The right Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system can help your law firm run more efficiently; it can also streamline your marketing activities.
By Shawn McNalis, Practice Advisor
Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software allows you to perform high-leverage functions easier, faster, and in greater numbers than simply storing your list of clients and prospects in a database. It allows you to:
- Track historical data on all of your referral sources, other marketing contacts, and activities;
- Generate reports on all past legal services and identify future legal needs;
- Inform existing clients and referral sources of future events in your office, invite them to stop by to update their files, and
- Keep abreast of legal issues that may concern your clients.
You will have to do some research into software that is a good fit with your existing storage and record-keeping systems. Many of today’s options are industry specific and can be tailored to a variety of individual preferences.
Using a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) System to Track Your Mailings
You can track mailings to specific groups of existing and past clients for cross-selling and upgrading purposes. You can also target groups of clients in your database who fit the criteria for other services, such as a real estate client who needs estate planning. These letters can be invitations to attend information sessions or for a complimentary consultation.
Tracking mailings also allows you to see how many referrals have been generated by existing clients through the years, and you can track the follow-ups to each referral – such as a thank-you card or a follow-up phone call.
CRM Database Software
Database features determine how much you can do with your system. Look for the ability to create a variety of databases with lots of customizable fields. Choose software that can easily import data from other formats, and can merge all your databases into one for easy reconciliation.
Some systems can auto-dial any phone number within its database. There is also software that can date-stamp the notes you take for each contact. Systems that can store an unlimited number of contacts will let you expand your marketing efforts easily.
Look for software that has a clear, understandable, and readable format for its contact history pages. These pages are the backbone of the system, and you’ll refer to them often.
Key considerations when choosing a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) System:
1. CRM Integrated Scheduling
Contact management software that allows you or a team member to easily manage your calendar through an integrated activity scheduler is handy. Look for software that will assign priorities to activities and allow you to view actions based on importance. Another helpful feature can roll over incomplete tasks from today to tomorrow’s agenda.
2. Report Generation
Choose a platform that has defined reports including phone lists, address books, activity and status reports, and task lists. Is the software customizable? Does it let you change fields to generate different reports such as “search for all past clients who own a business” or “all past and present clients who are older than 65.” The ability to segment your contacts by specific data is critical in marketing.
3. Word Processing Features
You’ll need software that can mail-merge letters, envelopes, and mailing labels. Some systems can fax-merge documents to multiple contacts. Customizable templates for business letters, report forms, memos, and fax cover sheets are a must. Look for a package that also has the ability to add fonts and graphics that customize your presentation to match your business’s style.
4. Project Management
This will feature master and sub-project to-do lists. It will track completion timelines, allow you to change dates easily and calculate due dates. It also has alarms for deadlines.
5. Security Features
For office confidentiality, pick software with options that can include different security levels for added control, record locking, a public-private toggle switch, individual passwords, and log-in IDs. Some have a utility that allows you to manage user accounts and access rights.
If you are part of a network, verify that the software can be shared easily among other users. With networking, you can share information about your schedule, but your appointments and activities can be kept private and accessible only by password.
Choosing a CRM: Key Technical Considerations for Family Law Firms
Use the following questions about software criteria to help you decide which contact relationhip management (CRM) software would best suit you and your office:
• Does it work with your office computers’ existing operating system(s)?
• Is it compatible with other programs already in use? (Microsoft Office, etc.)
• What is the amount of hard disk space it consumes before data is entered?
• How fast and responsive is the program when run on your computers?
• How much memory does the program require?
• Is the software compatible with your printers and printer drivers?
The right Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system can help your firm run leaner and more efficiently — and it can help you streamline and increase your marketing activities.
Your marketing and relationship management strategy is as unique as your practice. One CRM might be a great fit for one firm but can fall short on meeting the needs of another.
If you’re looking for some CRM options to consider, here are a few systems that might be right for you:
- InterAction and OnePlace cater to the legal industry.
- Infusionsoft, Microsoft Dynamics and FreeAgent CRM also offer features that can apply to your specific firm.
- Bitrix 24 offers a free version, as does HubSpot CRM.
All of these work on both Mac and Windows.
If you’re looking for something more akin to legal practice management web apps, the top known platforms include (but are not limited to):
- Clio, MyCase.
- Rocket Matter.
- Houdini Esq.
- Practice Panther.
Unlike traditional Contact Relationship Management (CRM) systems, these practice management apps can include billing features and manage case files.
Shawn McNalis is a Senior Practice Advisor with Atticus, the nation’s largest and oldest attorney coaching company. As Director of Curriculum, Shawn leads the Atticus certification program for training new Practice Advisors.
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