Recently my colleague Melanie Trudeau and I presented a webinar on “CRM Basics and Best Practices” to members of the MSI Global Alliance, an international association of independent legal and accounting firms. The presentation covered all things CRM (Customer Relationship Management):  What are CRM systems, how to choose the best CRM for your law firm’s needs and ways to achieve CRM success. Here are my top tips to help you find the best CRM solution for your law firm.

What is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System?

Customer relationship management systems are software tools to organize your contact information and manage your relationships with current and prospective customers, clients and other contacts. A CRM system allows you to manage business relationships and data, and their associated information.

How a CRM system can help your law firm

A CRM system allows you to store client and prospect contact information, associated companies, leads, and sales opportunities in one central location. Once you have a centralized database, developing a strategic communications program becomes much easier to do.

Possible CRM features include:

  • Lead management and sales funnel mapping
  • Marketing communications
  • E-commerce capabilities
  • Reports/dashboards for tracking
  • Call center to handle customer service
  • Workflow/approval structures

How to choose a CRM system

1. Define your goals

The first thing you want to do before looking at specific systems is to define your goals. What does your firm want from a CRM system? While many features are common to most CRM systems, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that CRMs vary in options they offer. This list outlines a variety of features you want to consider. Then decide whether which are essential to your firm’s needs and goals.

  • Track Leads and Lead Activity
  • Track Customer Base
  • Track Opportunities and Closing Rates
  • Offer Connectivity Between Teams and Collaborate with Team Members
  • Manage Relationships
  • Generate Customized Reporting
  • Organize Business Operations
  • Increase Profitability
  • Increase Productivity

2. Ask questions
Next, you’ll need to build your list of potential CRM systems and investigate whether they have the features you need. Here’s a list of important questions to help determine whether the system is right for you.

  • Is it built for a small/large business?
  • What is the implementation process like and how much technical assistance is included?
  • How easy is it to use? Can I easily train employees?
  • Are customizations possible and how difficult are they to implement?
  • Are there any user minimums?
  • How easy is it to integrate with other solutions I already use (like your website, accounting system and email marketing platform)?
  • What is the total cost of the software? Are there setup or additional fees? What if I need to add more users or integrations?
  • Is the Application Programming Interface (API) accessible to me and my IT team?
  • What type of security features are built in?
  • Is there a mobile app?

3. Narrow your list

Choose 2 or 3 CRM systems that you can research in more detail. The systems you choose to test should have the functionality to achieve your stated goals, but not be overbuilt and complicated.

4. Sign up for a free trial or demo

Once you’ve narrowed your list, you’ll enter the demo phase. Almost all CRM systems offer a free trial or a demo so you can see the platform in action. If they don’t, I strongly recommend looking elsewhere. This step is extremely important, so you want to make sure you have the time to really explore the system. Be sure to:

  • Import a sample data set and start using all of the features.
  • Have enough time in the free trial period to run a proper test.
  • Refer back to your goals and simulate sales funnel processes and workflows.
  • Discuss integrations with support to ensure compatibility.
  • Create sample reports and test report customizations.
  • Have other stakeholders test platforms to avoid having only one decision maker.

Biggest Hurdles to CRM Adoption

When testing a CRM system, keep these issues in mind because they represent the biggest reasons all of your stakeholders might not embrace the effort.

  • Too complicated
  • Incomplete data (often due to low adoption rate)
  • Lack of employee buy-in and participation
  • Lack of adequate training
  • Lack of a dedicated person to oversee management of the CRM system
  • Poor integration with other platforms
  • Inadequate foresight for corporate growth and expanded functionality needs
  • Platform/feature upgrades that can complicate existing processes
  • Mobile version not user-friendly
  • Lawyers who are unwilling to share their contacts

Paths to CRM Success

Getting personnel to start using a CRM is probably the biggest hurdle you will face. Despite the enormous upside of implementing a CRM solution, adoption rates are surprisingly low. Here are a few things you can do to ensure a successful CRM implementation.

  • Seek executive buy-in.
  • Focus on departmental buy-in (IT, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service) and have a clear understanding of each department’s role.
  • Properly plan and define the system requirements, as well as the integrations, customizations and migration of existing data.
  • Offer effective training, so people know how to use the CRM system.
  • Follow through with monitoring usage and ongoing training.
  • Assess the original goals of the program.

Adopting a CRM system comes with enormous benefits, as long as the program is implemented thoughtfully and strategically. These tips should help you achieve CRM success and reap all of the benefits a CRM system has to offer. If you’d like more information about maximizing the capabilities and marketing opportunities provided by a CRM system, feel free to contact me, Jennifer Faivre, at