There’s an idea that a CRM software solution is a tool exclusively for salespeople, and that businesses without a dedicated sales department just don’t need one.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth; any business that depends on communicating with clients before a deal is made can benefit enormously from CRM software, especially a law firm.
There’s a lot of contact that goes into building up your relationship with a client before a retainer is in place, and keeping track of exactly which step of the process each of your potential clients is in is key to maximizing your opportunities.
A much better way to think about CRM software is as a tool for efficiently managing all your prospective clients so that you have everything you need to give yourself the best chance to convert each of your potential clients into service users, while also saving yourself a lot of time.
In this guide, we’ll be going over everything you need to know about the best CRM for law firms, and providing you with our best recommendations for CRM software for law practices.
Feel free to skip ahead using our table of contents if you’re just after the recommendations for the best law firm CRMs, but if you’re new to CRM then we encourage you to go through everything.
Knowing what CRM is and how to make the most of it will let you hit the ground running when the time comes to implement your new software.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
Want to know all there is to know about CRM? Then check out our complete guide to the best CRM!
What is CRM?
Let’s start with the basics.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and actually represents your entire process of managing your customer relationships, not just the software that helps you do it.
That being said, CRM software provides you with the organization and oversight to perform your entire customer relationship process, and the two are heavily interlinked.
As we rely more and more on software to organize our efforts, the software and the process effectively become the same thing.
Other than knowing that CRM can refer to either the software we use or the entire process, there’s not much to worry about here.
Customer Relationship Management
So it’s a system for managing your customers then?
Not quite. Though ‘customer’ is in the name, we’re actually referring to the stage before your customers or service users become customers or service users.
CRM is actually the process through which you manage your potential customers.
For a lot of businesses, law firms included, there’s a period of interaction with your potential customers before they decide whether or not to invest money into your business. And that’s the main focus of CRM software.
Of course, once a customer is in your system, then CRM software can help manage your relationship with them, especially if they want to use your services again, but for most businesses, once a lead becomes a customer, another part of the business will handle interactions with them.
How does a CRM work?
A CRM has two main facets: a sales pipeline and a contact database.
The Sales Pipeline
The sales pipeline is a visualization of how far along the sales process each of your leads is.
Each business has a different sales process, whereby each potential customer is guided through different sales pipeline stages to become a customer or service user.
As each business will have a unique process for guiding leads toward a sale, CRM software provides the flexibility to mirror your individual sales process.
With your sales pipeline mirrored in your CRM software, you’ll have immediate oversight of where each of your potential customers is in your funnel.
You’ll also be able to tell at a glance how healthy your pipeline is, and whether you have enough leads to meet your targets.
The second major part of any CRM tool is the centralized contact information database.
Unlike other ad-hoc software solutions like Excel and Google Sheets, or even paper-based systems, CRM software is specifically designed to manage all the various documents, contact information and communications for each of your potential customers.
This means you no longer have to worry about remembering where you’ve stored your information, as it’s all in one easily accessible place.
Plus, by being cloud-based, you can access your information from wherever you are, on whatever device you use.
Cloud-based CRM providers ensure all your sensitive data is stored securely. The implications of a data breach for a normal business are bad enough, but the confidential documents held by legal firms are of paramount importance to keep safe.
Fortunately, reputable CRM providers ensure cutting-edge security features for your data, so you don’t have to worry about your data being at risk.
By having all your potential customer information immediately accessible, you’ll save a huge amount of time you’d otherwise spend looking for data and contact information.
How CRM software relates to Sales
By providing your business with so much oversight of its process for converting new leads into paying customers, organizations gain several key benefits.
Avoiding Missed Opportunities
Without a CRM to clearly detail where each lead is in your sales pipeline, it’s easy to let prospects fall through the cracks and miss out on follow-ups that could have led to new clients.
By having a comprehensive and immediately visible sales pipeline, you can instantly tell who needs to be followed up with in order to progress to the next pipeline stage.
Honing your Process
By using your CRM to gather the data you’re inputting, you can see where your sales process is succeeding, and where it’s falling short.
Having information about the success of each pipeline stage is a great place to start for understanding the effectiveness of your process, but there are a plethora of other KPIs you can use to find out useful information about your sales practice.
One of the most important ways to improve sales in any business is to make sure your sales pitch is personalized to your potential client or customer.
And by using your CRM to record your communications, you can quickly pick up exactly where you left off with your lead and engage their exact issue.
What CRM software brings to a business
By looking at how a CRM system works, we can clearly see why sales departments wouldn’t want to be without one.
But even for businesses that don’t have a dedicated sales department, even if for some reason increasing sales isn’t a priority, CRM software still has the capacity to both improve your potential client process’s quality of life, as well as save you time and stress with easy information storage.
Why use CRM for law firms?
For law firms, there’s a clear part in the client’s journey where they’re deciding whether to go with your practice, or whether to look elsewhere.
It’s in this part of the client intake process that your potential clients make themselves known to you, you contact them to find out more information, and you communicate to decide if you’ll make good fits for each other and put a retainer in place.
Each potential client, or lead, has their own contact information and documentation regarding their case you’ll want to store securely.
Plus, you’ll also want to see how far along the client intake process your leads are so you know what the next steps you and your leads need to take are.
How is law firm CRM different?
For law firms and practices, we tend to change Customer Relationship Management to Client Relationship Management, but the principle is the same: engage your prospective clients as they enter your pipeline, and nurture them until they’ve paid a retainer.
However, because of the nature of legal work, there are some differences between law firm CRMs, versus CRM for generic business.
For a law firm, the way your leads make themselves known to you is by getting in contact, either through a traditional channel like over the phone or through web forms on your website.
Generic business has to spend a lot more time actively going out to find new leads than law firms, hence why they have dedicated sales departments.
But for law firms, it’s important for your CRM software to include a way of seamlessly adding your new prospective clients to your client intake pipeline once they’ve made contact with you.
This can be through integration with your web forms or any other digital means of capturing a lead’s data.
Good law firm CRM should have ways to automate the lead-capturing process to minimize the time your staff needs to spend entering data into your client intake pipeline and contact database.
Unlike generic business, legal practices have to handle a lot of documents before leads become paying clients.
It’s important for your organization to have a centralized, cloud-based database to securely house all the case information your leads bring in, that can be accessed with just a click or two.
Not all generic CRMs come with document management features, as it’s not a priority for generic business.
E-Signatures, Templates, and Payments
As you’ll be aiming to garner retainer fees, your legal CRM needs to provide you with the documentation templates you’ll need, the ability for your clients to sign them over the internet, and the ability for them to pay your fees online too.
While none of these features are strictly necessary, you’ll be adding a huge amount of time to your process if you have to rely exclusively on paper documentation and payment methods that aren’t convenient for your potential client.
When it comes to meeting with your new clients, you’ll want to make sure that you have a robust meeting scheduling system in place so you don’t double book, miss appointments, and avoid lengthy back and forths trying to find a date that works for both parties.
Having specialized meeting scheduling features means your potential clients can select from a range of times you’ve specified on your calendar that automatically syncs with your personal calendar, making the process quick, easy, and error-free.
Transfer to Case Management
Once your client has paid a retainer, you’ll be moving their case from your law firm CRM over to your case management software.
Generic CRM isn’t built with this in mind, and while there may be some CRMs that integrate with legal case management software or a workaround can be found by using a tool like Zapier, it’s an extra step at the very least, and more time wasted on data entry at the worst.
What we’ll see when looking at the best CRM for law firms is they’re often bundled with case management software, meaning you’ll have a fully integrated system from the word go.
You’ll be able to save time by instantly transferring your clients from your legal CRM to your case management software, which means you can eliminate another repetitive task from your workflow and keep focused on the important tasks at hand.
Do law firms need specialized legal CRM software?
Law firms don’t need CRM software specifically built to manage clients, but it definitely has benefits.
Remember, generic CRMs are built for generic business, where the expected process is for sales reps to identify leads, and then win them over through demonstrating what their product can do for the users, followed by negotiation, and ending with estimates and/or invoicing.
They aren’t designed with document management as a high priority, and other necessary features like e-signatures, online payments, and web form integration are generally premium additions, meaning you’ll most likely have to rule out the free options if you want all these features.
Is Salesforce good for law firms?
If you’re a legal practice new to the world of CRM, we’d recommend you stay clear of Salesforce for the time being.
It’s a capable software tool, but it has a very high learning curve, and there are many better and cheaper options out there for businesses looking into legal CRM software.
Is HubSpot good for lawyers?
HubSpot makes a better choice for law firms, as there’s a free option that provides many of the features legal CRM needs.
However, if you find yourself brushing up against the capped limits, or you’re averse to Hubspot’s branding on your live chat, meeting scheduling, documentation, and 1-to-1 email, then you’ll have to step up to their premium tiers, which start getting expensive quickly.
Are any non-legal CRMs worth considering?
In our opinion, if you’re thinking of spending any money at all on your CRM system, then you should probably invest in one that’s specialized for the legal process.
They’re no more expensive per user than generic CRMs and they do everything you’ll need them to, so it really is a no-brainer.
If you’re looking for a free solution though, then you’ll probably have to go with a generic solution.
While you won’t have a lot of the nice-to-have features of dedicated legal CRM, you’ll still gain a lot of the benefits, and it won’t cost you a cent per user.
Check out our guide to the best free CRMs if you’re interested in learning more about what they can do for your business.
The best CRM solutions for law firms
Now we understand how CRM works for generic business, and how the needs of law firms’ CRM differs, let’s check out the best CRM for law firms on the market today, so you can make an informed decision about your new software.
Interested in more reviews? Then check out all our law practice management software reviews
Price upon request, demo available
SurePoint brings lawyers and legal firms a comprehensive software suite that promises to improve client satisfaction, unlock your performance, and boost your profits, and as the highest-rated law practice management software on Serchen, we’re inclined to believe them!
SurePoint specializes in award-winning software for enterprise businesses, so it may not be the best choice for smaller practices, but for larger practices that need the extra cutting-edge features SurePoint can provide, it could be an excellent investment.
In this review, we’ll focus on the law firm CRM side of things, but SurePoint is a fully-featured package, containing everything a legal practice needs to manage its clients effectively, including practice and financial management, timekeeping, security features, and business intelligence reporting.
SurePoint’s client management CRM, ContactEase, prides itself on a simple and intuitive interface, which means onboarding your staff is a piece of cake and encourages better use of the software.
With its centralized database, everyone who needs instant access to your leads and their information has it wherever they are for effective communication and relationship building. And once you’ve converted your prospects into clients, all their documents and information can be easily transferred over to your case management system.
With built-in tracking and reporting, it’s easy for users to capture the lead information they need to ensure they’re making the most of each new opportunity that comes in, and use custom reports to understand their decision-making and how it’s affecting business.
Plus, with marketing integration tools, it’s simple to manage your leads into segmented lists, so you can target the right leads with the right message at the right time.
By using the information ContactEase helps you capture, you can personalize your marketing efforts to ensure the highest rates of conversion.
You can also keep the rest of your team up to date with the built-in Change Tracker, ensuring that when a potential client’s status changes, such as moving through your pipeline, notifications let everyone who needs to know be aware of the change.
And, with Outlook integration available out-of-the-box, users can quickly sync their accounts to complete their legal CRM tasks wherever they are in the world, and they don’t need extensive training to make use of all the great features SurePoint provides.
Centralized database: provide all of your users with easy access to your important contact information from their mobile device, outlook, or via the browser-based Lookup mode.
Intuitive design: reduce your onboarding time and boost engagement by adopting a system that’s easy to use. Plus, save time by having everything where you’d expect it to be, with no hidden functions to master.
Outlook integration: baked-in integration with Outlook means legal professionals can easily sync their accounts and perform their legal CRM tasks without needing new apps or retraining.
List manager: Easily segment your leads into lists, so that you can always get the message you want out to the people who need it. And with integrated email marketing, you can use your lists to build email campaigns, and even gain insights into the effectiveness of your campaigns from the reporting feature.
What our community says about SurePoint:
“Immediately after installation in 2010, LMS began paying for itself giving our firm the ability to capture and report on time the very first month and every month since that day.”
“Overall, it has been a nice addition of tools that we have implemented at Donahue Fitzgerald. From looking at client-matter information, to running conflicts and processing intakes, I am very pleased with the overall use of the LMS system. In my 18 years of being in legal, SurePoint got it right.
I oversee conflicts / intakes for the firm, so for me it was mostly about creating a seamless workflow environment that captured all the information, but that also allowed for all stakeholders during a conflict/intake to be looped into the process, our contacts at SurePoint were able to do that and more.”
Price From: $89 per user per month, demo available
Actionstep is another great choice for law firms looking for fully-featured software for law firms with built-in client relationship management.
Actionstep is one of our best-rated law practice management tools and recently acquired LawMaster, which was another tool highly rated by our users, so you can be sure of the quality of the service you’ll be getting by using the software.
Again, we’ll be looking at the law firm CRM component of Actionstep, but users of the service will also gain access to other powerful software for law firms, such as workflow automations, document management and assembly features, customer matter and case management, customized reporting, and a client portal in the base tier package, with the option to upgrade down the line to include banking, accounting, and advanced business intelligence tools.
There’s also an option for a payments add-on, where you can bill your clients online through Actionstep to speed up the payment process and save yourself time manually entering information and chasing payments.
The Actionstep law firm CRM feature models itself on a traditional sales pipeline to help you get the most out of your new client intake.
By giving your website the option to create powerful web forms to attract new business, you can attract new leads and automatically capture their information in your relationship management CRM, as well as send a thank you email and set up a follow-up task on your behalf. You can even create reports based on your web form performance.
By allowing users to create a custom workflow for client intake through the structured pipeline with distinct stages, Actionstep has the ability to automate email updates for your prospects each time they move to the next stage of your pipeline, as well as set up automated reminders for your staff so they never miss an opportunity.
And with the real-time view of your pipeline, you can quickly tell from a glance the health of your pipeline, as well as what you can expect from your cash flow, and where your client induction process needs the most work to maximize results.
Actionstep also has a fully integrated calendar that syncs with Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, and Google Calendar, so you can easily arrange appointments with prospective clients and share your availability with clients and colleagues.
You can also take advantage of the document automation and management system to use templates and auto-filling fields to quickly create documents for each client and save them into your centralized database for easy access.
Plus, with end-to-end encryption, automatic data backups, and full ownership of your documents, you won’t have to worry about data security.
Integrated web form lead generation: Let your new leads make themselves known to you by integrating your web forms with your law firm CRM software.
By capturing the information in the web form, Actionstep brings new prospects into your pipeline while using marketing automation to send them a thank you email, and setting up a follow-up reminder for your team so the opportunity doesn’t slip through the cracks.
Traditional Pipeline View: Understand the health of your pipeline and the status of your potential clients at a glance with the easy-to-understand pipeline view Actionstep offers, so you can immediately tell what your next tasks are and what needs to be done to improve the client intake process.
Workflow automation: keep your leads and your team up-to-date by automating emails for potential clients when they move from one stage to another in your sales pipeline and by sending follow-up reminders to your team to keep your prospects engaged.
What our community says about Actionstep:
“Incorporates everything a practice needs from document assembly to accounting.”
Price from: $19 per user per month
App4Legal Core is App4Legal’s practice management system that combines all the features you’ll need to handle the day-to-day running of a law firm.
Once again, we’ll be focusing on the law firm CRM side of things, but App4Legal Core covers a range of other fantastic functions, including case and matter management, task and workflow automation, dashboard and custom metrics, time billing and accounting, and a central secure repository for your document management.
It’s also worth noting that App4Legal Core comes in four different subscription models so that as you grow as a law firm, you’ll always be able to find the feature set that matches your needs without having to migrate over to another system.
But onto the CRM component. App4Legal Core’s CRM provides users with an easy-to-understand database in which to store all of your prospective clients’ contact information, documents, related matters, tasks, expenses, and contracts, so you’ll always have all the information you need at your fingertips.
With the ability to categorize and filter your leads, you can easily create custom lists to segment your prospects for easier marketing, and you’ll have a better idea of what each lead needs at a glance.
And with client-specific automation, you can build custom rules for your automation, which gives you enormous flexibility when personalizing your services to each lead.
Decide exactly how you want your automation to work on a case-by-case basis so you provide the right attentiveness each time.
You can also make use of the centralized documents repository to manage and store all your digital documents relating to your prospective clients, making them easy to find, access and edit.
Comprehensive centralized database: Provide instant access to those who need it over a comprehensive range of information about your client, or linked to their case, with one source of truth for your team.
List segmentation: Use advanced filters and categorizations to easily create custom lists of your prospects so you can market to them with the right message at the right time.
Automation: Craft client-specific automations so you can address each client with the right techniques you need to ensure conversion to a paid service user.
What our community says about App4Legal:
“App4Legal helped us to maximize the use of legal tech. Moreover, App4Legal has been proven to be a high-end solution that greatly assisted us in developing CBD’s legal practice.”
Prices From: $30 AUS per user per month, 14-day Free trial available
Our final software recommendation for any law firm looking for a CRM is Mattero.
Mattero is another CRM software for law practice management tool that offers you everything you’ll need for your law firm’s case management duties.
With three price tiers, you can ensure you only pay for the features you actually need, and it’s easy to upgrade to the next tier when you need the features without having to worry about migrating your data.
Mattero doesn’t have a dedicated law firm CRM feature per se, but it has a comprehensive contact management system, with other great features such as document, email, and task management that can be used in conjunction to put together a very workable CRM solution.
The contact system allows users to record all the key information they need for their CRM work, as well as for further on in case management, while also allowing them to create contact-specific documents for their prospective leads.
And with a contacts notes section, you can easily summarize your interaction with your prospects so you’re always up-to-date with the latest developments.
With custom fields for your leads, you can make sure all the important information specific to your legal practice is recorded how you want it to be.
Contact system and integrations: Create your own CRM with the Mattero contact system, which can record all the information you need, including custom fields and documentation, in a centralized database with integrated email, document, and task management so you can create custom workflows that help you perform all your CRM tasks.
What our community says about Mattero:
“Great customer service right from the very beginning. If we need anything they are just a friendly call away. Highly recommend Mattero to mediators and lawyers! Thank you!!
Easy to navigate; fantastic features; easy to read and find what you are looking for; especially love the preview feature without having to open up documents and convert to PDF; love how easy the mobile layout is to navigate and read; love everything!
There are no cons, it’s a great program to use.”
Should your law firm use a CRM?
If you’re part of a law firm and you want to improve your conversion rates on new opportunities, while also saving time and effort, then you should definitely be considering a CRM, as there’s really no downside.
Whether you should be investing in a dedicated legal practice CRM solution is the real question.
If money’s tight and you’re just starting out, then it may be best to use a free CRM until you’re in the position to be purchasing subscriptions per user.
By the time you’re ready to step up to premium software, you’ll have a much better idea of what your business needs to run smoothly, which will inform the solution you choose.
If, however, you’re ready to spend money on a high-quality CRM solution for your law firm, then we definitely recommend going for a dedicated legal practice suite with an included CRM.
Premium generic CRM solutions often don’t offer any features a legal practice management suite doesn’t, and often don’t quite suit the workflow that legal professionals are accustomed to.
The best law firm CRM options provide a great set of features that extends beyond just the CRM, with great automations and integrations that span use cases, making your whole centralized platform far better connected.
As law firm CRMs and generic CRMs generally cost about the same per user, we really think you’re better off going for a dedicated law firm CRM, as you’ll also be getting the software you need to run the rest of your practice too!
By having a fully integrated law firm CRM with the rest of your case management software, you’ll end up saving even more time and money, while providing one source of truth for your entire business.