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5 Timeless Law Firm CRM Lessons from 2008

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Although the modern personalization of search results means different people will see different results, there’s a good chance if you search for the phrase “CRM for law firms,” many of us will see the same top organic or natural search results.

The top organic result for this term is likely to be a timeless article from the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine titled, Is CRM Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Client Relationship Management. While the article was written in 2008, it’s loaded with timeless lessons for law firm CRM success, including the following:

1. CRM is more than a tool – it’s a strategy and a way of doing business.

The administrator was explaining that CRM wasn’t so much a software product, but more of an approach to how a law firm deals with its clients. A CRM system, she said, was much more than an expensive electronic Rolodex. Among other things, it would allow the firm to track clients’ needs and expectations and cross-sell services accordingly.

And later…

CRM is just one piece of the larger marketing strategy. And the strategy is really about applying a set of principles that will lead to the desired effect—better client relationships and therefore more work coming in from existing clients.

2. Sharing relationship knowledge through CRM requires a cultural change.

The first step is to convince the firms’ lawyers that who they know is a valuable asset. This step should be easy. Many lawyers consider their knowledge about their contacts and their networks to be as valuable as their knowledge about the law. The second step is to convince the lawyers that sharing their knowledge about who they know will create tremendous value for themselves and the firm. This step will be hard.

3. Attorney commitment to CRM is pivotal to success.

…generally the problem with CRM systems succeeding in law firms is that lawyers don’t like doing the activities that make a CRM system work. Most do not like the concept of “being in sales” and they do not like using things such as the lead-tracking features of a CRM system. They are spending most of their time e-mailing or telephoning their clients and referral sources, so too many believe that the only contact information they “really” need is the correct e-mail address and phone number.

4. Obtaining attorney commitment to CRM means the system must work how and where lawyers work.

The test for the lawyers taking the time to update the system will be whether they find it easy to use and whether it gives them practical, useable information. Look very carefully at the user interface and design standard reports that can give the lawyers snapshots of the client relationship with each individual in the system.

5. The larger and broader the firm, the more important CRM becomes.

With far-reaching international corporations, it is difficult to keep track of who owns whom much less which clients are related to each other. Moreover, it is easy for clients to be tempted away by flashier, more innovative firms down the street. Meanwhile associates are no longer necessarily staying around for partnership, and lateral hiring is on the rise. How can new associates and laterals become quickly familiar with the firm’s clients? At 70 strong, Charlie, your firm is just reaching that size where it is no longer small enough to allow all the lawyers to get to know each other, much less each other’s client lists.

How about it?  While this article was published about five years ago, do you think these principles still hold true?  What is missing or what would you add to it?

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.