Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

James Allen: 19th Century Self Help Guru

Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development

As you know, I find inspiration from quotes. I doubt many of you have ever heard of James Allen.

He was an English author in the late 1800s. His quotes have inspired many, but few have ever heard of him.

He was a self-help guru when self-help gurus were not cool. Here are just a few of his quotes that I hope will inspire you.

You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.

To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.

For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?

All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.”

If you want to learn more about James Allen and download his most famous book As a Man Thinketh, check out James Allen (1864-1912)An unrewarded geniusa website devoted to his writing and teaching.

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Chapter Four of the book focuses on having a purpose, something I believe we all need. I particularly like this paragraph from that chapter:

A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts. It may take the form of a spiritual ideal, or it may be a worldly object, according to his nature at the time being. But whichever it is, he should steadily focus his thought forces upon the object which he has set before him… Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.”

What Allen described is still valid today. Take a look at this Atlantic Monthly article: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. I like this quote:

In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, in the meaningful life “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

So, have you decided what your major definite purpose is for being a lawyer? Have you focused your thoughts on achieving it?  


Law Firm Leaders: What Are Focused On?

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

As you know, I have co-authored three parable books: Say Ciao to Chow Mein, Rising Star and It Takes a Team. Say Ciao is about Tony, a young lawyer burning out, Rising Star is about Gina, Tony’s wife, who is about to lose her one large client and feels she may be a “one hit wonder.” (Gina and Tony are also characters in my novel.) Team is about a rainmaker, David Coleman, for whom no young lawyer wants to work. (he’s the bad guy in my novel.)

I wrote each of the books to address what I saw in law firms. If I write another business parable book, I want to focus on leadership. I find many senior lawyers do not know the difference between managing and leadership.

I asked a friend who has been around law firm leaders for 25 years to tell me how law firm leaders spend their time. Here is what he told me:

  1. Most law firm leaders spend the majority of their time thinking about and dealing with the most recent and urgent issue related to the firm. These issues are typically not critical to the firm’s future but are small fires burn that leaders derive satisfaction from extinguishing.
  2. Most law firm leaders are consumed with thinking about matters related to making their law firm bigger. There is a national obsession with growth without direction.
  3. Most law firm leaders are focused on Profits Per Partner. This focus is typically not related to any strategic imperative but the AMLAW 100.

It is easy to make a list of what law firm leaders don’t focus on that is important. The very best law firm leaders I have met focus on:

  • Direction
  • Motivation
  • Communication,
  • Values,
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Inspiring

Just suppose you spent your time on LEADING. It could easily distinguish your firm from competitors.

Practicing Law: It Was Easier Then

Posted in Career Development

Are you focused on what you want to achieve or the person you want to become? I ask because you will approach your career and life differently.

When I started in private practice it was easier to be focused on the person I wanted to become.

This week, 39 years ago, I finished my four years as a lawyer on active duty in the US Air Force, and Nancy and I drove our AMC Gremlin (ugliest car we ever owned)  from Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to Roanoke, Virginia where I started in private practice with Martin, Hopkins and Lemon.

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Practicing law and staying focused on what was important in my career and in my life was easier then. I did not have a computer on my desk, or a tablet, or smart phone loaded with apps. Secretaries used typewriters, carbon paper and whiteout to correct mistakes.

Mr. Martin was in his 60s, (probably younger than my current age.). His secretary of at least 30 years was Ms. Johnson.

I was startled when she called me “Mr. Parvin.”  I was in awe of her. I was sure she knew more about practicing law than me. Thankfully, she took me under her wing and kept me from making really stupid mistakes.

A few years ago, Nancy, Jill and I caught up with Ms. Johnson while eating breakfast in Roanoke. She was in her 80s and was eating by herself. I had to give her a big hug and thank her for taking an interest in me.

We never used the term mentoring or shadowing, I received it every day. I regularly visited the older lawyers and asked advice on matters. If an older lawyer was visiting a client or going to court he took me along to watch. 

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One time, Mr. Martin, who wore a hearing aid, accompanied me to an argument on a motion. I remember arguing the motion and getting to the point where I could feel Mr. Martin pulling on my suit coat trying to get me to sit down.

Then in a voice he thought was a whisper, but was heard by everyone in the courtroom, he said:

Damn it Cordell, you’re winning, but if you keep talking you’re going to blow it. Sit down.

I was really embarrassed. When I looked up I saw the judge, one of Mr. Martin’s long time friends, smiling.

It was easier to learn from experience back then. Most Roanoke firms did insurance defense work and young lawyers, like me, gained first hand litigation experience, by litigating subrogation cases in General District Court.

I can’t remember how many hours I billed in a year, but I would be surprised if it was even close to how many I billed many years later. 

It was easier to distinguish work life from personal life because we weren’t available 24/7. I did not receive many calls at home from clients, so my personal time was my own.

I knew what I wanted and I created a plan to achieve it.  I established goals and listed activities I wanted to do to achieve them. I also planned my personal life each week around my roles.

I got some ideas when I  read Stephen Covey’s best seller: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and I planned my personal life each week in even more detail.

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Stephen Covey’s Habit 3 is Put First Things First. He suggests answering the following two questions: 

  1. What one thing could you do (you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular basis would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?
  2. What one thing in your professional life would bring similar results?

If you want more to read on Habit 3, take a look at this article, or this short Stephen Covey video.

In a Forbes article: Stephen Covey: 10 Quotes That Can Change Your Life, there are at least 3 of Stephen Covey quotes that focus on Habit 3.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

Life is more complicated today. For many of you, there is no clear line between your work and your personal life.

So, what can you do? Today more than ever answering the two questions above can make a difference in your life.

Success: Try these 9 things successful lawyers do differently

Posted in Career Development, Client Development, Motivation

I have coached 100s of women lawyers from the US and Canada and I mentored many women lawyers when I practiced law. Many of them have become top rainmakers and leaders in their law firms.

I hope many of those top rainmakers and leaders will read this and pass it on to younger women in their law firm.

Have you ever heard of Heidi Grant Halvorson? Yesterday, I wrote and included a video clip about Stanford Professor Carol Dweck. She was Heidi Grant Halvorson’s graduate advisor. They both give me great tips I can apply coaching lawyers.

In 2011, Heidi Grant Halvorson published: The Trouble With Bright Girls. I found it very helpful for my coaching and my novel.

You would think there would be no problem for a “bright girl.” But, if you are a dad or mom with little girls, I urge you to read the article and see how you can help your girls overcome the baggage that comes with being a ‘bright.”

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To help with your own career, I recommend that you read Heidi Grant Halvorson‘s Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Don’t just read her blog with the list, spend $3.47 and get the short book on your Kindle, iPad or other digital reading device.

While you are reading, figure out how each of the 9 things applies to practicing law in a firm.

Here is the list of 9 things:

  1. Be Specific To be successful, you have to specifically define what success means to you.
  2. Seize the Moment If you are creating goals that is super, but by itself it is not enough. You must take the actions necessary to achieve your goals.
  3. Know Exactly How Far You Have Left to Go That means you should focus on what you have left to do, not what you have already done.
  4. Be a Realistic Optimist I love what I read in Success Magazine: Super Achievers think optimistically and plan purposely. So should you.
  5. Focus on Getting better Get up each and every day and try to become a better lawyers and more valuable to your clients.
  6. Have grit Client development is a marathon not a sprint. You need to stick with it even when you are not getting the benefits and even when you just don’t feel like it.
  7. Build your Willpower Muscle Have the willpower to do the things that will give you energy (like exercising regularly) and giving up the things that rob you of energy (like overeating or drinking too much or too often.)
  8. Don’t Tempt Fate You will likely be more successful if you work on achieving one goal at a time. Accomplish that goal and then move on to the next one.
  9. Focus on What You Will Do, Not What You Won’t Do Put everything in positive terms. If you play golf what happens when you tell yourself not to hit the ball into the water?

I would like to post 9 guest blog posts. If you send me how you are implementing any of the 9 things, I will post the ideas here.

In the meantime, if you have just a few minutes, take a look at this Heidi Grant Halvorson video on achieving goals. You will see four of the tips above.

When I finished reading Heidi’s short book, I went to Amazon and ordered the Kindle version of her book: Success: How We Can Reach Our Goals. I am reading it now and highly recommend it. I will share some ideas from the book with you in future blog posts.

Client Development: The Power of “Not Yet”

Posted in Client Development

Over the years I have come up with a strong opinion. It is

Client Development is not rocket science.

If I am right, why are lawyers not just doing it? Maybe I can explain and convince you.

What is the Power of “Not Yet?” If you are a senior lawyer mentoring younger lawyers, a junior lawyer trying to develop business, or a parent with children growing up, I invite you to read this post and watch the Carol Dweck video.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am a fan of Stanford Professor Carol Dweck.  Go back and read:

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I recently came across a TED Talk she did in 2014. Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve.

It is only about 10 minutes long, but well worth watching. If you are making client development efforts without success so far, don’t think you are failing. Instead think of it in terms of “not yet.”

Client development is more natural for some than others, but I strongly believe client development skills can be developed. I have shared it was not natural for me. I developed it.

Carol Dweck asks:

How can we build the bridge to “yet?” If you work with me, you know that we work on the process. We work on constantly making progress. I praise the lawyers I coach based on their effort.

Lawyers I coach who are focused on making progress are more engaged, more strategic and more likely to stretch themselves and get outside their comfort zone.

Clients: How Many Does it Take to be a Big Success?

Posted in Client Development

When I finished practicing law full time in 2004, I had the fewest number of clients and generated the greatest amount of revenue.

Many young lawyers are focused on the number of clients they or their firm might attract, when the actual focus should be on the number of right clients.

I know law firms, which have many clients. My old firm was one of them. Our firm was once told that we were losing money, or breaking even on 14,000 clients and thankfully making it back on the 1000 clients that were most important.

I used to say, we should be hunting for elephants who understand what they want and need, can afford to pay for it, and recognize when we add value.

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Why did we have so many clients? Our firm rewarded partners based on the revenue they generated, without considering the profitability that revenue generated.

If you are a small firm and think there is no way you can represent big companies, you are wrong. I began representing one of the largest US construction contractors when I had my own firm with just three lawyers.

If that doesn’t convince you and you want ideas on how to do it, take a look at Landing the Big Fish: Small Firms Representing Big Companies.

I thought of this idea recently when I read Seth Godin’s post: Almost No One. He explains the difference between “no one” and “almost no one.” He said:

…Most brands and organizations and individuals that fail fall into the chasm of trying to be all things in order to please everyone, and end up reaching no one.

That’s the wrong thing to focus on. Better to focus on and delight almost no one.

Are you and your firm focused on and delighting “almost no one.?”

Client Development: 25 Incredibly Important Tools for Your Tool Kit

Posted in Client Development

I am frequently asked by lawyers I am coaching for marketing tools for their tool kit. Here is my Top 25 list of tools I have shared with them:

Toolkit 2015

  1. Your plan – it is not the plan itself that is so important as the planning that goes into it. Time is a precious asset. Planning will help you use it wisely.
  2. StrengthsFinder-Knowing your top 5 Strengths will enable you to use your time most effectively.
  3. 90 Days Actions- Breaking your plan down into 90 days or 30 days makes it easier to get things done.
  4. Accountability Partner- Having an accountability partner helps you stay on task.
  5. A Journal-Keeping a journal is another way to be accountable and it helps you figure out what is working for you.
  6. Google Alerts, Twitter, Flipboard, Zite – all tools you can use to bring information about your clients, their industry and law impacting them to you.
  7. Blogging-One of the easiest and most effective ways to create a trust based conversation with clients and potential clients.
  8. Buffer and Hootsuite-Tools you can use to disseminate the content you create all in one place.
  9. Prezi-Great new tool to create presentations.
  10. LinkedIn-Confident that you know about this tool by now.
  11. Google Plus-I read that it is the second largest social media network in the world. I understand if you post your blog on Google Plus you get a boost in Google search for 24 hours.
  12. Your Target Market – I coined a phrase “if you market to everyone you market to no one”. One of the biggest changes in my legal career has been the move to more specialization. Seek to become the “go to” lawyer for a narrow market.
  13. Slideshare-The tool to upload your presentations and then make them available on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
  14. Monarch stationary and/or cards – In social media, email and text era, handwritten notes are more important than ever. I had both firm ones and personal ones.
  15. Your website bio – clients look at this. Is your photo current and are you happy with it? Can a client download articles you have written or presentations you have given. Update often.
  16. Industry Publications- find out what your clients read and subscribe (e.g. All my construction clients read Engineering News Record).
  17. “Getting Things Done” – a book by David Allen that will provide ideas for you to save time. (I actually saw wood on the top of my desk for the first time in 20 years.)
  18. Youtube – If a professional shoots video of you presenting, edit it into short segments and upload to Youtube.
  19. Podcasts – take what you have written and record it into a podcast. Also consider interviewing thought leaders for your podcast.
  20. Your Elevator speech and Your Elevator Questions – you will inevitably be asked what you do. Have several answers on the tip of your tongue. Don’t just say I am a litigator. It is also important for other lawyers in your firm to have a clear idea of what you do so they can think how you might help their clients. Have elevator questions ready because, being candid, people do not care about what you do and they love to tell you what they do.
  21. Listening skills – this is the most important and most overlooked skill for us. Most lawyers are already thinking about how they will respond while their client or contact is talking. Learn to listen. Here are 10 Steps to Effective Listening
  22. Remembering names – Really important. Why are we so bad at it? (See 15 above). Here are 10 Simple Tricks to Remembering Names
  23. Focused Contacts- Joyce created an Excel Spreadsheet that enabled me to rank my contacts three ways so I focus on the most important ones. Read: Want to be More Focused About Your Contacts
  24. Follow up – many lawyers lose out on opportunities by not following up.
  25. Holiday cards-have become a modern day version of spam. Make yours unexpected and unique.

Political Savvy May Get You The Promotion (or Clients) You Deserve

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

I was on Twitter the other day and saw a link to a new book. book cover promo_03 copy

I read the first chapter and asked author Bonnie Marcus to share with lawyers, her ideas on promotion and attracting clients. Before you read her advice, take a look at the about page from her webpage to learn more about her.

In the beginning of my corporate career, I made a conscious effort to avoid office politics.That is, until I had an experience where I was passed over for a promotion.  As a result of this experience, I understood for the first time how my avoidance of the workplace dynamics set me up to be blindsided and overlooked.

My comfort level, like many women, was to focus on my work and performance. In fact, according to The Center for Work Life Policy (CWLP), 77% of women believe their talent and hard work positions them for advancement.

Our avoidance of the politics, however, makes us vulnerable because we lack the information about what it takes to get promoted and who makes and influences the decisions.

Political savvy is critical in order to survive and thrive in highly competitive work environments. It involves both the willingness to embrace the politics and the savvy to navigate the reality of your workplace.

Top 5 things you need to do to become politically savvy and get the promotion you deserve

  • Promote yourself with savvy and authenticity.

In order to promote yourself well, first take the time to understand your value proposition; the unique way you deliver the work for successful business outcomes. Your value proposition gives you confidence to communicate your achievements.

  • Observe the workplace dynamics.

There are three major things to look for when it comes to your workplace: the rules, the power, and the culture. Who has power and influence? How are decisions made? Who are the decision makers? Who influences those decisions? What are the formal rules and the unwritten rules? Which rules are sacred? What does it take to get ahead? What type of behavior is rewarded and what is not?

It takes focus and intention to understand the complexities of your workplace culture. Keeping abreast of these dynamics helps you align yourself with those who can best help you reach your goals.

  • Network strategically

Research supports the fact that networking strategically leads to higher income and bonuses and faster promotions. Start with your career goal. Who do you know and who do you need to know inside and outside the organization to help you reach that goal? Step outside your comfort zone to build connections and relationships with the right people; people who will speak for you and recommend you for promotions and high profile assignments. Research also shows that the more diverse your network, the more effective it is for your advancement. This requires you to step outside your comfort zone perhaps and reach out to people you may not know but who you believe can help you reach your goal.

  • Find a sponsor

As you build a network of allies and champions, identify potential sponsors. Sponsors take action on your behalf and help create new opportunities for you. They promote you and protect you from the politics at play.

  • Get a coach

Working with a coach helps you overcome both your internal and external barriers to success. A good coach can have a huge impact on your career by providing a clear road map for you to reach your goals.

Ambitious men and women understand that great performance only qualifies you for the promotion. Political savvy is necessary to achieve and maintain leadership status.

Law Firms: What Business Are You In?

Posted in Client Development

Paula Black  posted a wonderful blog titled: Legal Business Development: What Business Are You In?  I urge you to read Paula’s post.

When asked lawyers in most firms would likely say:

We are in the business of providing legal services to clients.

businessman older bored.jpgWhile that answer would be accurate, as Paula points out, it likely would not generate much enthusiasm either by the firm’s clients or the firm’s lawyers and staff.

As you know, I recently read The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success by Carmine Gallo. A few weeks ago I read:

Apple is not in the business of selling computers; Apple “enriches lives.” Zappos is not in the business of selling shoes; Zappos “delivers happiness.”

Paula gives other great examples of what business well-known companies are in. What business is your law firm in?

Here is the bottom line:

Your firm will be more successful if the business you are in is about your clients and helping them achieve their goals rather than about what you do as lawyers.

Do your lawyers and staff know what business you are in?


Client Development: Video Coaching Program Takeaways

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

Lisa Karczewski is an intellectual property lawyer with Fox Rothschild practicing in the firm’s downtown Los Angeles office. Among other client development efforts Lisa frequently writes on the firm’s Art Law Blog.

I have never met Lisa in person. I have never even talked to her on the telephone, but I have had a blast interacting with her each week as she went through my 7 weeks video coaching program. She was so enthusiastic that I asked if she would share her thoughts with you.

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I recently participated in Cordell Parvin’s 7 Weeks  Video Coaching Program. I am so happy that I signed up for the program (a colleague in my firm’s Los Angeles office signed up for the program and I thought I could benefit from it as well).

I have been building my intellectual property practice at Fox Rothschild LLP and thought I could get some new ideas and thoughts. I love continuing to learn and becoming the best that I can be in my personal and professional life (so I thought why not, I am determined to become a consistent rainmaker at my firm).

After having gone through the seven modules and accompanying exercises (yes, there are assignments to complete each week, but they are manageable and very helpful, and Cordell offers candid, honest feedback as a great coach should), I really feel like I have a strong foundation in which to make client development a solid part of my day-to-day routine each week.

The seven modules (i.e., Introduction to Client Development, Build Your Plan / Planning, Build Your Plan / Goal Setting, Build Your Profile / Writing, Build Your Profile / Speaking, Build Client Relations / Communicating, and Build Client Relations / Building Rapport – Communication) are truly all gems, but if I had to choose my top three takeaways from the modules/program and how I am implementing them, my short list would look like below:

1. (Build Your Plan / Goal Setting) Create A Written Business Plan Each Year

Before this program, I admit that I have not consistently created a written yearly business plan. A business plan not in writing (i.e., in your head) is not effective. In order to hold yourself accountable each week, month, year, one must have a business plan in writing. As a result of this program, I am completing a formal written business plan for this fiscal year and plan to do so each year thereafter. Never again will I hold it all in my head. A business plan in writing is effective.

2. (Build Client Relations / Communicating) Know Your Clients’ Learning Styles and Personality Types And Effectively Communicate With Them

This was my absolute favorite lesson gleaned from the program. Without giving too much away from Cordell’s program materials, there are three primary learning styles (i.e., visual, aural, and kinesthetic) and four primary personality types (i.e., analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive) of clients.

In order to effectively communicate with your client, you must know which personality type your client fits into as well as his or her learning style and communicate with the client in such manner.

For example, a CEO with a “driver” personality type prefers that you get down to business quickly, avoid too much detail, and be factual and succinct. If the client has a “visual” learning style, he or she will learn best by being shown information and communication will be to the effect of “I see what you mean.” I will definitely be more aware of this in my future interactions and communications with clients as everyone indeed has their own personality type and learning style.

3. (Build Client Relations / Building Rapport – Communication) Ask Good Questions, Be An Active Listener To Your Clients, And Build Trust And Rapport With Your Clients

This was another invaluable lesson. It is essential to ask your client good questions (use the SPIN model from a book by Neil Rackham – Situation, Problems, Implications, Needs) in the meeting and learn to be an active listener and let your client  finish what he or she has to say.

Doing so will enable you to build trust and rapport with your clients. This is a lesson that I have immediately implemented in my intellectual property practice as there is always room for improvement in how one asks smart questions to clients tailored to one’s specific practice area.

* * *

So there you have it – my top three takeaways from Cordell Parvin’s Video Coaching Program (the next best thing to being coached in person). I can’t recommend it enough to my colleagues who are actively seeking to develop or fine tune their business development skills.

I am excited to continue to implement what I have learned from Cordell’s program and will complete a self-assessment shortly to see where I am at from when I first started the program back in early May.

I suspect that my overall score will be higher thanks to this highly effective program offered by Cordell – if you put in the effort, you will get so much out of it.

Thanks Lisa.

So, what do you suppose the key is for Lisa now? Sticking with it. I have urged her to make a plan for each week and if she would like, share it with me.