WEBINAR REPLAY: How Signature Scraping and ERM has Revolutionised CRM in Law Firms

The CRM Survey follow-up Webinar on Signature Scraping took place on 18 October 2023. Over 100 users signed up for the Webinar, which ensures that they got access to the recording, and half of those logged in on the day to participate live.

It was hosted by Neil Cameron, renowned Legal IT Consultant and LITI Lead Analyst and author of the CRM Survey.

The panel was composed of:

  • Whit McIsaac, the Global Industry Director of HSO. Whit has been in legal IT provision, specialising in CRM, for some 36 years
  • Steve Tyndall, CEO and Founder of ClientSense, who previously led the IT function for Australian professional services
    firms Lander & Rogers and McCullough Robertson.

Signature Scraping – identifying new or changed contact data in the signature block of emails received – sounds like a trivial piece of functionality, but it has single-handedly revolutionised the take-up and use of CRM systems in law firms.

Hitherto, lawyers expected the information to be there without themselves having to do anything, and then they moaned about the accuracy of the information and refused to engage with the system or the process. So, the firm enters a vicious cycle and lawyers use the system less and less, and get even worse at providing the much needed data. The development in signature scraping in CRM-related technology that finally broke this impasse.

This webinar discussed the change in effectiveness of legal CRM systems that signature scraping has wrought; and we also explored various other benefits that have resulted, such as – and most significantly – overall data quality improvements as well as enterprise relationship management, which provides relationship strength analysis, opportunity analysis and referral management. 

We were asked if the phrase ‘monitoring email traffic’ sounded invasive to some lawyers and would put them off; however, it seems they are assuaged by the fact that vendors assure us that only the signature block is scanned by their software. However, it was pointed out by Neil that Microsoft is routinely scanning the entire content of outgoing and incoming Outlook emails looking through content in order to be able to suggest that you may have forgotten an attachment before you send it, or to offer to create a meeting if the word ‘meeting’ and dates and time are detected in the email.

Neither lawyers, or clients, seem to have problems with that, presumably because they realise, at a subconscious level – that these emails are not being ‘read’ in the usual sense of the word – they are being scanned by an AI algorithm for target key words. However, the key word in the phase ‘AI Algorithm’ is the term ‘Artificial – no sentient being is actually perusing these emails, nor is the legal content being analysed, neither is any confidential information being made available to anyone it shouldn’t.

One can image that if such scanning was allowed to take place, then it may be possible for more sophisticated AI to be able identify all sorts of potential omissions or alternatives that might improve the quality of the advice being given to clients.

This would be no different, say, than a firm telling clients that in order to improve quality of service an assistant was being used to re-proof every email they send. Maybe one day – and maybe one day Gen AI will be drafting the emails anyway…