Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Email (Text) Addiction Keeps Us Unfocused

Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development

We frequently visit a family with a daughter who will be a junior in high school in September.  I have rarely seen her eyes as they are usually focused on her cell phone texting back and forth with friends. 

I wonder what it will be like at a law firm when the current high school students become lawyers?

Years ago, I listened to a podcast interview of Timothy Ferriss, the author of a book titled, The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

As I listened, my first thought was it is a shame no lawyer could ever have  a four hour workweek.

My second thought was: Suppose I only worked four hours a week, what in the world would I do with the rest of my week?

I listened intently and thought Mr. Ferriss had some nifty ideas that we can apply to our own hourly billing driven careers. He coined the acronym DEAL.

  • Decide what you want
  • Eliminate things that do not lead you to what you want
  • Automate and delegate to others things they can do that enables you to do more important things
  • Liberate-use your newly found free time

Since I wanted to learn what I could do with the rest of my week, I bought Mr. Ferriss’ book and went on his webpage:


There, I found an interesting discussion of E-Mail addiction.

Mr. Ferriss noted that “Crackberry” was the official winner of the 2006 Word-of-the-Year as selected by the editorial staff of Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

He also referenced IQ tests done in 2005 by a psychiatrist at King’s College in London. The tests were given to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points.

More interesting was that the group stoned on pot did 6 points better than the group distracted by phone calls and emails.

If the tests reflect on the ability to concentrate, what do you suppose is happening to us as you try to do important work for clients while you are being constantly interrupted by the vibration or ding that you have gotten another email?

How to confront the addiction: I know it would be challenging, but consider only looking at email from 11:30 to 12:00 and 5:30 to 6:00, or only looking at it the last 10 minutes of each hour.

I believe we could be more focused and actually more efficient. Just suppose you created an auto-response, the kind you use when you are out of the office, that told people you are focused on an important project and will be checking email at 11:30 or 5:30.

Do you think you would lose any clients? I think clients would actually appreciate knowing you are totally focused on their matters.

Are You Coachable? Take the Test and Find Out

Posted in Career Development, Client Development Coaching

I’ve been having some “issues” with my golf game. A friend recommended I visit Golf Tec. I went to the one in Plano, Texas and had my “Swing evaluation.”

golf 3 men istock

During the hour, the golf professional asked me to tell him my goal. (For those of you I coach does that sound familiar?) I told him I wanted to reduce my handicap from a 19 to a 12.

That’s pretty ambitious, since I never played to a 12 even when I was in top physical condition prior to….surgeries.

Having watched myself on video in the first session, I can see why I have a 19 handicap. Can I get to a 12? It will depend on whether I am coachable and willing to make the effort between coaching sessions. (For those of you I coach, does that also sound familiar?)

Since I began coaching lawyers in 2005 I have found that some lawyers really put a lot into the coaching program and they get a lot out of it.

One lawyer I coached in 2006-07 when he was an associate sent me an email in January, announcing he had a record year in 2015, originating over $3 million in business. I knew when I coached him, he would be a rainmaker and now he certainly is.

Over time, I have developed Coachability Factors. I urge you to take the test and see if you are coachable.


Lawyers: Being the Best in the World is Seriously Underrated

Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development, Client Development

“Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.”

I loved this quote when I first read  Seth Godin’s at book: The Dip.

What does it mean to be “the best in the world?”

First, it is being perceived as the best by your clients and potential clients. You can not become the best until you clearly understand their perceptions, and they know you understand them.

It is their world, not yours. Being the best also means clients have compared you to other lawyers they have used or met. I’ve found that comparison very interesting.

I have told this story here several times. When I was a young lawyer, I was on a plane with Mr. Burrows, the CEO of my largest client. We were on our way to Florida to try and settle a big contract dispute.

Mr. Burrows was my father’s age and since my father had passed away, I looked at him as a father figure. Mr Burrows passed away a couple of years ago and I still think about how he influenced my career.

We were in aisle seats across from each other.


During the flight, Mr. Burrows reached over and grabbed my arm and said:

“Cordell, there is something I need for you to know. I hate every lawyer I have ever met.”

I could not think of a response. Then, Mr. Burrows grabbed my arm a second time and said:

“But, of all the lawyers I hate, I hate you the least.”

So, on that day I learned that being hated the least by a contractor was “being the best in the world.”

Later, after we had settled the case, I paused to think about what Mr. Burrows was really telling me.

I think he hated me the least because I didn’t talk like a lawyer. I talked more like a contractor who also had a legal degree.

He appreciated that he did not have to pay me to learn about the highway construction contract clauses. I had learned about them long before I did any work for his company.

I also learned that clients expect us to do the highest quality work. If we don’t, we have a far bigger problem.

Where you can differentiate yourself is through being the best in your client’s world at understanding them, their company, and their business (industry).

What are you doing to become “the best in the world” in the eyes of your clients?

Client Development: Andrea has Lost Her Amateur Status

Posted in Client Development

Several years ago I coached Andrea, a young real estate partner in a large national Canadian law firm. When I coached her I discovered Andrea shared Nancy’s passion for golf and was “all-in” trying to become a better golfer.

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I spoke with Andrea the other day. Recently her firm sponsored a foursome in a charity golf tournament and Andrea’s foursome finished on top and won the $5000 first prize.

Each member of the foursome will receive $1000 and the team will contribute another $1000 to the charity.

Andrea asked how she should follow up with the two potential clients who were in the foursome. What would you recommend?

I thought she should buy golf balls and have the firm name, the event and the word Champions printed on the golf balls. I also thought she might bring the foursome together for some sort of fun golf outing or dinner. I suggested it might even be fun to invite spouses, and their children and host the dinner at her house.


Client Development: What to do when your phone is not ringing

Posted in Client Development

What would you do when the phone is not ringing and it seems the well is dry?

A lawyer I coach recently asked me that question.  He was concerned that he might sound desperate if he called clients and asked if they had any work for him or called referral sources and asked if they had any referrals they could make for him.

I told him he would indeed sound desperate. Clients do not want their lawyers to be  “needy” or “greedy.” What client would hire a lawyer with the look of the guy in this photo?


During my career when the phone wasn’t ringing  I did these three things.

  1. I talked to my closest friends-the ones I knew would not consider me desperate talking to them. I asked if they had any ideas for me or could think of any potential clients that could use my help. I used these words: “If you were in my shoes, what would you do to attract business from clients in this tough economy?”
  2. I wrote down 25 actions I could take that would produce business in the short term. I did not stop thinking of actions until I reached 25. I tried to be as creative as I could possibly be. Once I got to 25 I listed them in order of importance.
  3. I found a reason to visit clients, potential clients and referral sources. You have to get out from behind your computer to build relationships.

If the phone is not ringing, it is important not to lose confidence. You have to believe in yourself at those times more than ever.

When the phone isn’t ringing, it is less likely a reflection on you as it is your clients simply have no work for you. Figure out ways you can add value. Identify other potential clients and figure out how you can become visible and credible to them.


Trusted Advisor: Seek to Become One

Posted in Client Development

I am coaching lawyers today and tomorrow. At lunch today, we will be talking about attracting clients without coming across as a salesman. How can you build that trust based relationship?

As a lawyer, you likely are striving to become your clients’ “trusted advisor.”


How do you know when you have become a trusted advisor?

For me, it was primarily two things.

  1. I thought I was a trusted advisor when I got the call for the most important matters. A few years ago, my construction company client was involved in the most important dispute in the company’s history. It was important because the amount of money in dispute was the largest in company history. It was also important because of the delicate relationship with the other entity in the dispute. The company did not want the matter resolved by litigation. I got the call. Over the next two years we got the matter resolved to the great satisfaction of the company CEO and General Counsel. I have never felt as trusted as I did taking care of that matter.
  2. I thought I was a trusted advisor when I was asked for business advice, or asked to make a presentation that was more business focused than legal. One of my clients frequently called asking my thoughts on business matters. I felt like a sounding board for him. He once told me that he greatly valued my judgment. I knew he trusted me and I was a trusted advisor.

Selling Clients: What You Can Learn from “The Gipper”

Posted in Client Development

As many of you know I always have my airplane books on my iPad Kindle App  and audiobooks on my iPhone.

Many years ago, I wanted to find books on selling that I thought would benefit the lawyers I was coaching. Believe it or not, I actually found some.

I read “Heavy Hitter Selling” and I listened to “High Trust Selling.”

While both books are on “selling” there was a great deal applicable to the client development you do.

 In “Heavy Hitter Selling” author, Steve W. Martin, describes one of the weekly radio addresses given by Ronald Reagan. I was blown away by how Ronald Reagan created images that undoubtedly connected with his audience. You can get the Kindle version now for only $1.99.

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Martin began by how we all have an inner-dialogue that represents our deepest feelings. He says basically we are always talking to ourselves. (I know that is true in my case.)

He then described how a speaker can connect with that internal dialogue. Then the author launched into Ronald Reagan’s radio address.

Finally, he analyzed it.

Ronald Reagan’s address was not like any presentation you will ever give, so what can you  learn from it?

Take a look at the Heavy Hitter Selling author’s blog: How Ronald Reagan would Change your Sales Presentation.

Here you will find these ideas:

  1. Reagan Would add a Great “Cowcatcher” He captured the audience’s attention with his opening lines.
  2. Reagan Would Use a Captivating “Hook” After the opening he hooked the audience to listen further.
  3. Reagan Would Incorporate Mental Imagery If you are my age you remember when he began a radio address with: “It’s nightfall in a strange town a long way from home. I’m watching the lights come on from my hotel room window on the 35th floor.
  4. Reagan Would Employ “Softeners” What does that mean? Please check out the example Martin gives.
  5. Reagan Would Be Sure to Include Some Humor He was a master at demonstrating he did not take himself so seriously.

I noticed on the web page that Martin has written more books on Heavy Hitting Selling. I bet they are also valuable for lawyers.

18 Business and Law Books that Changed My Life

Posted in Career Development

I posted this in 2013. I am posting it again as recommended reading for lawyers who want to learn the points I share about each book.

I am able to look back now and focus on books that changed my life and career. Here are 18 of them.

  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (I read this as a teenager along with numbers 2 and 3.)
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Learned about relationship building)
  3. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (My grandfather, who lost everything in the depression, had the first 3 books on his shelf.)
  4. The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow (First book about a lawyer I read.)
  5. The Defense Never Rests by F. Lee Bailey (Second book about a lawyer I ever read.)
  6. Final Verdict by Adela Rogers St. Johns (The most interesting book about a lawyer I ever read. I am posting a blog about this book next month.)
  7. Gunning for Justice by Gerry Spence (I read this after losing a jury trial and it changed the way I communicated to juries.)
  8. In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. (First book about business entities I read. It helped me shape my thinking about law firms in search of excellence.)
  9. Built to Last and Good to Great by Jim Collins (Learned a lot about why organizations succeed. My biggest takeaway is the importance of having the right people on the bus.)
  10. Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins (This book inspired me.)
  11. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (This book may be the most important on my list.)
  12. Peak Performance: Mental Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes by Charles Garfield (I read this in the 80s about the same time as In Search of Excellence, 7 Habits and Awaken the Giant)
  13. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (This 1984 book is very helpful for trial lawyers and for lawyers seeking to persuade clients to hire them.)
  14. SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham (This 1988 book is very helpful for meetings with potential clients. Teaches you how to ask: Situation, Problem, Implication, Need questions.)
  15. Getting Things Done by David Allen (This is the most popular book on my recommended reading list. After reading it, I was finally able to see the wood on my desk and white in my email in-box.)
  16. Trusted Advisor by  David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford (Every lawyer should read this book. Charles Green has more recently written a workbook also worth reading.)
  17. Purple Cow and any other book written by Seth Godin (He really gets me thinking.)
  18. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink (Among other things, this book helped my understand what set me apart from most lawyers. I think I inherited a strong right brain from my creative father.)
I know that many of you will be spending the rest of this week with your family and not likely to be spending time thinking about your career and client development. As a result, I will re-post some blogs from past Decembers. Happy holidays to you and your family.


Bar Leaders: 10 Ideas

Posted in Career Development, Law Firm Leadership

10 Years ago I was asked to speak at the annual meeting of new Texas State Bar leaders. I really enjoyed that experience.

If you are interested in my presentation slides, you can find them here.

Many lawyers are active in the Bar because they want to make a difference and further the purpose and values of the legal profession. Each Bar is unique but share a common mission.

The mission of the State Bar of Texas is to support the administration of the legal system, assure all citizens equal access to justice, foster high standards of ethical conduct for lawyers, support and provide services to its members, enable its members to better serve their clients and the public, and educate the public about the rule of law. Members of the bar commit time, energy and resources towards achieving this goal.


The following 10 ideas are meant to assist Bar leaders in their service to the Bar and its members:

  1. Identify one major goal you want to accomplish during your leadership and ask yourself how accomplishing it will make a difference.
  2. Develop a plan to accomplish your major goal.
  3. Identify the “inspirational lawyers” within your bar and find ways to use them to provide inspiration to others.
  4. Reflect on what it means to be a lawyer and how lawyers have contributed to our society.
  5. Find a way to publicize the contributions lawyers have made to our society and your local community.
  6. If there is a law school in your area, develop a mentoring program for law students, helping them learn to be lawyer and to think like a client.
  7. Develop a mentoring program for young lawyers.
  8. Develop programs for your members on career development, work-life integration and client service.
  9. Develop programs on “professionalism” that go beyond ethics.
  10. “Think outside the box” and try something that has not been done before.

Hopefully each Bar leader will find at least some of these ideas useful. I am sure that some of the Bar leaders reading this blog are “inspirational” leaders and could provide other worthwhile ideas.

Attorney Development: Purpose, Vision and Core Values

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

If you are in a large firm, how’s your attorney development program working? I was the partner in charge at my old firm and I tried to convince our lawyers that if our program was the best it would help in recruiting, retention of lawyers and client development.

If you want to increase the odds of getting the lawyers in your firm behind your Attorney Development program, articulate what the purpose of the program is, what the firm is trying to accomplish and what is expected of the lawyers.

That is what I tried to do at Jenkens & Gilchrist.

Diverse team

Jenkens & Gilchrist Attorney Development Program

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese Proverb

In the book Aligning the Stars, the authors, Jay W. Lorsch and Thomas J. Tierney point out that: “Starmaking” is more important to a firm’s long-term success than “rainmaking.” Talent is the only source of a firm’s competitive advantage.

The purpose of the Jenkens & Gilchrist Attorney Development Program is to enable our attorneys to better serve our clients, to increase our realization and to provide opportunities for greater achievement and career satisfaction.

Jenkens & Gilchrist seeks to have an attorney development program recognized as preeminent by our clients, our lawyers and law students.

Core Values

  • Our attorneys will take responsibility for their career development and satisfaction.
  • Each attorney, associate, shareholder and of counsel must contribute in some way.
  • Supervising lawyers will give clear direction, answer questions, pay attention to quality and provide real time constructive and supportive feedback.
  • Teamwork is encouraged at all levels.
  • Each attorney and staff member will be shown respect. Respect engenders respect.
  • We will endeavor to provide consistent, real and specific direction on career advancement.
  • CLE will be used as a means of acquiring skills necessary to better serve our clients and enable our attorneys to grow.
  • We will demand a lot from our lawyers. They will work hard, meet high standards of excellence, and over time and with our guidance and support, learn to be outstanding lawyers, trusted advisors and mentors for a new generation of outstanding young lawyers.
  • Each associate in our firm has a unique background, unique skills and unique dreams, but they also share things in common. They all want to learn and become better lawyers. They want to perform interesting work. They want to feel like they matter, know where they stand and whether they are on track, and they want to feel respected by senior lawyers and peers.
  • Most of our associates know more about the “science of law” and less about the “art of lawyering” than they will ever know in their career.When it comes to the future, many young lawyers are confused. They feel like they are on a trip to an undefined and constantly moving destination (making shareholder). They are uncertain of the time expected for their arrival, feel they have been given no map to get there, and no compass to let them know where they are.They feel they have no coach or sponsor. Our job as senior lawyers is to teach them the art of lawyering and help them clear up the confusion. This requires us to get to know them, to understand what makes them unique and to encourage them to achieve success as they define it.
  • Our work with our clients is not any different and just was we get good vibes from helping our clients achieve their business objective, we get the same feeling helping our young lawyers achieve their career goals.

You will have more fun and success helping other people achieve their goals than you will trying to reach your own goals.  Dale Carnegie