Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Client Development: Are you trying your best?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Seth Godin posted a blog recently simply titled Effort. I urge you to read it and subscribe to his blog.

In the post he asked:

What does it mean to try your best?

Then he suggests:

The trick: don’t redefine trying. Redefine the circumstances.

Lawyers I coach frequently ask me:

How did you find time for all the non-billable career development and client development efforts you made?

I remind them I didn’t “find” it. I “made” time. My circumstances demanded it.

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For the majority of my career I practiced law in a small firm, as small as three lawyers when we started in 1983. My family depended on me to make time for client development. If I had started my career in a big firm, I’m not sure I would have made the same effort.

I enjoy coaching lawyers in smaller firms because they share that circumstance. They can’t rely on the efforts of other lawyers or the firm’s “institutional” clients.

If you are in a big firm, use your imagination. What if your family depended on your non-billable career and client development efforts?


Take a Clue from Padraig Harrington: Pick Yourself Up and Try Again

Posted in Career Development

Greetings from Los Angeles where I will be coaching lawyers today for a 4th time this year. One thing we will discuss is what happens when you make a pitch to a potential client and you are not selected.

Did you by chance watch the British Open? If not, read: Henrik Stenson Outduels Phil Mickelson to Win British Open.

Mickelson played nearly flawless golf, only to lose to someone who played something just a little bit closer to flawless golf.

Before the Open, Mickelson had not been playing well. But starting on Thursday with a near record breaking round of 63, he was on top of his game. He still lost. How will he rebound from a disappointing defeat when he played so well ?

The PGA Championship Tournament will be contested this week at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

In August 2009, Nancy I made one of our trips to Ireland during the week of the PGA Championship.  We sat in an Irish pub and watched it’s country hero Padraig Harrington lose a chance to win the PGA Championship. It was agonizing.

I wrote about it then and I wanted to share what I wrote with you again, including a link to a column written by a brilliant writer.

For those of you who do not like golf, I hope you will bear with me as I write about another golfer. I choose golf because to use a famous quote:

Golf Reveals Character

Practicing law reveals the character of lawyers, so we all can learn from those whose character is revealed internationally in front of millions.

When this is posted, Nancy and I will be on our way home from a week in Ireland. On Sunday, we played golf and spent time talking to two Irish couples who finished after us.

Our discussion focused on Padraig Harrington. I could tell he is a national hero.

After golf, we went to a busy pub at our hotel. We watched a semi-final match in the Ireland Hurling championship.

A few hours later, we returned to the pub to dine and watch the final round of the PGA tournament. During the first seven holes, the attention of every patron was focused on Padraig Harrington. I could tell his countrymen love him.

Needless to say the patrons were silent and then gasped when they watched Padraig go in the water twice on the 8th hole. I could sense their extreme disappointment after he posted an 8 on the par 3 hole.

The American golfers frequently say they feel more pressure playing in the Ryder Cup because they are representing their country, not just themselves. Padraig Harrington must feel that added pressure every tournament.

There is no way I can capture the feelings the Irish have for Padraig as well as Irish Times writer Roddy L’estrange. In his column, Roddy frequency writes about Vinny Fitzpatrick.

After the PGA tournament, he wrote: Vinny reflects on the wonders of Paddy’s ying and Yang.

Vinny tells his friends who lost money betting on him:

Put yourself in Harrington’s position. He knows he’s blown his chance of winning, but there are no tantrums…no loss of self-esteem. He comes across the same way when he’s on top of his game, as a gent. He acknowledges the crowd, doffs his cap, and smiles. Now, that’s easy when you’ve made eagle or birdie, not so easy when you’ve just had a snowman at a par three.

What can you learn from all of this?

I doubt you will ever suffer public humiliation before a worldwide TV audience of millions, but in your long career as a lawyer you will make mistakes, and the lawyers and staff who work for you will also make mistakes.

How you rebound from your mistakes and how you treat those who work for you when they make mistakes will reveal your character.

In those really tough times, think about Padraig and bear your setbacks with fortitude and dignity and focus on how the experience will ultimately make you a better lawyer.

Client Development Practice: What Would You Practice for 20 Hours?

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

Greetings from Denver where today I will be coaching lawyers for their 4th session with me this year. I want to ask them and you a question.

I’ve written many times here about deliberate practice. See for example: Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 1 and Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 2 , where I share some things to deliberately practice and provide  links to writing on the subject.

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Recently I watched this YouTube Video: The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU

The video gave me an insight on why some lawyers I coach may not get as much as they could from the coaching. They may view learning how to become a rainmaker is such a daunting task that they get frustrated early on.

Suppose I told them they could learn the skills to become a rainmaker in 20 hours of practice.

I have a favor to ask. Watch the video. It’s only 20 minutes long.

If you agree that client development is something that can be learned in 20 hours, share with me your ideas on what you would deliberately practice.



Client Development: The Big Firm Young Lawyer’s Dilemma

Posted in Client Development

I recently coached several senior associates and junior partners. They were eager to learn and anxious to become more valuable to clients. But,…

But, they thought they were too young and too inexperienced to attract clients their firm would accept. They asked:  

How can I market in a large firm that will only charge premium rates when most my contacts generate referrals that won’t pay premium rates?

My initial thought:

Wow, this is really a great question and a difficult one for me to answer. To be honest there is no really good answer I can give. I think it is the big firm young lawyer’s dilemma.

I purposely started my career in a smaller firm because I wanted to build my own client base rather than simply work for clients someone else had brought to the firm. Obviously it is easier to bring in clients as a young lawyer if you are in a smaller firm that is less rate sensitive.


I was never concerned about my age or experience. My first client contacts were all my father’s age. How did I get in the door?

There were two ways. First, I was friends with the next generation of those clients. But, I discovered that wasn’t enough. My friends weren’t selecting lawyers.

More importantly, I became an expert on what the clients needed at that time. I was insatiable researching the issues my potential clients were facing now and the issues they would face in the future.

A few years ago I ran into a second year associate IP lawyer. He loved music and was insatiable in his research of IP issues in the music industry. He wrote a blog post on a timely music IP issue and the blog post went viral. He reaped the benefits from his hard work shortly thereafter.

Motivation to Be a Rainmaker: What may be holding you back

Posted in Career Development, Motivation

If you are a regular reader for any number of years, or if I have coached you, I believe you could write on this subject for me and you likely know what I am going to say.

Whenever a lawyer tells me he or she has not had time for client development, more often than not I find it is not a time issue. Instead, it is a motivation issue. They are not striving to do better.


They aren’t motivated to make the time. But, why aren’t they motivated?

I find it is usually one of these two issues.

  1. They have not found a great answer to the “why” question. They may set a goal, but don’t have an answer on why achieving it is important. Usually this is because they are content with where they are at the time. See Success: You Can’t Be Content.
  2. They want to become a rainmaker, but they are not convinced they can actually do it. Back in 2012, I told the story of a lawyer I coached who needed me to convince her. Take a look at: Client Development: Change What You Think it Takes to Succeed.

If you want to read more on this topic, check out Research: Your Reasons for Change Make all the Difference

Lawyers: What Does it Take to Achieve True Excellence?

Posted in Career Development

If by chance you are a sports fan, this past weekend was filled with athletes striving for true excellence.

For soccer fans, the Portugal 1-0 victory over France in the Euro final was a big deal. I didn’t get the chance to see it, but I have read that an unexpected hero emerged.

Saturday morning Nancy, along with her parents took Claudia, our 9 year old neighbor for her last day of the July golf camp. There were 7 kids in her group and many parents tagging along as they played 17 and 18 at the golf course from closer in tees.

I know each of the kids was nervous. For them having 12-15 people watching them was like being on television and being watched around the world. Our 9 year old pal was a champ. She hit her drives well, her 8 iron like she had been playing for years and chipped and putted well.

During the camp, we missed Serena win the Wimbledon Singles Championship. When we got home, Nancy had to go run an errand and Claudia and I spent the afternoon watching Serena and Venus win the Doubles Championship.

At 2:00 we started watching the USGA US Open Golf Tournament third round. Anna Nordqvist, Claudia’s favorite golfer, was back in the pack so she did not get much TV time. (I suspect that Claudia will forever keep the golf ball Anna gave her and the backpack with Anna’s autograph.)

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Lydia Ko surged into the lead and the TV announcers commented how she just has fun on the course. Sure enough good shot, bad shot, Lydia Ko had a big wide grin on her face.

Later that day I found this Lydia Ko quote:

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What a great attitude. She needed it because on Sunday she did not fare so well. Read: Steward: Lydia Ko takes collapse well. I urge you to read the article to get an insight into what kind of person, the 19 year old is. I found this:

Then again, the way Ko handled things in the wake of her failure was nothing short of amazing and admirable…She’s a great player, but her constitution is right in line with her considerable golf ability. It was on display all week at CordeValle.

On Sunday, after church and brunch with our daughter, Claudia came over to watch the final round of the US Open. That day Anna Nordqvist was on fire and played lights out. Claudia was cheering and turning cart wheels as Anna made up a 6 stroke deficit to tie with Brittany Lang, another favorite of ours, for the lead after 72 holes.

That started a three hole play-off. If you watched or saw the stories on the news, you know that on the second hole Anna accidentally touched the sand with her 5 iron and was given a 2 stroke penalty.

It was a little unfair the way she and Brittany found out about it. Anna was told after her third shot on 18 and Brittaney before her third shot. So, Brittany won the title.

Anna, with great class talked about the penalty afterwords.

When I got up on Monday, I found a link to this Inc article on Twitter: It Takes to Become Truly World Class in Your Field.

You should read the entire article. I found these two distinctions helpful.

First, it takes a commitment to the extraordinary, to go beyond the commonplace, which is so often lackluster and devoid of inspiration.

Second, it takes the realization that a commitment to the extraordinary is a personal commitment.

Based on this weekend, especially the US Open Golf Tournament, I would add this third point.

To become truly excellent, you must learn how to handle disappointments and defeat. No matter what your field, you can’t win them all.

And I think I might add a fourth.

True excellence means also becoming a role model for the next generation.

Client Service: Setting Yourself Apart

Posted in Client Development, Client Service

I have learned a great deal about client service from my experiences staying in hotels.

During the last week in June, Nancy and I visited McCall, Idaho, a beautiful town I heartily recommend.

This was our second visit in the last three years. This time we wanted to spend a night at the Shore Lodge. It is an incredible place with awesome rooms looking out on the beautiful Payette Lake.

Our room was really impressive. I remember the room number and we’ll ask for that room next time we visit. Here is the view from our balcony.

Shore Lodge View

I have been in law firm offices with great lake views, including several Toronto offices. But, most law firm offices can’t match the Shore Lodge views. But, you can match their service.

Keep in mind we were only staying one night at the hotel.

When I booked our golf package in April, I received an email titled: We are excited for your arrival to Shore Lodge. The email included a section on planning our stay and invited us to contact the concierge for help.

A few days later I received a call from the concierge to set up our golf tee time at Whitetail Club.

A few days before our arrival, I received a second call from the concierge, just calling to ask if we had any special requests or if she could answer any questions we may have.

When we showed up at the Whitetail Club, a young man met us and took our golf clubs and offered to park our car. When we went into the pro shop, we met Todd who I assume is the golf pro or one of them. He helped us find everything including the driving range and 1st and 10th tees.

At the conclusion of our round he met us to get our feedback on our round of golf and the young man offered to get our car and bring it to us.

Even though it is expensive, we will definitely go back to the Shore Lodge and definitely play golf at Whitetail Club. The hotel and golf course are magnificent, but the service is what will bring us back.

What can your law firm learn from our experience? I’m sure there are many things, but one of them is to make each client, no matter how big or small,  feel like they are the most important client the firm will ever have.

Is Your Practice Local or Broader Geographically ?

Posted in Client Development

As you likely know, in 1978 I began to focus on representing highway and bridge contractors. Back then, I quickly determined is there was not enough work or contractors located in the Roanoke Valley, or Southwest Virginia to keep me busy.

Bridge Cable

A few years later I was hired by the largest contractor in North Carolina to help with a contract dispute on a project in Norfolk, several hours away from Roanoke. One day I was on the project manager who had hired me told me.

Our general counsel in Charlotte has asked me how I selected a lawyer from Roanoke to represent a Charlotte company on a project in Norfolk involving the Virginia Department of Transportation which is located in Richmond.

Needless to say I was happy when he told me how he responded.

A few years later, I was hired by the largest contractor in West Virginia to litigate a contract dispute involving the construction of Interstate 79. That was the first matter I handled outside of my home state. I associated with a firm in Charleston and tried the case. I found the favorable decision on page 153 in this document.

A few years later I began working all over the country for two of the largest contractors. That ultimately prompted my move to Dallas.

Is your practice limited to the county where your office is, or is it one that can span your state, and maybe even beyond your state?

I coach many lawyers and law firms that I tell to increase business with new clients, they must either do work they are not currently doing, or they must expand their geographic reach beyond their local community.

Lawyers: Do You Have the Will to Win in 2016?

Posted in Career Development

This week we finish the first half of 2016. It’s gone by really quickly. What have you been doing with your non-billable time in the first three months?

In 2008, I posted a blog The Will to Prepare To Win. I noted that most lawyers I know enjoy the opportunities to serve clients and help those clients achieve their goals. I certainly enjoyed that part of my practice. Yet, many lawyers do not have the will to prepare to get those opportunities they enjoy.

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Recently I gave a presentation to about 50 young lawyers. I began as I frequently do by asking:

How many of you have a business plan or development plan and written goals for this year?

Five lawyers raised their hands. How about you? Do you have a written plan for this year?

I am always searching for ways to convince young lawyers to prepare a business plan. Several years ago, I conducted a Planning for Success in 2010 webinar. I think about 500 lawyers participated.

I talked about how I did my plan from the time I was a young lawyer.

My plan included my own development and client development. I did it from the top (goals) to the bottom (non-billable hours) and bottom (non-billable hours) to the top (goals). I had to do it both ways because I had to choose among activities I wanted to do to achieve my goals.

For each goal I asked why it was important to achieve it and if I did not have a good answer, I reconsidered the goal.

For the goals that survived the why question, I prepared detail actions. Then, each 90 days I would list the actions for that quarter. Finally, I planned the activities I would do each week.

My 2016 planning presentation slides are available on SlideShare here.

One more thing: Preparing a plan is part of my career workbook shown above- Prepare to Win. Click on the title and you will have a sample of the book. You can get the Kindle version on Amazon here for only $2.99.

Super Lawyers Think Optimistically

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Years ago I saw a fascinating quote in Success Magazine

Super Achievers

Are you optimistic?

I hope so because studies show optimists are more likely to succeed. Based on my years of working with lawyers, I think I know one of the reasons why. In your career you will have setbacks, disappointments and dips. Being optimistic will allow you to learn from failures and get through challenging times.

I am reminded of a famous Winston Churchill quote.

Winston Churchill

Are you seeing opportunities?

A couple of years ago, Nancy gave me “Live What You Love: Notes from an Unusual Life” by Bob and Melinda Blanchard. The Blanchard’s describe themselves as serial entrepreneurs, having owned eight businesses. They talk about skeptics and pessimists and suggest that the next time you start to say: “yes, but…” stop yourself and say instead:
”sure, how.”

Several lawyers I am coaching have told me that the change from “yes, but” to “sure how” has made a difference for them. It will for you also.

Give it a try.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about how Superachievers think, read this Selling Power Magazine article: How Superachievers Think to Reach Consistent Success.