How to use CRM to make more time for better value work

Allan Carton, Managing Director of Inpractice and specialist in strategy, marketing & technology for law firms, shares his tips on setting the agenda for your CRM strategy to achieve short, medium and long-term gains.

In the early days, the biggest ROI justification for a CRM software application is not necessarily clients retained or new business won – as it should be in the medium and long term. Short term, it can often be the saving of lawyers’ time by not duplicating activities already done by someone else, finding contact details easily, seeing what others have said and done, building lists that can be shared and adjusted without replication and so on.

In the long term, your key aims are likely to revolve around effective and pro-active management of “Key Accounts”, referrals and introductions.

However, you want as many people as possible on board and “singing from the same hymn book” from the outset. You want to make better and more effective use of management of client (and prospect) information as well as you can, as soon as you can. The sooner you make a proper start, the better.

Business strategy and CRM strategy objectives should be one and the same; and a client-focused business strategy should aim, for example, to:

  • Maximise the lifetime value of clients as this is directly related to the profitability of your practice.
  • Keep profitable clients and shed unprofitable clients.
  • Maximise efficiency and productivity of communication and service delivery.
  • Achieve minimum 95% client satisfaction ratings.
  • Convert 50% of clients to advocates within 12 months.

Objectives like these can set an agenda to help lawyers understand how they can benefit from, for example, initiatives to:

  • Segment clients and prospects to decide how best to work with each group.
  • Identify the key accounts that merit pro-active management, which will change over time.
  • Review accountability and rewards for lawyers to line practice up with the strategy.
  • Focus on engagement and managing expectations at the outset on billing.
  • Focus on business processes to streamline service delivery and cut costs simultaneously.
  • Improve and introduce new / better methods of communication.
  • Share information on clients with others to cross sell and delegate.

Before your firm embarks on its CRM journey, here are some key pointers that we strongly recommend you should take on board:


  • Lead from the top with agreed business objectives … so that’s where we make a start.
  • Define your objectives in the short, medium and long term – and share these effectively within the business.
  • Listen to, learn to understand and share internally what clients value – what you need to know about them – early on to open up new opportunities and develop more meaningful discussions with clients.
  • Tackle simple needs first such as mailing lists and events, who owns/manages which relationships, who knows who now and integration with practice management and other systems.
  • Look for quick wins; communicate and celebrate them.
  • Tackle cleaning data early but manage that so as not to stifle progress in getting people engaged on the benefits and the plan. Clean just what you want to use from historic data and with new data being added.
  • Start with a pilot, with the marketing team collaborating closely with lawyers and support staff to agree what data is needed and processes to manage it.
  • Move on to more sophisticated approach to managing key client and referrer accounts and to development of new prospects. Don’t stop!
  • Build reliable and meaningful client intelligence as ammunition for new initiatives .. internal workshops to develop new propositions … and the rest.


  • Hold back on investing in a CRM system until the culture has changed. You don’t have the luxury of time to do that now. Instead, use the structure and data available from developing a system – with engagement from a pilot group in your practice – to drive the wider change of behaviours that is needed over time.
  • Lead with the technology.
  • Stop after the first flourish of activity. You will only produce the results that are possible by being persistent, even when people don’t like the discipline and effort that is needed. It is therefore CRITICAL that people really understand why they are doing this – and what success looks like.

Opportunities that stem from the current economic revival and Brexit uncertainty make getting closer to clients more important – but no CRM “system” can do this on its own. Any system can just make it easier for lawyers who know what they can do to get closer and make it happen in the limited time they have available.


Allan Carton

Allan Carton is a specialist in strategy, marketing & technology for law firms and Managing Director of Inpractice.

Inpractice are specialist advisers to the legal sector who guide and support lawyers and management to develop and improve the performance of the business; enabling law firms to produce better results, faster. The team helps solicitors and law firms to ENGAGE with people, clients, introducers and prospects to DEVELOP new strategies and initiatives that build a stronger legal business.

For more information on how the Inpractice team can help you on your CRM journey, visit