We Compared the Top Legal CRMs and Here’s What We Found
Not every legal CRM is created equally. Read the reviews and get the most up to date information on law firm software before you try or buy.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely already considered how important it is to stay organized and efficient when it comes to managing client data, matters, billing, and tasks. When you bill by the hour, every minute you spend on manual data entry or other administrative duties is a drain on your productivity and profits.
Despite its reputation as an analog and legacy industry (paper intake forms, anyone?), the legal profession has been slowly but surely moving into a 21st-century mindset thanks in part to some cutting edge software tools aimed at improving the client conversion and retention process. Now more than ever, practices large and small, from immigration to PI, have a wealth of options to help them nurture and convert more leads, get documents signed online, and increase client satisfaction.
Why Your Law Firm Needs a CRM
You may be thinking “wait — I already have a case management tool, why do I need a CRM, too?” While a common thought shared across the industry, the fact remains that case management is not lead management. Lead management via a CRM helps you attract, nurture, and convert new clients, but it also helps you maintain relationships and promote referrals with current clients.
Case management, on the other hand, helps you service clients after you retain them.
The core strengths of a great legal CRM are in its abilities to help automate your marketing, manage incoming leads, nurture and convert those leads, and export their case data seamlessly to your case management tool. If your CRM cannot do those things, it was not designed with law firms in mind!
Key Reasons Your Law Firm Needs a CRM
Create consistent and better processes for your staff - Building automated onboarding or intake workflows ensures your clients will always get a uniform experience and staff can efficiently service new inquiries.
Respond to and convert leads quickly - Law firms who respond to lead inquiries within the first hour are 7x more likely to land them as clients. After all, the ABA cites “lack of communication” as the top complaint amongst clients against law firms.
Manage your data and get reporting for clearer insights - A CRM that helps you visualize and manage top lead/referral sources and other valuable data points allows your firm to make better business and strategic decisions. If you only have a few lead sources, you better know which ones are converting the best!
Automate frequent tasks and eliminate data entry - CRMs help you store client data securely in one place. Keep track of documents, communication, matters, and more and reduce hours of wasted billable time doing manual data entry for every client.
Nurture and keep clients happy - Law firms who use CRMs have proven to boost client satisfaction by as much as 40% than those who don’t use one. Even if you are not a lead-heavy practice, a CRM will be essential to your nurturing efforts. Better communication and project management with a CRM means happier clients, and happier clients means more referrals and more revenue.
Why Do You Need a CRM Designed Specifically for Law Firms?
There are hundreds of CRMs on the market that cater to every industry and some to all. But in today’s competitive landscape, it is essential for the long term success of your firm that you choose a system that was designed for your specific needs.
You want a CRM that understands the delicate and timely nature of client intake - Onboarding new clients isn’t always a straight line, and it isn’t always easy. You need a CRM that prioritizes the client and staff experience in mind. Eliminating paper intake forms, long turnaround times, and manual data entry are key. Ease of use (mobile) for clients and quick implementation for busy staff is a non-negotiable.
Getting documents signed can take time - Waiting on paper contracts or payments can take time and slow your practice down. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo attorney or a 300-person criminal defense firm, these delays can affect your profitability and client satisfaction. You want a tool that makes it effortless to get to the case.
One that integrates seamlessly with your case management tool - We’ll get into this more in our reviews, but you need a CRM that understands and integrates with your case management tool. You don’t have hours upon hours to dedicate to importing/exporting and syncing data. That’s a colossal waste of you and your staff’s time.
Can provide lots of value with its marketing automation features - Some of the tools we’ll cover have a suite of marketing tools your firm needs to attract new leads. Finding a CRM that includes robust marketing features is equally important as any other feature set.
Comparing the Top CRMs in Legal
After looking across the entire legal CRM landscape, reading reviews, taking demos, and getting consultations, we have narrowed down the top tools for your practice. In each review, we’ll cover included features, price, integrations, and our bottom line opinion.
Shape Software has been on the law firm CRM scene for a few years and is quietly launching somewhat of a revolution with their user-friendly and powerful software. What they lack in overt marketing hype, Shape more than makes up for in a quality feature set designed for law firms looking to take their business to the next level.
With a great, easy-to-use interface, and a feature set that makes most other CRMs in the legal space blush, Shape is making waves in the industry. Powerful automation and integrations, a suite of client management tools, and deep customization make Shape an attractive option for law firms small and large.
Most law firm CRMs do about 75% of what you really need, but Shape can get you over the finish line. Not only does the software have seamless integrations with most case management tools, the features and templates included out-of-the-box make it a must for your practice.
Lead/Client management tools (automated lead capture, client management, etc)
Custom Automated Workflows
Manage cases, matters, and clients in one place
Seamless syncing with case management (MyCase, Practice Panther, Clio, FileVine, more)
Robust marketing automation (email marketing, texting, drip campaigns)
Online intake forms, contracts, and documents with free e-sign tool
Calendar and email syncing
Track billable hours
Accept online payments
Tons of customized reporting features
Email and texting templates
Not only is Shape packed with features, but they’re also one of the few CRMs that offer deeply configurable options depending on what your firm needs. Unlike a few other systems we tried, Shape offers robust (and free) customer support via phone, live chat, and email, but we found the system simple enough to use without needing much help. Shape seem to really understand what makes a law firm tick, and that was refreshing to hear from our sales rep.
Shape is priced extremely well for the feature set and integration partners they offer at $79/month per user. Considering its marketing automation tools would run you about $1,000 a month on their own, we think any law firm will find Shape to be a great investment.
An added plus? There is no mandatory setup fee, and can get your account filled with preloaded templates. For each practice area you specialize in, Shape can also help you build out your account. Custom setups and integrations are all available, but you should contact them for an accurate quote.
One of the key reasons Shape Software stands out amongst its peers is its powerful integrations. Some of the top ones include G Suite, Mailchimp, Outlook, multiple payment processors, case management tools, Twilio, and many more. Thanks to Shape’s integration with Zapier and Webhooks, they support thousands of additional potential integrations.
Shape Software comes with a 14-day free trial (one of the only legal CRMs that has a trial at all) but you won’t need that long. We took a test drive and loved it within a couple days of playing around. Having our account built out and customized by the Support team was great, and we were able to hit the ground running. Thanks to a solid bedrock of technology, Shape can support a solo firm or a hundred-person team just as easily.
Lexicata has been around for several years now and has most recently gained attention for being purchased by Clio. If you’re already a Clio user, you’ve probably been told for years to adopt Lexicata thanks to their integration, but smaller firms may still have a reason to take a closer look.
Seemingly built with the volume-practice areas in mind (think criminal or DUI), Lexicata has plenty of lead management tools to help you manage inquiries. Medium and larger firms may have a more difficult time adopting the system due to its noticeable lack of other case management integrations, limited client nurturing feature set, and lack of customization.
The main issue we had during our attempts to get going on Lexicata was the mandatory setup fee that starts at $399. The system also seemed a little difficult to get started with, as we were just pointed to a recommend webinar series, tons of training videos, and a lengthy knowledge base which all suggested that implementation and setup were a huge time commitment. If we were really desperate to get our account built out for us, we could pay to have someone build it, but those costs were not fully disclosed.
It remains to be seen how Clio’s purchase of Lexicata will affect its future, so keep that in mind if you decide to move forward with them!
Like we mentioned, Lexicata shines in its ability to help you manage your leads. If you struggle to keep up with incoming potential clients and just need a database to store contacts, send online documents, and keep tabs on appointments, this is the software for you.
Online documents (intake forms, contracts)
Some email marketing features
Reports for matters, leads, referrals
Track lead sources
Automated email and appointment reminders
Notably lacking in Lexicata are lack of payment acceptance and no integrations with other case management tools apart from Clio. Reviews across the internet lament Lexicata for this very reason, so if you use Rocket Matter, Practice Panther, Smokeball, etc you will find that getting your client data out of their system may be a hassle. If you’re a Clio user, you’ve likely already heard plenty about Lexicata. If you need robust marketing automation, you won’t find it in Lexicata either.
In our research, we uncovered that Lexicata has a mandatory setup fee, but it ranged based on firm size. Our best guess from research is its starts at $399, but that may vary. At $59/month per user Lexicata is an extremely appealing option for solo and new firms looking to get their feet wet in their first CRM.
Mind the setup fee and cost for adding a better marketing automation tool, and you still might be able to wing Lexicata on a tight budget.
Lexicata has integrations with lead capture tools, like virtual receptionists, live chat, and lead forms on your website (nearly every CRM in this article does, too). You can also expect to sync up your email and calendar, use Hellosign (sorry DocuSign users), Mailchimp, and a few other tools.
From our demo call, we were told that custom integrations were not really possible, and that there would be some time and financial investment needed to get our account set up to our liking.
Lexicata has been riding a good wave for the past few years thanks to being a great entry-level CRM that has been hyped by some industry insiders. We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to the recent acquisition by Clio, but odds are good you can’t possibly expect any other case management integrations.
If you’re just starting a firm and need a basic feature set, or you’re a tried-and-true Clio user, Lexicata can be a great fit.
3. Law Ruler
It seems like Law Ruler has been around forever, and its somewhat outdated UI doesn’t help that reputation. But despite a stuffy and complicated interface that won’t win any awards, Law Ruler is another option for small- to medium-sized firms looking to get their first taste of CRM action.
Law Ruler was initially designed to help high volume firms, which is why it comes as no surprise that its lead management features really shine. The software touts its “AI-powered” and “human driven” feature set all over its marketing site (we’re still not 100% sure what that means), and it’s clear they want to compete on the same playground as Lexicata.
If you’re a high-volume firm, like Criminal or DUI, Law Ruler can probably help you.
First thing you notice when you log in to Law Ruler is that there are bells and whistles everywhere. The UI is loaded with icons, notification menus, links, and buttons. A clean and focused experience this is not, and for the non-tech savvy partner and intake staff, Law Ruler can come across as a trying experience.
Depending on which plan you go with (yes, unfortunately, they gate their feature set), you can expect:
Some marketing automation (email templates, SMS)
Calendar and email sync
Online documents and e-sign
Online intake forms
Lead and client management tools
In addition to gated features, Law Ruler (like Lexicata) also gates its pricing online. We were able to find from some digging that plans range from $49 to $99 a month per user. Not all features are included in every plan.
Law Ruler does integrate with tools like FileVine, Clio, Needles, and TrialWorks, but we’re not sure how many firms are even still using those (apart from Clio, of course). Law Ruler also offers support for twilio, DocuSign, and live chat, but custom integrations are only available for an unspecified price.
Law Ruler may be extremely overwhelming to new users. Be prepared - you will need to set aside quite a bit of time to get your account set up properly (we couldn’t tell if they offer custom setup and integrations), but their team insisted that once it’s finally ready, you can put Law Ruler on autopilot. Depending on the level of control you, your partners, or your office staff like to exert over the client onboarding process, this may sound great or terrible.
With a lackluster marketing automation feature set not included in all plans, we can’t wholly recommend Law Ruler for more prominent firms. However, if you need some of the basics covered and aren’t picky about aesthetics, Law Ruler is a solid pick.
Are you a MyCase user? Then you are probably familiar with Roey Chasman and Matt Spiegel, the brains behind the newest legal CRM on the block, Lawmatics. Hoping to fill in some of the gaps left open by Lexicata for smaller firms, Lawmatics has said publicly that it strives to be “Hubspot for lawyers” which is both ambitious and daunting.
With a small feature set of email automation, audience lists, and triggered emails, Lawmatics doesn’t really live up to all the marketing automation hype. However, similar to Lexicata and Law Ruler, you can create some pretty neat customized intake flows that allow to send and receive documents easily. This isn’t a mind-blowing feature, and it’s now standard in class for these CRMs, and but it's good to see Lawmatics embracing these kinds of basics.
Lawmatics has a seemingly smaller feature set than you would imagine for a company aspiring to be a behemoth like Hubspot. Some of the bells and whistles like their “Goal Tracking” had us saying “cool” indeed, but we didn’t find them to be the kind of integral feature a medium to large law firm would spend the time to set up and actually use.
Email drip campaigns and templates
Send and receive online documents
Build online forms
Lead pipeline with predictive revenue
Despite some other online reviewers claiming Lawmatics pricing was a shifting scale (we can’t verify that or dispute it), their website says plans start at $80 a user per month, with a cap on contacts. If your firm fields dozens of leads a week, you may end up paying hundreds of dollars extra every month, which is a big consideration. There is also a mandatory $499 onboarding fee all firms must pay — a serious commitment for the smaller firms Lawmatics is seemingly targeting.
As of now, Lawmatics is still new but only integrates with Clio, Practice Panther, and LawPay. Other reviewers online have been quick to note that due to a lack of ability to export data out of Lawmatics, your client data is somewhat useless unless you are using one of the aforementioned case management tools. We’re not sure if they plan on addressing this serious flaw soon, but here’s to hoping.
If you’re leaning toward a lead management-heavy system like Lawmatics, consider their mandatory onboarding fee of $499 and optional customization package that is rumored to start around $1,500. With those fees, limits on contacts, and monthly per user charges, we’re starting to agree with other legal professionals that Lawmatics is far from a “Hubspot for Lawyers,” and more of an “expensive Lexicata.”
In any search for a CRM online, all roads seem to lead to one of the big three: Hubspot, InfusionSoft, or Salesforce. Sure, if some of these other legal CRMs on our list had the multi-million dollar marketing budgets that these three had you’d probably hear about them more often, too!
For today’s article, let’s focus a bit more on Hubspot (Salesforce has tens of thousands upon thousands of dollars in implementation fees and months of setup time, and InfusionSoft is really great for marketing but won’t help with your day-to-day law firm needs) since it has a few valuable tools for today’s law firm.
Let’s get one thing straight out of the gate: Hubspot is not a law firm CRM. It was not designed with the help of lawyers, like Shape or Lexicata. Hubspot is a sales and marketing automation tool built for salespeople. Can your law firm use it? Sure. Was it designed with your law firm’s needs in mind? No.
Hubspot’s free CRM includes:
Sales tools and dashboards
Email templates and marketing (1 account)
Document and forms templates (up to 5)
Some client management tools
Lead management tools
Noticeably missing from Hubspot’s feature set are some key tools every law firm should be using. Hubspot does not have:
Customized reporting for law firms
Customizable online forms
And the list goes on
Remember: Hubspot was built for sales and marketing teams, not law firms.
Hubspot is notable for their completely free Lite CRM plan, which is great as an add-on for law firms who are already using another client management tool. As a standalone product though, Hubspot’s free version will leave a ton of gaps for law firms looking for an all-in-one solution...or even something that can easily manage intake!
With Hubspot’s free CRM plan, you get a few interesting features, but many of the things law firms rely on for a day-to-day basis, like online forms, documents, and email automation are limited to under 5 or need to be hacked together to resemble something usable.
Feeling more ambitious? You can opt for the Hubspot Marketing CRM plan, which will include a suite of tools to up your marketing automation game, but a full feature set account starts at $800 per user per month.
Even more complicated still is Hubspot’s Growth Suite, which gets you close to many features you’d need to run your law firm. The catch? For a typical 5-user account, you’re looking at $1,200 a month, not to mention setup, implementation, training, and any 3rd party fees you’d need to pay to really make Hubspot’s round peg fit in the square hole you need.
Hubspot’s power is undoubtedly in its 300+ integrations. Most notable though is its lack of integration with any case management software. That’s right - Hubspot does not integrate at all with Clio, MyCase, Practice Panther, etc. You’re on your own with getting data in and out.
It’s powerful, it’s a behemoth, and it’s always been a curiosity to you, but Hubspot is not a realistic solution for a law firm CRM. If you need a free, light tool to get your practice off the ground, you could hardly do any better than Hubspot’s free version. But for law firms serious about growth, automating client data, and tracking leads and matters...go with the Davids on this list, not Goliath.