I often hear lawyers talk about how they want to create an iPhone app to promote their practice. My advice is to offer something more than just a mobile version of your website in an app; offer potential clients something that they can actually use. Latham & Watkins, a law firm with over 2,000 lawyers in 30 offices around the world, has done just that in their new, free iPhone app called The Book of Jargon - Corporate and Bank Finance.
The firm says that the purpose of the app is to assist new members of the finance community in learning to talk the talk of corporate and bank finance, describing the app as a sort of "Berlitz Course" for recent law school and business school graduates seeking initiation in to the world of Wall Street, as well as a desktop reference for not-so-recent graduates. The firm says that the approximately 750 terms listed include acronyms regularly used to describe key government regulations, slang phrases adopted by professionals in the corporate finance and banking arenas, and other legal phrases and definitions.
You can view terms either by browsing or searching. Browsing is nicely implemented. Flick through the screens to page through the list of terms, or slide your finger along the right to quickly scroll from A to Z. When you see a term that interests you, just tap the term to see the definition.
If you know the term you are looking for, then start to type it in the search window. If you type enough letters for the app to realize that there is only one match, the app auto-completes the rest of term for you. Otherwise, when you are done typing just tap search. This will bring up a list of matching terms. Note that you can only search the terms themselves; you are not searching the words in the definitions of the terms.
I don't practice in this area of law so I cannot critique the content of the definitions, but they do seem like they would be helpful for someone trying to learn about this field. A New York Times article by Andrew Ross Sorkin notes that even with 750 terms, the glossary is incomplete: "The firm’s compendium isn’t comprehensive, though: While it has definitions for 'material adverse change,' 'Rule 144a offering' and 'white knight,' it lacks definitions for more au courant terms like' collateralized debt obligation' and 'credit default swap.'" According to an AmLaw article by Brian Baxter, the content of this app came from a print publication that Latham first prepared in 2008 for lawyers and clients. It was well received, and this app was conceived as a way to increase circulation without the cost of print publication.
If you think that this app might possibly help you in your law practice, go ahead and download it. It is free. But more than anything, this app fascinates me because it is such a great example of law firm marketing using the iPhone. The app provides a useful service and — quite literally — demonstrates to potential clients of Latham that the firm knows what it is taking about when it comes to this field of law. According to the AmLaw article cited above, the firm plans to release similar apps for other fields, such as project finance and outsourcing manuals.