With so many CRM options out there, how are you supposed to figure out which solution is best for your organization?
HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho… the list is long, and each tool has its own marquee features and added perks.
Not to mention the majority of CRM (customer relationship management) software on the market was built primarily for sales teams, not law firms and legal teams.
You need to figure out which CRM is best for your organization before getting stuck in an expensive contract for a tool your team doesn’t even want to touch.
So what can you do?
Good news: That’s the dilemma we’re going to unpack for you today.
In this guide, we’re going to answer three key questions about CRM software for law firms:
1. Why bother using a CRM in the first place? What are the benefits of using a CRM at your law firm, when you’re not technically selling a product?
2. What features should your CRM have? If you decide to set up a CRM for your organization, what features and functionality are must-haves for law firms in particular?
3. How do you choose the best CRM for your organization? When you’ve found several CRM options with all the must-have features, how can you determine which one is the absolute best fit for you?
Let’s jump right in!
Table Of Contents
- The Benefits Of Using A CRM
- Essential CRM Features & Functionality To Look For
- Choosing The Right CRM For Your Practice
The first question you may be asking right now is this:
“Do I actually need a CRM?”
It’s a valid question, especially if CRM software isn’t something you’ve used before. The short answer to this question:
Yes, you do.
There are massive advantages to using a great CRM—especially one built for law firms. Let’s break down what that actually means and some of the most prominent benefits.
Better access to information within your organization
If your only knowledge sharing paths are email chains and water-cooler conversations, you’re eventually going to run into some communication breakdowns and knowledge gaps (if you haven’t already).
At the end of the day, having one central location to keep track of all client activity can help streamline communication across your organization.
(1) Members of your firm will no longer need to chase down information from the one or two people who have the answers buried in their email inboxes.
(2) Everyone will know who owns which relationships, so when opportunities arise, there won’t be any confusion as to who’s responsible for leading conversations.
(3) By keeping track of past communications and touchpoints with clients, a CRM makes it easy for someone new to the client to quickly get up to speed on the relationship and what needs to happen next. This knowledge sharing ultimately improves client communication and the overall client experience.
To put it simply: Your firm will operate with efficiency.
Keeping up with who owns which relationships and the conversations that have happened is only one piece of the “information” puzzle.
Data and reporting.
Without a CRM’s high-quality reporting features—particularly one that includes case management or is fully integrated with your case management software—you probably don’t have a good way to collect and analyze multiple data streams. Yes, you may already be able to figure out how many hours certain attorneys have billed recently. You may be able to see retainer values for specific clients in specific industries. But do you have the ability to compare this data to see which industries your highest margin clients are in, and which attorneys are the most efficient?
The power of a CRM lies in aggregating this data.
When you’re able to analyze all the data across your organization and slice it up based on any number of filters and dimensions, you can gain real, actionable insights to help grow your business, like:
- Which types of clients are responsible for the highest retainers?
- Which attorneys are billing above or below their targets?
- Who’s responsible for bringing in the most clients this month/quarter/year?
- Which practice areas make up the majority of your firm? Which have the highest margins and billable hours?
Great CRM software makes it easy to build high-level dashboards so you can understand everything that’s happening within your organization at a glance, without asking IT to run technical reports.
You can even build custom dashboards for each member of your organization so they can see the numbers that matter most to them.
For example, managing partners may need to see overall retainer revenue, firm-wide billable hours and growth quarter-over-quarter, while someone working in marketing will want to view email engagement metrics, advertising performance, etc.
Automate administrative tasks & workflows
Managing every relationship, client, and contact in your organization through a series of email threads, spreadsheets, and individual software tools can lead to serious inefficiencies.
Oftentimes these makeshift solutions require a lot of manual upkeep and management, whether it be fixing system errors and bugs, updating contact interactions and stages, or setting up timelines and action items. These manual admin tasks can add up!
And with more and more manual work comes the risk of human error along the way—e.g., entering data incorrectly, or forgetting important deadlines.
Instead, a CRM platform can help automate these admin tasks based on pre-defined triggers. For example, you can set up an automated process that generates documents when a contact reaches a stage where an NDA is required.
Secure confidential documents & information
By managing relationships, conversations and sensitive information through a trusted, cloud-based CRM, you can decrease your risk for data and security breaches.
You might be thinking, “We already have a security system on-site, and it hasn’t failed us yet.” But here’s the hard truth:
On-premise security systems are no longer the best solutions in town.
Just because the in-house security system your IT team set up 20 years ago has “never been breached” doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable. In fact, this false sense of security can actually leave you more vulnerable if you become so confident that you start to let your guard down.
Your clients are trusting you with their sensitive and confidential information. Not only can a data breach be costly from a dollars and cents standpoint, it can also lead to fractured relationships and a significant loss of trust from your client base.
At this point, the benefits of using a CRM are clear:
- Greater transparency and information sharing
- Simplified access to in-depth data and reports
- Automations that streamline standard workflows
- Improved security of sensitive documents and information
In order to find the best fit for your firm, the next question is:
What features does your CRM need to have?
The solutions on the market may advertise all kinds of bells and whistles. But when shopping for CRM software for your law firm, you want to focus on a few key features:
1. In-depth reporting & dashboards
Access to highly detailed data is crucial.
From collecting and aggregating data to visualizing what matters most in the form of custom reports and dashboards, great reporting features are a must for your CRM.
In terms of specific functionality, you’re looking for:
- The ability to aggregate data across clients, contacts, staff members, etc.
- Custom dashboards tailored to each CRM user in your organization
- Automated report generation based on any data point
2. User-friendly interface & experience
No matter what kind of functionality and features your CRM offers, it needs to be user-friendly.
Simply put, if your CRM is difficult to use, your team won’t be keen to use it. That isn’t just a waste of money—it can also be detrimental to your business.
If your CRM isn’t being used and updated on a regular basis, the information within it will quickly become out of sync and inaccurate.
With inaccurate information and data can come false insights that may mislead you into making decisions that will hurt, not help, your business.
3. Relationship intelligence
One of the most important functions of a CRM is clearly identifying who owns which relationships.
In fact, it can sometimes feel like a cheat code when you’re able to map out all your organization’s business relationships and see exactly which team member to go to at any point.
Beyond understanding who owns the relationship, a CRM can also give anyone at your firm insight into the overall client relationship itself. What other matters the client has with your firm, what the latest communications have been, and more.
With Litify in particular, you can even set up an RSS feed that automatically collects stories and articles published on your clients.
4. Cloud-based with a mobile app
A cloud-based CRM that comes with a mobile app is ideal for two reasons:
(1) Better security than on-prem solutions
Cloud software has made significant strides in data security and threat protection. This is especially true when using Litify with Salesforce as your CRM.
Since Litify is built on Salesforce, it has top-of-the-line security features and tools as well. One in particular—the Salesforce Trust security hub—gives you access to a real-time security threat monitoring system. You’ll also have built-in access to features like external link warnings, Transport Layer Security (TLS) when using the platform to protect your information, and more.
(2) Greater accessibility
If you can only access your CRM from a single on-premise server at a single brick-and-mortar location, you’ll naturally be restricted in where and when you can access your organization’s data and information.
When you’re working virtually or on the go, being able to access your CRM securely through your laptop or mobile device is a major benefit.
5. Task management, workflows & automation
Of course, one of the core aspects of a great CRM is task management and workflow automation capabilities.
Look for a CRM that makes it easy to set up triggers that start workflows after a client or contact reaches a certain stage or takes a particular action (e.g., submits a form online or has an initial conversation with a paralegal). With this functionality, you’ll be able to automate parts of your account management processes and tailor workflows to how you prefer to do business.
6. Document generation & management built in
A CRM with built-in document generation and management can help to automate even more of your processes.
- Automated document generation based on custom triggers like client status changes
- Advanced document search with OCR
- Simplified document uploading that lets you upload everything first & sort second
- Merging existing data, information & documents together
- Building customizable document templates for NDAs, contracts, etc.
Which leads perfectly into the final piece of the puzzle:
7. Integrations with your core tools
The ability to connect the software tools you rely on most is definitely something you want in a CRM.
Ideally, your CRM will be part of your larger business transformation platform, like Litify, and include baked-in case management and document management functionality that already communicates with each other.
To make your CRM the single source of truth in your law firm, make sure it can easily integrate with your case management software and document management tools (if your CRM doesn’t already offer these features) and all of your accounting, marketing, and advertising tools.
For example, if you rely on QuickBooks for your accounting, integrating QuickBooks with your CRM’s billing and timekeeping features can save your staff time and effort.
We’ve talked about the benefits of using a CRM in the first place, we’ve covered which specific features to look for when you’re searching for solutions—the only question left is this:
Which CRM is best for your organization?
There are a few key areas to consider beyond the features:
(1) Who was the CRM software built for?
Was it built for sales and marketing teams, or is it tailored to a law firm like yours? A CRM built for law firms first and foremost will be able to:
- Connect information to specific matters
- Track client relationships that span across multiple matters
- Track billable time at the client, attorney, matter and task levels
- And more…
A CRM designed for law firms from the beginning will require less customization and manual setup than an out-of-the-box sales CRM.
(2) Where can you go for support and assistance?
If you run into roadblocks or need support, it’s important to have more options than just submitting a ticket—sometimes you need answers right away. Or you may be on the hunt for overall tips for getting the most out of your CRM, in which case community support is vital.
With Litify, for example, you have access to weekly success webinars and a guided online training portal to help you get the most out of the product. And because Litify is built on Salesforce, Litify users benefit from the deep expertise within the global Salesforce community—with access to Trailhead, frequent conferences, and more.
(3) Which key software can you directly integrate with your CRM?
If connecting your most important software to your CRM requires custom-built connectors and highly technical solutions, you’ll be at greater risk for errors and technical bugs.
Ideally, your CRM will offer direct integrations with your most important tools, making for simpler setup and maintenance processes, and better security for transferring important data.
When using Litify as your CRM, you have the entire Salesforce AppExchange with over 3,600 software tools available to directly connect to the CRM.
Choosing the right CRM for your organization doesn’t have to be a confusing and complicated process. If you understand the key benefits and functionality you’re looking for, and factor in the value of a legal-focused CRM platform, the best choice for you will become clearer.
One CRM and legal practice management platform that delivers on each of the core functionalities we covered (and more) is Litify.
Because Litify is built on Salesforce, you’ll have access to the world’s #1 CRM—with endless integrations, community support, security features and cloud-based functionality—plus, a user experience and case management features custom-tailored to serve law firms like yours.