This is the third of three columns I am devoting to no-code automation platforms and how law firms can incorporate these artificial intelligence tools into their practices. The first column introduced readers to these tools and explained how they work and what they can produce. In that piece, I talked about how these products are easy enough to use that lawyers can build apps themselves. And the apps can take someone through an interview and produce legal analysis and legal documents replicating the same decision-tree process that lawyers do daily. They can also help to automate practice management tasks that can help firms better serve their clients.
The second column provided readers with advice on how to shop for a no-code platform, whether it is expert system software like Afterpattern, BRYTER or Josef, which create a web-based interface for users, or LawDroid and similar products that use a chatbot format.
In this third column, I discuss how to come up with ideas for automations and how to market them once they’re created. The first issue you might want to think about before you embark on creating an automation is who your intended audience is. Are you building automations for your existing clients, for your team’s internal use, for prospective clients, for other lawyers, for reporters or for another audience? You can build apps with more than one audience in mind but thinking about who you want to build for will help you generate content ideas.
You will also want to think about what your intended result is. Are you looking to build an app that people pay to use and is itself your product? Perhaps it is an app that is free but builds awareness of you and your firm’s service offerings. It might be an automation that saves your clients time and improves your outcomes—something that will both help your bottom line and help you market your firm as cutting edge. It might be something that helps in your marketing to prospective clients and speeds onboarding. It could also be an app that automates a complex legal task that saves your lawyers considerable time and improves outcomes, and perhaps it becomes a product that can be marketed to other law firms.
The types of automations you build might depend on your practice area. As an immigration lawyer, I’ve dealt with rapid, headline-grabbing changes in law and policy over the last several years and have built several apps that have helped people understand the changes and how they are impacted. For example, during the Trump administration and continuing in the current one, the White House executive orders over and over ban certain groups of people from entering the United States. This section of the Immigration and Nationality Act was used for the so-called Muslim Ban and then later to ban visa processing in several categories across the board as well as COVID-related, short-term travel bans for dozens of countries.
The bans themselves were complicated. They often went into great detail defining who was subject and who was not and often were supplemented with guidance from the State Department adding new national interest exemptions or altering the bans based on court decisions. Building a Travel Ban Advisor app was a natural. There was a great deal of consumer demand for the information, and it was also very helpful for me as the author of the app because I was learning the new policies as I was creating the app. We’ve created many other rapid deployment apps based on what’s in the news. They can be very effective marketing tools, particularly if the subject is complicated. An interview-based app can be a lot more effective in helping someone understand what the changes that have just happened mean than an article trying to do the same thing.
But consumer-facing apps don’t just have to be of the headline-based, rapid deployment variety. You can develop automations that address the kinds of issues you regularly address with prospective clients. Are you likely eligible for this particular benefit? Are you potentially liable based on these particular facts? The apps themselves can provide basic information that’s intended to be useful, but then direct people to schedule an appointment with a lawyer. Or they can go into enough depth to make it possible to address an access to justice problem, and make it possible, possibly for a fee, for someone to afford to deal with a legal problem who might not be able to afford a lawyer or access pro bono or “low bono” services. Then there are apps designed to make life easier for your existing clients. What are the parts of your practice where they need a lot of hand-holding? Those pain points for your clients are good candidates for automation. Here are two examples from my practice. Physician immigration is one of the most complex areas of immigration law. Congress has delegated to state health agencies the ability to design programs to allow international doctors to practice in shortage areas. The programs are full of rules limiting what types of doctors can qualify, what types of employment settings are available, what can go in a contract, etc. Physician recruiters need these doctors badly, but having to call up a lawyer each time they’re reviewing a physician’s CV or looking at whether an employment opportunity qualifies for visa sponsorship is very unattractive. So, we built an app that takes recruiters through a relatively short interview and gives them a green light, yellow light or red light on whether they can proceed.
Our firm also engages in mass litigation against the government regarding its immigration policies. Some of our cases have hundreds of plaintiffs all of whom need to sign engagement letters and prepare declarations. We have created apps for our cases that take plaintiffs through a short interview, create these documents for them, and then allow them to electronically sign them via the apps. A huge time-saver for our team and the quick and easy onboarding for plaintiffs is also greatly appreciated by them.
Another app we’ve created is one that can be used by a lot of types of firms. We have built a bot on our website that asks visitors some basic questions and then directs them to a page where they can book an appointment directly with the lawyer who is appropriate for the type of matter they need to discuss.
We’re also now selling some of these client-facing apps to other law firms under “white labeling” arrangements where these firms offer the automations to their clients and pay us subscription fees.
As for marketing the apps, a few quick suggestions:
- Promote the apps via your social media channels.
- Create a section of your website specifically devoted to promoting the automations you have created.
- Record short videos with your lawyers explaining the apps including a demo.
- Reach out to your clients to encourage them to use the apps.
- If the app is tied to something in the news, message a reporter.
I look forward to hearing from readers on their successful app creations. Good luck!