Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

10 Reasons Why Your Client Development Efforts Are Not Working

Posted in Client Development

A lawyer once told me he was trying to develop business, but nothing was working. What are the potential reasons a young energetic lawyer is not finding success?  Here are 10 potential reasons:

  1. You just do good work. You bought into the notion that all you have to do is good work, get a Martindale AV rating, get to know lots of people and wait for the phone to ring.
  2. You have no plan. You have no plan so you waste time on random lunches or on activities that will not bring in business.
  3. You fail to execute. You use the excuse that you are too busy with billable work. Successful busy lawyers make time for client development.
  4. You try to sell. You use the same selling techniques that have not worked when financial advisors or insurance salesmen have tried to sell you.
  5. You are not focused. You spend as much time on things that don’t matter as things that will result in attracting and retaining valuable clients.
  6. You do not focus on clients. You are focused on what you do rather than on understanding your clients’ industry, company and client representative needs.
  7. You are not visible. You are not writing, speaking, active in the bar or community. So, even though you are a great lawyer, very few people know who you are.
  8. You stay in your comfort zone. You are too content with where you are and what you are doing rather than striving to get better and get comfortable outside your comfort zone.
  9. You are not a team player. You work by yourself while other firms have a team working to serve the client.
  10. You are not providing extraordinary service. You are doing good work, but your client is not satisfied with the level of service you are providing. You have not taken time to figure out what your client values.


If Your Clients Could Choose Your Law Firm’s Vision and Core Values

Posted in Law as a Business, Law Firm Leadership

Your law firm’s success depends on attracting, retaining and expanding relationships with your clients. Could that possibly be a topic for brainstorming at your next law firm retreat or meeting?

If your clients could choose, what would they want your law firm’s vision of success and core values to be?

Thomas Watson former CEO of IBM once said:

I believe the real difference between success and failure in business can very often be traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people. What does it do to help these people find common cause with each other?

Those are inspiring words and they beg two questions every law firm should answer:

  1. What is your law firm  doing to bring out the great energies and talents of your lawyers and professional staff?
  2. What is your firm’s common cause that your lawyers and professional staff are pursuing?
Your clients expect your lawyers to be the best and the brightest. But, they also expect your lawyers to work as a team.

So, I think if your clients could choose, they might want your law firm’s vision to be:

  • To enable our clients to achieve their business objectives and to provide maximum opportunities for our lawyers and staff to achieve their career dreams and goals.

If your clients could choose, they might want your law firm’s core values and standards to include:

  1. We put clients and the firm ahead of our own personal interests.
  2. Each lawyer is expected to invest a minimum of 2500 hours in billable and non-billable (investment) activities, unless he or she is a part of the firm’s flex-time policy.
  3. We recruit lawyers and staff who have a burning desire to be the best they can be and we invest in, energize and inspire them and provide them with the tools to be successful.
  4. We seek clients who have interesting work, significant needs for outside legal services and who can afford to pay for our services.
  5. We provide extraordinary service to our clients, working together as a team and supporting each other whenever possible.
  6. We identify what our clients need, want and expect of us and try our best to deliver it each and every day.
  7. We use technology more effectively than other firms to better serve our clients.

What Skills do Rainmakers Have?

Posted in Client Development

I recently gave a presentation and a young lawyer asked:

What skills do rainmakers have? 

Generally rainmakers have a high degree of emotional intelligence. There are plenty of books on emotional intelligence. If you are interested in my favorites send me an email.

While you may be born with some of the emotional intelligence characteristics, most can be and should be developed.

  • Rainmakers have a high ego drive, meaning they get great satisfaction from convincing the client to hire him or her.
  • Rainmakers are very empathetic, meaning they are able to see the world from the clients’ point of view. Most lawyers are logical thinkers and less able to see from the clients’ point of view. 
  • Rainmakers are eternal optimists. Most lawyers are pessimists and say: “yes, but” rather than “sure how.” 
  • Rainmakers handle defeat or criticism well. Most lawyers do not. 
  • Rainmakers exude a passion for their work and their clients. It is hard to see passion in most lawyers. 
  • Rainmakers focus on developing relationships more than developing business. Some lawyers are more focused on getting the business.
  • Rainmakers have confidence inspiring personalities and genuinely care about the people they are serving. 

Your Website Bio: More Important in 2014 Than Ever Before

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

If a potential client only saw your website bio, would he or she hire you?

In a 2001 survey mentioned in Finding and Working with lawyers on the Web, of how buyers of legal services view websites, Greenfield Belser Ltd. learned that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed go online to locate outside counsel. They go directly to the firm websites and rely on search engines also.

In 2010, Adrian Dayton reported in What’s Wrong With Your Law Firm Bio? that 90% of general counsel claim the attorney bios are the most important part of a law firm’s website. I bet the percentages even greater in 2014.

Lawyers I coach frequently ask me to give them a critique on their website bios. Here are a few of my thoughts I share with them:

Photos: I think they should be in color and not just mug shots. I also believe it is important to dress for success when your photo is taken. It is not a good idea to have the website photos taken after the cocktail party at the firm retreat. It is also not a good idea to use the photographer who does 1000 photos for the church directory or school. Check out this 2010 Great Jakes post with photo examples: Attorney Bio Photos – A Survey of 10 Firms

Industry Expertise: In the 2001 survey, Greenfield Belser learned that two-thirds of the searches by buyers of legal services target specific industry expertise. So, if your practice lends itself to one or two industries it is important to identify those on your website bio. I can speak from my own experience, because I know I was hired more often because of my construction industry knowledge rather than my legal knowledge.

Experience: Experience handling a particular type of matter is important. I believe that buyers of most legal services want to know whether the lawyer they are hiring has experience handling the particular type of matter for which they need help.

Articles/Presentations: Your website bio should be content rich.  This is a particularly important area for young lawyers. I was once asked to do a presentation to a group of lawyers, many of whom handle insurance coverage cases. Like a potential client I went on line and did a search for insurance coverage and lawyers. None of the names of the lawyers attending the workshop came up in my search. I did find a lawyer who had three pages of articles and presentations on every aspect of insurance coverage. I have no idea if she is a great lawyer, but I know she must know this area of law very well to get published and asked to speak so often.

Downloads: If you have written articles or given presentations, make sure a potential client can download them. That way instead of “selling” you are “showing” your expertise. I recommend you consider having your presentation materials downloadable and even recommend you include video clips from a presentation, but only if a professional did the video.

What Makes You Unique: I believe the website bio is a place to identify what makes you unique and special. One of the best young lawyers who worked for me had grown up in his family’s construction business and had actually run a part of the business. Another associate in our firm had worked as an engineer for the state department of transportation. Those two lawyers had construction experience that our construction clients would value. I have coached many lawyers who speak foreign languages fluently. If you are one of those lawyers, include that on your bio.

Integrate Social Media and Links to Your Blog: Clients, potential clients, referral sources and friends want to be able to easily find you on the social media sites. Include those links on your bio. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is as well done as your website bio, because a potential client may find it first.

Make Your Website Bio Easy to Share: Like the links to your social media sites, you can include a button making it easy to share your bio by email and on social media sites.

Download v-Card: Your firm likely has this feature on your website bio. But, as a Mac user, make sure that your download v-Card feature is Mac friendly.

The Latest Website Bio Features: Law firms are now using video on their websites. If you want examples, take a look at the Greenfield Belser video examples or Great Jakes: Attorney profile videos: A survey of 8 law firms

Success: You’ve Gotta Have This to Succeed

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

What does it take to succeed?

I have spent my life trying to understand why some people succeed and others don’t. You likely know lawyers who are incredibly smart, deal well with people and still do not live up to their potential. Why? And, why do lawyers who are not as smart exceed their potential?

Some time ago, I posted Are You “All In?”   What does it mean to be “all in?” How can you be “all in” the second half of 2014.?

Today, I want to give a little more detail on where to start to be “all in” and share with you my very favorite example of a person who approaches life with an “all in” attitude.

My friends, including the many lawyers who have worked for me and the lawyers I have coached, know how much I admire Nancy.

Sure, I admire her because she is my wife.  But, more objectively I admire her because she has that one ingredient every successful person must have-the burning desire to achieve something definite. And, she goes after it with focus and tenacity that I have never seen in another person.

I love her determination. For me, Nancy is a living example that the starting point to be “all in” is that burning desire and clarity of what success means.

As a young child, Nancy had a burning desire to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. We married when Nancy was 20 and had completed one full year of college.

She worked while I was in law school and went to school part-time. After I went into the Air Force, she went to school at University of California at Riverside and ultimately graduated from Wright State University in Ohio. It was really hard and challenging, but she got her degree because of her burning desire.

She wanted to go to medical school, but in those days too few women were given the opportunity. So, she became a medical technologist.

When she was pregnant, she suffered from toxemia and was on her back for several months before our daughter was born several weeks prematurely. After that she decided to get back in shape she wanted to run in a Virginia half marathon and bicycle 50 or more miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

After suffering an injury playing tennis against a college male tennis player, she took up golf. She worked at it harder than anyone I know, spending hours chipping, pitching and putting. I remember when her handicap was 28 (higher than mine), then it was 14 (lower than mine by several strokes). Then it was 7. Finally she got her handicap down to as low as 2. She has competed twice in the USGA Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, playing against women who had played golf their entire life. Once again, she overcame challenges because of her burning desire.

Nancy has never read anything by Napoleon Hill, but as you will see he could have been writing about her. His books focused on success and achievement and he based his thoughts on studying what successful people shared in common.

Hill’s first principle was “Desire.” He believed it is the starting point of all achievement. He ended the chapter on desire by noting that his message was going out during the most devastating depression in American history. To those who were wounded by the depression he stated:

To all these I wish to convey the thought that all achievement, no matter what may be its nature, or its purpose, must begin with an intense, BURNING DESIRE for something definite.

Through some strange and powerful principle of ‘mental chemistry’ which has never been divulged, nature wraps up in the impulse of STRONG DESIRE ‘that something’ which recognizes no such word as impossible, and accepts no such reality as failure.

Each of you reading my blog is unique, gifted and very special, and each of you have virtually unlimited potential to achieve your own unique personal and professional goals. You can be successful (as you choose to define success) if you have the BURNING DESIRE to achieve your own unique goals.

So: What do you have a BURNING DESIRE to achieve? If you have a burning desire to achieve a goal, you won’t say “Yes … But.” Instead you will frequently say: “Sure! How?” to make it happen. Nancy has done it her entire life. You can also.




Attorney Development: Become Preeminent and Attract Top Clients and Lawyers

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

There are many things a law firm cannot control. But, one thing that is totally in control of a firm is its commitment to developing its lawyers’ skills. Is your firm one that just talks about attorney development, or is it one that does it?

Just suppose, just suppose your law firm was known throughout the legal community and business community as having the preeminent attorney development program in your city, your state, the country.

  1. What impact would that have on recruiting?
  2. What impact would it have on retaining the best lawyers?
  3. What impact would it have on attracting the best clients?
  4. What impact would it have on your law firm’s profitability?

Years ago I was asked to be the shareholder in charge of attorney training my old firm. Interestingly, had I now been asked, I would likely still be practicing law.

The first thing I did was look for books on training. I found books on fitness training and other kinds of irrelevant training. I decided I did not want to be responsible for training. Instead, I chose the title Shareholder Responsible for Attorney Development.

Next, I asked our firm leaders what kind of program they wanted to have. They did not have a clue, other than the sense that every large firm needs to have one. I guess that is why they asked me to take charge of it.

Since I had never approached any part of my law career in a half way manner, I decided I wouldn’t approach associate development in the same way. I told the leaders that my goal would be to create one of the preeminent attorney development programs in the country, recognized as such by law students, our associates and our clients.

What are the elements of a preeminent training and development program for associates? Years ago, when I gave this thought, I came up nine components:

  • First Year Orientation
  • Training and Development Programs
  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Shadowing and Reverse Shadowing
  • Client Point of View
  • CLE and other Legal Skills Ttraining with Benchmarks
  • Career Planning and Development
  • People Skills and other “Soft Skills”
  • Client Development

I hope you find this list of components helpful. Please comment or ask questions, your feedback is welcomed.

Unforgettable Client Service: Is Yours Unforgettably Good or Unforgettably Bad?

Posted in Client Service

If someone asked your clients about the quality of your law firm’s service, what would they say if they knew it would not get back to you? Some might say it is “ok,” but that is code for not very good. Some might say your law firm’s client service is “unforgettable,” like the song made famous by Nat King Cole.  So, the question is will they say your law firm’s client service is unforgettably good, just ok, or unforgettably bad?

Let me illustrate by telling you of my own experience. As I have gotten older, all of my old injuries, stress from running, lifting weights that were too heavy etc., have caught up with me. In the last 10 years I have visited several Orthopedic surgeons and had  arthroscopic knee surgery on both knees, hand surgery, and a hip replacement.

I would say the service at my first doctor’s office was “ok.” The service at my second doctor’s office was unforgettably bad. It was so bad I told my physical therapist after my hip surgery that he should have a heart to heart talk with the doctor’s chief assistant. So far, the service by my third doctor’s office has been unforgettably good.

Last year my knees started hurting again. After an MRI, I was scheduled to have surgery in January. Even though I thought the service at his office was unforgettably bad, I scheduled the surgery with the doctor who had replaced my hip.

In December I read several articles about a study. See: Common knee surgery ineffective in study and Procedure to repair a torn meniscus worked no better than a fake one to ease lingering pain. I decided not to have the surgery and notified the surgeon’s office to cancel.

Recently my knees have hurt more than ever before, even more than before the first surgeries. So,  I called the Orthopedic surgeon’s office to re-schedule the surgery on my right knee. I was told he no longer takes my insurance, but his brand new partner does. ( I thought that was akin to a partner in a law firm telling her long time client that she would no longer help that client, but a first year associate in the firm could litigate the client’s case.)

I called the surgeon’s office who had done both of my previous knee surgeries and found out he also no longer was on the list for my insurance. (I wondered if I had Obama Care to thank for that or was it just the fact I was on Medicare.)

I then went searching on the internet for orthopedic surgeons near my home. That is not the way I would normally find a doctor to perform surgery, but, I was surprised to find a site that was the equivalent of Trip Advisor, only for Orthopedic Surgeons. If you look at the site, you will see that one surgeon was “featured.” I wondered if that was like some of the lawyer ratings where the lawyer or firm pays to be featured.

In my search I found Plano Orthopedic Sports Medicine & Spine Center and made an appointment. I called both of my previous surgeons asking them to send my records to my new doctor’s office. My knee doctor’s assistant both called and emailed me to say she had sent my records and to wish me well. In spite of asking for a confirmation that the records had been sent, I never heard back from the office of the doctor who was supposed to do the surgery in January.

On the day of my appointment, I called the surgeon’s office again.  The receptionist asked if I had called Plano Orthopedics to see if they had received them. I thought that was an odd question to ask and told her so. When I said this was the third time I had requested the records be transferred she said she would fax them.

When I arrived for my appointment, I was immediately impressed with how differently I was treated by the staff. The receptionist was very helpful. The first person who escorted me to the examining room introduced himself and called me by name. The young man who escorted me to X-Ray introduced himself, called me by name and asked if I had enjoyed my 4th of July weekend. The X-Ray technician introduced herself, called me by name and helped me through the procedure. Another assistant came by, introduced himself and asked where the most recent MRI had been done on my knee. When I told him, he said he would get it from them.

Dr. McGarry was very helpful. He explained things to me that had never been explained before. He said he had received all the records from my knee doctor, but had not received the MRI from my hip doctor. He thought another steroid shot and therapy was a good place for us to start. For whatever reason his shot was not nearly as painful as the one I had previously.

What’s the point? I have great confidence in my new doctor and his staff. Right from the beginning I was treated differently. The doctor and staff are very professional, helpful and kind. I am telling you about it and I will certainly tell anyone who asks about orthopedic surgeons.

What impression is your receptionist making on new clients? What impression are your trusty assistants making? What impression are you making? If you, your law firm and its professional staff make a strong, positive impression on new clients, you will far exceed the impression made by most law firms. That is unforgettably good.

Are your clients saying your client service is unforgettably good? Want more? Take a look at my eBook on Client Service.


10 Essential Questions to Help You Win Over Your Contacts

Posted in Client Development, Law as a Business

Are your business breakfasts, lunches, coffee worth your time?

Just suppose, just suppose you made a strong connection with people you meet so they wanted to recommend you or your law firm. Want to do it? Here’s how you might start.

Think back to your last breakfast, lunch or meeting with one of your contacts and answer these questions:

  1. What if any preparation did you do for the meeting?
  2. What questions did you ask?
  3. What percentage of the time were you talking?
  4. What did you learn about his or her company?
  5. What did you learn about his or her family?
  6. What did you learn about his or her interests and worldview?
  7. What did you learn about any opportunities or challenges your contact is facing?
  8. What questions do you wish you had asked?
  9. What did you do to follow up after the meeting?
  10. What do you think the person with whom you met would say about the meeting?

Want some other tips? Read this short Inc. Magazine piece: Business Lunch Etiquette: 8 Rules.

Question: Do you have “It” ?

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

Were you born with It? If not, can you develop It? 

A 60 something year old managing partner at a law firm once told me:

Rainmaking, you either have It, or you don’t

I have coached hundreds of lawyers that managing partner would have said didn’t have It. I am sure he is not aware, but I included his thoughts in my book: It Takes a Team. Here is some dialogue from the book:

“Before we get into that, let me ask you this: when associates come to work for you, are you able to pick out right away whether they have star potential?

“Absolutely,” replied David. “Usually after working with them on one assignment I know whether they have It or not.

What do you mean by It?

“It is something I remember from an old interview with Jackie Gleason. While talking about ‘star quality,’ he said, ‘If you have it and you know you have it, then you have it. If you have it and don’t know you have it, you don’t have it. If you don’t have it but you think you have it, then you have it.’ It’s an ephemeral and elusive combination of talent, skill and charisma that separates outstanding members of a profession from all the rest. It is the difference between a Cary Grant and a capable B actor.”

“I see,” said Bruce. “So you’re either born a star, or you’re not.”

“Yes. Of course, you need to work on developing your inner potential. But you have to be born with a certain ‘critical mass’ of talent to succeed in a certain field. Michael Jordan was born to be a basketball player. He was born with It. If he’d never picked up a basketball, and pursued a career in baseball instead, he’d have wasted his potential, because as he showed when he played baseball, he didn’t have It.”

“I can see where you’re coming from,” Bruce said. Jordan had natural ability. At the same time, I think Larry Bird was not born with It. He wasn’t a natural athlete. “

“Even Larry Bird had It,” David argued. His It may not have been the same as Jordan’s, but he had eye hand coordination and a the natural ability to become a great shooter.”

Bruce was a disappointed. He had hoped that the Larry Bird analogy would work. After all, Larry Bird probably worked harder on his shooting than any NBA star in history. “So let me get this straight, you believe that if you don’t have It, but decide to pursue a particular interest …”

“—Then you are wasting everyone’s time,” David interrupted.

I know many senior lawyers who think the same way that David and the managing partner think about “It.” I have coached many, many young lawyers who David and the managing partner would put aside because they did not see  It in them. Many of those lawyers, including some of you reading this blog have become top rainmakers and/or leaders in their law firm.

I recently saw a Forbes article: The ‘It’ Factor: How To Have Executive Presence In A Meeting. I liked this quote from the article:

In business, this is called executive presence. While it may seem like some people “just get it,” executive presence is actually something that they’ve probably worked very hard to achieve.

What’s the bottom line? Don’t pre-judge who you think has It and who you think does not have It and remember that most of us were not born with It. We worked very hard to develop It.  You can also.

One final quote for you. In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin made the point:

Being tall helps you become a star in basketball, but how many of us have a shot at playing in the NBA? It’s not about what you’re born with; it’s about what you do.

So, if you are like me and were not born with It, what are you doing?

Client Development: Strike Up a Conversation and Build a New Relationship

Posted in Client Development

Do you strike up a conversation with strangers? Nancy and I generally don’t, but I now can tell you a story about what we miss when we don’t.

Last week Nancy and I traveled to Ireland. I contend the Irish are the most friendly people in the world, so I urge you to visit when you can..

We stayed in two cities near Dublin. The first was Enniskerry, the home of Powerscourt Estate, with some of the most beautiful flowers in the world, Powerscourt Hotel, one of our favorite hotels, and Mac’s Bar, the tiniest pub I have ever sat in.

At Mac’s, we felt right at home as each of the “regulars” spoke to us.

As we drank Smithwicks  pints at Mac’s, a couple came to our small table and introduced themselves: Mike and Maureen Moore from Lebanon, IL. We had a wonderful conversation. Mike and Maureen called the two bartenders by name as if they were lifetime friends.

Mike is retired from college coaching and being an athletic director. He is now the managing partner of Saddleback Stables LLC, a breeding and thoroughbred racing partnership. Maureen is currently the director of the Peabody Energy Leaders in Education program and was formerly in charge of fundraising for St. Louis University.

Mike,  Maureen and Kristy Bertelsman have also created Saddleback Chocolates. At their website you will find their thought behind the business:

Saddleback Chocolates was established to celebrate the grace and beauty of equine athletes and all breeds of horses…from English and Western arenas, to Polo grounds, race tracks and the Sport of Kings.

The next night we joined Mike and Maureen again at Mac’s to watch the US play Germany in the World Cup. That night they introduced us to Claudio and Robyn from Phoenix, who they had met earlier in the day. Robyn took our photo with the Moore’s. You can see just how tiny the pub is in the photo.

After the US loss, the six of us walked up the hill and ate dinner at Old Forge Inn, our favorite place to dine in Enniskerry. We had a blast.

On Friday, Nancy and I moved to the K Club for more golf. Mike and Maureen joined us for drinks and dinner.

While in the bar, we noticed two gentlemen in tuxedos. As we left, Maureen introduced herself and struck up a conversation. It turned out that the older gentleman is the father-in-law of the new Powerscourt Hotel owner, showing it is definitely a small world.

What is the point and why does it matter to you? Client development is not about selling yourself. It is about building relationships. I asked Maureen to share her thoughts on relationship building with you. Here is what she told me:

Strong partnerships begin with sincere relationships….as you build business relationships …you truly need to take time to engage a person…learning about all aspects of their life…both personally and peofessionally. Long term business relationships take time, but can become relationships you will value for a lifetime.

If you just sit and never introduce yourself to strangers, especially when on holiday, you miss a wonderful opportunity to build new and lasting relationships. You never know, that stranger you meet could be your next big client or referral source. At the worst, you will have practiced striking up a conversation with someone.