The true cost of a CRM


On average, Am Law 100 law firms spend six figures to lease their CRM systems, excluding the cost of staff and infrastructure required to support the CRM. Combined, the total burdened cost of maintaining a CRM can easily exceed $1M.

How much value does the firm get in return for that 7-figure annual investment?

Consider the following:

1.         Based on data from our Am Law 100 clients, consistent with industry research, 30% - 40% of CRM data is out-of-date

2.         An additional 15% - 20% of contacts will expire over the course of the year

This means that over half of your CRM data may be dirty.

So here’s a math problem: how much value does a 7-figure CRM with less than 50% clean data have to a law firm? Does a CRM with 100% clean data have 100% of its value? Yes.

So does a CRM with 50% clean data have 50% of its value? No. The real value is closer to 0.


It’s all about trust – how do you know which contacts are valid and which aren’t If you know that a significant percentage of contacts are dirty, this taints the entire CRM.

How much does it cost to clean up all that dirty data?

It takes 6 minutes, on average, to clean up a CRM contact. The speed with which a contact can be cleaned depends on a variety of factors, including degree of familiarity with a contact, whether or not additional research (LinkedIn, etc) is required, or whether it’s necessary to reach out to one or more people to validate a contact.

So here’s the good news: it would only take 8 full time data stewards to clean up all the dirty data for a 1,000-professional firm’s CRM.

But here’s the bad news: this assumes you can identify all the dirty data, which you can’t. It would actually take dozens of data stewards to identify all the out-of-date contacts and clean them up.

The problem is compounded because contacts are fouled at the source. For CRMs sourced from individual address books, there is no way to know whether those contacts are 5 minutes old – or 5 years.

Einstein summed it up in one of his lesser-known equations: garbage in = garbage out.

So what are the options? There are two bad options + one good one

  1. Hire an army of data stewards – for an Am Law 50 firm, 30-40 should be sufficient
  2. Get rid of your CRM – undesirable

A growing number of Am Law 100 firms are pursuing a third option, using email signature contacts, harvested from incoming firm emails, as a high-confidence benchmark to compare against their CRM content. The concept is simple, though the driving technology is considerably more sophisticated. The idea is this: email signature contacts are accurate as of the time they are captured. By comparing these fresh contacts against CRM content, it’s easy to identify and update out-of-date information.

The results are surprising. A 500-attorney law firm turned in the following results in its first 3-months:

A 500-attorney law firm identified 17,000 out-of-date CRM contacts and found 95,000 new high-value contacts for their CRM in 3 months. 

A 500-attorney law firm identified 17,000 out-of-date CRM contacts and found 95,000 new high-value contacts for their CRM in 3 months. 

Over 17,000 contacts updated and 95,000 new high-value contacts identified! While it would normally take at least 10 full time data stewards to identify and clean up this firm’s CRM dirty contacts, it takes less than 1/5th of one person to identify and clean up contacts using the new approach.

Interested in learning more? Check out this video