What Can Lawyers Learn From Apple’s Latest Product Announcements?

The future of legal technologyLast week, Apple announced its new products for the fall. As I’ll discuss momentarily, a few of the new product rollouts are arguably contrary to longstanding views on mobile product development that originated with Apple’s former CEO, Steve Jobs. This shift in focus is interesting–not only for those who follow technology trends–but for solo and small firm lawyers. Read on, and I’ll explain why.

The technology marketplace is rapidly evolving

First, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting announcements made by Apple last week, such as the release of : 1) the iPad Pro, which features a 12.9 inch display, 2) the Pencil, a stylus for the iPad Pro, and 3) the Smart Keyboard, which is built into a cover for iPad Pro. You can learn more about these newly announced products and how other recently announced features might be valuable to lawyers, from this iPhone J.D. post .

These announced surprised more than a few people and many technology pundits considered the larger iPad and its accompanying accessories to be a marked departure from the product design and development philosophy that Apple inherited from Steve Jobs. For example, in a Daily Mail article titled “Steve Jobs would NOT approve: Apple unveils ‘monster’ iPad Pro with a $100 ‘pencil’ the late co-founder famously said nobody wants,” the author called the news of the larger iPad and the Apple Pencil a “surprise” to many Apple fans, and offered the following explanation:

Called the iPad Pro, the tablet has a 12.9-inch display with 5.6 million pixels, meaning it has more pixels than a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. 

However, Apple set tongues wagging with a controversial accessory -a $100 Apple ‘Pencil’ stylus – a tool Steve Jobs once described as ‘yuck’ and declared that ‘nobody would want.’

At first glance, the newly announced products to seem to fly in the face of Job’s prior statements about touch screen devices and the need–or lack thereof–for a stylus when interacting with them. That being said, as is often the case, it’s all about context.

Apple is pivoting as marketplace needs change

As explained in this post about Apple’s announcement from The Verge, when placed in the proper context, Apple’s decision to release a larger iPad with a stylus makes sense. Times have changed. Technology has improved immensely since Jobs decried the use of a stylus back in 2008.

What’s missing from the reactions is the obvious acknowledgment that Jobs was not only talking about using a stylus with an entirely different product — the 3.5-inch iPhone 1 — but he was referring to both styluses and screens that have been blown out of the water by newer technology. That first iPhone was one of the first smartphones to use a capacitive touchscreen…

Apple knows that capacitive allows for better finger input; it’s why Jobs tossed the idea of a stylus for the iPhone to the wayside in the first place. But the iPad Pro, for which the $99 Pencil stylus was designed, is not a small rectangle that fits in our pockets. It’s a 12.9-inch sheet of glass designed to be used in many different ways, from playing games and watching movies to writing documents and taking notes with the attachable keyboard.

In other words, as any forward-thinking company must do, Apple pivoted in the face of change. Instead of sticking to its guns in the midst of never-before-seen technological advancements–many of which were Apple’s doing–Tim Cook chose to blaze a new trail, in part based on user feedback.

Successful companies like Apple regularly roll out updates and new versions new hardware and software. But it’s their customers that shape their future. Tim Cook understands that customer interaction should be the drivers for new development and that the inability or unwillingness to pay attention to the marketplace and its demands often leads to failure.

Over and over again, Apple has shown that it’s not looking toward the past for answers to tomorrow’s problems. Instead its vision is grounded in the present with an eye on the future–with customer feedback, cutting edge technology, and an intuitive sense of what’s to come as its drivers.

Like Apple, lawyers must respond to changes in the marketplace

And that’s the lesson to be learned for solo and small firm lawyers: chart your law firm’s path based on client feedback and current trends in the legal landscape. Run your law firm with an eye toward the future, not the past.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and is shaping the expectations of your clients, while simultaneously leveling the playing field. You owe it to your clients to make efforts to understand what they expect from you and then learn how to take advantage of those changes in order to provide the best legal representation possible.

Legal clients expect 24/7 access

For starters, clients expect better communication and greater access to information–both about your and your law firm and regarding their cases. This is something they’ve come to expect in all other aspects of their lives. 24/7 convenient access to information used to be an added benefit, but these days it’s simply an expectation.

For example, your potential clients are used to accessing their bank accounts either online or via their mobile devices. Many have applied for credit cards or car loans online. Some have even refinanced their mortgage loans using a web portal. 24/7 access to information and online communication and collaboration has become the norm in our culture.

Why should their interactions with their lawyer be any different? Clients expect better, more convenient access to their lawyers. If your law firm doesn’t provide them with web-based technologies with built-in client portals and online collaboration and communication features, then another law firm will.

Technology drives efficiency for law firms

Embracing technology not only allows lawyers to meet the demands of their clients, it allows them to thrive in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace. By wisely and selectively using technology, law firms can more efficiently provide legal services to their clients. Reducing redundancies and implementing workflows that streamline processes can reduce the costs associated with running a law firm.

The innovative use of technology can drive down overhead and increase efficiency, making it easier for solo and small firm lawyers to provide affordable legal services to clients handling legal matters that were once served only by large law firms. The advent of affordable and cutting edge technologies, including web-based practice management software, free or low cost online legal research, pay-as-you-go ediscovery services, and VOIP phone systems have leveled the playing field. Solo and small firms can now compete with mid-sized and large law firms and reap the benefits of providing affordable–yet agile, responsive, and comprehensive–legal representation.

Like Apple, lawyers must look toward the future to compete

So is there a lesson that lawyers can learn from Apple’s product announcements? Absolutely!  Pay attention to the legal marketplace and the needs of 21st century legal consumers. Use the right technology for your law practice to ensure that you provide the best legal representation possible. Stay abreast of change and pivot if need be.

Like Apple, solo and small firm lawyers should always be agile and responsive, with a focus on the future. Doing so will allow you to provide the best legal representation possible.

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