Marketing your practice: The ins and outs of legal client relationship management tools
Legal marketing is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the ethics rules began to change, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, in which attorney advertising was deemed to be commercially protected speech.
Since then, ethics regulations have been modified to permit attorney advertising, and the vast majority of lawyers now advertise their services in one way or another.
With online advertising leading the way, there is an increased need to track and manage legal marketing efforts. That’s where legal client relationship management tools come in.
Typically, this software streamlines the lead intake process and then provides tools to manage communications and appointments with potential clients. Other features often included are the ability to run analytics and create reports that provide insight into lead sources and the lead management process.
CRM software like Salesforce has been around for some time now, but as lawyers become comfortable marketing their firms online, there has been an increasing need for legal-specific CRM tools. As a result, a number of law practice management platforms have begun to add these features to their software, and a few stand-alone legal CRM tools have been released as well.
What follows are some of the more popular CRM tools designed for small firm lawyers. This is not an all-inclusive list, and I have not included software that is primarily practice-area specific. Note that the price points mentioned are annual prices. Many companies offer a slightly higher price point if you choose to be billed monthly but for the sake of simplicity and comparison purposes, I’ve only included annual pricing, if available.
Also, note that the legal software tools discussed below are cloud-based, meaning that all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. That means that because you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s data to a third party if you choose to use one of these tools, you have an ethical obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your data.
So let’s take a look at legal-specific CRM options, starting with the tools built into law practice management software. (Editor’s note: These were the prices at press time, and some were subject to change.)
For basic CRM tools, there’s Rocket Matter and PracticePanther, both of which allow users to pull information from lead intake forms to create documents, such as retainer agreements. These features are not included in either company’s base level plans and are only included in Rocket Matter’s Pro plan ($59/user/month billed annually) and in PracticePanther’s Business plan ($79/user/month).
Next up, ZolaSuite, which offers more robust CRM functionality, including intake forms, document creation with eSignature and lead management tools. These features are not offered as part of their Core plan but are included in their Enterprise ($79/user/month if billed annually) and Enterprise Plus ($89/user/month if billed annually) plans.
MyCase also offers more robust CRM functionality, which includes intake forms, document creation with eSignature, scheduling, and lead management and analytics tools. MyCase has only one single price point ($49/user/month billed annually), and the CRM tools are included in that price.
There are also legal-specific stand-alone CRM tools. These software tools offer robust functionality, but each one includes different feature sets, so it’s important to fully research each option in order to ensure that it provides the CRM features that you seek. You should make sure that you’re not paying for functionality that goes above and beyond the needs of your firm. Both of the following products include lead intake forms, contact management, e-signature capability, and basic analytics and reporting. Select features beyond those will be highlighted below.
First, there’s Lexicata. Lexicata was acquired by law practice management software company Clio in the fall of 2018. It has since been transitioned into a new product, Clio Grow. Clio Grow costs $49/user/month and there is an additional $399 one-time setup fee for accounts with four or more users. If you’d like to have Clio Grow integrate with Clio’s law practice management software, Clio Manage, there are 3 pricing plans available: $89/user/month billed annually plus a one-time $399 setup fee for firms with four or more users for the Boutique Plan, $115/user/month billed annually for the Elite Suite, or the Enterprise Suite for which pricing is not available on the website.
Lawmatics is another option to consider. It’s a relatively new startup that has two different levels of CRM offerings. First there’s the Client Intake tier, which includes the basic CRM features mentioned above, along with basic analytics, basic reporting, a plain text email tool and two email automations. The cost is $84/user/month billed annually, $42 per month for each additional user and a one-time setup fee of $199, which reflects a recent discount from the regular setup fee of $499.
The Intake and Marketing tier includes full analytics, customized reporting, a text and HTML email tool, unlimited email automation, the ability to create email campaigns, and more advanced campaign tracking features. The cost is $110/user/month billed annually, $50 per month for each additional user and a one-time setup fee of $199, which reflects a recent discount from the regular setup fee of $499.
There you have it. Those are some of your top options when it comes to legal CRM software. If you’re in the market for CRM software, one of them is sure to be a good fit for your firm. So, sign up for a trial or two, give them a test drive, and see which one works best for your firm’s needs.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at email@example.com.