Many law firms have purchased Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. I have talked to lawyers and staff at numerous firms that own CRM systems. My sense is that few are getting full value from their software. CRM presents challenges similar to KM. It’s hard to get lawyers to contribute data (contacts) and keep them current. Furthermore, incentives to share frequently are missing; in fact, at some firms, the compensation system creates disincentives to share contacts. It can therefore be hard to use CRM as a central contact list. It is even harder to use the software to actively manage relationships.

A new constituency may be emerging – sales professionals – that increases the pressure to realize the potential of CRM. The August 18 – August 25 issue of the National Law Journal, in the Voir Dire column, reports that the “Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) was unveiled at the ABA’s convention in San Francisco.” The advent of sales professionals in law firms is a new trend. The fact that there is now an association of legal sales professionals suggests a growing number of firms have made such hires.

I assume that most sales professionals depend on successfully closing sales for a significant portion of their compensation. Moreover, a good sales professional recognizes the value of understanding and mining existing relationships. So perhaps a new force will emerge in law firms that starts driving more effective use of CRM.