Should Law Firms Build Apps?

By Joseph Raczynski

On the first day of ILTA’s 2014 convention I attended a rather fascinating session.   The title was “To App or Not To App?” and focused around if it makes sense for a law firm to produce their own Apps.  The following questions were posed: Do law firm apps really do the useful things they are intended?  Do clients use them?  Is now the time to get your firm on board with creating an app, and are they worth the investment?  We entered into a discussion with three firms and how they got from the drawing board to release and lessons they learned along the way.

The panel addressed these questions by talking about three different apps they had each built.

  • Mark McCreary of Fox Rothschild LLP led the discussion on an App that they built at the firm called Data Breach 411. It is an App that “Privacy and Data Practice attorneys created to inform businesses of these state laws so they can better understand their rights, obligations and potential liability.”
  • Marika DaPron of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP discussed The ShalePlay App, which is a comprehensive resource on news and information related to shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, including the latest industry trends and updates.
  • Elyse Lazaruk of Latham & Watkins LLP discussed The Book of Jargon which was a firm written book that they turned into an App. It covers corporate and bank finance slang and terminology.

The major thrust of this session was these three apps were extremely beneficial to the firm.  They cited several reasons for the success.  The number one reason to build an App was the exposure reaped from its creation.  The App simply demonstrated significant expertise by the firm in a specialty area.  They were able to leverage this with potential clients.  In addition, the firms saw a great deal of press from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Legal Week and The American Lawyer.

Some of the major challenges that the firm’s faced with building the Apps were limited resources, having teams of attorneys collaborate with developers, and watching costs.

When asked by an attendee if the firm would consider building more Apps, the panel universally said “Absolutely!”  Based on this session and while we are in a more competitive legal landscape, it would seem to behoove firms which wish to distinguish themselves to delve into the possibility of creating their own App within their area of expertise.

Unlocking the Power of the Cloud

By Joseph Raczynski

Pressures are increasing for legal IT professionals to increase productivity and reduce costs.  Couple that with the demand for anytime and anywhere access to law firm data and the result is a multi-front push for cloud based solutions.  At the forefront of this struggle are core functions of a firm like content management, collaboration, search, eDiscovery and records management.  At ILTA 2014 HP Autonomy explored with a holistic approach the fundamental factors for unlocking the power of the Cloud.

The three primary factors that drive Cloud have a genesis with the new portrait of today’s attorney.  Neil Araujo of HP mentioned that fully 50% of practicing attorneys in middle to large law firms are 35 years of age and younger currently.  That ushers in a new attorney mindset bent on technology.  These individuals are mobile and connected; and so the panel identified “The New Attorney” as the first driver for Cloud adoption.  The second factor illustrated dealt with “The New Economy”.  Cloud can assist with finding new ways to deliver efficiency and cost savings.  The last factor mentioned was “The New Client”.  Clients are now expecting more for less and desire data in more rapid, easy, and secure platform.

Shawn Misquitta of HP Autonomy cited several major product bets across the industry going forward.   Shawn said, “A consistent, intuitive user experience is of the utmost importance.”  This will lead to clean, clear user interfaces that will display and function well on any device.  The Cloud will be a Hybrid Cloud consisting of both On-Prem and Private Cloud.  This delivers a secure accessible platform that allows for firm governance of data and processes more easily.

Ultimately the panel stated that while there is no simple Cloud solution, there is no question Cloud is here to stay.  The economies of scale, flexibility, scalability, and mobility all make it a rich solution, provided it is implemented and planned carefully.