Connections for Success



Get Smart: Law Firms are Getting Ahead by Harnessing Relationship Intelligence
Joy A. Long

Bringing in new business is the lifeblood of every law firm, but few attorneys enjoy the sales process. Firms that are harnessing relationship intelligence systems, however, have made the process easier and have given themselves a leg up on their competition. This blog focuses on some ways law firms are using relationship intelligence to create profitable relationships among colleagues and clients.

Understanding Relationship Intelligence

Relationship intelligence generally refers to a firm’s collective body of knowledge about existing and prospective clients. This includes information about people and businesses and their industries, activities and competitors. Your firm can build its relationship intelligence database when attorneys track and add such information as:

  • Meeting agendas and notes;
  • Contact and client notes;
  • Information from external sources;
  • Matter management updates;
  • Conflict of interest notices; and
  • Accounts receivable data.

When properly harnessed, your firm can leverage this information it already has throughout the firm to secure new business from cross-selling existing clients and win new matters from current prospects. The information you have can also be used to prevent client defections and minimize the negative consequences of attorney defections, including reducing the odds of losing clients when the attorneys that service them depart.

A firm’s relationship intelligence can also help your firm better manage and plan its resources. For example, an attorney might be thinking about pitching a prospect company in the firm’s database, but notices that previous proposals have been rejected.  Additionally, the company’s primary contact has never accepted the firm’s seminar or event invitations. Just having this basic information would indicate that the attorney could likely better deploy his or her business development efforts pursuing an existing client with emerging or unmet needs in a different practice area rather than chasing a seemingly disinterested prospect.

Clearing Potential Hurdles

However, attorney resistance is often a daunting hurdle to gathering and maintaining effective relationship intelligence. Your firm’s leaders can tackle this predictable resistance by not only declaring an expectation about information sharing, but also visibly sharing their own information to get the ball rolling. If the firm is still finding it difficult to gather the information needed, it never hurts to tie intelligence sharing to compensation.

Recognize, though, that as your firm grows, informal sharing of relationship intelligence becomes more of a challenge. Attorneys may not even know all of their colleagues, let alone who among them might possess useful information on a client or prospect.

Fortunately, numerous client relationship management applications and systems are available to get over these hurdles. Automated systems that mine information from emails, calendars and other sources also increase the likelihood of participation by already reluctant attorneys who can be further turned off by the need for manual entry.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that firms that take a strategic and structured approach to harnessing their relationship intelligence are more likely to strengthen existing client relationships and create profitable new ones. While some of your attorneys might resist sharing their hard-won information initially, the bottom-line results will speak for themselves.

For more information, contact Joy Long at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Law Firm Group.

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