CMS – Contact Management Software/Client Management Software

CRM – Contact Relationship Management Software

Law firms have been keeping track of contacts for marketing purposes longer than we have been using computers.

It used to be called a rolodex. It sat on one person’s desk and that person would be responsible for keeping the information current.

Things have changed a bit, but you can think of contact management or client management software as a detailed rolodex of information for your various contacts.

We moved from the Rolodex to Outlook or GroupWise and now we have software platforms developed for contact management. These programs are usually managed by marketing departments in large firms.

CRM software is used as the database for information about individual clients, potential clients, referral sources, attorney association members, invitation databases and communication databases. They can sync with Outlook and/or Google so changes in one location change contacts in all locations.

In addition to basic address, email and phone number information these programs can track:

  • How you met
  • Referral sources
  • Birthdates and other special dates
  • Names of family members
  • Matter/client connections
  • Customized sections to track information important to your practice
  • Each time contact was made, how and notes

Additional features include:

  • Connecting with Outlook, Google or other email program or at the least copy information from your current contacts into the database system.
  • Sending out newsletters and announcements
  • Sending invitations and tracking responses
  • Linking to websites for visitors to join mailing lists
  • Sending blogs or tweets
  • Generating reports for different attorneys’/practice groups

I look at Client Management Software in two different categories.

Category 1

High cost for licensing and maintenance. For larger firms, more than about 50 attorneys, with dedicated marketing staff to manage system and marketing initiatives.

Category 2

Low cost or free for licensing and low cost for maintenance. For smaller firms were attorneys manage their own marketing or they have staff that help with marketing as a portion of their job.

Either of these categories can work with an outside marketing consultant to assist with these programs and the marketing initiatives.

Category 1

These programs are much more robust and have many more customization capabilities. You can’t really logon to their sites, sign up and start working with them. They require a thought-out plan and implementation plus training and integration with your other software programs. However, they can be tremendously helpful in tracking marketing efforts and how your practice areas are doing. The can drive a very successful marketing department.   In addition to this, they reduce redundancy in the firm by keeping all contacts up-to-date at one hub instead of the email going out letting everyone know that XYZ firm has moved and expecting someone to change the address in each attorney’s Outlook.

Some Category 1 programs are:

  • Aderant CRM4Legal
  • LexisNexis Interaction
  • Infusion Soft
  • Salesforce

Category 2

These programs will allow a small law firm or solo practitioner keep one database of information about contacts and clients, create electronic mailings and integrate with their website can be in this category.

The programs I’m familiar with in Category 2 are:

  • Constant Contact
  • Mail Chimp
  • Aweber

Some software providers allow for use of the software for up to a certain number of contacts or entries before they charge. If you want more features, you pay for them. These basic plans for small law firms and solo practitioners it is a good way to start. I always recommend importing only a small amount of information for testing purposes before moving all law firm data into a new system.

Most programs in both categories have aps available to download to iPhone/iPad and android devices.

Please don’t think you can simply download any software and “use it out of the box”. I can name 27 different software programs I have used during my professional career, this doesn’t include the programs I can’t remember and list. And, ALL software requires some customization and a learning curve.

I recently tried the three free software providers for contact management and email marketing from Category 2 above to send blogs and connect to my webpage. I spent more than 10 hours per program trying to get them to work for me. I ended up with the free version of Mail Chimp because it was the easiest to learn and worked the best with my website. My experience may not reflect everyone’s. I do not purport to be an IT Expert; however, I am pretty good at learning software and applying it to my needs.

If you don’t like spending your free time learning new software, find someone who is familiar with what you do and what your requirements are. Pay them to help you. You can educate them on your needs and they can figure out what works for you and how to get you going. They can set you up and get you and your staff trained. Believe me, if you would rather be spending time with your family or hiking or sleeping or anything other than learning new software, invest the relatively small amount of time and money needed to get someone else to do it for you.

Also, if you already have a Practice Management Program for your firm, you may not need a standalone Client Relationship Management program. You may have what you need. Check with the program help desk or your IT consultant before investing time and money into a new program.

I hope you find this helpful.

The first blog in this series is on Practice Management Software:  Demystifying Legal Software 1
My next blog in the series will be on Document Management Software for Law Firms.
I will be speaking at the San Francisco Bar Association on April 21. The topic is Client Information: Is it Secure in the Cloud? More Information


Diane L. Camacho, CLM, SPHR //

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