Paul Bond and Mark Melodia, with Reed Smith.

When Locke Lord launched its first mobile app seven years ago, it was still an unusual move for a law firm.

“We did that right when apps were hot,” recalled Julie Gilbert, the firm’s chief marketing officer.

Fast-forward 10 years, and law firms apps have exploded. Four years ago, the last time the American Bar Association counted, there were more than 200—enough to merit a story with this headline: “Top 10 Reasons Not to Bother With a Law Firm App.”

If firms are still bothering, it must be winning them clients, right?

Not necessarily—or at least not always. But more firms are working to tailor their apps to the right audiences, and improving their use as client development tools in the process.

Locke Lord, which has added laterals to its London office, unveiled an app recently that offers users information on all-things Brexit.

“Do I like it, yes. Are we going to get clients because of it? I don’t know,” Gilbert said. “But if we make something easier for clients and others, we get name recognition,” Gilbert said.

Mark Melodia and Paul Bond, who co-chair Reed Smith’s information technology, privacy and data security group, launched an app this month for their firm that helps corporate clients quickly research state laws mandating consumer notification of data breaches.

“Client development is certainly our goal. It will at least show brand awareness and expertise,” Melodia said.

The app grew out of the firm’s own internal automation of searching states’ data-breach notification laws, Melodia and Bond said.

The firm collects no data about users, unless they affirmatively choose to provide it. “One of the things that is important to us, is that when somebody is using this app, we do not create a client relationship,” Melodia said.

But “making this app available will reinforce the kind of work we want to do for our clients,” Bond said.

It’s true the firm’s new app probably stops the need for clients or prospects to pay for about 30 minutes of legal research, the Reed Smith partners conceded.

“We gave away everything we felt could be automated,” Melodia said.

So far, the payoff has shown up among existing clients, including with some that are already sophisticated about data.

Why? It’s helping the in-house counsel who may have been assigned the research the app performs automatically.

“One banking client gave me a hug two weeks ago,” Melodia recalled. “He said, ‘You just took five hours a month off my workload.’”

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