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A CRM is different from law practice management software because most LPMS doesn’t really focus on client intake, client acquisition, or relationship management. A robust LPMS typically focuses on being more productive with existing clients and matters. Still, many LPMS have updates and features that start to feel more like CRM software.
In selecting proper software, ask yourself, “What do I want to achieve with a law firm CRM?” If you’re unsure, take a look at your Marketing Plan (or create one using our Legal Marketing Guide). Don’t just grab software off the shelf and start using it. Plan, document your processes, and then determine what you need.
1. Assess the features you need in a law firm CRM
If you don’t have CRM software, or the one you have doesn’t meet your needs, then ask yourself what features your firm would benefit from. Go back to that Marketing Plan and determine what you want to do. If you don’t know what features will accomplish that, yet, take a look at the Features list below. It should give you a good idea of what is out there.
2. Determine its customizability
Once you find software that has the features you’re looking for, determine if you can customize those features to fit your needs? How difficult is it to make the law firm CRM fit your needs? Or, alternatively, does it come ready-to-use (or almost ready-to-use) right out of the box?
3. Find-out how easy it is to learn and work with
This matters in all kinds of ways. First, you’ll need to learn it yourself so you can get comfortable with it as a solution for your firm. And if you anticipate needing to train other people on the software, make sure you and your colleagues will have plenty of resources available. Comprehensive documentation should help you learn how to use your fancy new tool without too much issue. And if it is tricky to learn (and, probably, even if it isn’t), a good law firm CRM should offer free training.
4. Evaluate how will it will integrate with your current software
Does it integrate with your LPMS? What about your email, or your calendar? Processes can get really cumbersome if your new law firm CRM exists on a digital island. That means more things for you to download, transfer, and pay attention to. Integration with Office 365, or G Suite is often a extremely helpful, if not a necessity.
5. Try before you buy
After you’ve narrowed down your choices, give them a test-run. Most have a free trial. When putting new law firm CRM software through its paces, see if it works by importing just a few contacts, rather than your entire client list. See if you like the interface and the experience with 30 clients first, before you try it with 3000.
A core feature of marketing automation software and many intake and CRM tools is the ability to automate workflows like follow-up emails after a potential client inquiry, pre-consult questionnaires, new client onboarding, and more.
With appointment scheduling, you can connect your calendar and let potential clients pick consultation slots right from your website.
Sync up your calendar so you can see associated appointments when viewing a potential client's record.
Building out your marketing workflows is quicker and easier if you have templates to work from.
Sync up your email account so you can see emails sent or received when viewing a potential client's record.
While email is a fairly standard part of most software, your clients may prefer text messaging. If so, you'll want to keep track of them in your software so you can see your conversations associated with potential clients.
When it comes to intake questionnaires or engagement letters, a template can help get you up and running with your software more easily.
Allow clients to sign and return documents quickly, using their computer or phone—but not a printer.
See reports like the number of clients in each stage of your marketing or intake process, or the return on investment from your various marketing investments.
Communicate with clients, exchange documents, and provide clients with secure, real-time information on the status of their case. Client portals can set the tone with clients from the beginning.