Should Your Firm Create its Own App?
BY Brendan Conley
Does your law firm want to easily share information with prospects and clients? There's an app for that.
Law firms are making an effort to connect with clients through new media. In addition to websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, some law firms have launched their own mobile applications. Before your firm decides to follow suit, it's important to consider the advantages as well as potential pitfalls. The appeal of mobile applications for companies like Walmart or Whole Foods are obvious: they can use the apps to promote their products and their brand, support online purchases, steer shoppers to their stores and generally allow customers to do everything they would do online. But law firms are different.
Law firms can create individualized mobile apps that can be made available on any Internet-connected device, including Blackberrys, iPhones and iPads and Android devices, and some have taken the plunge.
Vaksman Law Offices, a San Francisco-based firm that focuses on estate planning, recently created the Vaksman Law app. The firm said that the mobile application makes it easier for clients and prospective clients to contact Vaksman Law Offices and learn about its services. The app also provides resources such as videos, articles and Twitter messages from the firm, which can help clients learn more about estate planning and other areas of the law. Vaksman Law Offices says that their mobile app helps to create a stronger connection with existing clients and also provides valuable information about their field to the general public, which can lead to new business.
There are advantages to creating a mobile application for your law firm. First, the very existence of the app is a form of marketing. Clients who already have your phone number and email address now can also have your app on their phone, which makes them identify with your firm more strongly. Younger and more technologically-savvy clients may almost expect an app. If every other company they deal with has one, why don't you? Mobile applications have become people's personal problem solvers, and for heavy users, the solution to many problems is to find “an app for that.”
If your firm is already marketing through an online blog, an app can be a way to pick up readers and network. Law firm blogs and other participation in social media are a way to educate people about the law, establishing your firm as an expert and a prominent voice in your field, and it also provides networking opportunities with colleagues, clients and potential clients. A mobile application, just like a Twitter account or a podcast, can be another way to reach people who have become accustomed to receiving information through those channels.
An app may be a good fit for your firm if it provides an additional service to existing clients. People download apps because they are useful. For instance, if clients can use a mobile application to review important details about their cases, providing that service may give your firm a real edge over others.
However, there are downsides to the idea of creating a mobile application for your law firm as well, with the central question being: is it worth it?
First, developing a mobile application costs money. Beyond that, in order for the app to be successful, it must be marketed to users. Marketing has its own costs. People have a huge variety of apps from which to choose, and they will not download one unless they have a reason.
Even if clients and potential clients download your firm's app, in order for it to be useful to them and to you, they need to have a reason to open it on a regular basis. Is the app an easy way for them to access your frequentlyupdated blogs, podcasts and videos that provide them with valuable information about your field of law? Or does it allow them to quickly review their case file and upcoming court dates? If the app is not useful to clients, it is not
useful to you either.
Another consideration with mobile applications is the maintenance cost. Even after the initial expense of creating the app, you will have to ensure it is constantly upgraded to remain compatible with multiple platforms.
It is also important to think about whether the application will achieve its purpose. If you have a popular app, just as with a popular blog or podcast, does that mean that potential clients will turn to you first when they need an attorney for a particular legal problem? It is more likely that they will shop around, doing their research through both personal networking and Internet searches. Your marketing budget may be better spent on building a website and online presence that helps establish your firm's prominence in your field.
Law firms creating their own mobile apps is a new, and still developing, trend. As with other developments in technology and social media, time will tell whether law firm apps become the next big thing or a passing fad. Your firm should carefully weigh the pros and cons before jumping on board.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
If your law firm is considering creating a mobile application, keep the following pros and cons in mind:
- Market your firm using a popular new technology
- Create a useful resource for existing clients
- Spread your firm's message to both the public and potential clients
- Create brand loyalty and a deeper connection between you and your clients
- Initial expense of creating and marketing the app
- The challenge of developing an app that is useful so people actually use it
- Ongoing expense of maintaining compatibility with all platforms through constant upgrades
- Ensuring your app is effective at marketing your firm
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