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Using technology to build, nurture relationships with clients

Across industries, service providers – including lawyers — are trying to learn as much as they can about their clients.

Thanks to client relationship management software and other tools, such as social media platforms, attorneys are able to build long-term relationships with current and prospective clients that are not tied to a specific legal matter.

Engagement can come in different forms. Law firms can track the kinds of matters that clients bring to the firm, as well as the attorneys and practice groups the clients work with. In addition, attorneys can create content of interest to current and potential clients and distribute it via blogs, articles, webinars and posts on social media.

On the content side, the guiding principle is simple: “We want to create something of value in the service of nurturing our client relationships,” said Gina Eliadis, content manager at Baker Donelson in Baltimore.

In her role, Eliadis reviews content produced by the firm’s attorneys, such as articles on developments in their practice areas, and advises attorneys on topics they should address.

“I look at the conversations that are taking place and how attorneys should cover it,” Eliadis said.

The most common ways to distribute content are emails sent to clients, firm newsletters that include multiple articles on a range of topics, and blogs, webinars and seminars.

For practitioners that don’t have access to the content marketing resources of a large firm, social media can be a helpful resource.

“You have to stay relevant and think about what’s useful to potential clients,” said Jeff Trueman, a Baltimore-based mediator who recently attended the American Bar Association’s technology conference.

Especially for solo and small-firm practitioners, social media can be useful in building a brand.

“It’s important to be authentic,” Trueman said. “Show that you’re connected to the community and that you’re not just in it for yourself.”

The concept of content marketing at law firms has developed over the past five years, according to Eliadis.

“It’s only recently that establishing thought leadership and content has become a part of legal marketing,” she said.

Eliadis looks at standard benchmarks, including who is opening emails and clicking on the links and who is attending webinars. She also pays attention to repeat engagers and examines the firm’s relationship with those people.

Another important tool increasingly used by law firms is customer relationship management software, or CRMs. Provided by companies including LexisNexis and Microsoft, CRM databases keep client information in a central location and provide data analysis of clients’ histories, which firms use with an eye toward maintaining and developing client relationships.

“It becomes a real directory that everyone in your organization can use to direct business,” said Kumar Jayasuriya, a knowledge management consultant who works with law firms and political organizations.

CRMs also allow law firms to easily determine which lawyers might best help a particular client, as well as what kind of representation a client might need.

“Knowing the expertise in your organization will help you be a productive representative for your client,” Jayasuriya said. “If the office across the world has hired someone in a different area of practice, you should know about that immediately.”

Next up for CRMs: artificial intelligence. AI can help attorneys get an idea of what’s going on with clients and know when attorneys should reach out to them.

“What happened in the past will help you anticipate what’s going to happen in the future, and that’s something people are just starting to figure out,” Jayasuriya said.