Ever intrepid tech-adventurer, Bob Ambrogi has uncovered yet another interesting find: My Pocket Attorney, a site that provides a template that lawyers can use to create a branded mobile app for their law firm. Apps developed through the MyPocketAttorney suite of tools include features such as one-touch dialing so that users can call your office, get GPS directions and schedule appointments, receive monthly newsletters.
Although the site just launched on the same day as Bob’s post, Bob expressed some preliminary concerns. In particular, the app includes a feature, albeit optional, which would allow for payment of referral fees when users share the app with others. Bob suggested that the referral feature might violate many bars’ prohibitions on fee-splitting with non-lawyers. As for me, I’m not sure that simply paying someone to pass on a law firm app to a friend, in and of itself, would violate ethics rules. Rather, it would depend on whether sending the app may be construed as a “recommendation,” which lawyers can’t pay for. Still, the referral program strikes me as a bad idea, nonetheless, since as a consumer, I certainly wouldn’t want to be bombarded with dozens of lawyer apps passed on by others who want to earn a buck.
Other than the referral feature, I’ve long been jazzed about the idea of lawyer-created apps. As more consumers spend more time using mobile devices and grow accustomed to consuming content that way, apps can provide a way for lawyers to get in front on prospective clients. On the other hand, lawyers need to recall that just as they are competing for consumers’ attention, so too are hundreds of other businesses – and as a result, a mediocre or useless app is likely to go ignored in the kaleidoscope of other apps clogging most smartphones.
That’s the other reason why MyPocketAttorney hasn’t yet captured my fancy. While existing clients may appreciate an app with basic contact information and directions, truth is, much of that is already available on websites. Moreover, these types of very simple apps can now be had fairly inexpensively; the MyPocketAttorney price of $1199 plus a monthly fee after a year, isn’t crazy-expensive, but I think you could also find an elance or odesk developer to come up with a similar product, for a similar price.
But really, if you’re going to go to the trouble of developing an app, it should have unique functionality. These Divorce Apps, a suite created by Dallas lawyer, Michelle May O’Neill has multi-functionality and really help to guide consumers through various issues they’ll encounter in a family law matter. This kind of app is much more than a vanity app, but useful, robust tool that lawyers, and more importantly, their perspective clients will want to rock, not block.