How to Find Buried Treasure in Your Law Firm Database

Allow me to put the case to you about the benefits of not only having a well maintained usable electronic law firm database, or client contact list, but also using it to your advantage to discover your firm’s buried treasure.

Most lawyers can confidently say they have a database. The problem is that it is usually in a mess.

In my experience, the reason why that is so is because, in the past, little thought was given to this data at all. It was treated by lawyers as ‘nuisance material’ needed by the Office Manager, or possibly your accounting system, that interrupted you before you could start the ‘real work’ that is, working on that new matter.

Over the years this data has been collected but perhaps it’s not really current, perhaps you have multiple copies of client details or perhaps the records are long standing but are the old fashioned little cards – all hand written- straight from the 1950’s.

Generally, I think that has happened because lawyers have focussed on delivering services to their clients rather than considering or having had the time, to go through the process of converting paper records into a proper electronic database.

The added problem today of course is that the records might go back years but you only have a small percentage of them with email addresses. That’s a critical clue here; that’s how you can get to the golden treasure – email addresses.

As I travel around the country visiting small and medium sized law firms I am constantly amazed about how little interest there is in the law firm database by the partners.

There is a buried treasure in every firm, and your database will help you locate and unlock it.

Your map to the treasure

Busy lawyers should treat their database as a precious asset (like a treasure map) owned by their firm and be smart about using the information it holds.

So how can you leverage off your database? You do it by communicating with your clients that are listed within it, and by sending material electronically to them that they find useful and appreciate you for doing that. And you do this on a regular and co-ordinated way.

This is the best marketing activity you can do. It’s simple and it works.

I know how busy lawyers are and how typically they avoid anything to do with marketing (despite the acknowledgement that that’s how you get more new work).

However, there should be no excuses, even busy lawyers can arrange to send out a constant and regular stream of information to their clients that stimulates demand for their services even when the lawyer is doing their legal work.

Start now and build later

Although creating a proper law firm database from past records won’t likely be featured within your favorite list of business projects to contemplate, starting to build or repair a database is better than having no database at all or not having one that’s not useable.

In general terms, our view is that you need to start the process of sending newsletters first and then build on improving your database. This is because the database building and maintenance work can take many months to do, the point is you do not want to wait for that work to be completed before you get started. Why? Two reasons, firstly you do this you are foregoing all the work that could be coming to the firm in the meantime and secondly, while you are not communicating with all your former and existing clients, some other lawyer is, and you won’t even know.

We have law firm clients who have databases of only a couple of hundred names who have started sending their firm’s newsletter and have then built that database up from that. You are better off to send your newsletter to a fraction of what might become your database, rather than not communicate with those people at all.

Harvesting email address from Outlook

Here is another clue that will help.

We have found that whilst a law firm’s database might be contained in their accounting software program, that for the last couple of years the staff members have been writing to a large number of clients and contacts via email. Therefore a good and efficient way of building up a list of email addresses while you are getting your other records in order is to harvest them out of outlook. This should be a task done by everyone in the office. You are looking for current clients, old clients, referrers, contacts, friends and potential clients. Make it broad and suggest just that to your staff.

For a quick and easy guide to do this, click here.


The subject of databases and database marketing usually does not inspire the imagination of many lawyers, in the same way as, say, finding long-lost buried treasure. However, effective use of your database is analogous to finding buried treasure – it’s just hidden within your own firm.

A well maintained electronic database should be seen as a most valuable asset which will make your firm enjoy better revenues year on year, as well as making it more valuable whenever you want to sell it.

Some firms can take years to get their databases from poor to better and whilst we understand that this process can be a long and thankless task which involves making both human resources available and possibly some capital expenditure. The problem is that no newsletters or other effective marketing happens in the meantime.

Lawyers who regard themselves as hopeless marketers should be able to sit back and enjoy the benefits of their buried treasure!

If you want the keys to the treasure chest or to simply find out more, click here.

About the author
Brian Hicks

Brian Hicks

Brian has more than twenty years’ experience in marketing and management across diverse industries including legal, real estate, tourism and technology. Brian lives in Sydney with his wife and two daughters.

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