Just what are “mobile apps” and how might they infiltrate law departments?

“A mobile ‘app’ is a piece of software linked to a smartphone [such as a Droid or iPhone that has computer capabilities] that allows its user to perform any number of functions,” write the authors of an article about the legal issues associated with mobile apps (Met. Corp. Counsel, Sept. 2011 at 13). Some mobile apps reside on top of the smartphone operating system, in which case they are called “native,” as are many that are downloaded from a site. Others a smartphone can access as needed from the Internet and run with the phone’s browser using Javascript or HTML5 (See my post of March 29, 2011: HTML5 and its advantages.).

The future is here; specialized law department apps everywhere (See my post of June 15, 2010: apps that screen out distractions; Feb. 1, 2011: app industry for matter management functions; and April 15, 2011: information delivered in-house by mobile apps.).

There will be blogs about apps; awards to progressive apps; LinkedIn groups; directories and evaluations of apps. Law firms will publish and promote them as marketing tools and profit centers. Vendors will shower the in-house world with clever ones and we will see app combinations and mashups. As tools to write apps become easier to use and as users become more familiar with them, lawyers in corporations will say “Don’t worry, be appy.”

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