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BigLaw: Everything You Need to Know About Creating Enterprise Apps for Your iPhone-Toting Lawyers and Clients

By Dan Friedlander | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Originally published on January 11, 2011 in our free BigLaw newsletter. Instead of reading BigLaw here after the fact, sign up now to receive future issues in realtime.

In my first BigLaw column on iOS apps, I explored how large law firms can use mobile apps to promote their services to potential clients. In my next column, I discussed the process for developing apps for the iPhone and iPad and submitting them to Apple for approval. Today, I will explore how law firms can develop Enterprise Apps.

An Enterprise App is designed to serve the specific and customized needs of your law firm — your lawyers and staff, and perhaps your clients too. Enterprise apps don't generate revenue from App Store sales or overtly promote your firm. Rather, they are developed for the purpose of helping your law firm conduct its business.

Unlike the typical iOS app available for download to the general public through the iTunes App Store, enterprise apps are only available to people associated with the enterprise, and it is the enterprise, not Apple, that controls the channels of distribution.

For an example look at Apple itself. Its EasyPay app enables its own Apple Store employees to process sales transactions from anywhere on the sales floor using an iOS device. Only Apple Store employees have access to the EasyPay app.

How to Create and Distribute an Enterprise App

To develop enterprise applications, you must register for Apple's iOS Developer Enterprise Program. At a cost of $299 per year, membership in the program provides you with access to Apple's iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) and all of the tools necessary to develop and distribute iOS applications to your users. The process for developing enterprise apps is essentially the same as that for developing standard iOS applications — up to the point of actual distribution.

One major benefit to developing apps in-house through the enterprise program is that you get to bypass Apple's review and approval process — an elusive, time-consuming, and occasionally-frustrating process to say the least. Also, application updates can be rolled-out immediately without having to wait one to two weeks for Apple's stamp of approval.

If there is a downside to in-house app development, it is in the mechanism for distributing apps to enterprise users. Despite all the criticism of Apple for maintaining a monopoly over the distribution system for non-enterprise iOS apps (i.e., the iTunes App Store), the experience of purchasing and installing these apps is seamless and efficient.

This, however, is not the case with enterprise apps, as there is no App Store-like portal for enterprise app distribution. Instead, your IT department must distribute the application file and a provisioning profile certificate to each user, along with detailed instructions explaining how to install the application file and certificate on the iOS devise using iTunes. This process must be repeated any time the app is updated.

Examples of Law Firm Enterprise Apps

Distribution hassles aside, law firms are beginning to develop sophisticated enterprise apps. For example, DLA Phillips Fox, Australia's largest law firm, developed an enterprise app for the iPhone that enables its employees to access and view documents remotely. It also includes an elaborate time-keeping component that gives its attorneys the ability to remotely enter and record timesheets.

As you can see from this example, a key advantage for law firms is the ability to control the distribution of sensitive and confidential information. Email is not the most secure means of transmitting information, as it can to easily be forwarded (accidentally or intentionally) to others. To minimize the potential for a breach in confidentiality, a law firm could develop an enterprise app that enables an attorney or a client, upon entering a password, to view highly-sensitive information located on the law firm's server without the need to distribute the information by email.

Because enterprise apps do not show up in the iTunes App Store, it is difficult to know how many law firms are following in DLA Phillips Fox's footsteps and developing their own enterprise apps. However, as adoption rate of iPhones and iPads in law offices continues to rise, I expect to see many more law firms distributing enterprise apps to their attorneys and clients.

Written by Dan Friedlander of

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Topics: BiglawWorld | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets
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