What gets measured gets done, and this can certainly be said about “non-billable” activities in law firms. For anyone familiar with attorneys, this is not surprising. Busy lawyers are tasked with competing demands for their very valuable – and very limited – time. And for lawyers, time is money – literally. So when there is client work to be done, anything that takes away from billing often ends up being put off until they have time – which sometimes means indefinitely.
But as competition for work has increased recently, law firms are finally being forced to focus on the one non-billable activity that makes all the other billable activities possible: business development.
Are your people onboard with business development pipeline success? To ensure a successful outcome. the business development pipeline technology must first be supported at the highest leadership levels in the law firm. Next, there must be knowledgeable, well-trained people dedicated to inputting the data. Information has to be entered correctly, consistently and completely because bad data will undermine attorney trust. Additionally, resources have to be dedicated to ongoing data quality to ensure the data remains current over time, since up to 30% of a firm’s contact data can become outdated each year. Finally, there has to be a focus on system adoption.
Recently, some CRM product developers have begun building pipeline tools to meet the changing needs of law firms. A few years ago, Microsoft began offering a version of its Dynamics CRM through industry vertical resellers who configured the software specifically for law firms. This product, CRM4Legal, has since been acquired by Aderant. Two other companies have also released new offerings built on the Dynamics platform: Business Development Premier from Thomson Reuters and ProfessionalCRM from Consulting4CRM.
Leveraging Contacts and Relationships for New Opportunities
More recently, LexisNexis InterAction, the industry leading CRM for large law firms,
When some larger firms with sophisticated marketing departments began to realize the limitations of spreadsheets years ago, they started looking for alternatives. But because the profession had not been focused on sophisticated business development tracking or technology in the past, there were not many choices of pipeline software available that could meet the specific needs of law firms.
So as an interim solution, some firms started testing CRM technology and software such as Salesforce to help overcome the limitations of spreadsheets. While these CRM systems included advanced pipeline functionality, unfortunately they didn’t make sense for a firm wide deployment.
This is where real pipeline software can help to take a law firm’s business development to the next level. A true business development pipeline allows opportunities to be entered and linked to related people and companies. Pipelines also allow for entry of additional information such as activities related to an opportunity, which can then be assigned to the individuals who need to complete them. Once all the data is entered, a pipeline can also provide a perpetual history of the activities that took place during the business development cycle and reminders for activities to keep advancing the opportunities forward.
At its most basic, a pipeline is simply a way to track and report on business development efforts. Initially, when law firms began tracking business development opportunities, the original tool of choice was Excel. Even at some of the largest firms, lawyers often tended to gravitate to spreadsheets to track just about everything. There are several reasons: they are easy to use, they’re on the desktop, they allow you to enter almost unlimited information, and they can even be used to print detailed lists and colorful charts and graphs. As a result, for many firms, Excel was a good place to start building a basic business development pipeline.
What gets measured gets done. This can certainly be said about “non-billable” activities in law firms. For anyone familiar with attorneys, this is not surprising. Busy lawyers are tasked with competing demands for their very valuable – and very limited – time. And for lawyers, time is money – literally. So when there is client work to be done, anything that takes away from billing often ends up being put off until they have time – which sometimes means indefinitely.
Business Development Pipeline Saves Time
But as competition for work has increased recently,