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9 Creative CRM Tips for Getting Lawyers to Share Data

Two employment attorneys from the same law firm were unknowingly pitching the same prospective client.  The client, in the interest of keeping legal fees low, use each attorney’s respective proposal as leverage to negotiation lower rates.

Anecdotes like this, which was shared in a 2014 ILTA Conference session titled Making CRM Work in a Law Firm, are one way to illustrate the value of a law firm CRM program and demonstrate the business necessity of sharing data and contact information.

The session, which organized attendees into birds-of-a-feather style collaborative working groups, focused on the “pain points” law firms face in implementing CRM initiatives.  The working group that coalesced around “user adoption” identified the following as the top three barriers:

  • Sharing.  The culture and structure of a “rainmaker” sales model law firms, incentivizes attorneys to avoid sharing contact information.
  • Inability to see value.  “What’s in it for me?” asks the attorney which relates how a subjective experience shapes perception – the blind men and the elephant – in the words of one commenter.
  • Lack of strategy.  The barrier of strategy is two-fold: It’s both the plan for implementing a CRM program and technology – which is in turn tied to the firm’s overall strategy to grow its client base and by extension revenue.

Each working group identified the top barriers, and next turned to developing solutions to solve those problems.  Here are some solutions that we heard alongside a few more we’ve found along the path to helping firms implement the LexisNexis® InterAction® CRM system.  It’s worth noting, much like the problems these ideas are aimed at solving, many of these solutions are interrelated.

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1. Sharing as a matter of policy.  Several ILTA attendees noted that sharing is more than caring – it’s a matter of firm policy.   The moment an attorney signs on with a firm, whether a lateral hire or otherwise, they are also agreeing that their contacts are no longer just their contacts, but the law firm’s contacts.

2. Sharing as part of performance reviews.  Tying contacts – and the updates to contacts – ought to be linked to performance reviews.  One working group member went so far as to explore the idea of syncing attorney profiles in the HR system to contacts in the CRM system as a benchmark for evaluation.

3. Give credit where credit is due.  The working group reasoned that attorneys dislike sharing because if a deal is made as a result of a contact or relationship they built, they might not receive credit.  Ideas for solving this ranged from gamification techniques to monetary incentives for sharing.

4. Tackle the legacy issues head on.  For some, stigmas earned during previous (failed) CRM initiatives have created a CRM “hangover” of sorts.  New or re-energized CRM programs need to address this problem directly and communicate why this time the program is different.

5. Partner with finance for CRM metrics.  Finance holds the key to the numbers – and law firm business development needs access to those numbers to demonstrate the output of CRM effort.  One work group member noted her requests to finance for reports were so prolific, that finance finally asked her if it would be easier to provide her access to the data (a designed effect). That data can then be used as proof points to demonstrate CRM value to attorneys.

6. Find attorney-champions in the office. There’s bound to be some attorneys that are on-board with a CRM program and its likely they have anecdotes and “vignettes” to illustrate the business building power of CRM.  Marketing or business development departments should make a conscious effort to surface those stories – and promote them to change mindsets.

7. It’s got to be easy for attorneys. The lawyer “CRM problem” rests in part that time is literally money for many lawyers – and diligent record keeping in CRM requires a time commitment.  One attendee noted that IMO (InterAction® for Microsoft® Outlook®) facilitates this process because it works how attorneys work – in an email client.

8. Give attorneys some control. If a law firm asks its attorneys to share contacts it seems fair enough to give them visibility into how that contact is being engaged. Some working group members noted that an “audit tool” is a pivotal feature that allows an attorney to see who changed what on any of “their” contact record.  This puts the user in control even when the contact is a shared contact.

9. If all else fails, show ‘em the money.  We began this post with a (tragic) story about what happens without a CRM system – it’s also useful to illustrate the good things that happen with a CRM system. The ABA Journal provides and insightful anecdote in a story published on August 1, 2014, titled: CRM software providers automate updates; law firms make money.

While it’s often tough to get lawyers to regularly update their customer relationship management software—a kind of firmwide Rolodex on analytic steroids—software makers have been busy trying to make the applications as painless to use as possible.

And that’s great news for firms like London-based Osborne Clarke, which has 600-plus lawyers. The firm knows from experience that a bit of attorney input into CRM software can yield significant and unexpected profits. Essentially, the firm brought in about $84,200 in unanticipated business with LexisNexis InterAction because one of its attorneys left a note every day in the CRM software, according to Snehit Cherian, InterAction’s director of product development.

While the lawyer’s observation that one of Osborne’s venture capital clients was considering investing in a company was unrelated to Osborne’s business with the client, “another lawyer at Osborne happened to have deep knowledge of the company the venture capital firm was evaluating and saw the notes in InterAction,” Cherian says.

The result: Osborne netted an out-of-the-blue consulting fee of 50,000 pounds from its venture capital client, simply by putting its in-the-know attorney together with the client and providing the background it needed, Cherian says.

* * *

What tips or ideas have worked in your law firm?  Please feel free to share in the comments.

Photo credit: Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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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.
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Thank you so much for the tips on how to get lawyers to share data. I really like the tip to make it part of their performance reviews. That way they will be forced to share their data. The lawyers in my firm have been having this issue lately and it is bugging me. Hopefully, if I make sharing data a part of their performance reviews, they will start doing it more. 


Frank, it's nice that you mention to "give credit where credit is due". While it's definitely advantageous to be able to share information (and that's easier to do now than it's ever been before) you need to make sure people get the credit they deserve. It can be tough to get recognized for your work sometimes. This is especially important for lawyers trying to establish a practice.


Thank you so much for the tips on how to get my lawyer to share data. I like the first tip about how sharing data is a policy of a firm. You just need to remind your lawyer of that fact and they will most likely give you the information you need. However, I also agree that you need to give your lawyer some control. They have stressful jobs and they deserve respect. You just need to find a happy medium between these two things.


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