Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Career Success: Why You Should Relentlessly Chase Perfection

Posted in Career Development

If you have read my blog posts over the years, you know that several people have greatly influenced my life by the way they lived theirs. I have written about my dad, Coach John Wooden and Coach Vince Lombardi. All three of them helped me see the importance of never being content and always striving to learn and become the best lawyer I was capable of becoming.

In 2013, I wrote: Who Has Had the Greatest Influence on Your Life? If you have a couple of minutes go back and read that one again.

A few years ago, I watched the HBO documentary about Vince Lombardi. I urge you to take the 90 minutes and watch it.  As you will see when you watch it, Coach Lombardi inspired and influenced his players. He loved them and they loved him. Near the end of the documentary, the announcer says Vince Lombardi inspired many who never played for him. I was one of those many who he inspired.

You can watch a short preview here:

In the documentary, quarterback Bart Starr remembers Lombardi telling the team shortly after he became head coach:

Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.

Starr said after he heard that he about jumped out of his seat. He was ready to go out and chase perfection.

One of the important words in the quote is “relentlessly.” My hope for you in 2015 is that you will “relentlessly” chase perfection. Your joy will come from the pursuit and the feeling you are catching excellence in your career and life.



Success: Plan Your Career As If It Is More Important Than Your Vacation

Posted in Career Development

How much time are you spending planning your career? How much time are you spending planning your 2015 vacation?

I remember meeting with Lisa, a young partner in my old law firm, She wanted career planning advice from me. I learned Lisa had some ideas about what she wanted to do, but had not written any goals or a plan to achieve what she wanted.

When Lisa described what she wanted, her description was fuzzy and ambiguous. I wanted to suggest she would never achieve her career dreams without clearly defining what they are, and developing written goals and a plan. I bit my tongue and decided I would get to know her better.

I learned she had recently returned from a long planned bicycling vacation in China. She described in detail what she had done each day and the places she visited. She provided vivid details of what she had seen and photographed and the culture she had experienced. I learned she was passionate about cycling and loved to do it in foreign lands.


After listening for several minutes I began asking questions. I learned Lisa had begun planning her trip almost two years earlier. When she began planning Lisa could describe in detail why she wanted to visit China and bicycle, but other than wanting to see the Great Wall and Beijing, she had no specific ideas. She did extensive on -ine research, bought a couple of books and spoke with travel agents.

Based on her research, she found the “Bike China” tour that included Beijing and the Geat Wall as well as many other places she wanted to visit and the tour that appeared to best meet her needs. She decided when she wanted to go and planned her airline itinerary. She described in detail her thoughts before the trip and I learned she had actually visualized many of the places she would visit and things she wanted to do on the trip.

I then asked Lisa how much time she thought she had spent planning her China vacation. She told me she thought she had spent at lest 40 hours researching and planning her trip.

I thought I had an opening. I simply asked if she would be willing to spend the same amount of time planning her career. I also asked if she would be willing to try and establish goals that were as specific as the ones she had for her China trip and she would approach accomplishing them with the same energy and passion she had for her vacation.

Isn’t it ironic that many lawyers spend more time and energy planning their vacation than they do planning their career? Isn’t it also ironic that when asked, they can clearly explain why they want to go to a particular vacation spot, what they plan to do while there and what they need to do to get ready for the trip?

Little Things Matter: Make Your Holiday Gift Matter

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Are you planning on giving any of your favorite clients a gift for the holidays. When I was practicing law, I never gave one of the gifts my law firm marketing department had selected for clients. I always wanted my clients to feel like I had given more thought to the gift I was giving.

Christy Crider is a Nashville lawyer I coached several years ago. When we worked together, she advised me she sent her own family Christmas card with the firm’s holiday card, along with a personal note about something she and the client had discussed or share in common to more than one-half her clients and business contacts.

She also kept a list of every client’s preferences (football teams, kids’ names, hobbies, etc.). She tried to make every gift something that lets them know she didn’t send out 20 others just like it.

For example, when one of her clients had run a marathon with his daughter in the fall, she sent him a hat which said “26.2″ and wrote a note about his accomplishment.

Pearl Jam was one of her client’s favorite bands. So, she sent that client a vintage Pearl Jam tee-shirt.

One of her clients was an avid fisherman. So, she sent him a fishing vest.

Those gifts cost less than $30.  Christy told me she was certain she got way more mileage than if she had given anything from her marketing department or a $100 gift basket.

Christy regularly sends me gifts. In my case she knows I love to watch and listen to videos of her singing with the The Woodmont Christian Church Gospelaires. Here is a link to Victory in Jesus, one of my favorites.

What is the point? Your clients will be surprised and appreciate a gift that demonstrates you know what your clients care about.

Top 10 Blogging Mistakes You May Be Making

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Are you blogging for business and not getting the desired results?  Well, you are not alone.

Thousands of lawyers are blogging. But, how many are doing it well? Here are the top 10 mistakes I see:

  1. Failure to identify the targeted reader. It is pretty basic. You need a plan which identifies the type of client/referral source you want to read your blog.
  2. Picking topics no one cares about. Potential clients only care about their problems, opportunities and changes. They want to read about solutions to those.
  3. Not posting regularly or frequently. If you do not have time to post at least once a week, you should not be blogging.
  4. Picking a poor title. Some of the titles I see remind me of headings from legal briefs. Your potential clients and referral sources will decide whether to read your blog based on the title.
  5. Writing posts that are too long. Your potential clients and referral sources do not care about the history of Swiss watch making. They simply want to know the time.
  6. Writing long paragraphs. You may not realize it, but your readers will look at your blog post visually. If the paragraphs are long, they will be less likely to read it.
  7. Writing about you and your law firm. Your potential clients and referral sources do not care about you or your law firm. They care about themselves and their business.
  8. Writing that attracts the wrong potential clients. If you are a management side employment lawyer, your blog should be aimed at businesses so you do not receive lots of calls from disgruntled employees.
  9. Writing for lawyers and not for potential clients and referral sources. Unless your target audience is lawyers, use words that businessmen use.
  10. Talking down to your readers. Potential clients and referral sources like lawyers who are confident. They hate lawyers that are arrogant.

If you are blogging you should be reading Copyblogger and Problogger. They are top notch blogs for learning blogging skills.

I wrote a regular monthly column for Roads and Bridges Magazine for 24 years. I can assure you that my writing improved over time. Your blogging will improve over time also.

Success: Are You Motivated Enough to Get Through “the Grind?”

Posted in Career Development

I see lawyer bloggers who start with great enthusiasm and frequent blog posts and then I see fewer and fewer blog posts. Why does that happen? Why do they lose motivation to continue and persist?

More than likely it is because they are not seeing results from their investment of energy and  time.

I know what it feels like to work hard on client development and not see results. I experienced it first hand.

When I started my niche transportation construction practice, I did a lot of writing, including a law review article. I gave many presentations, including one at the 1981 ABA Annual Meeting. I remember that it was two years before I got any traction from my hard work.

What separates those lawyers who become rainmakers from many others is they stay motivated enough to get through the grind. Ok, what is the grind?

Take a look at this 2009 Psychology Today blog: Sports: What Motivates Athletes? As you will see, motivation is the only factor over which an athlete, (or lawyer) has control. I like this quote:

In training and competitions, you arrive at a point at which it is no longer fun. I call this the Grind, which starts when it gets tiring, painful, and tedious. the Grind is also the point at which it really counts. The Grind is what separates successful athletes from those who don’t achieve their goals. Many athletes when they reach this point either ease up or give up because it’s just too darned hard. But truly motivated athletes reach the Grind and keep on going.

As you will see, prime motivation is doing everything possible to become the best athlete, (lawyer) you can be.

How can you develop that prime motivation? You can read what the writer suggests. If I have coached you, I believe you will see some of the suggestions I have made. For example, you have likely heard me persuading (nagging) you to:

  1. Set an energizing long term goal-One that you are willing to get through the grind to achieve.
  2. Work with a coach or colleague to help you stay motivated.
  3. Motivational cues-What are the quotes or words from songs that you have in front of you as reminders?
  4. Daily questions-Each morning ask: “What can I do today to become a better lawyer and more valuable to my clients?” And at night ask: “Did I do everything I could today to become a better lawyer and more valuable to my clients?”
One final point: There is no better feeling than the one I had when I got through the grind and achieved what I had hoped for when I started.


Little Things Matter: Would You Have Thought of a Turtle?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Phil is a lawyer I coached several years ago. He works on big real estate projects.

While we worked together he told me how his gift of a crystal turtle to a client representative made a difference – it’s another example of how little things matter.

By way of background, Phil and a team of lawyers worked on the development of a new corporate headquarters for a large company with a long-term lease to the company.  The job site was at the time the largest construction site in Quebec and the largest leasing transaction in Montreal in the last 30 years.

It received a lot of press since the move to the new headquarters resulted in the relocation of several thousand employees and the consolidation of several locations across the city.

Negotiations were protracted.  Both the tenant and developer wished to keep things quiet for as long as possible and accordingly devised a codename for the project. “Turtle” was selected, largely because the word had nothing to do with the actual project.

While he was working on the project, Phil saw a crystal turtle and thought that it would be an appropriate memento to present to his client representative when the deal closed.

Phil gave the crystal turtle to the client representative and received the following email:

I can not begin to express my gratitude for the wonderful gift you gave me yesterday. It is not only stunning but the theme of the piece is quite appropriate.  It has found a very special place in our home such that it can be admired daily.

Please express my personal thanks to everyone on your team who worked tirelessly on both Phases 1 and 2 of the Turtle project. Without their dedication and resolve this file would never had been completed.

I have always appreciated your frankness, humility and professionalism. I particularly admired your collective composure under the tremendous time constraints imposed upon us.

You are a group of true professionals, with whom I am ever so proud to be associated.
Many thanks once again

I think there are two important points here. First, the gift would have meant nothing, absent the high quality work and service the law firm team exhibited in handling a very complex project with tight time constraints. Second, when you can tie a gift to a project it will be remembered forever. It’s just way more memorable than anything with the law firm’s logo on it.

Want to Be a Rainmaker? Try This

Posted in Client Development

Over the years I have been frequently asked: How can build my practice and become a top rainmaker in my firm? 

I always say that is a great question. It’s natural to ask that question because when you are a rainmaker you have control over your destiny, you feel in high demand both by your clients and by your firm and you have the most coveted asset a lawyer can have-clients and a book of business.

Many young lawyers don’t know where to start or how to best spend their time. Are you one of those lawyers? If so you are not alone. Let me offer some thoughts for you.

Start Here: Decide What You Want to Achieve

The first step for you is to discover what you want and then create a plan to achieve it. How did I do it?

If you are a regular reader you know that in 1978 I decided I wanted to become the preeminent transportation (highways/air/rail) construction lawyer in the United States and I developed a plan to achieve it. When I started I had a long way to go because I had never done any work for a transportation construction contractor.

Next: Create an Effective Business Plan

When I prepared my business plan for that year and every year thereafter,  I did both a top down approach and a bottom up approach. In the top down I wrote down all the actions I wanted to take.

I still have my  1999 business plan. I saw that it included workshops for four clients, presentations at four construction association conventions or meetings, my monthly Roads and Bridges magazine column and visits to 20 construction contractor clients.

In my bottom up approach I decided how non-billable much time I would devote to client development and estimated how much time each of my action items would take. I broke my plan down into 90 Days Plans and then further broke it down to a weekly plan. Each week I planned my client development activities and I tried to do something, no matter how small an activity, each day. 

Build Your Profile: Writing and Speaking to Get Hired

Most rainmakers have built their profile and focused on becoming the “go to” lawyer in their field. Look at their bios. You can build your profile by writing and speaking. Whenever you find something your clients need to know, write an article or a blog post. When you do identify a problem or opportunity and offer a solution.

Your goal in writing articles or blog posts is to have your potential clients see you as the person to handle the solution.

Make Your Presentations to Business Clients Different Than Other Lawyers

I urge you to make your presentations to business clients different than other lawyers. Many lawyers think, write and speak linearly. As a result, they give the audience the history of Swiss watch making in a series of incredibly wordy and boring PowerPoint slides when the audience really just wants to know the time.

Make your presentation more like a rock concert. Start strong and end strong and have your audience wanting to hear more from you. Make your slides visual and when possible includes some multi-media. Engage your audience by asking questions and getting them involved. 

Finally: Build Relationships

Client development is also about building relationships. As a starting point, become more focused on your contacts. You should not have random lunches with contacts when you can’t find anyone in your office with whom to eat lunch.

 Clients typically narrow their choice of lawyers based on reputation, but they hire based on how well you connect with them. When you meet in person you have a very short time to develop trust and rapport. There is a way to do it and it begins by generally caring about the other person. 

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

You can become a rainmaker. Do it by planning your time wisely, developing your profile and reputation and building relationships. What else can I do to help you?

How to Stand Out in Any Crowd

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

If you read my recent post, Fast Forward: What Will You Be Doing in 2020?, you know that in October, Canadian law firm,  McCarthy Tétrault featured Seth Godin as a speaker at the firm’s annual retreat. 

When did I first learn about Seth Godin? I believe it was eight years ago when I read the November/December 2006 ”Selling Power” magazine cover story: “How to Stand Out in Any Crowd.” Seth Godin wrote about marketing, change and work. I was fascinated by the article and shared his thoughts with many lawyers I was coaching at the time. 

In the article, I learned that Seth Godin likes to give things away and has built his career on it. I have long advocated that lawyers find things of value to give away. 

When Godin wrote his first book he offered a third of its contents online at no charge. He got 175,000 responses requesting the free third of the book. Most of the 175,000 who received the free third of the book clicked the link built into the page and bought it, making it a year long best seller. 

Whenever I write an article, I am anxious to give it away. When I give a presentation, I put the slides on 

Later in the article, Godin talks about three kinds of people. I will put it in the context of clients:

  1. Clients who don’t need the services you or your firm offer
  2. Clients who need the services you or your firm offer, but are using another lawyer or firm. 
  3. Clients who are ignoring you. 

Seth Godin says you can’t market directly to the second and third group. “Instead, have them come to you.” How do you suppose you can get them to come to you? He suggests you have to create something “remarkable.”

I was unable to find a link to the Selling Power article, but I did find this link to a 2003 Fast Company article IN PRAISE OF THE PURPLE COW with plenty of tips you can use today.

What remarkable thing can each of you create that will get clients in those groups coming to you?

Your Career: Year End Planning for 2015

Posted in Career Development

This week I received an email from one of the lawyers I am coaching. His email and my reply are below.

I wanted to follow up on our coaching session a week ago and  get your thoughts on year end planning.  Specifically, when you would do your year end planning, what areas would you focus on?  Thanks, and I look forward to receiving your thoughts.

I replied:

I do my year end planning between Thanksgiving and end of year. I especially like Thanksgiving weekend and the time between Christmas and New Years because I can relax and focus. (I could have added that I get bored watching football, do not want to shop on Black Friday, and after working out my mind is more creative.)

Here is my focus:

  1. I look back on what I have accomplished this year: What did I learn? What did I do? What results did I get? What could I have done better? What did I most enjoy?
  2. What do I want to accomplish next year? What goals? Why are they important to me? What do I want to learn? What do I want to do better? What would be a home run for me?
  3. What actions do I need to take? I always try to list 25 in a stream of consciousness. When will I do each?
  4. I write all of the answers to these questions and my list of 25 actions.

Why is that an important step?  Studies have shown that we are far more likely to do things we have committed to writing and when we set a date certain.

What year end planning are you doing this long weekend? What is your home run for 2015?

Little Things Matter: Sending a Card Counts

Posted in Client Development

Have you thought about how much little things matter?  It’s easy to get so focused on practicing law, doing good work, and accumulating billable hours.

You clearly need to get those “big things” done.  However, there are plenty of examples of how important little things can be.

With the holidays approaching, this is a good time for you to think about the importance of little things.

Each Friday for a few weeks, I’m going to post stories of attorneys doing little things that matter to their clients. Of course I will change the names to protect the innocent and edit the stories to preserve confidentiality, but the essence of the stories will remain intact.

I hope these blogs will help give you ideas on what you can do for your clients. And if you have a story to share, please forward it to me, it may help someone else.

Little Things Matter

An attorney I coached did a little thing that his client appreciated. It didn’t take much time, but it was appreciated.

The young lawyer sent his client a card upon learning about the arrival of a new grandson. The client responded by sending this email:

Thank you for taking the time to send the card regarding my family’s new addition.  I have shared it with the family and it was sincerely appreciated by all.

I believe that client will remember his lawyer’s thoughtfulness for some time.

What client just came to your mind when you read this little thing?  You may want to take a few minutes to send that client something that will matter.

Do you have a little thing that mattered story to share? Please send it to me.