Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Recommended Reading: How Will You Measure Your Life

Posted in Book Reviews

In the blog I posted yesterday, I mentioned that lawyers I coach read books together and share their takeaways with each other. I know they find it a valuable experience because each reader sees something different.

One book the readers found very valuable was How Will You Measure Your Life? by Harvard Business School professor, Clay Christensen.

Tricia Deleon shared her thoughts on the last few chapters with her group and gave me permission to share them with you.

Here are my quick take-aways from the last chapters of our book. If you haven’t read the rest of this book yet, please do so. The authors make some deep, inspiring and important points.

Chapter 7: Sailing Your Kids on Theseus’s Ship

  1. We want to feel good as parents. We work hard to make more money so we can give our kids “more opportunities.” Children go to so many activities and camps that they don’t even have time to get part-time jobs. Very true…I started working when I was 15 and learned a lot of life lessons and the value of hard work from scrubbing the floors of Domino’s Pizza or serving ice-cream at Dairy Queen.
  2. Self-esteem comes from achieving something important when it’s hard to do.
  3. Don’t solve all of your kid’s problems. If she tells you at the 11th hour that she didn’t complete her science fair project, don’t stay up all night to do it for her. That teaches her that life can be about others bailing her out, or that it’s okay to take short-cuts or read the Cliff’s notes. Ouch. So true. Glad I am reading this now when my daughter is only 4 and we haven’t encountered this yet!

Chapter 8: The Schools of Experience

  1.  Don’t judge success (or a resume) by solely looking at the scoreboard of what the candidate has achieved. Look for what “courses in the school of life experience” the candidate may have had. Our firm is trying to do more behavioral-based questioning during job interviews. We hope to train our attorneys to interview by asking more interesting and probing questions about how the candidate has dealt with setbacks or stress in his life rather than just asking surface questions about law school.
  2. Author said he appreciated how some boys in Boy Scouts would personally plan a hiking trip versus having his parents plan it. True. I judged a local Girl Scout logo design recently. It was amazing how you could quickly tell which ones were submitted by parents versus the scout. I voted for the one the scout did!

Chapter 9: The Invisible Hand Inside Your Family

  1.  Create a culture for your company and family. You want your employees/family to make the right choices without requiring constant supervision.
  2. This inspired me to sit down with my husband so we could think about a “culture” we wanted to memorialize in writing for our family re: family values. It’s still a work in progress, but I appreciate this book causing me to think about it. I agree with the authors: you have to build, talk about and create the culture you want in your family. If I want the DeLeon’s to be known for kindness or generosity or compassion, we need to talk about it and model it for our daughter.

Chapter 10: Just This Once…

  1. Decide what you stand for and then stand for it all the time. Author decided he would take off Sundays as his Sabbath. He had a championship basketball game to play on a Sunday. He told the coach and team he couldn’t and they went crazy. He kept his commitment to God. His team won without him. Amen.
  2. Think about who you want to be/what you want your life to be like (likeness), then commit to it (commitment) and then decide what metrics you will measure your life by. Author decided, like I would, that God is the only one who can measure/create “success.” His measure of achievement is on an individual basis, meaning how many other people’s lives have I invested in via my time, resources and energy.
  3. This chapter and the epilogue inspired me to sit down this week to draft a personal motto or likeness and to pray about becoming committed to it.

Great book recommendation, Cordell. I enjoyed reading it and will probably re-read it every couple of years.



Client Development Coaching: One Huge Benefit is Sharing with Others

Posted in Client Development Coaching

One of the great joys I have coaching lawyers from the US and Canada, and I think one of the huge benefits for those lawyers is getting to know each other and sharing ideas and referrals. Here are three examples that have happened just in the last week.

One way we do it is through book groups. One book group is currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The book group shared their thoughts on the first chapter last week.

Another way we do it is I introduce lawyers from different firms who might be good referrals for each other. This week I received an email from one of the Toronto lawyers I coached sharing with me that a Texas lawyer I coached had sent a Toronto litigation matter to her.

A third way we share ideas occurs when a lawyer I coach asks a question and I seek thoughts from other lawyers I coach who I believe would have the best ideas on the subject. That happened just this week.

A lawyer I coach asked:

I have identified several (7-8) in-house counsel that I would like to develop a relationship with/take to lunch, etc. Many (but not all) are women, some are women of color, and one even went to my law school (but before I did).

My question is what do you suggest is the best way to connect with these people?

One of my work colleagues is LinkedIn “friends” with practically everyone in our city, but I would prefer NOT to ask him for an introduction as the point is to develop my own clients.

A few of these in-house counsel are connected to other attorneys that I know via LinkedIn, but I find it awkward to ask another attorney for an “introduction.” At the same time, I am told that “cold calling” to introduce oneself and set up a lunch is considered quite tacky and taboo.

Do you agree or is there a way to do it a non-aggressive way (particularly for the one who also went to my law school)? It just seems like a great pool of potential clients that I am missing out on, but I am certainly not the “hard sell,” aggressive type and don’t want to do anything that would be frowned upon.

I sent her question to Bizunesh Scott, another lawyer I coach who offered these suggestions:

I tend to not ask people to introduce me on LinkedIn. I have a lot of LinkedIn connections and get asked to make introductions. But, often the person they want an introduction to is a 2nd degree connection. And, even if it’s a first degree connection, I often do not know the person well enough for the ask. I would use that as a last resort and only if you are confident that the person you are asking has a meaningful relationship with that person (same year out of law school, pervious work history together, in same association maybe).

A couple of suggestions (all to be done by email):

  1. Invite the target to a conference that you are attending or speaking at by offering to pay the registration.
  2.  Host a webinar and invite your targets to the webinar.
  3. Invite your clients and potential clients targets to an in person lunch at your firm to discuss a substantive legal topic. Call it a roundtable. I would put all their names in the to line so they know the scope of the attendees and let them know it is small on purpose.
  4. If someone cannot make it to 1-3, a follow-up email for a quick call, coffee, or meeting.
  5. Google the person to see if they are speaking at any conferences and connect with them there.
  6. Use a connection and do a cold email. I respond to sorority connections, law school connections, or if I am bored.
  7. If you are not in the same state, email that you are in town for an event and would like to meet to discuss topic.

After two emails within a month, wait two months before contacting again.

Would you like to form or join a book group? Do you have a question, that another lawyer like you might answer? Do you want to become part of a client development group telephone coaching program? Finally, would you like to participate in one of the group roundtables I host here in Dallas and Fort Worth.  Although I have not scheduled the events yet, we are looking at hosting a Bloggers Bootcamp and hosting a Construction Lawyers Client Development Bootcamp.

Client Development: Become a Magnet (Go To) Lawyer

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

One client development key: Become remarkable in the eyes of potential clients so that they will seek you out.”

I read an article written by Dr. Ivan Misner, a New York Times bestselling author, who wrote The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies
The point of the book is that 29 percent of us are connected.

The book has a 52-week program to help readers become part of the 29 percent. You might be surprised to learn that Dr. Misner believes introverts are better at networking than extroverts. If you want to get a preview of what you will learn from the book take a look at The 29 Percent Solution – Book Review.

In Misner’s article I found the following interesting:

  1. In business, being a magnet means being recognized as a “go to” person and that includes knowing people who can solve other people’s problems.
  2. We tend to attract people like ourselves. Busy people attract busy people, making it more difficult to get together, but the rewards are great when a group of busy people get together.

What can you do to become a magnet and attract clients?

Recommended Reading: Are you reading about the great ones?

Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development

Are you reading about the great lawyers who practiced law before you?

I was inspired to become a lawyer and I was inspired to become a better lawyer when I read about the great lawyers from the past and present. I am not sure young lawyers are doing it today. So, I wanted to recommend some books for you.

I am not sure if it is a generational thing, or just me, but when I read these books, I felt like I was right there in the courtroom watching some of the most famous trial lawyers of the 20th century .

One last thing: If you are a trial lawyer and want to read about famous trials, like many tried by the lawyers mentioned above, you must go to professor Douglas Linder’s Famous Trials website. Every trial lawyer will find something inspiring there.

Recommended Reading: The Wow Factor

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Barney Adams has written a book titled: “The Wow Factor: How I Turned One Idea and My Unbridled Enthusiasm into a Golf Revolution. ” Golfers probably recognize his name from Adams “Tight Lies” one of the best selling golf clubs in history.

I especially like what Barney Adams said to Success Magazine during an interview: Success Stories: Barney Adams:

In the first place, I think everybody is in the service business. You have to define what service that product provides the customers. My job was to improve the flight of the golf ball when you hit it.

His success came in part from the realization that he was not designing and selling golf clubs. Instead he was helping golfers with better ball flight. After creating Tight Lies, Adams Golf went from being virtually unknown to the Inc. “500 Fastest-Growing Small Companies” list. It also led to the largest IPO in the history of the golf industry. Then in 2012 TaylorMade acquired Adams Golf. Adidas-owned TaylorMade buys Adams Golf for $70M.

Ok, what lessons can you learn from Barney Adams?

  • Barney Adams followed his dream-his passion.
  • Because of his passion and intense desire, he did not quit when he did not achieve his dream right away.
  • He became successful in part because he realized he was not selling golf clubs (for us legal services). Instead, he was helping golfers (in our case clients) with better golf flight (in our case achieve their goals).
  • There was a little luck in becoming successful. He went to work creating custom clubs at Hank Haney’s golf facility. It was at that facility that he got the idea for Tight Lies.


Collaboration: Why Your Law Firm Should Reward It Now

Posted in Law as a Business, Law Firm Leadership

Why are so many successful lawyers silos in their law firms? Does it matter?

Have you heard the phrase: In MBA programs students are taught to collaborate. In law schools, students are taught to compete?

If you are a regular reader, you have likely seen that phrase in previous blog posts. I thought about it again when I recently read a Kevin Roberts blog: Genius Isn’t Enough, Execution Is Everything. Kevin was reviewing the new Walter Isaacson book: The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

I specifically liked this Isaacson thought:

I think sometimes we underestimate … or sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the importance of collaborative creativity. So my book is not a theoretical book, but it’s just a history of the collaborations and teamwork that led to the computer, the Internet, the transistor, the microchip, Wikipedia, Google and other innovations.

Years ago, I suggested to my law firm’s executive committee that it put together a group of the most successful lawyers in our firm to meet either monthly or quarterly to creatively brainstorm ideas that could help us become more valuable to our clients. Here are some of the ideas I had at the time:

  • Client Service: How can we better serve our clients?
  • Motivation: What can we do to provide an environment that encourages our younger lawyers and staff to excel?
  • Visibility: What can we do to raise our visibility in the industries and cities we serve?
  • Attorney Development: How can we create the premier attorney development program recognized by our clients, our lawyers and potential recruits?
  • Collaboration: What is it? Why does it matter? What can we do to encourage it and reward it?
  • The Internet: How can we use it more effectively than other law firms to help our clients?

I had many more ideas for topics, but hopefully these will get you thinking.

So, I guess my question is are lawyers in your firm creating silos or collaborating with each other in creative ways?

Client Development: 3 Statistics Showing Why It Is More Challenging Today

Posted in Client Development, Law Firm Leadership

Do you believe client development is more difficult today? I do. Your clients have more choices and less time to choose. You likely have less non-billable time to devote to client development. Here are some random statistics showing why it is more challenging

  1. Number of Lawyers: In 1951, there were approximately 200,000 lawyers in the United States. That is approximately 1 lawyer for roughly every 700 people in the nation.  Today, according to the American Bar Association there are currently 1,116,967 lawyers practicing in the United States. That is approximately 1 lawyer for every 300 people, or approximately .36% of the total population.  At this rate we are not far from the day that there will be a one-to-one relationship between licensed lawyers and American citizens.
  2. Billable Hours: A 1958 ABA pamphlet suggested a quota of 1,300 hours a year for associates. Yes, you read that correctly. In 2000 many larger law firms demanded associates bill 1950 or more hours a year.
  3. Size of Law Firms: In 1960, there were only 38 law firms in the entire country with more than 50 lawyers.  By 1985 there were more than 500 firms of that size or bigger. Today, a 50-lawyer firm is considered a small firm in many cities.

Tulips standout.jpgWhat do these statistics tell us? At the very least, it is harder to stand out from the crowd. Business clients cannot distinguish the legal skills from one firm to another. But, as I have written many times, they can distinguish whether lawyers understand their industry, their company and them.

Based on that knowledge, if I was a law firm leader I would build industry based teams that cross practice groups. Lawyers in those groups would join industry associations. If my firm was blogging, I would have industry based blogs, like:

  • Financial Services Law Blog
  • Hospitality Industry Law Blog
  • Retail Law Blog
  • Construction Law Blog
  • Healthcare Law Blog
  • Energy industry Law Blog
  • Transportation Law Blog
  • Computer/Technology Industry Law blog

I could go on, but you get the idea. If your firm focuses on industries, builds industry teams and writes industry law blogs, I think you will stand out from the crowd.

Recommended Reading This Week

Posted in Career Development

This week most of my recommended reading is focused on becoming more successful.

Are You Trapped In A Fixed Mindset? Fix It! Stanford professor Carol Dweck through 20 plus years of research shows how having a fixed mindset or growth mindset influences your life. I have read her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It is really quite enlightening.

The Art of Shameless Self Promotion This is the art of sharing ideas, concepts and a greater vision rather than sharing your accomplishments. No one wants to be around the second type of self promoter.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us – in conversation with author Dan Pink and Drive by Dan Pink I listened to Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us so I enjoyed reading these two reviews of it.

Linchpin by Seth Godin – Video Book Review I read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? so I enjoyed Chris Brogan’s video book review.

The First Chapter of Switch the book by the Heath Brothers, authors of Made to Stick. In the first chapter the authors tell us that Switch is about helping us change things and dealing with the challenges that make change difficult. I think you will enjoy reading the first chapter as it explains why change is difficult. I found it valuable because coaching includes helping others make changes.

Finally, as you may know, I created an e-book Client Development in a Nutshell. if you get a chance over the weekend, take a look. I have filled it with things I did as a lawyer and things the lawyers I am coaching are doing now.

Client Development Coaching for Senior Associates and Junior Partners

Posted in Client Development Coaching

Why is it important for law firms to provide client development coaching for senior associates and junior partners now?

There are several reasons. Here are two:

Developing business now is more challenging than it was 25 years ago.

Today, perhaps more than ever before the competition for good clients is greater, client have greater expectations, and the time available for business development has decreased.

When I was a young partner, most lawyers developed business by doing excellent work and waiting for the phone to ring. Most clients in those days were both local and loyal. It’s way more complicated now. Through consolidation and mergers, clients that were locally owned are now part of national and international companies. So, it is more difficult to become visible to those clients.

Coaching helps lawyers transition from associate to partner.

Many senior associates and junior partners are in the transition stage of their career, moving from being solely service providers to being responsible for developing and building client relationships.

For many, that is a daunting task. They do not know where to start. As a result, they do not start, or they give up quickly when some of their efforts do not work. To the extent there is any effort at all, it is unstructured, unfocused and ultimately unsuccessful. Many lawyers procrastinate, are undisciplined, have no written plan and ultimately little or no execution.


When I was actively practicing law, I spent time helping our junior lawyers with business development, but that time was very limited. Frankly, I did not have time to analyze why some things worked for me, while others did not. Now that I am no longer busy practicing law,  I have time to analyze what worked for me and why it worked.

Before I left my old law firm, I went to the leaders and told them I had peaked in my own business development efforts and offered to take 15 brand new partners and work with them on their client development. I bragged I could help the group double the collective business volume in two years.

They actually accomplished that goal in one year. I enjoyed working with our pilot group so much that I decided to leave my law firm so I could work with lawyers in other firms. I have been coaching lawyers now for the last 10 years.

If you have someone in your firm who will take the time to coach and work with your senior associates and junior partners, I think you will see both a benefit to the lawyers coached and a benefit to your firm.

Here are some thoughts on what you might do. The person who volunteers to coach should be like a fitness coach. In other words, he or she will help the participants be accountable to themselves and to the “team.” I love a quote I read several years ago in a book by Jack Canfield. The quote was from a 1998 Fast Company magazine article: WANNA BE A PLAYER? GET A COACH!

Executive coaches are not for the meek. They are for people who value unambiguous feedback. If coaches have one thing in common, it’s that they are ruthlessly results-oriented. Executive coaching isn’t therapy. It’s product development, with you as the product.

Put simply, the most important factor in the success of any coaching program is the burning desire of the participants to get better at client development and their willingness and openness to being coached. So, the first thing you must do is select the right people.

The second thing I suggest is to create both an individual effort and a team dynamic. Participants will learn what activities will provide the greatest benefit to them and then will have regularly scheduled sessions with the coach to report on activities and learn more. I have been amazed by the group dynamic. No one in the group wants to let the rest of the team down and they feed off of each other’s ideas.

In an effective coaching program, young lawyers will:

  • Develop a Business Plan
  • Determine both group and individual goals that will challenge, energize and stretch them
  • Determine what activities to undertake to meet their goals
  • Spend non-billable time more strategically and wisely
  • Learn how to write articles, or blog posts and give presentations that will enhance their reputation and increase their chances of getting hired.
  • Become more focused and strategic with their contacts
  • Become more client focused
  • Be held accountable

I wonder how many of you play golf or tennis. If you play golf or tennis, do you take lessons? If working with a professional helps you develop your game, I bet the same principles will help you become a more successful lawyer.

If you are a regular reader, you know that at Noon Eastern Today, I will be conducting a Webinar: Develop a Niche Practice and Differentiate Yourself Webinar. Participants will learn why they should consider developing a niche practice, how to pick the right niche practice and then how to market it. You can still join us if you contact

If you are unable to join us today, think about starting a coaching group. Do you have a group of 6 lawyers who would like to participate in a 12 Month Client Development Coaching Program? If so, we can start now in October, or start in January.  Contact Joyce and let’s get started. Our first session will cover how to prepare an effective business plan.


16 Questions For A Law Firm Leader To Ponder

Posted in Client Development, Law Firm Leadership
We live in a unique and challenging time for law firms. Even so, there may be a greater opportunity than ever for a firm to differentiate itself from competitors. It takes real leadership and self reflection.  

Here are some questions a law firm leader might ask for that self reflection about his or her firm.

  1. Who are your firm’s top competitors?
  2. Why do your very best clients select your firm over your competitors?
  3. Why do clients select your competitors rather than your firm?
  4. What specific practice areas or industry practices are you the best in your city, state, the world and what makes you number 1?
  5. What do you see as the major changes that will take will take place in the legal profession over the next five years?
  6. What do you believe are the most important steps you can take to increase your firm’s competitiveness, financial strength and security? 
  7. What specific steps should you take to better serve your clients?
  8. Why should the highest performing law students and lawyers want to join your firm?
  9. Describe your firm’s “culture.” Do your lawyers and staff know your culture? How can you preserve it and effectively compete in the current economic environment?
  10. Lawyers are the most skeptical and autonomous of any type of professionals, meaning they constantly question decisions and they do not want to be told what to do. How can you convince your lawyers to become a team and work together to build the firm with these two prevalent traits?
  11. Stephen Covey has written a top-selling book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In your view, what are the 5,  7, 10 or whatever number habits of highly effective law firms?
  12. What specific steps can the firm take  to improve the quality of your firm’s work product?
  13. Leading consultants suggest clients’ satisfaction is directly related to whether the service provided exceeds expectations. What does that mean and how can you best implement the unbroken rule: “exceed their expectations”?
  14. What specific steps can you implement to cause your lawyers to be accountable? 
  15. A noted business man writes: “Almost every significant breakthrough is a result of a courageous break with traditional ways of thinking.” What courageous break with traditional ways of thinking would produce the most significant breakthrough for your firm?
  16. Dwight Eisenhower and Peter Drucker both reportedly said: “Plans are worthless, but planning is invaluable.” Your planning must be centered on an overall purpose or vision and on a commitment to a set of principles for the firm. Why are your lawyers practicing law together? What should be your “vision”? What should be your primary principles or core values?