The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Sam Sasso

Building a legal app: What problem do you want to solve?

January 13 2017 13 January 2017

 

In my last post on building a legal app, I talked about how the first question you should answer is deciding on what principle it is that you want to teach. Let’s move on now to the matter of what problem it is that you want to solve.

Indeed, good apps are tailored to a particular purpose; they are tools built exclusively for specific uses; and they can help resolve some common problems. One of the ways that an app can be effective is to create an efficiency, usually done by eliminating an inefficiency.  Another is to create a convenience. 

Take, for example, Peter Carayiannis of Deloitte Conduit Law LLP in Toronto.  Peter, and others he worked with, realized that lawyers often have to speak to two different matters in different courts at the same time.  Standing one matter down to deal with another often does not find favour with the court and is not always possible.  In response to this problem, Peter developed StandIn which lets the user know exactly which lawyers are at a particular court and can retain them to speak to other matters.  The result is that lawyer who can’t be at the second place has retained someone they trust to deal with the second matter; the lawyer who has been retained to stand in receives payment immediately. 

With StandIn, Peter has created both an efficiency and a convenience.  But more to the point, he has solved a problem that has been part of our practice for years.

Now, when problems in the legal practice are considered, they should not just be from the lawyer’s standpoint, but the client’s as well.  What problems are they having in receiving or understanding legal services?  Turning the focus to clients will help uncover problems and foster a greater understanding of how clients receive legal services.

As an example, Samfiru Tumarkin LLP in Toronto, created a severance calculator which aims to give employees an estimate of their severance entitlement.  This calculator has had over 100,000 uses so far.  The convenience created is remarkably helpful in having employees begin to understand their severance rights.

What both of these examples show is that apps can be used to resolve common legal problems.

Again, apps are tools that can be designed for a specific purpose.  What a particular tool can do does not have to be the same as any other tool.  While attributes of other apps should be considered to determine whether they can be used in building your app, lawyers should not feel limited by only using what has come before. 

Isolating a problem is the first step.  That leads to the follow-up consideration: We need a tool to do X.  We need a tool to make it easier for clients to understand agreements.  We need a tool help experts understand their duty to the court. 

This is not to say that apps can solve all legal problems.  But by thinking about whether the tool of an app can be used to solve a particular issue, a solution may nonetheless be revealed. Refining that issue down to potential solutions, app or otherwise, can end up as the key to solving that problem.

Sam R. Sasso is an associate with Ricketts Harris LLP in Toronto.  Sam’s practice focuses mainly on commercial litigation and insurance coverage matters. He also writes on a wide range of legal topics and frequently speaks before colleagues and students on topics such as evidence, technology and mediation strategies.  His free ipad app, “lawyers building apps”, is now available at the app store.

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Sam R. Sasso is an associate with Ricketts Harris LLP in Toronto. Sam’s practice focuses mainly on commercial litigation and insurance coverage matters. He also writes on a wide range of legal topics and frequently speaks before colleagues and students on topics such as evidence, technology and mediation strategies.

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