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May 11 — The market for legal apps, which was on the decline for several years, “is rising,” and “we can expect to see more apps from BigLaw,”Larry Bodine, a web consultant and legal marketing strategist who also designs apps, told Bloomberg BNA.
“App” is short for application, which refers to a computer program designed to run on mobile devices or desktop computers.
Some firms showed interest in developing legal apps in 2010, but there wasn't a market for them and development declined, Bodine said.
Now most people are going online with their mobile phones and more than half of all web searches take place on a mobile phone, he said.
“This creates a new impetus to create apps,” Bodine said.
This app aims to provide “easy access to all our global Employment & Benefits resources and team contact information, enabling employers to keep in touch with the latest news and developments while on the move,” Nick Robertson, London head of the firm's Employment & Benefits Group, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.
The firm already has an app, Global Guide to Restrictive Covenants, that was released in 2014.
Latham & Watkins is developing two apps—in the life sciences and energy practice areas—to add to its library of 10 apps, Kenneth Heaps, the firm's Chief Information Officer, told Bloomberg BNA.
An app needs to have a practical usage “that you're going to need on multiple occasions,” Bodine said.
This practical usage has eluded most law firms, he said.
Latham & Watkins, which began developing apps in 2010, has managed to create apps that survived the legal app downturn and continue to attract users.
There have been more than 69,000 downloads of the apps to date, which are free and available to all, Frank Pizzurro, Latham & Watkins's Public Relations Senior Manager, told Bloomberg BNA.
Most of the hits are coming from associates at other firms, Kirk Davenport, a partner with Latham & Watkins, told Bloomberg BNA.
Davenport is part of a team of about 30 at the firm who are involved in developing and maintaining the apps, he said.
“My fantasy is that associates at Cravath or Sullivan & Cromwell who are given a research assignment start trying to figure out the answer by directly going to Latham's website,” Davenport said.
The firm's partners also “see opportunities to make an area of the law more accessible and understandable to the market while showcasing our firm’s leadership in that practice area,” he said.
“We want very much to contribute to the community” by offering the apps, “and we hope it helps our reputation,” Davenport said.
There are “advantages in supporting our client relations, enhancing the skills of young lawyers (at our firm and beyond), and in positioning the firm as a thought leader and innovator in the market,” he said.
Mayer Brown also strives to “push the level of innovation,” Robertson said.
However, Mayer Brown develops its apps primarily with its clients in mind.Other Top Firms' Apps
SIDLEY mobile, a mobile version of the law firm's website; and SIDLEY events
2014 Annual Corporate Governance Survey of the Largest U.S. Public Companies
App, last updated in 2011, “designed to give you on-the-go access to information” about the firm
App for its 2016 partner retreat
Perkins Coie Coin Law, provides an “international update and high-level summary of each nation's current stance on virtual currencies”; and Perkins Coie LLP Events
MoFo2Go—designed to give “on-the-go professionals” important information about the firm on a wide range of topcis; MoFoMobl$—for participants in the mobile payments industry
“The driving force behind the development of our apps is Mayer Brown’s continuing commitment to transforming multi-jurisdictional content to meet employers’ needs,” he said.
App creation and management is a team effort at both Latham and Mayer Brown, but they take different approaches.
At Latham, everything is done in-house, including the programming and content creation, Heaps said.
For Mayer Brown's apps, their “concept and content” are developed in house and the technology build is outsourced, Robertson said.
A team of more than 80 lawyers and staff from Mayer Brown's various offices throughout the world as well as the external agency worked to create “a high-quality, innovative resource,” he said.
At Latham, lawyers act as the editors of the material. They develop the content and they work with the firm's technology team “to turn it into reality,” Pizzurro said.
Those involved regularly confer to make sure material is up to date, which is a big job, Davenport said.
The apps are interactive, so users can notify the firm if they catch an error, Pizzurro said.
Eight of Latham's 10 apps are an outgrowth of the firm's “Book of Jargon®” series, glossaries of legal terminology specific to certain practice areas.
“Legal jargon is a barrier to entry” to the legal profession, Davenport said.
The firm began putting its series into apps in 2010.
The series was developed for certain practice areas in which the firm has “high levels of experience and knowledge,” such as mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, bank finance, restructuring and project finance, Pizzurro said.
Other more specialized practice areas such as hedge funds or the Patent Trial & Appeal Board, however, are also represented.
What unites all the areas is that each has “a language unto its own” that lends itself to the Book of Jargon format, Pizzurro said.
Mayer Brown's apps also highlight its practice area strengths.
“We have significant experience assisting such employers with cross-border employment, benefits and mobility matters,” Robertson said.
“We therefore understand the challenges they face when handling such issues and recognize the value of widely accessible, cross-platform resources in helping them navigate multi-jurisdictional risks,” he said.
From a technology standpoint, it takes less than two days and “less than a couple thousand dollars” for Latham & Watkins to put together an app, Heaps said.
Updating an app takes less than 20 hours, he said.
The firm encourages attorneys to contribute by allowing attorneys to bill for time spent on such a project.
They get a billing code number for “knowledge management,” which allows them “to use a certain amount of time that's allocated for these types of projects, which help to generate business as well,” Pizzurro said.
“Developing apps requires significant investment and development time but is vital to delivering a genuinely multi-platform and multi-jurisdictional resource for employers,” Robertson said.
Top law firms' apps attempt to attract a wide-ranging audience, from potential clients to firm partners to professionals in specific practice areas, according to Bloomberg BNA research.
“BigLaw is showing increasing interest in creating mobile apps,” Bodine said.
“Law firms are going to spend more on marketing, including digital marketing,” he said.
To attract users, apps will need to be customer-service oriented, providing “useful and meaningful content,” Bodine said.
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