusing your website as if he had just been welcomed through the office door.

2. Rise in search engine index rankings

Another reason to ramp up your website is to rise in search engine index rankings.

Basically, when a person types into Goolge, “Best patent lawyer in San Francisco,” Google searches through a giant index for the most relevant webpages.

If you are a patent attorney in or around San Francisco, you want your website among them.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a way to increase your ranking on this mysterious webpage index and a method for achieving better results. It’s called, Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Your website designer is surely aware of this skill.

And, it’s time to improve your Internet visibility. Update your website to include the keywords, phrases, meta-tags, and HTML necessary to get you noticed.

These search engine indexes are constantly changing and reshuffling their content. So, why aren’t you?

3. Keep up with technology

When a professional service, like the field of law, brags about their ability and knowledge of technology today, the easiest way to verify this claim is by vetting their website.

It’s not just about first impressions. Beautiful, functional, and useful websites are also about credibility. In the 21st century, a firm’s ability to deliver high-quality, high-value services depends on its ability to master and apply new technology.

Consistently updating your website implies to clients that your law firm is constantly ready at the helm.

4. Update your business look

Update your business look with a new look on your website.

Did your law firm add a name partner? Did admin take high-res photos of your associates? Would you love to tout the legal expertise of a new hire?

Whether it’s a new logo or a new lawyer, keep your website as up-to-date as your know-how. Firm managers shouldn’t forget they’re running a legal business in addition to changing legislative bills.

5. Increase interaction

Law is an interactive industry. It requires constant communication. That’s why updating your website to include social media—blog links, Twitter, Google +, Facebook, etc.—will help your attorneys keep in touch with their clients.

It will also help your clients feel in touch with you.

You don’t have to publicize your cell phone number to make a client feel like they know who you are and trust your competency. All it takes is a photo of your warm smile on the online directory or a quick “Message from the partners” bannered on the homepage to improve the working relationship you have with both clients and colleagues.

6. Get feedback

Finally, since communication is a two-way street, add an area for comments and feedback.

Corporate clients are full of untapped resources and industry knowledge. Invite all website visitors to share their stories, opinions, and better-business suggestions with your management team.

After all these changes to your website, you may realize that’s not all your firm needs.

-WB

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FREE iPhone Apps That Lawyers Can’t Do Without

Last year, the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Survey Report claimed 31 percent of lawyers (in private practice) use an iPhone and 13 percent also using an iPad.

That’s an estimated 300,000 lawyers nationwide.

So, for any law firm professional who regularly depends on his smartphone, below is a list of five iPhone apps you never knew you couldn’t do without. And, the best part? They’re all free.

LexisNexis® Legal News – FREE

The recently updated LexisNexis® Legal News app by Newstex draws information and updates from the vast LexisNexis content repository. The app provides selections of the best legal news, video, blog, and Twitter sources into a continuously updating content feed for the iPhone or the iPad.

With this app, law firm professionals can stay on top of breaking legal, business, and financial news; set alerts for news pertinent to your clients, competitors, or market conditions; and create customized searches for information from across a wide variety of content providers and formats including blogs, Twitter, and video.

After all, a lawyers should be able to provide the best service for their clients at no additional cost.

LexisNexis® CourtLink – FREE (with subscription)

Also a LexisNexis-developed app,LexisNexis CourtLink allows legal professionals to review recent court docket alert and tracking activity.

With this app, you can also set up alerts to monitor activity on a specific case, as well as receive lists of newly filed cases in a particular practice area or involving specific parties.

Technically the app is free, but a subscription to CourtLink is required. The app markets itself to a variety of professionals related to the field of law, including:

  • Legal Professionals, so they can argue more effectively and grow their business.
  • Corporate Counsel, so they can hire and manage outside counsel more effectively; manage internal caseload more easily; and investigate patent questions (and more).
  • Financial Services/Insurance Providers, so they can improve investment decisions knowing the full risk picture; and improve profitability by preventing and detecting fraud.
  • Media Professionals, so they can be alerted to newsworthy litigation, receive updates on ongoing cases quickly, and research litigation trends.
  • Litigation Support, so they are immediately notified as a case is filed, trial begins, or a decision is being reached.

Waze  – FREE

Although not specifically a legal app, Waze can be quite valuable to lawyers.

Waze lets drivers manually input traffic and accident data while they’re on the road. For time-sensitive lawyers who are constantly dashing to and from the office, client meetings, or court, Waze is an indispensible, portable tool.

Waze isn’t a new app—with about 12 million users—but it has been recently updated. The app now includes a feature allowing drivers to speak into the iPhone to report traffic and accidents.

Atypical of the tech world, Waze values safety overs speed.

American Arbitration Association – FREE

If you are involved in arbitrations or mediations via the American Arbitration Association, the brand new AAA smartphone app (for iPhone and Android) will allow you easy access to all AAA rules, codes, and protocols.

The app also provides immediate access to contact information for AAA offices throughout the U.S. and regional locations around the world.

Legal professionals can enjoy reading arbitration and mediation rules from labor and employment, commercial, construction, real estate and environmental, government and consumer, to international cases.

Need international dispute resolution rules in a foreign language? Not a problem.

Read more about the app here on Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.

Finally, there are a variety of other interesting apps for legal professionals that, while not free, won’t break the bank. Don’t forget to check out these ten iPhone apps for lawyers, each fewer than five dollars, including this one:

iPunchclock – $4.99

The iPunchclock by EpIPhone Coders’ Guild is one of many timesheet apps for lawyers available for the iPhone. The unique feature of this app is that it tracks not only the time you spent on the task, but also the location where you completed the task using the iPhone’s GPS function.

Unlike other timesheet recording apps, the iPunchclock records time in seconds—as opposed to 0.1 fixed intervals. Nevertheless, this format makes conversion to .CSV for use in Excel much easier.

Professionals can name the task, create multiple timesheets and tasks, add personalized comments, and map their conference calls on Google Maps. Not too shabby for the on-the-go lawyer.

Check out a complete guide of tracking time apps here.

-WB

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Now Access Legal Ethics Opinions On Your Smartphone

Last week, New York-based lawyers were banned from joining a new type of law firm that would allow external investors—a blow to contending international firms that were considering third-party capital (via FT).

The New York State Bar ruled that New York lawyers cannot practice law in the state if they are part of U.K. law firm with non-lawyer owners after considering the following scenario:

“Lawyers licensed to practice in New York enter a business relationship with a U.K. firm that has non-lawyer owners and managers. The New York lawyers establish a New York office for the firm and represent New York clients. They don’t share confidential information with the non-lawyers and they abide by U.K. rules,” summarizes the WSJ Law Blog.

The New York State Bar ruled that the above scenario violates ethics rule that forbids a lawyer from practicing law for profit with an entity that includes a non-lawyer owner.

Now, blogs (like this one) have already discussed the idea of deregulating the legal industry.

With countless lawsuits accusing law schools of misrepresenting employment statistics and a rise in online legal services, law school graduates are seeking jobs and clients are seeking affordable counsel.

To achieve this, both the Cato Institute and OpenMarket.org believe deregulation is necessary.

“People can represent themselves in small-claims courts, which have simplified procedures, but in many states, such courts can hear only the tiniest legal claims, like those seeking less than $5,000,” states OpenMarket.org (via ATL).

“Every other U.S. industry that has been deregulated, from trucking to telephones, has lowered prices for consumers without sacrificing quality,” continue Winston and Crandall.

The American Bar Association is considering a tweak to its ethics rules, but there is no realistic solution in sight. Despite the dire economic climate for lawyers, the U.S. is hesitant to propose any innovation that would deregulate the law industry.

Although innovation via deregulation has been tabled, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has, in the least, brought legal ethics research into the 21st Century.

In January, the NYSBA announced the release of its Mobile Ethics App—an app for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry—that allows judges, lawyers, and law students to access instant ethics advice from their smartphones.

The NYSBA Mobile Ethics App incorporates the state bar’s catalog of more than 900 legal ethics opinions, dating back to 1964, into a searchable database.

Type keyword searches, enter opinion numbers, or browse a list of categories that include “attorney advertising,” “concurrent representation,” and “non-refundable retainer.”

So, download the app here to get notified each time a new opinion is added.

That way, even if you can’t change the decisions, at least you can read about them in real-time.

-WB

Access the full press release regarding the ethics app here.

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