By LISA MONTI
Mississippi law firms have embraced the website to promote their services and specialties but not many have warmed up to using a mobile app to serve clients and find new business. At least not yet.
The firms in the state that do have an app say it keeps them connected with clients and helps to generate more word-of-mouth business.
The law offices of Malouf & Malouf in Jackson has a website and added a mobile app about a year ago. Mike Malouf Jr. said the online presence is a way to stay competitive. “We still think more people use the mobile website than the app but it’s good to have both.”
The free app is designed for his personal injury and workers’ comp cases. He said it is “just another way to make it convenient for our clients to stay in touch. We believe active communication is the best way for us to assist clients.”
Malouf researched various apps but didn’t find many tailored to attorneys. He worked with an Iowa company for several months to customize his firm’s app and said he’s happy with the results. Now it’s just a matter of getting more people to use it.
The key features include step-by-step instructions on what to do in an emergency such as a car accident. “The app allows our client to take photos and recorded statements immediately and it automatically sends it to my law office,” he said.
“The voice recorder is very key in a lot of accidents because when you leave an accident scene a lot of evidence is gone. People assume the police get all the names of witnesses and they don’t. They do a great job but they are not there to record evidence in a personal injury claim. One of the main reasons I wanted to get this app is to get recorded statements,” he said.
Malouf said the app is especially helpful to clients who aren’t skilled in using a smartphone to take and forward photos. “On multiple occasions I’ve had clients go to the app and take shots and they’re sent to me immediately.”
Another client had important documents for Malouf to see and was able to use the app camera as a scanner.
Jackson-based bfac.com, a leading mobile app company, has built more than 2,500 apps for customers including Toyota, Pepsi and Dell as well as Mississippi law firms. Brad McMullan, bfac.com’s CEO and president, said all business owners, not just lawyers, will miss out if they don’t have an app.
“You’ve got more people using apps than websites and there are far less apps than websites. It gives greater exposure,” he said. “Everybody’s got a cell phone in their hand. The world is mobile.”
McMullan said personal injury lawyers lead the way in their profession when it comes to marketing. They were the first to advertise on television, in newspapers, phone books and on websites because their clients often need fast resolution. Mobile apps fit their business model because when somebody is in an accident, they likely will grab their cell phone first.
“If you want to build a relationship with people you have got to go where the people are,” McMullan said. “The one thing everybody who needs a lawyer has in common is they have a cell phone in their hand and the mobile app was built for that.”
The apps also help law firms gain new business because clients can easily share contact information. It’s the same as asking friends to recommend a roofer, a painter or jeweler. “Personal recommendations are the most powerful form of marketing on earth,” he said. “For a law firm, if referrals are the number one source of business, they would be foolish not to have a mobile app.”
Family law attorney Mark Chinn of Chinn & Associates in Jackson has a bfac.com-designed app that was launched in March. The firm also has a website, a Facebook page and YouTube and Twitter accounts.
Chinn said his technical capabilities are “sometimes comical” but he’s a strong believer in technology. He said he wanted to be “on the ground floor” with an app and is pleased with the early numbers. So far the app, which is adapted from his website, has been downloaded 47 times and has been viewed almost 400 times.
“My attitude was (bfac.com) made it available to me at a price where I could put my foot in the water and see how it works. Now it’s up to me to promote it and learn ways to make it valuable,” he said.
He said the app contains valuable legal information for clients as well as directions to courthouses and fun features such as a news feed with celebrity divorce updates.
“Any professional who is interested in being part of modern day marketing should be exploring everything they can, including apps,” Chinn said. “I don’t know where it’s heading but I wanted to be part of it.”