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In the increasingly competitive legal environment, effectively managing client relationships and maintaining accurate information on potential clients are essential to the success of a firm. More than a simple address book, contact management software can also be the foundation for marketing efforts, mailing lists and conflict checking. Even when the need for contact management software is clear, the process of selecting that software can be a challenge. Here are some guidelines to use during the selection process, with a particular focus on three of the most popular systems — Microsoft’s Outlook, Cole Valley Software’s ContactEase and Interface Software’s InterAction. IDENTIFY REQUIREMENTS The most important step in selecting contact management software is the identification of requirements. Although there are many excellent products available, they vary greatly in their functionality and price. By developing a well-defined set of requirements before the evaluation process begins, the list of products can be shortened by eliminating those that do not meet the criteria. This list of requirements should answer the following four key questions: � How many contacts does the firm currently manage? (Electronically and on paper.) � Will the maintenance of contact information be centralized, distributed or a mix? � What business functions will the system support? (Marketing, document production, etc.) � What other systems either contain or need access to contact information? Armed with a specific list of requirements, you are ready to start looking at products. IMPLEMENTATION The key to any successful implementation is planning. Issues such as deciding on configuration options and coordinating integration with other systems should be resolved well in advance of installation. Leverage all of the resources available — internal IT and marketing staff, the software vendor and outside consultants — to proactively deal with problems before your users have to. Implementation isn’t the end of the process, it’s the beginning. Maintaining and enhancing the system is a continuous process, but the value returned to the firm by a fully utilized contact management system is unquestionably worth the investment. Michael Kraft, a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board, is president of Kraft, Kennedy & Lesser, a legal technology consulting and systems integration firm. Devin Moberg is KK&L’s managing consultant.

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