Android App Review: Sidley Austin LLP (or Why Your Law Firm Shouldn’t Have a Mobile App)

Let’s assume for a moment that your firm is really into themselves. Your firm’s multi-national, not a “chump” solo attorney trying to ilk a buck on the backs of lower-class shlups. So, what’s the first thing your firm does to show it’s really awesome in the world of [insert your firm’s awesome specialty]?

Well, you design a mobile app all about your firm, of course. And then, because you want to waste even more client money and partner profits people to know how you’re a “tech-savvy firm,” you hire a PR firm to tout the hell out of your great app.

Your PR firm might even get in touch with “that iPhone lawyer guy,” or if he/she is really desperate, “that Android lawyer.”

Then your guy/gal will say in an email how great the app is, and ask — The Droid Lawyer in this case — if the blogger wants to speak with someone at your firm about your firm’s great new Android app.

PR Promo

Of course, The Droid Lawyer won’t respond because he thinks, “you can’t be serious, mobile apps for law firms suck” missed your PR guy/gal’s email.

But, being vigilant, the PR guy/gal continues to “follow-up,” until The Droid Lawyer acquiesces and agrees to review your “awesome” app.

PR Response

And if you happen to work for Sidley Austin LLP you might want to slink in your chair because this review isn’t going to be pretty today’s Android app review is all about your “awesome” app, SIDLEY mobile (free).

Sidley Austin Android App Splash Screen

I’m sure you can tell by the thick layer of sarcasm (and from my previous posts) that I loathe mobile apps for law firms.

Unfortunately, Sidley Austin’s partners don’t read this blog, so they caught the mobile train and rode it off to useless station.

Let me make this clear to other “brilliant” law firms: nobody wants your firm’s stupid mobile app. And nobody really, really, really wants an app that just regurgitates the information on your website, especially when that information’s just an aggregation of news stories — p.s., have you ever heard of RSS?

Sidley News

I mean, the news is interesting and all — who wouldn’t love to sit down and read the Favorable Trends post? — but I play Angry Birds because it’s something different, something I can’t find anywhere else. If the only thing your app gives me is the same information on your website, it’s not unique.

Sidley’s app does just that — the regurgitates part, not the unique stuff.

Sidley News 2

Additionally, the app is almost 45 MB to download.

44mb

Sheesh, that’s one-half the size of Madden 25 or FIFA 14, and not nearly as fun. Okay, I lied . . . about the size part, not the fun part. SIDLEY mobile isn’t fun.

There’s the obvious, “check out how awesome our firm is” stuff, followed up with the usual attorney bios.

Awesome Sidley Austin

Admittedly, I spent more time in the attorney bios than any other part of the app. After all, I had to find the best-looking female associate/partner at Sidley.

Nicola Bartholomew

No judging! It was research. You’d do the same thing given the terribly inadequate amount of other worthwhile content.

You can also tell that too many lawyers had too much input into the design and deployment of the app.

Terms of Use

Yep, that’s the ever-present, never-read, terms of service and “don’t take our advice as legal advice” disclaimer . . . which appears just after the splash screen. Did you see where you agree to sacrifice your first-born at Carhenge? No? Me either. But I had to double-check. I’m sure they’re just complying with some state or country’s regulations, but give me a break. This extended length diatribe has “pompous” written all over it — “we’ll give you this content, but we don’t take any responsibility for its accuracy.”

Ultimately, Sidley Austin LLP, created a lovely, but useless Android app. The app is good money thrown away. The app’s also a very good example of what happens when you don’t understand the purpose of the tech you’re trying to work with.

Heck, SIDLEY mobile doesn’t even have a way to contact the firm. I guess Chris Abbinante will be getting a lot of query emails.

Chris Abbinante

Maybe I don’t understand the BigLaw mentality — insert Oklahoma “hick” comment (raised in California) — but I do understand why SIDLEY mobile, and other law firm mobile apps, fail on every level of useful:

  1. Too much useless “about you” content;
  2. Boring stories and press releases;
  3. Poor interface that puts “your people” first, but doesn’t give me any other context or connection;
  4. Your stuff isn’t “fresh”
  5. You app just pukes your website, in mobile app form

Does your firm need that “fluff stuff”? Yes, of course it does. But that’s for your mobile friendly website, and not for your mobile app.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on these kinds of apps, your firm should invest in developing more useful Android apps for lawyers — let me know if you need a suggestion. If your firm’s dead-set on building an app to promote its presence, then build something like Devil’s Attorney ($1.99), which your clients and I will actually want on our phones and tablets.

Overall, SIDLEY mobile is an excellent example of why your law firm doesn’t need a mobile app. Nope! Your firm does not need a mobile app. Ignore what your “web consultant” is telling you.

In all fairness to the PR firm, the representative was cordial and nice, not overly pushy. That’s why the firm and its account rep shall remain nameless. There’s not much you can do with garbage; except maybe recycle it. Hmmm . . .

Update (11:15 | 11/19/13): one reader requested a look at the SIDLEY mobile pitch. Here’s the press release I received:

Sidley Austin LLP Introduces Sidley Mobile App for Android

Sidley is pleased to announce the launch of its Sidley Mobile app for Android, which mirrors the features of its popular iOS app that was released in December 2012 for iPhone and iPad users. Developed in response to client feedback, both apps focus on providing easy access to client alerts, firm news and lawyer contact information in a way that is easy for users to navigate and customize to fit their individual needs.

Among the features of the Sidley Mobile apps:

  • Access to all Sidley updates through the “My Updates” tab, which offers users the option to customize their choices as to which updates they wish to receive, or opt to receive all Sidley updates via the “All Updates” tab
  • Delivery of content tailored to more than 40 law practice-related topics
  • A dedicated lawyer search tool that makes information about Sidley lawyers and offices easy to find
  • Push notifications that alert users when an update in a practice area they have selected has been published 
  • Usable on any Android mobile device and downloaded from Google Play [link removed]
  • Sidley’s iOS Mobile App remains available for download in the Apple App store, for iPad and iPhone [link removed]

See? Kind of hard to pitch a bad app. Oh, and who’s giving the feedback?

14 Responses to Android App Review: Sidley Austin LLP (or Why Your Law Firm Shouldn’t Have a Mobile App)

  1. As someone who is in the process of building a new firm website, and thinking about SEO, is there any SEO benefit to having a crap app in the play store? Is that the reason the web consultant recommended the mobile app?

    • I’m not sure what the buy-in reasoning is. I can only assume that those in charge of making the ultimate decision are trusting too much in their “SEO guru.” Of course, there’s really no benefit in mobile apps for law firms SEO-wise, and the only one who really benefits is the app developer.

      I think there’s a mentality of, “we must have a law firm mobile app,” and most firms don’t understand the value of mobile apps. In truth, nobody, or as close as possible, wants a law firm’s mobile app.

      People want apps to read documents, play games or watch movies, not get the latest update on mergers and acquisitions.

      • Can confirm. There is no appreciable SEO benefit to having a mobile app. Perhaps the webpage listing the App on Google will carry some link juice back to the firm website, but that would clearly make it the most expensive “link acquisition” of all time. 🙂 Terrible reasoning…

  2. I was kind of wondering the same thing re: app w/directory of attorneys, which I was notified that I could join for the low, low annual price of $99. Except then I jumped onto Google Play, searched for attorney directories, and didn’t find the one that wanted my money. And I cannot imagine than anyone in their right mind would ever download a memory taking app of lawyer directories. I mean, seriously…!

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.