CRM – don’t lose sight of what the initials stand for: Client ‘Relationship’ Management

Many law firms are just using CRM systems to manage contact details rather than as a way to proactively develop client relationships, writes 3Kites’ Michele Asbury

Law firms are not always using CRM systems to their full potential Shutterstock

Most law firms have some form of CRM system in place whether it be a spreadsheet or a specialised piece of software. What we often see is that CRM is used primarily and heavily for marketing activities. However, in our experience there can be insufficient engagement from fee earners and partners in using the data to actively manage relationships with their clients.

We have been used to seeing the data in a CRM system treated as an address book with the onus being on the marketing team and support staff to keep the client contacts up to date. Where this happens, the rich content is not being harnessed by fee earners and partners and therefore the value of proactive relationship management is being overlooked. Often the reason that a CRM system is not used to its full potential lies in three main areas – first, the data is not up to date; second, access to the information is not easy to navigate; and third, the information is not comprehensive.

Law firms are now requiring a more holistic view of their clients, often wanting to combine information from more than one application such as the finance system, harvesting from email traffic and from external links such as social media feeds.

Many law firms are realising that they could be doing better when it comes to CRM. At a most basic level they want to know who their clients are and have visibility of this across the firm. They want to know what work is being done and who is doing it across different departments and sectors.

Relationships with clients are often multilevel within a firm; for example there may be a client partner assigned but the stronger relationships might be elsewhere within the firm, so having access to this information is important. Furthermore, there are important questions such as knowing if the work is profitable and if it adds value to the business as well as other reporting requirements. Once these factors are known it could help with other business development opportunities that could be proposed to relevant clients.

If any of this is resonating with you then a first step might be to review what you and your colleagues want from a CRM system and start putting together a list of requirements – the results should help focus what needs to change. For example, these might be quite basic requirements such as making sure that the data is kept up to date, that the information is easy to find and readily accessible from a variety of devices, and most importantly, that the information is readily available for fee earners and partners without them having to spend excessive time and effort searching for it.  

A CRM system should help firms manage and nurture their client relationships, not just keep their contact information.

Michele Asbury is a consultant at 3Kites. This is the 21st article in the series Navigating Legaltech. 3Kites Consulting has assisted a number of law firms with CRM reviews, product selections and implementations and would be happy to meet if you think that your firm might need assistance.


About 3Kites and Kemp IT Law
3Kites is an independent consultancy, which is to say that we have no ties or arrangements with any suppliers so that we can provide our clients with unfettered advice. We have been operating since 2006 and our consultants include former law firm partners (one a managing partner), a GC, two law firm IT Directors and an owner of a practice management company. This blend of skills and experience puts us in a unique position when providing advice on IT strategy, fractional IT management, knowledge management, product selections, process review (including the legal process) and more besides. 3Kites often works closely with Kemp IT Law (KITL), a boutique law firm offering its clients advice on IT services and related areas such as GDPR. Where relevant (eg when discussing cloud computing in a future article) this column may include content from the team at KITL to provide readers with a broader perspective including any regulatory considerations.

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