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Law firms explore having an app for that

Live streaming baseball scores or the ability to harmonize with the cast of “Glee” are some of the more ostentatious downloads available for the iPhone.

But there are plenty of applications designed for business use, including those for attorneys and their clients.

A handful of law firms throughout the county have launched their own iPhone apps as a way to market their services as well as conveniently connect with clients.

West Coast-based Morrison-Foerster debuted a multi-function app in March and has tracked more than 1,500 downloads.

“From our point of view, that’s valuable real estate,” said Dave Harvey, the firm’s marketing manager. “Because once they’ve downloaded it and have an icon on their iPhone, they are only going do that so many times, so we did feel there was a bit of first-mover advantage.”

The free app, “MoFo2Go,” offers a searchable attorney directory, client alerts, a Google Maps office locater function and a virtual maze game.

Harvey said the thousand-attorney firm’s specialization in technology-based practice areas made it a worthwhile endeavor.

Whether Wisconsin law firms would get the same value in launching their own app remains to be seen.

“If we were a Silicon Valley firm, we would be jumping all over this,” Quarles & Brady Chief Information Officer Todd D. Thorson said.

With more than 280 attorneys in the state, the firm is researching the possibility of an app in the future, but its document management system isn’t currently compatible with iPhones.

Thorson said he expects the firm’s system will support iPhones within the next six months, which could pave the way for future developments for attorneys and clients.

“I expect about one-third of our attorneys will immediately run out and pick up an iPhone,” he said. “After discussing what we can do to enhance attorney use and client access there might be pressure to develop an app.”

The State Bar of Wisconsin is in the preliminary stages of researching a mobile application for website content.

The bar tracks the types of electronic devices used to access its website and at this point, only about .01 percent do so through their mobile phone.

“There probably isn’t a huge demand,” said spokesperson Tom Solberg. “We’ve had some discussion, but we’re not ready to move on anything yet.”

Absent a substantial need or want, the usefulness of a law firm app is likely minimal, said Altman Weil legal marketing consultant Eric Seeger.

He added that few firms are likely to mandate iPhone use by their attorneys, which limits the number interested in wholesale development of apps.

“There can’t be any harm in developing an app that a client says he or she wants and will use,” Seeger said. “But developing an app in hopes of selling it to prospects as a means of getting work; I think that is much more dubious.”

With a plethora of apps already on the market covering thousands of topics, along with the diversity of mobile devices used by attorneys, Harvey conceded that it doesn’t make sense for every firm.

If it is an inconvenience for clients and attorneys, rather than a handy tool, it’s probably not going to be worthwhile, he said.

“People are not sitting out there waiting for the next law firm app to come out,” Harvey said. “It takes a fair amount of creativity and it’s going to be challenging for firms to come up with something different.”

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at jack.zemlicka@wislawjournal.com.

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