The 2016 Australia: State of the Legal Market report, released late last year by Thomson Reuters and Melbourne Law School, identified the growth of apps and other digital technologies as a major trend in the business of law.
“There is little doubt 2016 is the year of the app,” the report said.
Of the 14 macro trends analysed in the report, the only one found to be growing faster than digital technology was the supply of law graduates.
According to James Jarvis, director of legal solutions at Thomson Reuters, developing an app can be a game changer for a firm.
“Developing your own firm app, whether for internal customers to improve efficiency and firm operations, or for external clients as a way to stand out from the competition, is a great way to deliver content,” he said.
“It can also help redefine the client experience and revolutionise the way firms practise law.”
With this in mind, Thomson Reuters has made three recommendations for law firms looking to develop apps:
1. Determine the app’s purpose
“There are different paths a firm can take when developing an app, depending on what it is trying to achieve and what internal and external customers want.
“Ultimately, there should be a solid understanding of what purpose the app serves and how it adds value, rather than just spending money developing an app because everyone else is doing it.”
2. Prioritise the client experience
“When creating a law firm app, it is important to identify a customer's need and create something that addresses that need.
“For example, ME Taskflow, a software solution built by MinterEllison, gives clients clear visibility on the legal matters they have pending with the firm, and also assigns a matter to the most qualified member of the legal team.”
3. Don’t neglect the app production process
“When creating a new app, speed to market is important, as is flexibility.
“Vendors, internal stakeholders and IT teams may not speak the same language, so it is important to seek clarification on any ambiguous points so no misunderstandings occur during the app development.
“Staying open to co-creation opportunities with clients or other stakeholders can also help ensure the finished product stands out from the myriad of apps currently available.”
Mr Jarvis added that consultation with clients is essential when firms are developing apps.
“Giving users a chance to see what the app could do for them before buying it lets firms obtain feedback and make continual improvements,” he said.
“Law firm apps are not new, but they are getting more sophisticated. As tablet and smartphone use soars, firms and clients alike can expect to see further advancement in the development of legal apps and other tech tools to help make access to legal services simpler and more intuitive.”
The report concluded that the need for traditional firms to adapt to the digital world has never been more urgent.
“With the growth of multidisciplinary practices, digital solutions and NewLaw models, the available share of total legal spend going to traditional law firm partnerships is contracting,” it said.
“This contraction may be in the order of 40 per cent by 2021.
“The rules of the game in this market are changing, and the window of opportunity to embrace a fresh approach is closing.”
This was thrown into sharp relief last month by a BDO report that found law firms “struggling” to keep up with technology and changing client demands.