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Lawyers Learn to Share
BranchIT helps a global firm leverage its relationships to better serve clients.
For the rest of the September 2005 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Pillsbury Winthrop wanted to lay down the law to its attorneys: Share your relationships, don't make your colleagues start building their own from scratch. Law firms traditionally do a good job of managing clients across various service areas, but just like in any other industry, employees tend to be hesitant about passing their contacts on to others. Pillsbury Winthrop already had a relationship management and CRM system in place with Interface Software, but not enough of its 900 lawyers across 16 global offices were buying into the idea of sharing. Members of the firm's client team program are interdisciplinary and often span the globe, so getting a common understanding of their clients is essential. "Some lawyers would share their information and others wouldn't," says CIO Warren Jones. "We wanted to do a much better job of getting the complete set of relationships for a contact. We wanted better ROI--that's where BranchIT [came] in." The firm went to the provider of enterprise relationship management software and services for help. BranchIT's software lets employees figure out whether someone else within their organization knows individuals outside of the company they are trying to meet. Pillsbury Winthrop simply added a category to the attorneys' Outlook, and the BranchIT process started working in the background, gathering information about who they knew and how fresh those relationships were. "The technology lawyers love is Outlook. They use it every day for all their communications," Jones says. "You can't underestimate the importance of allowing lawyers to work with the technology they prefer to work with. Our lawyers are still using the CRM system we have today, it's just using better technology." Prior to the switch the firm surveyed employees on their preference for sharing their CRM information. "They asked us to find a way to make it easier. Once you're started on the technology, it's very easy to flag a contact." All employees have the option of keeping their information anonymous and rejecting requests for their most sensitive clients, thereby protecting their privacy. "We saw security as very important, so we let them know what would be shared and what would not be shared," Jones says. By pooling and combing contacts for the firm's recent merger with Shaw Pittman, the company was able to avoid having to look to outside sources for a comprehensive list, and therefore cut the cost of merger-related communications in half and reduced the time it took to update its contact list by several months. BranchIT CEO Josh Yuster points out that even when organizations buy lists, his company provides a way for them to match those names with someone they have formed a relationship with. "You're leveraging your colleagues instead of the luck of the draw," Yuster says. Eventually, Jones says, his firm is "hoping to reduce costs so much that lawyers will be able to see the whole team they're working with, without extra efforts."
Getting buy-in could take some effort, however. Knowing this, when Pillsbury Winthrop first introduced the idea, the firm gave away 20 iPod shuffles to get lawyers involved and start flagging their contacts as okay to share. The leading lawyer shared 2,000 contacts. "As a law firm, it's important that we know our client," Jones says. "This is really [helping] us be better, knowledgeable managers." The Payoff By using BranchIT to manage relationships, Pillsbury Winthrop:
  • immediately saw 51 percent of its lawyers share their relationships;
  • halved the cost of gathering
  • outside lists for merger-related communications; and
  • reduced the time of updating contact lists by several months.
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