Apps for lawyers: do you really need one?

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If you have a smart phone, the chances are you’ve seen more than a few law firm apps coming through the app store. A lot of law firms are getting them and you may be tempted to do the same. With all the smart phones out there, it’s got to bring you some business, right? Hey, even one new client will pay for the app.

Before you get out your checkbook, there are some things you should consider.

Most apps fall into two categories. The first is of the “digital brochure” variety. This may do a great job of showing your firm’s capabilities but you’re not going to bring in much business with an app that nobody downloads and if a brochure is all you’ve got, not many will.

The second category of app falls into the utilitarian category: it does something useful. Personal injury lawyers seem to have a preponderance of this kind of app, of the “what to do in case of accident” variety. There are places to fill in information about the other parties, witnesses, insurance information, and also some pointers on what to do.

This sounds good but think about it: when you’re in an accident, nervous, waiting for the police or ambulance or tow truck, will you really want to launch an app and start typing with your thumbs?

Some of these apps have audio recorders, but still, in the heat of the moment, most people aren’t going to use it.

“Ah, but the point isn’t that they use it, it’s that they have it so that when they get home, they’ll remember they have it, look through it, and call us.”

This is true, but you don’t need an app for that. An old fashioned booklet in the glove box will accomplish the same thing. A booklet is a lot cheaper (free if the client prints it themselves from your pdf) and a booklet is something people might actually use.

Another form of utilitarian app is one that contains information. It might be a summary of bankruptcy laws, divorce options, or tips for protecting your small business. If a prospective client is browsing through the app store and sees an app that promises to inform him about something that’s currently on his mind, this could get his attention. The big question is, “will he see it?”

When an app is released, it appears in the list of new apps for a few days, and then it’s no longer “new”. Unless an app is extremely popular, very unlikely for a law firm app., the odds are that nobody will ever see it again in the app store.

What good is an app that nobody knows about?

It will be up to you to promote your app via your web site, newsletter, and social media. If it’s good, people will download it and promote it. But you can accomplish the same thing without an app. All you need to do is put your information into a report or ebook.

Can an app bring in some business? Yes, it can. But before you rush into having one made, lest you be “left behind” by your competition, remember that getting the app made is just the beginning. If you’re not willing to invest in promoting the app, don’t bother getting one. If you are prepared to promote your app, you might simply write a report and save yourself several thousand dollars.

Does your law firm have an app? Has it brought in any business? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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