Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Client Development: Melissa Has Another Book for You

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

If you are a regular reader, you likely remember Client Development: Here’s a Book for You written by Denver Fox Rothschild lawyer, Melissa Lyon. I received very positive feedback from readers, so I asked Melissa to write another book review. Here she shares her thoughts on a book on selling.


Melissa Lyon Photo 2

I have a confession to make, I have read “The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone,” by Fredrik Eklund about 3 times.  My copy is highlighted, underlined, notes are scribbled in the margins, pages are bent in and earmarked, and I even put tabs on some of my favorite pages.

As part of my client development coaching with Cordell, I recognized that attorneys actually do have to learn how to make a sale – practicing law alone, even doing so extraordinarily well, is not enough to bring a client in the door all of the time.

Selling is something that I have always felt uncomfortable with, even though it has always come naturally to me from the time of my first lemonade stand.  This book helps you realize there is nothing bad or negative about selling.  It is a part of life.

Fredrik Eklund is a remarkably successful and charming young, handsome Swede in the real estate biz in New York City, but he reminds us that regardless of your business or the industry you are in, it is all sales.  “The Sell” is something everyone should read at least once.

As an attorney, pitching your legal services and selling your case to your fact finder is sales, even though “salesperson” isn’t what most of us typically consider as part of our professional repertoire.  The ability to make the sale – most of the time a BIG sale – is part of our legal profession and personal lives.

Whether you are making your client’s case to a jury or judge, negotiating a settlement, asking a girl on out on a date or trying to talk your kids into getting in their pajamas at bedtime, it is all a pitch.  It is all selling – and Fredrik Eklund is just the person to teach you the finer points of the skill.  If you are familiar with Fredrik, the words of this book jump of the page as if he were speaking to you directly – you can hear his voice clearly.

I was introduced Fredrik Eklund by a friend who was obsessed with his hit series on the Bravo channel, “Million Dollar Listing New York.”  I mean he was obsessed.  He is also a salesman, so I think he felt like a kindred spirit with the show’s stars.  I was immediately drawn to Fredrik’s energy while watching the show and bought his book as soon as I found out that he wrote one – I just had to learn the secrets to his success.

So what are Fredrik’s secrets?

His fascinating book contains his many tips, hints and secrets, but in my opinion the most important of Fredrik’s secrets to success is in staying true to yourself.  Fredrik refers to it as your authentic self.  It is not changing or molding to what others want or expect, and instead confidently and boldly being who you are.  I have always believed that people are drawn to sincerity and both Fredrik and Cordell emphasize this.

Fredrik purses his lips, wears crazy wild socks and does high kicks while shouting “weeee!”  I love it – share who you are with others.  Being yourself means sharing your life.

We are not meant to live in solidarity, but as part of a community.  No man is an island, as they say.  Fredrik would say build an amazing team, stay focused, work hard doing what you love and then take the ones you love and care about with you to an island to eat wonderful food and drink spectacular wines to celebrate!

Fredrik also teaches you his pointers on effectively and easily using social media to expand your reach.  Engaging with others while being yourself sounds so simple, but it can be so difficult.  We are shy, we want privacy and we don’t want to let people in.  But, after all, isn’t this what life is about?  Being your most authentic self and sincerely engaging with others?

The other secret?  Joy.

Melissa Lyon photo1

Fredrik’s joy is magnetic.  You want to watch him on television, keep turning the page in his book and follow his every move on Instagram because he *truly delights* in his life and work.

Cordell’s client development coaching similarly emphasizes finding what you are passionate about in your career in order to find joy and success.  The task is not finding happiness – happiness is temporary and fleeting, while true joy is lasting.

Read one page of Fredrik’s writing and you will see that the ability to live the results of finding real joy are what we are all searching and working for.

“The Sell” is a must read when working hard to achieve your goals – this is an inspiring and practical guide for everyone, including today’s attorney.  I warn you now, this book is addicting!

Speaking of books, Melissa and several lawyers I coached are reading Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy. Last Friday members of the reading group shared their ideas from Chapter 1 with each other and with me.

I’m looking for more book reviews and guest posts from lawyers I have coached over the last 12 years and lawyers I mentored before that. If you have something you want to share with readers, I invite you to send me a draft.

Also, if you are interested in starting a book group like the one mentioned above, I’d be happy to share some book ideas with you.

Client Development Coaching: Some Current Thoughts

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I love coaching senior associates and junior partners, especially when they are energized and want to learn more.

Most lawyers my age never had coaching on client development when they were senior associates or junior partners. So, naturally many ask why it is important for lawyers now.

There are several reasons why coaching is important.

First, developing business now is more challenging than it was 35-40 years ago. When I was a junior partner we could develop business by just “doing good work,” getting an AV Martindale rating and being active in the community. There were far fewer lawyers, almost all clients were local and loyal.

Now, each year the competition is greater, clients have been acquired and merged, client expectations have increased and the time available for business development has decreased.

Second, many junior partners are in the transition stage of their career where they are moving from being solely service providers to being responsible for building client relationships and developing new business. For many young partners, client development is a mystery.

Third, in 2016, there are far more ways to do client development than ever before. As a result of the mystery, lawyers client development efforts may be unstructured, unfocused, and ultimately unsuccessful.

They procrastinate, are undisciplined, have no plan, little focus, and ultimately little or no execution. Mentors within the firm can balance the current situation with both institutional firm knowledge and their own experience, but they do not have the time to focus on the business development of more junior partners.

John Wooden Activity


Coaching is designed to assist junior partners in their client development and ultimately make client development a habit.

Like working with a fitness coach, participants 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.

Any coaching program should include:

  • Developing a Business Plan that includes the non-billable activities designed to lead to the greatest return on investment
  • Determining both group and individual goals that will challenge and stretch them
  • Determining what activities to undertake to meet their goals
  • Learning how to write articles and blog posts and give presentations that will enhance their reputation and increase their chances of getting hired
  • Developing a Focused Contacts Plan
  • People skills including asking questions and actively listening
  • Being held accountable

Client Development: Attracting Your Second Client

Posted in Client Development

I am coaching lawyers in Florida today and heading back to Dallas this afternoon. One thing we are discussing is persuasion. If this subject interests you, I have a book recommendation below.

A few years ago, I received an email at 10:00 PM from a Reno law firm associate I had started coaching a month before. She wrote:

Cordell, I’ve tried everything we talked about in our first group meeting and my coaching session with you and I haven’t landed a new client. Am I doing something wrong?

Clearly, this associate, who is now a partner was a little impatient and unrealistic, but she might have asked the same question a year later.

I have coached lawyers who have made efforts to raise their visibility and credibility with their target potential clients and haven’t received that first phone call. I tell them do not give up, when the first client calls, the second client will not be far behind.

I know because I experienced it myself.

I started focusing on construction law generally and highway construction more specifically in 1978. It took two years before the first highway contractor called me. After that company hired me, others contacted me rather quickly.

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Why is attracting the second client so much easier. I believe there are two main reasons:

  1. You have figured out what is not working for you. (In my case, I made presentations to the wrong groups. But, even so practicing presenting was worth the effort.)
  2. The first client who hires you gives you the credibility you need to attract the second. (Robert Cialdini called this “social proof.” To get the idea check out: Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion (Over 50+ Examples Inside!)

So, if you are reading this blog, trying the ideas suggested here and not getting results, keep on keeping on.

Rainmaking: If Not Talent What Does It Take?

Posted in Client Development

Do you think rainmaking is something you are born with or something you can develop?

I am living proof you can develop it.

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Some time ago I wrote about the book and article “Talent is Overrated,” I received an email from  a DC lawyer I coached a few years ago. He wrote:

“Talent” will never beat:

  1. Being the first one to “know” something of value for a client
  2. Showing up early and staying late
  3. Exerting enough effort that allows luck to play to your benefit
  4. Convincing the client and the relationship that they matter to you and you are focused on serving them
  5. Being honest when the plan failed.

Recently I saw this 2015 article: 8 traits the world’s most successful people share. Before you look at it what do you suppose are the 8 traits?


A Lawyer Asked: Getting To The Key Decision Makers

Posted in Client Development

While waiting to catch a plane, a lawyer asked me some questions and my thoughts on each question.

His first question was:

How do you ensure you are getting to the key decision makers and approaching the opportunity in the ideal way?

businessman thinking

To determine who the right decision makers are I recommend you do as much research as possible. You might also find it valuable  to have a mole (someone who can guide you) either in the company or in the industry association.

You want to learn as much as you can about the company strategy and as much as you can about the decision makers. If you are in a large firm with a knowledge management team have them provide you with information.

If you are in a smaller firm, set up Google Alerts. If the company and/or it’s decision makers are on Twitter, follow them on Twitter and find out what others are saying about them on Twitter

One final thing, I learned a lesson about giving presentations and conducting workshops.

A national seminar company asked me to give a half day seminar. Another lawyer was asked to give the afternoon session. t I found those who attended the seminars were not the decision makers.

I changed my strategy to doing in-house workshops for individual contractors that I selected. That was far more effective.

Client Development: A First Year Lawyer Shares What He Has Learned

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching


I truly love coaching lawyers. I especially love coaching lawyers with a burning desire to learn. Over the years, I have coached very few first year lawyers, but those I have coached have been among the most motivated.

One of those lawyers is Michael Lehnert, an associate with Henderson Franklin. Michael is one of those lawyers every firm wants to have because he has a burning desire to learn and a great attitude about serving.

On his bio you will find how to connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter. (You could be his 16th follower on Twitter.)

Michael Lehnert

Michael just finished his first year at the firm and I have been coaching him since January. I asked him to share what he has learned about client development his first year. If you have any first year lawyers in your firm, or maybe even second, third and senior lawyers like me,  they will find Michael’s insights valuable.

As a first year associate, I thought all of my time would be spent reading statutes, compliance manuals, and reviewing contracts, all in an effort to understand what it means to be a transactional real estate lawyer.

While I have spent many, many hours doing all of those things, I have also had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time learning what client development means from Cordell Parvin.

Here are a few things I have picked up from my mentors at Henderson Franklin, from Cordell, and a bit from being thrown into the fire:

Lesson 1: The difference between a good lawyer and a successful one is client development.

Many lawyers can do their job well, but if they can’t find a client to pay them to do it, then their ability isn’t worth a whole lot. It is important for us to be able to see the world from our client’s perspective as well as our own.

Lesson 2: Networking is a $5.00 word for making friends.

We all know how to make friends, but for some reason, when I was told to go network at a big conference, I was dumbfounded.

“You mean I am supposed to walk up to random people and ask for business?”

It seemed disingenuous to me, and near impossible to do effectively. After all, what do I, in my months of experience, have to offer my seasoned colleagues and potential clients?

That all changed when I realized that networking isn’t just about extracting business from other people. It is about friends, developing and fostering relationships. It doesn’t matter whether those relationships are based on a desire to work together, or based simply on common interest. Now, I see the conference room as full of potential friends, and the room looks much brighter from that perspective.

Lesson 3: Client development is a daily activity.

Work comes when it’s available. When it does come, it goes to those at the top of the mind of the work distributor. To be on the top of that distributor’s mind, we need to be in contact with that person consistently. That way, when the opportunity to distribute the work arises, the distributor remembers you and what you do for a living.

The best ways I have learned to get on top of people’s minds and stay there is to:

  • Be consistent with your media presence,
  • Take every opportunity to Never Eat Alone, and
  • Be sure to reach out on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to those you already know.

Lesson 4: Client development permeates into all aspects of life.

As my childhood friend’s dad told me, “it’s nice to be nice to the nice.”

You never know whether your friend, neighbor, the person you held the door for, or the person you cut in line could be the next person considering giving you work, so treat everyone like they could be your client.

Also, client development takes time, and we all know how finite our time is. We have to schedule client development, just like we schedule meetings, workouts, and all the other activities we do on a daily basis.

If we don’t schedule it, you know it won’t happen, because even when we do schedule things, sometimes that unpredictable but highly important event happens, and we have to postpone.

Lesson 5: Patience is not only a virtue, it’s necessary.

Client development doesn’t happen overnight. You can meet someone today and not receive work from them until three years later, if at all.

As I understand it, the key is to keep putting yourself out there, and not to give up because your last few months of effort haven’t yielded any results. Client development, like many other aspects of life, is a numbers game. You win some, you lose some, but you will certainly lose all the games you don’t play.

Lesson 6: It’s not about what your client can do for you, but what you can do for your client.

When meeting a new person or new potential client focus on how you can add value to their life.

The common things people care about are health, wealth, and children (thanks, Keith Ferazzi!).

With that in mind, next time you find yourself meeting someone new, consider focusing on, for example, how you can help their kid get into their dream school, your new fruit smoothie recipe, or telling them about how you just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance (without switching to Geico).

I think you can see why the senior lawyers at Henderson Franklin are so delighted to have Michael working with them. I bet that 10 years from now, 20 years from now and beyond, he will still be working on becoming a more valuable lawyer for his clients.

Thank you Michael for some really great insights.



Client Development: Here’s a Book for You

Posted in Book Reviews

Many of you know that several lawyers I coach read books and then share their takeaways from the book with me and sometimes with others in a group they formed.

Melissa Lyon is an energy lawyer in the Fox Rothschild Denver Office. She writes on the firm’s Energy Law Blog and as you will see from her bio, she’s been selected as one of the “Top Women in Energy” by the Denver Business Journal in both 2015 and 2016.

I have enjoyed reading her blog posts over the year we’ve worked together. Here is a link to a recent post, Did you just ask me to dance the Contango? It will give you an idea on why I enjoy reading Melissa’s posts.

Melissa is one of the lawyers I coach who is an avid reader. I’ve asked her to share with you her takeaways from a couple of books.

Melissa Lyon

Last week, I read the #1 New York Times Bestseller, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero in connection with my ongoing business development meetings with Cordell.  It seemed like a natural fit with my business development plan I have been working on…and it did not disappoint!

The short and skinny on this book is that it does not pull any punches.  It is a tough love reminder of how awesome you truly are and that you really can accomplish what you want.

Sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants, and author Jen Sincero gives it to you.  The tone of the book reminded me of talking to my blunt and feisty grandfather in a way – true to his Wyoming roots, he tells me often to “buck up, cupcake.”

It is true, sometimes we do just need someone to tell us bluntly to buck up, dust off your chaps and get back on your horse.  There are times when we just need to hear that and be reminded of who we are…

That we are crazily awesome and wonderful and that we will accomplish everything we set out to.

Jen Sincero, a success coach commonly referred to as a “motivational cattle prod,” is direct and mildly vulgar at times, which made the book feel like a conversation over coffee or cocktails with a good friend that has zero filter.  This kept the book from feeling too kumbaya and more real life, which I appreciated.

This book is a roadmap to getting very clear on exactly what makes you happy, what is your priority and what makes your heart race and makes you feel most alive.  Heavily focused on the well-known “law of attraction” (what you focus on, you create/manifest more of in your life) it sets out the path to changing the way you think so that you can make your goals happen.

One concept that truly resonated with me was to treat yourself like you are your best and closest friend.  It is so easy to be your own worst critic, to focus on your weaknesses instead of your strengths and to dwell on every mistake you make and every misadventure that befalls you instead of focusing on all of your amazing accomplishments and challenges you have risen to.

I appreciated the idea that you would never treat your best friend in such a horrible fashion – so you must treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend, someone you value.

A reminder to focus on how awesome you are is never a bad thing, nor is being reminded to decide to be the best version of yourself every damn day.

Choosing to be grateful for the many miracles in your life attracts more good stuff, and true to Cordell’s guidance that you have to believe you are capable of achieving what you want, this tough love reminder will help you truly believe with every ounce of your being you are capable of manifesting the life that you want.

Because you are a badass.

Jen Sincero also writes a blog worth checking out – “Blog of Badassery.”

As you know I am writing a novel about a Badass lawyer from the Rio Grande Valley called upon to defend a billionaire Texas Oilman in the age where the average juror would like nothing better than seeing a rich man, even if self made, put in jail and his company destroyed.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story, but let’s just day that the billionaire has hired a PR firm to help him win. You can get some ideas where that might lead.

Your Associates’ Careers: From the Unhappiest job to Satisfaction

Posted in Career Development

Many first year law firm associates start today. Recently I read an article in the Dallas Morning News: Eleven firms in Texas hike first-year associate base pay to $180K. Three thoughts came to mind right away:

  1. How can anyone with no experience be unhappy when they are making that kind of money?
  2. What hourly rates do the firms charge for those first year lawyers?
  3. How do firm clients feel about paying them?

At a time when associate salaries have never been greater, law firm associates hold the most unhappy job in the United States. Check out a 2013 Forbes article: The Happiest And Unhappiest Jobs, referencing a survey that found law firm associate to be the most unhappy job.

Why are law firm associates so unhappy? For some, it is simply a misconception about what it means to be a lawyer. Others went to  law school  because they did not know what else to do with their philosophy, or political science degrees and they were pushed to go to law school by a well meaning relative.

Practicing law in big law firms for the last several years has been more stressful. First, the high salaries create pressure on reaching billable hour minimums and in some cases the young lawyers have little control over whether their practice group will have enough work for them to do.

Many decry the loss of professionalism and collegiality that used to exist in our profession. Clients merged or consolidated while the number of lawyers dramatically increased. That created intense competition among firms and lawyers.

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What is lost as a result of billable hour pressures on both partners and associates? I know first hand that training, shadowing and mentoring are not as valued as before.

I believe these points are supported by a September, 2015 Chicago Tribune Commentary:  Why lawyers are miserable.

What should law firms do about this problem? When I was responsible for attorney development at Jenkens & Gilchrist, I decided we should make an effort to focus our attorney training and development program on:

  1. Our lawyers taking responsibility for their careers,
  2. Figuring out what they want,
  3. Setting goals, developing a career plan and executing the plan.

I worked with senior lawyers to encourage associates to define what represents success for them. I spoke at our shareholders’ retreat on the importance of our attorney development program and how it would ultimately increase our profitability.

I conducted Career Development Workshops in each of our offices and shared with our associates what I had done and what I learned in my own career. I helped our associates prepare their Career Development Plan and set goals.

A firm cannot motivate the unmotivated, but focusing on attorney development can make a big difference to the substantial number of lawyers who want to become better lawyers and make a difference for their firm’s clients.

Deliberate Practice: The Key to Becoming More Successful

Posted in Career Development

If you regularly read my blog, you likely know what deliberate practice is. If not, take a look at: Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 1 and Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 2.

As you may know, Nancy, started playing golf when she was about 40. I should not give her age now except to say she is younger than me.

Even though with age, she is not hitting the ball as far as before, currently her golf handicap hovers between 3-5. When we play golf together, she typically shoots between 78 and 82. I can’t remember ever shooting an 82, much less a 78.


Why is Nancy such a good golfer? Sure, she is an athlete. But, more importantly Nancy really works at it. She deliberately practices.

Over the years, even when I wanted to improve my golf game, I rarely practiced and when I did, I typically had no specific practice plan.

Nancy practices frequently and has a plan when she practices. While listening to her iPhone, Nancy will practice bunker shots, or putting, or flop shots.

Each time she practices, she focuses on certain shots. When I am in a bunker near the green, I am worried about either leaving the ball in the bunker, or putting it through a picture window of the home beyond the green.

When Nancy is in a bunker, she is focused on where she wants the ball to land. Before entering the bunker, she will take two or three practice swings to get the feel of how she wants to hit the ball.

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Nancy hit her second shot in the hole on the 18th at Diamanté Dunes Course

So what does Nancy’s golf have to do with us as lawyers?  The principles are the same.

If you want to become a great trial lawyer and you are not trying cases, you actually have to find ways to practice opening statements, or cross examination, or final arguments. When I was a young lawyer I read as many actual cross-examinations as I could get my hands on. Then, I would create a scene and outline how I would cross exam the witness.

Client development skills can be learned the same way.

If you want to learn how to network, go to events where you can practice. In fact, go to a networking event and approach strangers and introduce yourself.

If you want to become a better public speaker, speak in public. Consider joining a Toastmasters International club, or starting your own speaking club.

If you want to become a better writer, write and have someone review it and offer a critique. There are plenty of editors and senior lawyers who are retired, who would gladly critique your writing.

What are your plans to deliberately practice to get better?

Blogging and Non-Fiction: What the Best Share in Common

Posted in Blogging, Client Development

I have spent a career reading non-fiction. I haven’t updated it recently, but here is my  Recommended Reading 2016. (Really 2013)

In 2013 I wrote There’s a Book For That with short summaries of several of my favorites.

Why do authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Daniel Pink and so many others appeal to me? They entertain me, primarily with stories and in the process I learn something.


For example, have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, or his book Outliers? Especially if you haven’t read it, here is my article: Tipping Point for Lawyers article.

Have you read Daniel Pink’s: To Sell is Human? Especially if you haven’t here is my blog: Recommended Reading: To Sell is Human.

Have you read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin? In the book he talks about our Lizard Brain to sabotages us. I wrote about it in Client Development: Self Sabotage.

The writers are writing on different subjects, but they share one thing in common. They are master storytellers and that is why we keep reading.

I’ve written about that skill many times. Here’s just one example: Client Development: One Incredibly Important Skill to Work On.

If you want readers to keep reading your blog, become a master storyteller. If you are a lawyer I coach, I’ve shared with you blogs I like because I feel like I just met the blogger for coffee after reading his or her blog post.

Do you want to dive into this subject further? Read: The Story Grid Spreadsheet for The Tipping Point and the follow on blog posts where Shawn Coyne explains why The Tipping Point works as a series of stories.

Finally, you may know I did a Webinar last week for MyCase.  Here is a link to Webinar Recap: Build Your Practice Through Blogging.