Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MoFo Law Firm Launches iPhone App - Mistake?

This morning, I was reading about Morrison & Foester's launch of their free iPhone app, the first to be developed by a corporate law firm.  Reviews on this article in The Lawyer seem to be mixed - some think it was an expensive mistake, while others commented that they would be interested in it.  The app, which will have four function areas, will allow users to search MoFo attorney bios, read firm news, find information on the firm's offices and nearby attractions, and even includes a maze game.

What are your thoughts on this?  My initial question was whether they'd interviewed their clients to find out what would be of use to them in an application.  The article says that the app came about after "noticing that the lawyers at the firm used their phones and handheld devices as 'portable offices.'" but doesn't make mention of finding out why their clients would want to use it.  I can see how it would be useful for clients to be able to search attorney bios on the go and perhaps easily locate the firm's address and contact information, but how can the firm make their app relevant to their clients on a longterm basis?

Are any of your firms working on deploying iPhone applications?  Do you think they have any value for clients aside from making a firm appear cutting edge?


  1. Lindsay,

    Unlike its website, I don't think the MoFo iPhone app is a mistake. It is a pretty simple app that does very simple tasks, so it is at most a harmless resource. But, being one of, if not the first to market with an iPhone app has great PR potential. I mean look at all the crazy press that Fastcase got from their iPhone app. Perhaps MoFo can gather information from those that download the app and start making it more useful based upon the needs of the user. I think that it has great potential for MoFo, initially as a PR tool, but eventually as something useful for itself and its clients.

  2. Greg - that's an interesting take on it. I think you're right that there is some value in being first, but I do wonder how they'll make it relevant and useful for their clients and perhaps their own attorneys. It would be interesting to find out what kind of information you can learn about the users, if any, and then how that can be adapted. I still think it would be useful to talk to their clients and find out what would be most helpful for them. It may be the case of only time will tell, and perhaps kudos are in order for a forward-thinking firm.

  3. Methinks MoFo would be better off redesigning its ridiculous, newly redesigned Web site.

  4. Greg makes an excellent point. There is value in being first (maybe more to some than others). What they've done is simply given clients a faster version of their website. I would think Phase 2 would be figuring out how to take the app a step further in making the client experience with them easier--easy document view, maybe? I think that, then, it would really be of value, as opposed to just another option to find out info from the website.

  5. An iPhone app that gave clients access to their documents or other client-specific information would be useful. The current version of the app seems best at attracting headlines. It may have PR value, but in practical terms a mobile-friendly version of their site would have been more useful.

  6. Lindsay and I were chatting earlier on Twitter on how Patton Boggs partnered with other companies to create an app for the Inauguration in early '09. We are major players in the public policy arena, so this tool was a natural fit for us -- we also found it to be highly effective. It was very specific to the occasion, making it a short-term tool and a little different than what is being addressed in this post, but it's an example of ways in which law firms can use apps. User experience has to be the main focus; branding comes later.

    Best of luck to MoFo on their app, though -- definitely an exciting new way in which to market law firms.

  7. Initially, law firm iPhone apps might not seem to fill a pressing need. But 10 years ago nobody felt the pressing need for a BlackBerry or an iPhone either, yet now they are indispensible to businesspeople. RSS feeds, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc., lawyers and businesspeople are getting information and connecting with their clients in many new and different ways. An iPhone app is just another way--and one where clients can see you as a leader or an innovator, rather than a follower.

    Torys LLP launched their iPhone app even before MoFo, and apparently have received positive feedback from clients--even from people that don't have iPhones! Being first with new innovations is in itself a sign of a firm's ability to not only respond to client needs, but anticipate them, as well.

  8. Hi Anonymous - we'd love to know who you are! I'm certainly not saying that there's no utility in law firms having iPhone apps - I use my iPhone for almost everything these days, and absolutely can see why a firm would want to have an app. What I'm asking is how these apps can be useful to clients and the firm in the long run, in addition to branding them as being "first" and able to adapt to and anticipate client needs. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on that.

  9. I don't think anyone knows whether an app will be useful to clients in the long run, but apps are an interesting experiment. They're something you don't know whether you'd use it or not until you actually have it. Like the iPhone itself. (Further, they're not excessivly costly in time or money to develop, so why not try?)

    Nobody knows whether they'd want a law firm app until one exists. Now that it exists, they might find it useful or they might not. It might go like the dodo or the Palm Pilot (remember when everybody was tapping away on their "personal digital assistant" with a pencil-like stylus?). Or it might become fairly commonplace like LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook or blogs.

    Clients don't *need* to see your tweets or read your blog. They don't *need* to connect to you on LinkedIn or comment on your video on Facebook. But mabye they would *like* to. Maybe they'll feel a stronger relationship to their lawyer or their lawyer's firm knowing that they carry their app around with them on their phone, and they can connect with them at any time.

    -- Mark (aka "Anonymous")