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Separating the Wheat from the Chaff – Law Firm Partners, BD and CRM Aren’t as Complicated as You think!

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At its most fundamental level, business development (BD) is about building and leveraging relationships that will result in business for a firm’s lawyers. For the firm’s Partners, winning new business will have a strong bearing on their remuneration.

"My firm’s Partners don’t participate in formal BD" or "I can’t get my firm’s Partners to adopt the CRM system" are common laments that echo across firms in the legal sector. While CRM and BD managers are trying every trick in the book to secure Partner buy in, their efforts are often coming to naught – and even putting off the Partners. They simply don’t see the need for it! Right?

So, my message to law firm Partners and BD/Marketing/CRM Managers alike, is: From a BD standpoint, for all intents and purposes, Partner engagement with CRM essentially involves inputting some basic data into the system each time they have an interaction with a prospective client or referrer – i.e. name of contact, their organisation, activity engaged with and any follow up action for the future.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario to explain how this works: As an employment lawyer and Partner in a law firm, I go to a conference and strike up a conversation with an in-house counsel who reveals that the legal department is unhappy with the service being provided by one of their current employment panel firms. I take this opportunity to explore further and arrange a coffee for the following week. During the meeting, I learn that there are plans to recruit new employment lawyers, but that it’s likely to take a couple of months to lay the groundwork internally for such a switch. So, we agree to touch base again in eight weeks."

There is a strong possibility that in the absence of a record of this meeting and an automated alert on my follow up action, I might forget to contact this prospect. After all, as a Partner, I routinely have such conversations. Worse still, my failure to act is viewed as a lack of interest, resulting in the business going to another law firm. This could potentially result in reputational damage. For these reasons, inputting information on this interaction into the firm’s CRM system is purely in my interest – it will allow me to act in a timely manner, and sharing the information with colleagues in my practice allows us all to know what each other is doing with regards to prospecting for new business."

Therefore, rather than seeing CRM adoption as a technology adoption burden, it should be viewed by Partners merely as a basic BD hygiene factor.

Also, the firm’s CRM technology is a utility that gives Partners access to information as and when they need it. CRM capability today is easy and intuitive to use. Not only can Partners access information through Outlook and on the go via their smartphones and tablets, some solutions can embed information into lawyers’ workflow and routine work applications such as Word and Excel. CRM systems today can mine email signatures, eliminating the need for lawyers to even physically input and update the contact information into system.

My point is that Partners can benefit from their firm’s CRM system with minimal effort by simply using the most basic functionality. Meanwhile, the BD and Marketing teams can take advantage of the collective intelligence that resides in the CRM system to perform more sophisticated analytics, to enable data/facts-based decision-making. It’s that simple!

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:


Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all aspects of marketing and business development for more than 30 years. As a consultant, he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well as to win new ones. Kevin qualified as an executive coach with Meyler Campbell in 2012 and works with partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills, including helping them to utilise CRM technology.

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