Apps are all the rage these days. If you search the App Store, there is an App for anything you can think of except to cook you breakfast in bed (though the new iPhone 5 is coming out soon and it just might do that too). If you do a quick search in the App Store or a Google search, you’ll be able to find a decent sample of law firm apps. Most of them are misses though and here’s why: they provide no added value to the user.
Apps Gone Wrong
Most law firm apps are basically their website or phone book combined with a function to call or text them, and then a map tool to locate them. If they are fancy, you have the ability to schedule your own appointments. If they are really fancy, they might even include functions such as a camera so you can take pictures when you get into an accident and send them right to your lawyer. Woopty doo! If I’m looking for a lawyer, I’ll look on Google. I don’t need a dedicated app when I can search myself. If I want to call or text a law firm, I can do that with the phone or text function. I don’t need an app for that. If I want to take pictures after a car crash, I can use the built-in camera that I’m used to. I don’t need an app for that. The bottom line is, there’s no added value to the user.
What a Useful App Looks Like
Here’s how to build an app that people will want to download; give them something they need and will use. Put the user first and your marketing second (or last).
My firm just released an app. I’m a divorce lawyer in Massachusetts and we just underwent major alimony reform. In the past, there was no formula for alimony and the amount and duration of alimony was left to the discretion of family judges. It was inconsistent and oftentimes unfair. With the alimony reform, the law put in place a formula to calculate both the amount of alimony and duration. This added to the consistency Massachusetts already had with our child support, which was reformed and also uses formulas. What was missing from the market was an app that could calculate these new alimony numbers and spit them back out in real time and with no internet connection. As many divorce lawyers will tell you, most negotiations happen in the courthouse, and usually right before a major motion hearing or trial. We fly by the seat of our pants and often do not have our computers with internet connection with us to crunch these numbers. I realized this, and built an app to address that need.
The app I built calculates alimony; it calculates child support; it calculates dates. It does not duplicate my website. It does not allow the user to call or text me. It does not give a map to my office. It does not pull in my social media and Twitter feeds. Why? Because people don’t care. They want an app that does something for them, not help you market your firm.
There are plenty of sites that allow you to build an app for your firm for cheap: here and here. Don’t use them because it does nothing to serve the needs of your clients. If you’ve got a great idea for an app that people will actually use, hire an app developer and work together with them to build a great app. Don’t push out a mediocre, cookie-cutter app.
To check out my app, search the App Store for “Massachusetts Divorce” and download it for only $0.99.