A handful of Big Law firms have signed up to buy user-licensing rights to a client relationship management (CRM) system built on the cloud-based CRM juggernaut Salesforce.
A staple in other parts of the corporate world, such platforms have struggled to gain traction among law firms, at least until recently, thanks to concerns about discretion, attorney-client privilege, and possibly hesitation in the traditional legal industry about engaging in “sales.”
Firms that have shucked aside those old inhibitions and stepped up to try the sale-driving platform, called OnePlace, include Reed Smith, Kobre & Kim and at least two other firms that both rank in the top half of the Am Law 100, according to Tim Smith, the CEO of OnePlace.
In a relatively short time period, OnePlace has signed up 50 law firms that each have at least 1,000 users, including lawyers and staff, Smith said. The company began selling its products and services about three years ago, first in Australia, where Smith is from and currently resides. But since then interest among U.S.-based law firms has grown: About 40 percent of OnePlace’s customers are now law firms in North America, he said.
Adapting Salesforce’s cloud infrastructure for the professional services industry, OnePlace lets law firms integrate all their internal systems—time and billing records, client matter descriptions, client contacts, publications, marketing materials and even management objectives—for evaluation and tracking purposes.
The OnePlace tools can make all that information easily and interactively accessible for a firm’s lawyers and staff, so they can be more informed when communicating with a client or prospect. The system also offers more customization than Salesforce alone, Smith said. So law firms worried about some Salesforce information collection and distribution tools can opt out with OnePlace.
Law firms had been wary of such cloud-based platforms since they have the capability to distribute client information so widely. But firms’ desire for their attorneys and staff to be well-armed with data and facts to snag new business has reduced some of that reluctance recently, Smith said.
“There has definitely been a shift,” Smith said. Law firms have begun focusing on attorneys and “how we can make it easy for them to drill down further and walk into a meeting and show a client or a prospect that their company matters,” Smith said. “It’s about being better informed,” he added.
It’s also about setting revenue goals.
The OnePlace platform allows a law firm’s practice group to set revenue targets, track progress in real time, and disburse that information to a wide group, Smith said.
“You cannot achieve growth if you can’t see it. This allows tangible representation of growth,” Smith said. For example, OnePlace uses color-coded benchmark updates that can alert users when revenues from a particular client hit a pre-set goal.
At Reed Smith, Jenn Schreck, the director of client intelligence, counts herself as a fan. In a emailed statement, she cited the platform’s reporting capabilities and the ability to easily link to other systems, among other features. “When evaluating the CRM options, we were drawn to the forward-thinking nature of Salesforce/OnePlace,” Schreck said. “The out-of-the-box configuration of OnePlace covered many of the touchpoints needed in a legal environment CRM, but it also is highly customizable. It was important to us to have a solution that could adapt with us.”
Melissa Seitter, the head of business development, marketing and communications at Kobre & Kim, said the platform allows firm representatives to go into meetings “with a full understanding of the contacts” the firm has with that client or potential client, as well as how to use that information.
“Now they can cross-sell other products,” she said.