Nov/Dec 2001

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Amazing Software Replaces Lawyers’ Memories!

Ways To Use Contact Managers To Keep Track of the Who, When, What

No one has yet developed a chip that can be inserted behind lawyers’ ears to enhance their memories. We do, though, have the advantage of contact management software to help jog our recollections. More than just electronic address books or personal information managers, contact managers are valuable tools for building professional relationships. In addition to the ability to record and display the historical record of your contacts, including associated documents, contact managers have sophisticated searching and sorting functions so you can process recorded information in a variety of ways. Using this historical information, you can perform almost magical memory tricks to enhance your relationships. Here are some useful favorites.

Memory Lane Fast-Tracks

• Know what they want before they ask. You have a vague phone message from someone and you anticipate that person wants to follow up on a prior conversation. If you routinely include notes on phone calls, meetings and e-mails with your contact records, you can do a quick search, review a summary of your past contacts with that person and speak knowledgeably about previous conversations. Some contact managers even work with Caller ID and pop up the relevant records while you’re answering an incoming call. Those records could, for example, help you "remember" you did a will for someone five years ago, even though you’ve had no contact since then. The more details you have, the better prepared you’ll be for your next contact with that person.

• Find the right person for the right activity. Contact managers allow you to sort and analyze contacts into useful groups and to include information about a contact’s special expertise, interests or hobbies. Rather than struggling to remember who appraised a coin collection several years ago, you can find that person in seconds. You can also generate mailing lists based on interests or industries, make professional referrals, find golf partners and take advantage of other useful categories.

• Identify people who give you referrals. Many lawyers neglect to accurately evaluate their marketing efforts, especially when it comes to tracking who sends clients to them. Tagging your client records with the individual who referred those people to you can reveal unexpected patterns. Your contact manager can generate a report to show important statistics and help you understand and manage your client flow. This simple technique can help you evaluate participation in various activities and reward the people who actually send you business.

• Keep accurate time records. When they’re filling out their timesheets, lawyers tend to suffer "time leakage" and forget the things they did during busy days. If, however, you keep proper notes in your contact manager, you can accurately record and describe the time you’ve spent on phone calls, e-mails and other contact-related activities.

• Keep in touch on a scheduled basis. Staying in touch is a vital part of client relations. Running a simple report will let you answer a question such as, "Which of my clients haven’t I communicated with for six months?" This type of report will help you avoid losing contact with people, identify potential delay problems and provide reasons to touch base with people.

• Remember their special occasions. Have you ever learned of a client’s 60th birthday or retirement weeks after the fact? Use your software to keep track of occasions that are special for your clients and other contacts. Enter such information on a regular basis. Set reminders to send cards or appropriate gifts. You’ll be known as someone who always remembers, a lawyer who really cares.

• Take your show on the road. Exporting data from your contact manager to your Palm or other handheld device gives you access to your stored memory whenever you’re away from your office PC. A quick search may well bolster your memory as you try to remember if you’ve met someone before.

• Share your memory across the office. If you share contact information through an office network, you’ll quickly see the benefits. Keep track of all firm members’ contacts and gather that information in a central place. You’ll have more accurate and complete information for the entire firm. Better yet, you won’t waste months of time trying to get an introduction to a potential client, only to find that the person roomed with your partner in college.

Supplement Your Success

Your relationships with people are one of the most important keys to your success in law practice. A contact manager can help you stay on top of those relationships—and solidify and expand them. That makes this type of software an extremely useful tool. Even if it doesn’t replace lawyers’ memories, it is certainly a helpful supplement.

Dennis Kennedy ( ) practices law in the Intellectual Property and Information Technology Group at Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis, MO. He was named the 2001 "TechnoLawyer of the Year" by the TechnoLawyer Community for his role in promoting technology in the practice of law.