A sample shown on the site

I happened across a website called MyPocketAttorney that says it will let lawyers build their own smartphone apps using templates designed for law offices and legal professionals. As of this morning, a notice on the site says, “Site Under Construction! Launch Date 1-20-2012.” Today being Jan. 20, we’ll see if it launches.

The site describes its service this way:

You can start building your app online using our custom templates. Your clients will appreciate the service as it allows them to contact you faster to access your latest promotions and services. In addition, you can make money between court cases and trips with the consulting fee pay option. You’ll also be able to retain your clients like never before with your app on their phone, respond quicker with a text, provide a monthly news letter and much more. Thus, making your business more efficient and with more clients.

Apps created through the site would let users call your office with one-touch dialing, get GPS directions to your office, and schedule appointments.

However, it seems that the developers of this site are not familiar with the rules of professional conduct that govern attorneys. They tout a feature of the app that would enable lawyers to pay users referral fees when users share the app with others. Here’s how the site describes this referral option:

“I saw a friend of mine using the app one day and got excited about having an attorney in my pocket. She referred me, received a $25 gift card for doing so, and I received a great service.” If you are an Attorney wanting to get your own mobile app for practice at a low-cost and hear your clients have a conversation like this one, sign up for a free account today.

Apart from the creepiness of the “attorney in my pocket” metaphor, this referral program strikes me as blatantly unethical for lawyers. As Roy Ginsburg wrote about referral fees just this week at AttorneyAt Work:

Most attorneys know they cannot share fees with non-lawyers. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by most states, are quite clear. Rule 5.4 (a) states that “a lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a non-lawyer.” Rule 7.2 (b) states that “a lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” A referral fee is certainly something of value.

In fairness, MyPocketAttorney describes the referral program as optional, but it nevertheless suggests a lack of familiarity with the legal market. No wonder, given that the company already has “MyPocket” app-creation sites for some two-dozen other industries and topics, from MyPocketInsurance and MyPocketRealtor to MyPocketChurch and MyPocketFuneral.

The cost of one of these apps starts at $999 for the first year, after which you pay a monthly fee, according to information posted on the site.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.