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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