Upgrading your networking skills is always a good idea, but what about your technology? We asked our legal technology and marketing dream team, “How do you use technology to track and connect with all of those great contacts you’ve made?”
Reid Trautz: A Three-Tool Combination System
I use a combination of LinkedIn and Microsoft Outlook with the Copy2Contact Outlook add-on application. LinkedIn is my searchable database when I am looking for a person in my extended network, such as a lawyer to refer to a friend or colleague. However, I use Outlook to communicate with most of my network, so I have contact information for those people whom I’ve had contact with in the past several years.
Yes, I will admit to searching old emails (I keep them for six months), but mostly I create contacts in Outlook using Copy2Contact (price: $35 to $50. It is a great little utility that helps you quickly capture contact information from email and document signature blocks, and drop the information into the correct contact fields in Outlook with just a couple of keystrokes, saving time and aggravation.
So instead of scanning and entering business cards of people I have met, I send them a LinkedIn invitation. Then when they accept, I often send them an email. When they respond, I can capture the contact information from their email signature block using Copy2Contact to create a contact in Outlook. There is probably something better out there, but this works for me.
Reid Trautz (@RTrautz) is Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a blogger on the issues of business process improvement, technology, legal ethics and effective practice management. Reid is co-author of the ABA’s “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice.”
Lee Rosen: The Only Networking Tool You Need
The only essential networking tool you require is a 3×5-inch index card.
Yep. An index card. Simple is better. Simple gets results. Simple drives revenues.
That index card is big enough for you to scribble down the name and contact info for each of your top 20 referral sources. These are the folks you’ll work with to build a profitable practice. You’ll meet, build a relationship, become loyal friends and stay connected until you retire or die.
During your years together you’ll refer back and forth, dine out, share family time, travel together and intertwine your lives. These will become the relationships you count on when you need help, advice or companionship. These folks will celebrate your ups and commiserate with you during the downs. They’ll stand up at your funeral.
I love technology and we’ve been paperless since 1995, so don’t assume I’m a technophobe. But my love of technology is surpassed by my love of profitable revenue. Sure, I use products like Contactually that help me stay in touch. But it’s that list of 20 that makes the biggest difference in my practice. Those are the folks that drive my revenues, increase my profits and guarantee that my practice maintains a steady stream of business.
Keep the index cards handy. Call those top 20, email them, have coffee and lunch with them. Stay in touch and use each index card to remind yourself to stay close.
The index card is your only essential tool.
Lee Rosen (@LeeRosen) practices family law in North Carolina. His blog, Divorce Discourse, is a three-time ABA Blawg 100 popular vote winner. He is a recipient of the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Easy as 1-2-3
While I will readily admit to occasionally frantically searching through old emails to find a person’s address or phone number, here are three better ways to get contact information into your Outlook or Gmail contacts than copy-and-paste or typing.
Why bother? Well, if you use practice management software that syncs contacts from Outlook, that’s one reason. If you use a CRM system, there’s another reason. If you sync Outlook to your iPhone or Android, you have full contact information on your phone for a third. In any case, it’s nice just to quit wasting time looking through old email!
1. Use Evernote and your phone to take pictures of business cards. If you are an Evernote user you can scan a picture of a business card with your phone, which will then appear in Evernote and sync to your phone’s contacts (with all data parsed to the correct fields), which will then appear in Outlook if your phone’s contacts sync with Outlook. How? Check out Legal Productivity’s simple instructions. Note that you will need the paid version of Evernote. You can also link Evernote to LinkedIn, so when you scan a card it will also triggers an invitation through LinkedIn with your new contact. There are plenty of business card scanner apps on the market, but this method incorporates tools I’m already using.
2. Spring for Copy2Contact. I have tried Copy2Contact on a trial basis a few times. The full cost of the add-on is $35 per year for personal, $50 for Pro, and they have iPhone and BlackBerry apps. How it works on the desktop: Select a signature block in an email, press Ctrl+C+C, and Copy2Contact goes to work turning the information into an Outlook (or Gmail) contact. You can also select contact information from a website. Other features include selecting a date/time in an email, which C2C will turn into an event in your calendar — though my success rate with that was not great.
3. Or “flashback” with Evercontact. Evercontact works with Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook, Office 365, iPhones, and CRMs like Salesforce and Highrise. The software automatically creates and updates contacts from email signatures and sends them to your address book. Basic service for a single user is free, though there are group and Pro plans with more bells and whistles. One premium feature called “Flashback” looks at your email for the past five years and collects the contact information (that is, if you hang on to email that long) for a one-time cost of $99 or $49 for one year of analysis of your email archives. Evercontact will show you what it is adding and give you the chance to accept or reject it — so it isn’t so automatic that it fills your contacts with people you don’t want there.
Bonus: While LinkedIn has gotten rid of the handy Social Connector, if you ever had it you will still have the LinkedIn contacts in Outlook — just not the new ones.
Catherine Sanders Reach (@CatherineReach) is Director, Law Practice Management & Technology for the Chicago Bar Association. Previously she was Director of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center for over 10 years. In 2011 she was selected one of the inaugural Fastcase 50, and in 2013 was nominated as a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.
Sally Schmidt: Maximizing Outlook
To track and connect with contacts, I usually recommend whatever works best for the lawyer— Excel, Outlook, LinkedIn, an off-the-shelf package (e.g., Zoho), the firm’s CRM or even a notepad. While a lot of lawyers start by creating “the list,” few develop and sustain a contact management system or process. Truth be told, even in firms with a CRM, many lawyers fail to enter and track their contacts.
That being said, most of the lawyers I know are pretty heavy users of Outlook (and CRM systems generally sync with Outlook) so I think it is a good choice for a lot of people. Here are my suggestions.
Setting it up:
- Print out a list of your contacts (if manageable) and check for errors and omissions.
- Create customized fields that allow you to categorize people (industries, interests, relationship, etc.).
- Use the “notes” section to indicate personal information — how you met, kids’ names, etc. — and the “Details” page to record birthdays, spouse name, etc.
- Set up groups to which you may want to do mass mailings, such as fellow members of a board.
Using it better:
- Start using the “notes” or “activities” section to track your contacts (date of visit, what was discussed, etc.).
- Before you call someone or go to a meeting, pull up the contact to refresh your memory.
- Pull lists based on the custom fields you created, for example, to send an article of interest to all your contacts in the real estate industry.
- Use the calendar or flag function to create follow-up ticklers (“Contact John Doe for coffee to discuss how venture turned out”).
- When you come back from a meeting or event, immediately enter the person and contact details and schedule appropriate follow-up in the calendar.
One last piece of advice: Use your assistant to help maintain the information!
Sally Schmidt (@SallySchmidt) is President of Schmidt Marketing, Inc., which offers marketing services to law firms. Sally was a founder and the first President of the Legal Marketing Association and was one of the first inductees into the LMA’s Hall of Fame. The author of “Marketing the Law Firm: Business Development Techniques” and “Business Development for Lawyers,” she writes Attorney at Work’s “Play to Win” column.
Nora Regis: iOs All the Way
To keep my contacts straight, I mostly rely on iOS Contacts on my iPhone 6. It’s easy enough to ask a new contact for their phone number, key it in, and then press the “+” symbol. Once you’ve added their name, you can then ask for their email if you’d like to and add it in the email field. When I make new contacts, I’m likely to follow up with them on LinkedIn or Facebook naturally, so if I did not get their contact information I can always message them on one of those platforms and ask for their email or phone number.
Manually inputting this data into my phone is not a big deal for me personally, but I am intrigued by Evernote’s Business Card Reader, which reads the information off a business card, processes it and then saves it as a note. However, the feature is only available with Evernote premium ($49.99 per year), which I do not have. If you have a high volume of business cards and don’t like keeping them in paper form, this upgrade would be worth it.
Nora Regis (@NoraRegisCBA) is Trainer & Coordinator, Law Practice Management and Technology, for the Chicago Bar Association. She is a former paralegal, specializing in litigation and bankruptcy. Prior to working in legal, she was a technology help desk agent at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Tom Lambotte: The Master List
Using a master contact list in your practice is critical. Without a central, up-to-date list, people are guaranteed to lose time by doing things like calling admin to find a phone number when it’s time to call a client, or sending an email to an old, inactive address and waiting for a response that never comes. The list goes on!
Tip 1: Have a centralized solution that syncs with your entire team. We use a company exchange account, setup in the Apple ecosystem, so we have contact information in Contacts, email in Apple Mail and events in Calendar.
Tip 2: Once your centralized system is in place, everyone in your organization needs to play a role in keeping the information up to date and accurate. Your central database is only as useful as the quality of the information within it.
Apple’s El Capitan and iOS 9 introduced “Suggested Contacts,” a feature that has made it extremely easy for our team to keep contact info up to date. When you exchange email with people who are not in your contacts, Apple Mail lets you add them with a single click. It even lets you know when the email address for one of your contacts has changed.
Pick a solution and keep the information current. If your firm uses Macs, this part will be easy.
Tom Lambotte (@is CEO of ) GlobalMacIT, a company specializing in providing IT support to Mac-based law firms. Tom is the author of “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.” He is a popular speaker at national events such as ABA TECHSHOW and MILOfest.