You may not know this, but my background includes quite a bit of sales experience. When speaking to attorneys about technology, I often hear. “What’s a CRM, isn’t that what a case management system does?”

To which I reply, “No, not really.” A vague answer for a vague question.

The following post is aimed to shed light on a very confusing gray area of functions when shopping for a case or practice management system.  First you must understand what each tool was built to accomplish. To do this, let’s focus on the two distinct areas of a law firm.

Front of the house, and back of the house.

Front of the house is where all pre-client or prospect interaction occurs. Answering the phones, client intake, and retention. Back of the house is where the delivery of the actual services, and payment occurs.

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is designed to support the front of the house sales process, while traditional case management features are built to help track, streamline and execute the back of the house processes. Herein lies the confusion. Think about the ‘statuses’ or names you would use to describe a contact during the time-frame when they are working with your front of the house team. A standard set of contact names, life-cycle stages are:

  • Lead
  • Prospect
  • Potential New Client
  • Opportunity
  • Won
  • Lost
  • Not a fit
  • Client

Now, let’s assume that you close that client and they retain your services. At that time, they become a back of the house contact or client. You will also need to associate other contacts with them related to their matter. Including but not limited to:

  • Party
  • Spouse
  • Judge
  • Mediator
  • Expert Witness
  • Child Custody Evaluator
  • Insurance Adjuster
  • Defendant
  • Plaintiff

There may be several more depending on your area of law, or case type. As you can see, the two lists are very different. Because, until recently, the general population of lawyers have not had to monitor marketing efforts in a laser focused manner. Now, the marketing and business development aspects of running a law firm have changed. It is critical that law firms track and manage their leads. Which requires the use of tags, life-cycle stages, or a CRM tool dedicated to just that function of the business.

Case Management software platforms, particularly those in the cloud have done some work in this area. Most provide users the ability to tag or identify that a contact is not yet a client. However, the real feature gap lies in the management of that specific group of contacts. So much can be learned about where your law firm clients are coming from simply by utilizing CRM features.

When law firm staff tracks the stages of a lead in the initial intake and appointment process those actions can translate into thousands of dollars in new business, or saved marketing expenses for the law firm. How? By running a report or filtering contacts by status you can quickly project how many potential new cases you can expect. On the flip-side, you can also gauge which marketing sources are producing the most viable potential new clients.

But… these tools only work if they become part of your process. Which means, either taking the time to learn how to use tags, custom fields, or prospect level features in your existing software, or invest in a CRM dedicated to business development portion of your business.

So, why would I invest the time and money in CRM features?

Here are just a few ways CRM features when properly used can make your law firm more money:

  1. You will know what your highest producing marketing sources are. Increase spend in these areas to watch the cost of acquiring a new client drop, while top line revenue grows.
  2. The ability to go back to clients who did not retain you when you first spoke. This is an untapped area of revenue for so many law firms! Consumers can take up to one year to retain an attorney. Where did they go after speaking with your law firm? All contacts with a CRM stage of lost opportunity, or tag such as “not ready yet” can be filtered and called upon during staff downtime.
  3. Targeted marketing. A CRM tool also has built in communication methods to send mass messages to contacts in a status. Let’s say they spoke to you when they weren’t ready. You can segment those leads and send them a follow up campaign, or helpful video. List segmentation can increase law firm conversion rates much faster than sending those leads the same newsletter that the rest of your list receives. Use segmentation and life-cycle stages to tailor a message that is specific to that group.
  4. Focus intake and associates time on the leads that matter most. Instead of throwing a net into the ocean and filtering out the type of fish you want use CRM tools to identify the leads that have the most potential in retaining you.
  5. Master and automate the intake process. A CRM is designed to help you generate leads. A case management system is designed to help you execute the work that the leads are paying you for. Leverage the automation process between your website, eBook and intake staff. Use tools that share forms, send template emails and e-sign ready retainer agreements to get them past the finish line as fast as you can. Then, spend the time you saved delivering an amazing client experience.

A true CRM is meant to be a sales powerhouse. The same though process you use to set deadlines, reminders and automate tasks with a case management system, should be used for your leads too. While you won’t receive a complaint from the clerk’s office for filing a document past the due date your bank account will show the stress of one less client retainer payment being deposited.

I’ll be profiling some ways you can master the lead conversion and intake process in future posts. Consider this the Lex Tech Review – Intro to CRM and Lead Conversion 101 Course!