On the show today we talk law firm apps, legal tech and apps past and present with articles from the AmericanBar & Law.com, then we talk to an attorney who’s been there and done that, the creator of YourFirm app Chris Smith to find out what the realities of creating a law firm app are and where it’s all going.
Apps for Law Firms – Good or Gimmick?
Does every business need an app? It’s a tough question. It takes time and money to develop them, although the idea is that the final product will either save you time or make you money – or both, either through the direct experience the users have with the app or by the information you collect from it.
Is this something law firms should have? Does the typical one-and-done client really need a dedicated app on their phone – a phone they could just as easily use to contact the office and speak with someone directly? Or is THAT an inconvenience? Maybe legal consumers are getting so used to using apps for everything else that it’s weird and old-fashioned for them to have to call your office?
These are all good questions, and that’s what we’re doing on this episode of the podcast – asking questions and looking for answers about law firm apps.
Law Firm Apps Are The “Uncool kids” in the App Store
Today’s Hot Take comes from an article on Law.com called “Legal Tech Is the Least Cool Kid in the App Store, Study Finds” and it’s worth a read. This part in particular illustrates the potential for expansion by law firms as well as the changing nature of the legal consumer:
“The report identified potential room for growth around legal services apps. Sixty-six percent of mobile device owners said that they would be at least somewhat interested in an app that provides essential legal services. Millennials and people with children in the household expressed slightly more interest in these services, with 73 percent and 76 percent of those communities respectively indicating they’d like to see a comprehensive legal services app.”
While the majority of legal consumers still prefer to discuss details for their cases in person (according to the latest Clio.com survey) the idea of having an app for doc review of messaging is no longer a novelty or “extra” – it’s become a useful way for law firms and clients to connect.
Creating Custom Apps For Law Firms
Our guest on the show is Chis Smith. Chris is a lawyer who focuses on representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation relating to divorce, child custody, and complex property division, and business disputes. At his current firm of Smith Simmons, he specializes in high-stakes custody, alimony, and property division cases as well as mediation services.
But outside the law firm, Chris is striding forward into the future of legal client services with his YourFirm app. By integrating with practice management software, like Clio, Chris’s app can handle tasks such as sending push notifications to clients when a calendar event is scheduled, review and upload PDFs, send secure direct messaging between attorneys and clients and even accept payments – all directly from the app.
With an evolving legal marketplace serving distinct and disparate demographics, from boomers to millennials, we talk to Chris about how he balances entrepreneurship and a career in the law, and where he sees the future of client communications and the legal marketplace going.
Company link: https://yourfirmapp.com/
How Can Law Firm Apps Be Useful and Not Gimmicks?
In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Chris about how integration and on boarding are critical to successful usage, and the specific pain points you can address and minimize by using a custom app for your law firm:
Interviewer: So, I had a client who was a law firm seeking marketing advice, and one of the things that they were really interested in was getting an app because of communication. They were saying, “It’s so hard for our lawyers to get in contact with the clients.” Because some people say, “Lawyers are so bad at communicating.” I was part of a lot of marketing meetings w
here the lawyers were like, “I’m reaching out to these people. I’m calling them. I’m emailing them,” a lot of paralegal staff was. Everyone’s reaching out, but the clients aren’t picking up the phone. Sometimes, they don’t want to be interfaced, and it’s a weird kind of frustration. I liked that you said it could be a 30-minute conversation on, “Should I give you my cell phone or should we try and…” How do you handle the communication gap?
But my blow back with this idea at the time was, “Look, what’s the point of having an app just to communicate, whereas you can just pick up the phone and call someone.” I’m kind of interested to see why that communication is so tough. And there’s a lot of savvy people that are like, “I hate going to a web browser on my phone.”
But a lot of law firm clients maybe aren’t reaching that level of savviness, of knowing that they’re frustrated about a browser on their phone when they just want to play Candy Crush. So, there’s like different layers of, like, lawyers want really shiny stuff, but maybe their clients aren’t necessarily ready to adopt the shiny stuff. So, not that it takes a chance to convince a lawyer that they need it, but have you seen any kind of adoption problems with clients logging on to the Your Firm app? Just kind of speaking towards the frustration because I know that it’s there, and it’s not your problem. You created an app that’s beautiful. It solves all these problems. But the question is, are people really using and availing themselves to the full productive value of the app? Have you seen any like shortcomings in that regards?
Chris: That it’s completely contingent upon the process that the attorney implements in on-boarding the client to the app. If the app is part of your intake and your onboarding process while the clients are in your office for the first time, or if you’re a virtual practice and everything is online. If you’re incorporating it into your process, your use by your clients is going to increase as opposed to, you meet with the client, they leave your office, and then you send them a follow-up email maybe that says, “Hey, by the way, we have an app. Download it and try to communicate with us that way.” Because if they leave your office and they see that there’s a mobile feature here that they can engage with you on and you’re enthusiastic about it, they’re going to view it as a part of your practice. And it’s a part of the experience that they’re going to get with your office as opposed to just kind of a second thought that you are trying to… You know, you’ve got an app.
Maybe it feels cool and, “Hey, my firm has an app and…” But if you really do educate the client as to this, that is what’s going to help. And here’s a very good example: One of the things that has happened and one of the things we created and it really was kind of a result of just the technology that we didn’t really anticipate is that because of the calendar feature of our app, if you are a client who’s downloaded the app, just like any app that a lot of us download, it’s going to initially ask you, “Do you want to sync the calendar from this app with your native calendar?” So, for the first time, an attorney now can create a calendar event in CLIO, and that event’s actually going to push to that client’s native calendar on their mobile device. They don’t even have to log into the app to view that calendar entry. It’s right there.
So, if you’re a client and you are the type that’s kinda scatterbrained, like, I mean, and a lot of us are. If you’ve got so many things going on in your life and you have a hearing coming up that you can’t recall exactly when it is, but you know it’s coming, there is peace of mind in knowing that, “Hey, I know I sync my phone with my calendar and they can push it to it. It’s got to be on the calendar somewhere. I don’t have to pick up the phone and call the office to find out when that was.” And so, if you can talk to the client about the value of that process right off the bat as the attorney, their usage is going to go up. And it’s going to end up saving you time in terms of the time that you have to respond to questions about this and that.
Another thing that we have built into the app that is built in to try to save time… I’m a family law attorney. Every day it seems like that we get a call from a client who says, “Hey, I know I owe you a verification page signed and back to you. I don’t have a scanner handy. I don’t have a fax machine close. Is there an easy way for me to get this back to you?” Before the app, they might take a photo with their phone and just send that to us via email and then we would have to process it that way. With our app, they now have the ability to take a photo using our scanner feature and that uploads as a PDF directly to their document folder in CLIO. And so, there’s easier process to the mobility of the client and the way that they engage with our office if we just implement this tool.
And it’s like anything. Our app is a tool. If you don’t use your billing software, if you don’t enter your time, nothing’s going to get billed. And so, if you don’t use this software like it’s intended to be used, you’re not going to get any kind of engagement. And so, that’s kind of what we’re working on right now with most of our customers, is just implementation and trying to help them. And because we are so new, our customer numbers at this point are where we can still work with them on a one-on-one basis. We’re reaching a point where that’s difficult to do, but we do, with these early adopters, have the ability to really give them some hands-on treatment and help them to implement these tools in their practice to make it successful.
And that’s what we really want. As a practicing attorney, I don’t want to put a product out that’s not going to be providing value to attorneys across the country in their practice. I want this to really help people and to make life easier so that, you know, if you’re at dinner with your wife at 7:00, instead of getting that text from a client who’s wanting to know what they need to wear to court tomorrow, they just send you a message on the app, and then you get to decide how you’re going to engage with them at that when and where and these little things like that that I think are going to make life a little bit easier for attorneys.
Get More Information About Law Firm Apps
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