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Ackert Blog

How to Win and Manage Client Relationships With Pipeline Management

Law firms are increasingly using CRM systems to help track their marketing and business development efforts. Despite CRM providers’ attempts to build pipeline tools, CRM utilization rates remain low among lawyers - the primary business developers within law firms.

The fact is that most CRM systems are not designed to accommodate the very specific needs of lawyers. CRMs are most effective for relationship management (i.e. “who knows who” at the firm) and various marketing functions like email and event management. When firms try to use CRM for pipeline management they often struggle with low utilization, compounded by the difficulty in changing law firm culture where lawyers focus on billable hours at the expense of business development.

Some would argue this conflict has more to do with the current approach law firms take to business development. Marketing and business development professionals shoulder the responsibility of maintaining CRM databases, all while attempting to increase engagement among lawyers, most of whom are reluctant business developers.

The most obvious solution is pipeline management software that is custom-built for lawyers that combines simplicity with accountability. Here are the 4 steps law firms can take to improve business development results with pipeline management.

1. Identify a target list

Marketing and business development personnel should meet with lawyers to create a pipeline and help them identify the key clients, prospects, and referral sources in their networks. Darryl Cross recommends that lawyers target at least 5 clients, 5 prospects, and 5 referral Target Market - Magnifying Glass on Old Paper with Red Vertical Line..jpegsources for a balanced pipeline.

Clients are often the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of new revenue; they are already acquainted with the lawyer and have a sense of their expertise. Prospecting is, of course, a valuable way to broaden and leverage a lawyer’s network for new business. And strong referral relationships can continue to pay dividends in referred business for years to come.

2. Implement a business plan

Many lawyers have constructed a business plan only to find it languish on their desktop with little implementation or follow-through. While marketers encourage follow-up, there is relatively little follow-through unless pipeline tracking is spoon-fed to the lawyers.

3. Accountability and follow-through

They key to any effective pipeline system is oversight and accountability. If marketers don’t have viewing access to lawyers’ pipelines, business development activities can be easily forgotten or de-prioritized. Make a point of regularly checking on lawyers’ assigned activities to ensure lawyers’ key relationships don’t fall off their radar.

4. Measure progress and ROI

Lawyer business development activities are notoriously difficult to tie to ROI. But it’s important to measure performance with any BD initiative, both to justify its expense to management and to encourage lawyers who aren’t necessarily confident with their business development skills. Marketers can use pipeline management software to easily measure leading indicators of revenue, such as lawyer productivity, opportunity value, and close rate.

Effective pipeline management has the potential to propel law firms forward in a competitive industry space. While focusing on the BD pipeline is a step in the right direction, firms need to support these efforts with the right technology – preferably software that incorporates accountability and performance tracking.

Practice Pipeline is one such platform. It’s a simple pipeline management tool with a 75% adoption rate among lawyers. It provides a user-friendly dashboard for tracking relationships, offers a mobile app, integrates with Outlook and CRM, and generates management reports for oversight and accountability.

Its latest iteration tracks business development metrics, so marketers can focus coaching meetings on tactical decisions (rather than data entry). The management reports capture relevant KPIs, including:

  • Key relationships, objectives, and follow-up activities
  • Companies or contacts being pursued by more than one lawyer
  • Productivity and frequency of engagement
  • Potential opportunity value
  • Close rate
  • Total revenue

Each of these data points are cues for effective coaching, mentorship, and ROI assessment.


For more information on how Practice Pipeline can improve lawyer follow-through, contact us to request a demo.

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