One of the most important lessons of the pandemic has been the vital importance of maintaining frequent personal contact with clients.

Client Relations Management (CRM) systems need to move from the marketing department onto the desktop of every fee earner in a law firm. In the hands of a reasonably diligent lawyer -- even a horribly busy one -- a good desktop CRM system streamlines the flow of information between a central marketing and business development database and each lawyer. These systems have demonstrated quite convincingly how they can save valuable time, build more durable and productive one-to-one relationships with clients and their organizations, and produce a substantial return on a firm's total investment of resources, time (especially partner time), and management attention.

Since I spoke on the topic of Artificial Intelligence and Relationship Management several weeks ago at a global forum of the Swiss-Chinese Law Association, I have received inquiries from conference delegates, as well as from a few of our firm's own law firm clients, asking about what they should require in a desktop CRM system. Here are six things that I suggest that you consider in selecting a CRM system for your fee earners (and yes, I believe that all fee earners, regardless of status in the firm, should use a desktop CRM system).

  • It must have state-of-the art security.
  • It must offer quick, low-cost implementation, with little or no external consulting support required.
  • It must be easy to use. The most persuasive case for desktop CRM comes from the user's own experience. A long learning curve makes it less likely that a busy lawyer will invest the time needed to master and begin using a complicated system.
  • It must save time. For example, the personal CRM system that I use has reduced by more than 65% the time required each day for me to keep in frequent personal contact with clients, prospective clients, and professional friends.
  • It must require no input from lawyers. The "no input required" requirement is extremely important in the ultimate usability of the system by lawyers. Data about contacts should be captured and updated automatically. Updating is especially important in view an estimated 20% globally in staff turnover, including in some legal services markets. The most that I need to do with my personal CRM system is set how frequently I want to communicate (usually by a personalized e-mail) with each contact. The most efficient way to do this, I have found, is for the system to link to my e-mail account and contacts in Outlook. In addition to saving hours, it ensures greater accuracy -- in short, higher-quality data upon which to base client relations initiatives.
  • Finally, the system must product practical information that tells each user what he or she needs to do. For example, the system that I use tracks my average response time to incoming e-mails from my contacts. It also sends me, at the start of the day, a reminder e-mail when it has been too long since my last communication with a contact.

Because our firm does not accept any commission, finder's fee, or referral fee for our recommendations of technology products, this blog post is not the proper place to provide one for a desktop CRM system.  However, if you would like my personal recommendation of the CRM system that I use, and whether it would be suitable for your firm, please contact me by e-mail.

One final point: Regardless of the system that you select for your firm's fee earners, there still remains the ongoing management challenge of motivating -- and, sadly, in some cases, requiring -- your colleagues to use it. Our firm can help you with that issue, too.

Norman Clark