My Dinner with George
By Rick Klau
CURRENT and prospective clients are not just down the street, they are all over the world, which puts lawyers on a lot of airplanes. Not surprisingly, relationship management tools have evolved to help mobile attorneys before,during and after a trip.
Internet-based Client Relationship management (CRM) systems extend the capabilities of a firm's knowledge base. Lawyers now can access competitive intelligence -- information about clients and contacts, companies, relationships, experience, opinions, expertise, etc. -- from any where, at any time, via cell phones, Palms, RIMs, Pocket PC other wireless devices.
Let's explore the options via a hypothetical:
Jane Smith is out of her office, meeting with prospective clients. While on the road, she phones George Jones, a prospective client, to schedule a meeting. George tells Jane he will meet with her, but his schedule is tight, so he asks her to come to his office at four that afternoon. With no time to fly back to the office for preparation, Jane hits cyberspace.
From her hotel room, Jane plugs in her laptop, logs on to the Internet and signs on to her firm's portal, using a secure virtual private network connection, and accesses her internal firm network. She queries her firm's CRM database to find out who within her firm already knows George.
The system tells her that two attorneys in the firm have an existing relationship with George. Sam Jamison plays racquetball with George; Suzanna Grey worked with him at a previous company. Jane calls the first attorney for additional information about George and learns that:
(1) Sam tells her that George is very casual and friendly. He does not like to be addressed as 'Mr.' or 'Sir.' Instead, he feels most comfortable when people simply use his first name. He also loves steak.
(2) Suzanna cautions that although George appears informal, he actually expects a structured presentation, but prefers it be presented in a conversation-style tone. And he always asks for personal references.
With this information, Jane next searches the firm's database to find out if any of her existing clients know George.
Relationship management software can help mobile lawyers before, during and after a trip.
Jane queries the system and learns that one of her favorite clients, Lana Burke, previously worked at George's company. She sends an e-mail to that client for permission to use her as a reference. Burke not only agrees, but volunteers the name of George's favorite steakhouse. Jane picks up the phone, addresses George appropriately, references her client and suggests that instead of meeting at his office, she'd like take him out for a steak dinner, if his schedule permits. George is delighted, the relationship is started on the right foot and she already has an edge on the competition before even walking in the door.
She begins the meeting by asking George what his legal needs are. Using her laptop computer's wireless connection, she connects to her database and writes notes in real-time. (She debated between bringing the computer or just using her Web-enabled Blackberry RIM or Palm VII.)
As George discusses the specifics of his company's legal matter, Jane realizes that the way he is describing his company's legal needs differs from what he told her earlier over the phone, and puts the matter into an all together different legal category. Unfortunately, the information she had prepared no longer applies to his situation. He asks whether anyone at Jane's firm has ever dealt with his particular issue.
Rather than dig through paper files, rely on her memory, (or worse, tell George she'll have to get back to him), she conducts a quick search of the firm's database. Within minutes, she is able to provide George with specific examples of matters and the names of the attorneys who handled those matters. Official business completed, George and Jane have a pleasant discussion about the latest Julia Roberts legal thriller before calling it a night.
After the meeting
While Jane was enjoying dessert and coffee, Sally Justin, the firm's marketing chief, had checked into the system, and noticed Jane's activity. Using the information from Jane's meeting, the next morning, the marketing department created a client profile that will be stored in the system for targeted mail or other client development campaigns.
During dinner, George happened to mention that three people at his firm were promoted and all have new titles.
Because Jane recorded the information in her notes, the marketing department can update the firm's mailing lists and send out a 'congratulations' card. This updated information also is instantly available to other firm members who might interact with those individuals.
That's just one scenario about how savvy use of relationship management software can help you and your firm develop, and nurture, business. And as the technology matures, there are sure to be even more exciting developments. Stay tuned!
Rick Klau is vice president of legal markets for Interface Software.