We Analyzed 300 Law Firms: Here’s What the “Best in Class” Are Doing With Mobile

 

Here at Fliplet, we spent hundreds of hours conducting a first-of-its-kind study to share how the top 300 law firms use mobile apps. We looked to find out how mobility sets top law firms apart from the competition, and we found that the leading law firms share several common characteristics with respect to mobile that give them a competitive edge.

In short, we found that the mobile leaders had apps that serve multiple audiences, both within and outside the company that provide each audience with the tools and information they need.  But they also had another thing in common: Innovation. They were consistently the first to use apps in certain ways. If you too are on the lookout for new opportunities and emerging trends to help you connect better with clients and increase productivity, read on.

What Leading Law Firms are Doing to Stand Out as Mobile Innovators

Before we go into the things that set “best in class” firms apart in terms of mobile, let us give you some context for the research we carried out. We took the top 300 law firms in the US and UK by revenue, put them on a list, and captured data such as number of apps on public app stores, purpose of those apps, launch date, last updated date and the sectors and practices they touched on. Even though we didn’t capture internal data and activity, the public app store results were an impressive glimpse into what the innovators were doing. Here are the top things they had in common.

Create Numerous Apps for a Range of Uses

The leading law firms in the study have apps that serve audiences both within and external to their businesses. Top law firms have mobile apps available for the general public, clients, and internal audiences. Built around multiple use cases, these apps focus on use cases that are valuable to target audiences. Uses vary from event apps to crisis preparedness apps and many others in-between.

The top 10 firms in our ranking had a whooping 6.4 apps each, on average. The clear winner in terms of numbers was Baker McKenzie, with 16 apps in total.

Why so many? It’s clear that these firms have found that a single app cannot cater to all needs and will never be as effective as an ecosystem of apps that are all heavily specialized at working perfectly for specific topics. In Bakers’ case, they had a mix of reference, crisis response, games and event apps touching areas like corporate, competition law, employment, privacy, healthcare and more.

The most popular types of apps

Event apps are the most popular type of app in the legal industry. They generally focus on two types of events: partner conferences/retreats, and general events.

  • Partner conference apps often include:
    • Login protection
    • Date, time, and location of the conference
    • Registration information
    • Agenda
    • Speakers
    • Map
    • Other event details
  • General Events apps fall into one of these categories:
    • Internal conferences
    • Public conferences and events
    • Seminars
    • Workshops/training

One  great example of an event app is Norton Rose Fulbright’s Event Platform. Intuitive and easy to use, it provides event location, speakers, and times for attendees.

Baker McKenzie’s Global Meeting Events app is another excellent example. It provides pertinent event information plus additional information that includes lodging, restaurants, and working documents. Documents can be edited by attendees, allowing them to make notes and add comments.

Reference Apps are a great way to place valuable information at the fingertips of your clients and/or the general public. Information may include digital versions of the laws, legal glossaries, links, and references to other relevant information. Reference apps tend to fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Topic handbooks that provide regulatory legal details on specific topics, often across several jurisdictions
  • Regional handbooks that provide information on legal topics within specific jurisdictions
  • Publication/Report apps are blogs and reports that are published in an app format
  • Glossaries that provide definitions for legal terms and acronyms

Denton’s US M&A Guide is like an eBook that has been optimized for mobile. Pages are swipeable, making it easy to find what you need. From the mobile menu, you can bookmark pages and search for specific merger and acquisition terms.

The Doing Business in Indonesia app from Hogan Lovells provides relevant legal topics to help organizations navigate business regulations in Indonesia. The app is user friendly, with easy to read text and features at your fingertips.  

General Firm Apps are used to promote a law firm, usually as website-in-an-app or as a means to house multiple apps and/or document libraries. These apps may also take the form of a secure web portal with access granted only to users with proper credentials.

One example of the Sidley Mobile app is a website-in-an-app that provides navigation, layout, and content that is similar to the Sidley Austin website. Eversheds Mobile, on the other hand, is a convenient app portal that allows secure access to the firm’s apps.

Interactive Tools allow users to enter information that is then processed to generate a result. They tend to fall into three categories:

  • Calculator — Used to calculate mathematical operations and work with numbers. Often used to calculate costs, such as leave time requests
  • Checklist — Basically, a task list that the user can check off as tasks are completed
  • Questionnaire — The user answers questions and submits them and the app returns an answer based on the information the user entered  

Fisher & Phillips has an excellent app that allows employers and to calculate family and medical leave requests. Paul Hasting’s Failure-To-Market Forfeiture app provides important information about provisions in the Hatch-Waxman Act for failure-to-market forfeiture, including forfeiture analysis in easy-to-understand language, and a handy quick-reference tool.

Client Support Apps provide secure, password-protected access to legal clients and may include updates to relevant laws, litigation updates, and educational resources for clients to learn more about laws relevant to their legal proceedings. These apps may also  include precedents, case law, and links to external resources.

A great example of a client support app, Herbert Smith Freehills’ KnowledgeSOURCE app, an online learning platform that allows legal professionals to complete and track CPD activity.

Crisis Preparedness Apps provide clients with access to a legal rapid response team at any time of the day or night. These apps provide emergency contact numbers, antitrust raid preparedness advice, emergency response advice, and other information of importance to clients experiencing and antitrust raid.

The Clyde Covered app provides critical information, checklists, and emergency contacts for clients who experience a safety incident within their organization in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. It includes guidance for determining which authorities you may need to contact and how to announce safety incidents to the public.  

DLA Piper’s Rapid Response app is a dawn raid app that provides clients with emergency information and contacts in the event of an antitrust raid, along with a checklist that helps guide how clients react to the raid.

Productivity Apps improve internal networking and efficiency by placing communications with firm personnel and other tools at staff fingertips. Productivity apps may include messaging, chat, and contact lists that make it easy to immediately connect with other staff and employees.

The Connect app from King & Wood Malleson requires a login before accessing firm’s contact directory. It is one of only a handful of firm-specific productivity apps available in Apple’s App Store or iTunes. Another is the Associate Life app from Skadden offers employees ways to connect with their peers, learn about their mentoring program, and stay up-to-date on upcoming events.

News Apps provide up-to-date information about changes in laws, legal precedents, and topics relevant to other areas of law and legal practice.  

Weil’s Bankruptcy blog provides clients with the latest developments in restructuring and bankruptcy law around the world. The ES Tax SALT Shaker from Evershed Sutherland provides the latest news in US tax law at the state and local levels. This app also allows you to set alerts to be notified when there are new developments in SALT tax code.

Have a Mobile-first Strategy in Place

At Fliplet, we have worked with many law firms to help them build the apps they need. We have found that a formal mobile-first strategy is one of the distinguishing characteristics of top law firms that lead in mobility. Law firms with a mobile-first strategy in place gain a strong competitive edge by transitioning from reactive app development where they respond to client needs, to proactive app development where they innovate through the anticipation of client needs.

Centralized Ownership of Mobile Strategy

Through our clients, we have also learned that the key to the success of mobile-first strategy lies in centralized ownership. A single person or team with a mobile vision leads mobile app development, often through a Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE). The MCoE provides the structure and accountability necessary for the long-term success of the mobile strategy, along with processes to guide app innovation and development.

A successful MCoE:

  • Coordinates collaboration between business units and other departments
  • Reduces app development cycles
  • Helps to create a consistent UX among the firm’s apps
  • Establishes and maintains a high level of security through frequent audits that identify security gaps

Regular Maintenance and Updates to Apps

80% of apps by law firms in 2016 and 2017 are either new or recently updated. 94 of the 163 (57.7%) apps are aimed at the general public, while 8% were aimed at a client audience. Law firms that lead in mobility understand the importance of providing apps to a variety of audiences and keeping them relevant with the latest information and updates.

The Future of Law Firms in the Mobile Era

“The big things happening in mobile, will happen to the legal industry.”

Keith Hardie, European Marketing Director at Bryan Cave

Keith Hardie, the European Marketing Director at Bryan Cave, believes that one of those big things is voice recognition technology, which has come a long way in the last few years. Multiple products exist that are capable of accurately rendering voice-to-text and text-to-voice. This could be a real game-changer for law firms that create apps that allows a user to use his voice to look up an article within a specific law, instead of typing it in, or to dictate messages that can then be sent to the desired recipient with a voice command.  

Mobile is no longer some pie-in-the-sky vision. It’s here, and it’s transforming how law firms do everything from marketing to providing legal services for clients. Law firms that continue to stick with tradition will quickly be left behind, unable to catch up to mobile-first law firms.

US law firms are quickly adopting mobile-first strategies with an eye across the pond to UK markets. UK firms that haven’t adopted a solid mobile strategy will not be able to keep up with the pace of mobile-first law firms in the US that are licensed to practice law in the UK.   

One thing is certain: a mobile-first strategy is no longer something to be disregarded as mere science fiction. Law firms that fail to adopt a mobile-first strategy will not be able to compete with mobile-first law firms that are able to immediately connect with their clients through mobile apps tailored to their needs.

Where does your firm fit in the top 300? Read the report to find out!