The past years have seen a boom in the types of case management systems available for firms. However, just five years ago, nobody was talking about them! Our guest on The Rankings Podcast, Bill Denninger, is credited with implementing a revolutionary CRM and data structure at Weitz & Luxenberg, New York’s biggest plaintiff’s law firm. Bill credits the changing case management system use to increased competition:

“There’s more money in the marketplace. It’s harder to get cases, and people are realizing you can make a lot more money without spending any more money.”

CRM & Shifting Data Structure

Bill gave us a rundown of what a well-designed CRM system looks like and how its very functions have changed over time. We’ve summarised the key points here:

A CRM system is designed for intake, and an intake system is all about the individual. The single more important piece on that record is the person. But… what does that really mean?

Well, if you receive a web form submission, your next step is to call that person. You have the conversation, you send the contract, done. The actions and tasks are centered around the client.

However, the second that the retainer is signed, the main parent record is now the case, e.g.: Jones vs. Geico, with the individual client data hanging off of that. This is a subtle shift, but your data structure has actually changed at this moment.

All of the actions that proceed, for example ordering medical records or filing the case, are taken under that umbrella parent record. The client becomes tangential. They’re just another party, lie the defendant’s attorney or the doctor that’s treating them.

Bill explained that this is a fundamental shift. For a long time, people struggled to run call centers and case management systems because their data simply wasn’t organized in the proper way.

It’s clear, then, that having an understanding of the tool you’re using for your practice, and which areas of practice you operate in, is crucial in deploying the technology.

Bill Denninger On Why CRM Tools Are Important

When Bill joined Weitz & Luxenberg, he explained, they were running everything out of their case management system. In fact, they’d built their own CRM interface but it wasn’t really robust.

Even as an evangelist of new legal tech, Bill knew that firms often struggle to implement complicated contemporary systems. Bill’s play of attack was to make the system, which was used primarily for intake and customer service, as simple as possible. He wanted the system to store records on some of those key questions:

  • Who was the last person to speak to the client?
  • When was the last time they were contacted?
  • What is the progression of their case?

These questions are key to improving customer service and management. After all, nobody wants to be called 15 times a day by a law firm, or to be asked to repeat the same information over and over!

Lead Attribution

Another major benefit of having a correctly implemented CRM system has to do with lead attribution. Law firms spend a huge amount of their budgets on marketing and client acquisition and it’s important to trace those leads.

  • How did this client get to you?
  • Was it Google AdWords? Facebook? Or a combination?
  • Where did they enter your funnel?

Bill said that for some firms it’s easy to operate transactionally in marketing. You put out an ad about your car-wreck services, you get a click, and bam, you’re in! However, it’s harder for firms that deal with things like med-mal. For starters, your marketing is around education, rather than immediate exposure and injury. It’s harder to reach those leads, and it’s even harder to attribute them to a single source.

How To Get Started

When Bill approaches implementing new systems for a law firm, he likes to tie together the marketing department and their attribution with the case management side. The goal is to create an overall vision of shared information that anybody can view and understand. No siloed departments, this is all about collaboration.

According to Bill, when all this data is gathered in one place you reach a state of the nirvana of a normal business. Bill first focuses on ensuring that:

  • The partners & managing partners can keep track of all of their cases and understand what’s going on in their entire universe
  • The individual attorneys can see their caseload, know what deadlines are coming up, and how they can distribute their work

Then, with the breadth of information available, he’ll target the following metrics:

  • Net profitability
  • The profitability of referral relationships
  • Budget forecasting in relation to previous years
  • Understanding which individual practice areas are profitable

Bill believes that capturing all of this information and drawing appropriate conclusions is the foundation of the law firm of the future: where data is king, and analytics are non-negotiable.