Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Business/Career Planning: If You Are Still Stuck-Here’s Help

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Before I begin, I want to share that I’m still looking to coach lawyers in two more law firms this year. If your firm is considering a client development coaching program for 2017, reach out to me.

I received an email this week from a lawyer I am coaching. He said:

Cordell, I know it’s important for me to have a 2017 Business Plan, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure where to start and I want to make sure my plan will help guide me.

I shared with him this blog that I posted in 2012. If you’re also stuck, I hope it will help you.

I have always learned from seeing what other lawyers were doing and then adapting the best I saw to my own situation. I believe most lawyers learn the same way.

This month I have received several requests from law firms and lawyers asking for workshop materials and plan templates I have created for lawyers.

If you or lawyers in your firm are still stuck on how to create your 2012 Business or Personal Performance Plan I hope you will find the workshop materials, plan templates, articles and workshop slides valuable.

If you haven’t read it, you can read my Practical Lawyer article: Making 2012 Your Best Year Ever. You can also go through the slides from my 2011 Planning Webinar.

If you’ve been stuck, I hope you find these materials valuable.

Client Development: I was recently asked how I did it

Posted in Client Development

A lawyer I coached asked that question.

My answer:

I made presentations at construction industry meetings.

Scan 53How did I get the opportunity?

I was insatiable to find out what issues highway contractors would be facing in the future. Those, over time included:


I created detailed guides for contractors on each of the topics above and gave them away. Then, I was asked to make presentations.

Sounds like a lot of work. How did I find the time?

I never found it. I made the time. Usually from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM on Saturdays and Sundays. I chose that time because, if Nancy wasn’t working at the hospital, she was either working out or…easing into her day, and our daughter was still asleep.

Lawyer Marketing Strategy: Focus on Your Clients’ Industry and Business

Posted in Client Development

Recently, I participated in a program which included a panel of three in-house lawyers. They shared many valuable things to the lawyers who attended. One point they stressed was the importance of understanding their industry and their business.

I often say:

If you market to everyone you market to no one.

Over the years I have known many fine litigators who have told me they did not want to become “pigeon holed” into one area.

I started along the same path when I was trying to attract commercial litigation. The best moves I made were narrowing my focus and marketing efforts to construction contractors and later to the transportation construction industry.

Narrowing my focus to an industry enabled me to understand the problems and opportunities and changes contractors were dealing with, know the influencers personally, get opportunities to write in industry publications and to speak at industry events.

I was hired to help on construction projects, in part because I had studied and  understood how they were designed and built.


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Other professional services firms focus on industries. Large law firms are organized by practice groups based on the work they do and not on based on what the clients for whom they are working do. That is backward.

In my old firm I was asked to try and “cross sell” our labor and employment lawyers and environmental lawyers. Clearly this makes sense because the construction industry has lots of legal work in both those areas.

There was only one slight problem: None of our labor and employment or environmental lawyers understood the construction industry, much less established a reputation in the industry. They had neither written articles nor spoken at industry meetings. They had not even read construction industry publications.

How could I cross-sell their services other than on blind faith in my judgment? I often thought about what we could have accomplished if one or more lawyers in those groups had focused on the construction industry.

What do you know about your clients’ industry and their business? Find ways to continually learn more and you will become a more valued lawyer.

Success: Don’t Fear it

Posted in Career Development

Years ago, our daughter Jill and I exchanged a one word description of each other. I felt great when she described me as “Encourager.” I described her as “Determined.” Among many examples of Jill’s determination is her Jui-Jitsu efforts.


I’ve coached and encouraged many, many lawyers over the last 12 years, and I mentored and encouraged many when I was practicing law.

I’ve witnessed lawyers with great potential and determination become incredibly successful. I’ve learned that I can’t motivate the unmotivated. But, I’ve been most confused by lawyers who have identified what they want in their career and life and have  great potential and motivation to achieve it and then don’t go for it.

As I was doing research for my novel I found a 1983 New York Times article: SELF-SABATOGE IN CAREERS A COMMON TRAP.

The opening line stated the premise:

THE conflict is this: A powerful desire to achieve success is often thwarted by an even stronger fear of it.

The second line suggested the problem was more prevalent in women than men, but that was changing.

That debilitating fear of being successful, which some regarded in the 1970’s as particularly prevalent among career-minded women, increasingly appears to be an abiding problem for members of both sexes.

Two quotes also caught my attention. The first by Benjamin Franklin:


The second by George Bernard Shaw:


In my coaching and mentoring, I’ve discovered that some who fear success do so because a more senior lawyer has defined what success means. Other lawyers fear success in their career because it might take away from their family.

Some lawyers don’t want the additional responsibility. I understand. In my career what kept me up at night more than any other thing was worrying whether the lawyers I had assigned important work for important clients were doing it well.

I wanted to find something more current and a suggestion how to overcome the challenge. I found an interesting blog post: 10 Sure-Fire Ways To Conquer The Fear Of Success written by Barrie Davenport. If this subject interests you, take a look at the 10 suggestions.


Client Development Coaching: Steal My Stuff

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.

Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.

I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.

As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.

Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.

Client Development Coaching: Great Way to Increase Firm Revenue

Posted in Client Development Coaching

Are you considering starting a client development coaching program in 2017?

Several years ago, I spoke and moderated a panel of Virginia lawyers I coached at the Virginia Bar Association Summer Meeting. The title of our program was Helping Lawyers Create and Expand Client Relationships in a Challenging Market.

Clients Ahead Sign SS 68217166


Whenever I do a program on helping lawyers create and expand client relationships, I always encounter what I call the old school lawyers who believe lawyers either have client development skills or not. Many of those lawyers tell me that they never had client development coaching, so why should the younger lawyers in their firm.

A few months ago I blogged: Client Development Coaching: Some Current Thoughts to answer some of those skeptics.

I know there are some seniors lawyers who still might not see the value. There are many reasons client development teaching, training and coaching will benefit your firm.

Here are a few. Client development teaching, training and coaching will:

  • Increase your firm revenue and profitability.
  • Be a great retention tool for your firm.
  • Enable your lawyers to figure out what client development activities work best for them.
  • Help your lawyers deal with the more complicated client development landscape.
  • Enable your associates and young partners to become more successful because they focus on using their time most wisely to become more valuable to clients and potential clients.
  • Enable your associates and young partners to become more focused on their own individual goals and as a result enjoy greater success in their efforts.
  • Produce more cross-selling opportunities for your firm.
  • Develop closer bonds among the lawyers in the program.
  • Produce as great a return on your firm’s investment (ROI) as any investment you make in your lawyers.

I started a client development coaching program in my own firm and enjoyed my experience so much that I left my firm to coach full time.

If you have a successful rainmaker who also loves to mentor and help younger lawyers, you can set up a program in your own firm. If you are a regular reader, you know I have created an eBook: Client Development Training and Coaching that is available on SlideShare and iTunes. You can also find slides: Client Development Coaching Program.


2016: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts

Posted in Uncategorized

At the end of each year I post the Top 10 Blog Posts based on views. As in some previous years, posts done earlier than 2016 made the list.

10. Law Firms: 21 Ideas to Improve Client Service

9. Work Like You Don’t Need the Money

8. About Me

7. Are You Pursuing Excellence or Success

6. 12 Tips to Make Your law Firm One of the Few Your Clients Will Recommend

5. 2015 Planning: Organize into Categories of Your Life

4. Selling Legal Services Do’s and Don’ts

3. Career Success: Why You Should Relentlessly Chase Perfection

2. 50 Topics for Client Development Discussions in Your Firm

1. Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan?

In case you are wondering, the reason Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan is Number 1 is that I recommend each lawyer I coach use it as a starting point for preparing his or her business plan. You could do the same for your 2017 business plan.

Career Development: Three Exercises to Help You Set Goals for 2017

Posted in Career Development

Suppose for the moment that we will be working together in 2017. Suppose  we will have a one hour coaching session every other month. The first thing we would work on would be your 2017 Business Plan. To help you get started, here’s an exercise.

Exercise 1:

Title: Establish Your Goals

Duration: 30 Minutes

Instructions: Begin by brainstorming potential goals. Think about what you want to achieve, clients you want to serve, the type of work you want to do more of, what you want to experience, what you want to learn. After you have completed your list, think about and write down why each draft goal is important to you and when you answer, think about and write down why your answer is important to you.

In other words seek to determine what is motivating you to achieve the draft goal. From your list, determine which goal is your major definite purpose/most important goal. Based on understanding why achieving other draft goals is important, decide on which of the others should be part of your plan.

Exercise 2:

Title: Develop Your Action Steps

Duration: 15 minutes

Instructions: For each goal determine the actions you will need and want to take to achieve the goal. Additionally for each goal, determine what action step you will take in the next week.

Exercise 3:

Title: Begin Work on Your Plan

Duration: 15 minutes

Instructions: Determine how much time you plan to commit to non-billable activities over the next year. Then determine how much of that time you will spend on your professional development, firm activities, pro bono services and client development. For each category, prepare a draft list of action items you could do in the allocated time.

Here is a 2017 Business Plan Template you can use for your plan.



Career Success: What learning is most important?

Posted in Career Development

I posted this blog in 2013. After meeting with a group of lawyers I am coaching, I decided it would be valuable to re-post it, and I’ve added a video clip I hope you find valuable.

John Wooden It's What You Know

That is the Chapter 3 title of a book by former UCLA basketball player Swen Nator: You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices.

I think of this often, because I have met many lawyers who quit learning because they “know it all.” It is like they go on cruise control with their careers. More importantly, I have met many lawyers who quit learning because they think they “know it all,” when if the truth be known, they don’t.

Since we are on the subject of basketball, I read a very interesting story about Kobe Bryant. What Mozart and Kobe Bryant Can Teach Us About Deliberate Practice. (I guess it is also about Mozart, but…). Kobe Bryant clearly knows all there is to know about shooting jump shots. But, read the part where Robert, a trainer for Team USA, describes his first experience with Kobe and reveals one of the reasons the superstar has become so successful. You will find that Kobe practiced very deliberately with the clear goal of making 800 jump shots before finishing.

Jeff Pollock is a successful litigator in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton office. If you look at his bio, you will see he has received many honors for his legal skills and work. He is a prime example of a lawyer who is continuing to learn even after he arguably knows it all. I asked Jeff to share with you thoughts on continual learning.

Because there were few trials at my first firm, I started reading everything I could on trial practice and appellate advocacy (Thomas Mauet on Trial Techniques; McElhaney’s Trial Notebook; Tererence MacCarthy’s books and Cassettes on Cross-Examination; Francis Wellman’s Art of Cross-Examination, etc.)

I also attended the NITA Trial Training Course and then the Advanced NITA Trial Training Course.

I attended Brian Garner’s programs on Legal writing because they not only help with writing, but also with framing the issue—which is the heart of great appellate advocacy.

I also reached out at Inns of Court meetings and at ABA Litigation dinners to Judges I had appeared before and explained that I wanted to really improve my trial practice and appellate advocacy skills. I asked them  to let me know when they had trials, so that I could just sit in the back and observe.

Twenty years ago I began collecting any law review/journal or bar publication articles on trial practice, selecting a jury, voir dire, openings, closing, cross-examination. In particular I am constantly looking for articles and explanations about the theory and policy behind the rules of evidence.

For each major appeal or trial, I talk to anyone who will listen about the matter to get their take on the issue, on the other side’s argument, and on what would be decisive to them.

I do mock trials and appellate “murder boards” for each major case. After presenting the case, I shut up because I want the people in the room to talk openly about what I just offered as the argument. It is critical that I not defend my approach as otherwise there will not be a real discussion.

Some lawyers ask me why I am constantly reading books and articles. When I practiced law, I had “healthy paranoia” which drove me to strive to become a better lawyer.

In my current work with lawyers, the answer can be found in chapter 3 of You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned,”  where Swen Nator mentions the context of Coach Wooden continually learning. He writes that Coach Wooden said:

“The purpose of self-improvement is, of course, to help students improve. [The coach] must continually be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others . . .”

Watch Bill Walton explain how Coach Wooden was the master teacher.

I love helping lawyers improve and that provides me with a great incentive to improve myself. I gave up practicing law so I could spend more time doing it.

Over the years, I received handwritten notes and emails from lawyers I’ve coached who have become incredibly successful. I feel each of those lawyer would have been successful had they never met me. But maybe, just maybe I helped them achieve their success more easily.

I hope you have found something you can implement from my posts this year. If so let me know what you are “deliberately practicing.”

Client Development: How to Use What You Enjoy Doing Outside Work

Posted in Client Development

A lawyer I coached this past year sent me a link to some recognition she received from LexBlog: Energy Law Today Writes with Interest and Gets Positive Feedback.

Melissa Lyon writes the Energy Law Today Blog. In it she finds a way to make reference to her hobby which is baking.

Melissa isn’t the only lawyer I coach who finds a way to work their passion outside of law into their practice.

As you will see below, there’s a lot of potential reading and watching if you click on the links. Think about it when you have the bowl game that no one including you cares about on your television screen.

Basketball Istock

How to Use Hobbies for Client Development

Two lawyers I coached, one in DC the other in Los Angeles, used Trapeze to entertain their women clients.

A lawyer I coached from Houston, created a pick up basketball league and a tennis league. He also entertains clients at Houston Rockets basketball games.

Another lawyer makes wreaths. See  Client Development Holiday Gift Idea

Another uses her photography. See:  Can You Use Your Hobby for Client Development?

Another lawyer is a race car enthusiast, especially BMW’s and he takes photos as well as drives the cars. See: Client Development Make it Fun.

Another lawyer takes photos of his child’s elite soccer team and gives them to parents. See: Adding Value in a Personal Way.

I’ve shared with some of you Alison’s story focusing on her passion for horses: See Alison’s Story: Practical Advice on Developing a Niche Practice 

Here’s more on hobbies. See: 5 Hobbies that Make People Better at their Job.

How to Connect 

We’ve also covered how to connect with people. Here are some materials on that subject.

See: How to Instantly Click with Everyone You Meet

Years ago I read several Nicholas Boothman books. Here is a summary of one of them: Book Summary How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds.

Clinton and Kennedy Charisma. See: Clinton and Kennedy’s 3 Secrets: How to Become More Charismatic

Finally, if you have 24 minutes and are interested, then watch Tony Robbins on Building Rapport.