Traditional legal practice management systems have always had to maintain records of clients and their employees, but they never did so in a way that really let law firms utilise such information for business development purposes.
This left a gap, a large gap, for the introduction of CRM systems designed to let law firms truly harness and exploit the potential benefits of intelligence gathered about those people with whom the firm interacts.
There is no doubt that a fully accurate and populated database of clients, contacts and multipliers can be used to greatly enhance the firm’s client retention, client development and new business development initiatives. With a large proportion of the development effort over the last few years put into adding ease-of-use, as opposed to more and more ‘functionality’, major strides have been made. However, as with Knowledge Management, there is still a basic problem with CRM technology and it is this; the software represents about 10% of the problem, the main issue is making users (especially lawyers) actually change their behaviour to (a) make sure that the database contains accurate and up-to-date information, and then (b) actually utilise that information.
This is difficult; very difficult. What usually happens is the following:
- a data conversion takes place with old, incomplete and inaccurate data;
- the users, especially lawyers, find that they cannot rely on the data and – furthermore – that getting revised accurate data into the system is awkward and time consuming;
- they lose the appetite for entering new and accurate data into the system, as there appears to be little benefit for the required effort;
- the data gets older, and more inaccurate;
- the incentive to keep it up-to-date diminishes;
- the system falls even further into disuse.
The very example of an iniquitous circle.
Any firm seeking to change this situation into a virtuous cycle of gradual data improvement and consequently improve its business development capabilities, needs to do several things. Firstly, they need to undertake a programme of change management to impress upon the lawyers the importance of good CRM behaviour. It is also necessary for the lawyers to have a direct relationship with the CRM information, by means of bi-directional integration with Outlook Contacts and the contacts on their mobile phones, as well as an interface that makes data update as easy and quick as possible.
There are a range of established specialist legal and generic CRM systems, and most integrated law firm systems have some CRM functionality. There are also a number of new specialist developments based on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. We have experience of most of these systems; and in getting them implemented effectively.