Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

For More Satisfied Clients: Hire and Develop More Satisfied Lawyers

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

Clients repeatedly tell law firms that they are not satisfied. I am confident many law firm leaders don’t hear the word “not”  in the sentence. If they did, their firm might do something about it.

I contend the best way to have satisfied clients is to hire and develop satisfied lawyers. You know, the lawyers who enjoy their work, want to help their clients and want to develop their skills. My theory is supported by the research on this topic.

David Maister, in his book Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture provides powerful evidence that for a professional service firm to be successful it must train, energize and excite its people.

If that occurs, then the quality of work and service will be better and if that occurs, the firm will be more successful.

Maister asserts that employee satisfaction is driven by high standards, coaching and empowerment.

Maister’s findings are consistent with conclusions by Jay W. Lorsch and Thomas J. Tierney in their book Aligning the Stars. They assert that although rainmakers have been recognized and valued in firms for years, starmaking is more important to a firm’s long term success than rainmaking.

The people you pay are more important over time than the people who pay you. Why? Talent is a professional firm’s only sustainable source of competitive advantage.

While law firms go to great lengths to understand their clients’ needs, Lorsch and Tierney ask how well law firms really understand their associates’ needs.

They believe you should apply the same talent you use to understand your clients’ needs to understanding your associates’ needs.

Then, they outline that most young professionals want:

  • to learn;
  • career options;
  • affiliation and teamwork;
  • autonomy; and
  • flexibility to better balance their professional and personal lives.


Posted in Career Development

I read a short article in the Harvard Business Review: What Makes an Effective Executive. It occurred to me that it also is what makes an effective lawyer and business developer. Here is the list.

  • They listen first and speak last
  • They ask: “What needs to be done?”
  • They develop action plans
  • They take responsibility for decisions
  • They are focused on opportunities and not problems
  • They say “we” way more than they say “I”
If you get a chance, read the short article to find out how each point lends itself to becoming an effective executive. Then think about how you might apply those points to your law practice.

Are you coachable?

Posted in Client Development Coaching

I think you know I love coaching groups of lawyers in law firms. The most fun for me is to coach them in person at least four times during a year.

But, I have also really enjoyed the lawyers I am coaching in my new 7 Weeks Video Client Development Coaching Class. Participants watch my video, then complete workbook assignments and send them to me. I offer feedback.

Recently a lawyer in the 7 weeks program responded to an idea I shared with her:

Cordell, thank you so much for this feedback! I’ve been thinking about an xxxxx focus for years but was afraid I might not have enough work. I’m excited that you think it’s a good idea as it’s an industry I’m passionate about. I’ll get started on this right away

Whether in person or on line, how well do the lawyers do? The answer is really pretty simple:

How well each lawyer will do in the coaching program is directly related to how committed the lawyer is to becoming more valuable to potential and existing clients.

I have coached over 1000 lawyers since I began doing it full time. Before that I mentored many lawyers who worked for me.

When I am coaching lawyers, over time I can tell whether they are committed to becoming a more valuable lawyer. How can I tell:

  1. Is he open to the idea of coaching?
  2. Is she motivated to become a better lawyer?
  3. Does he have a clear idea of what he wants in his career and what he wants to get out of the coaching program?
  4. Has she prepared for our coaching session?
  5. What does he want to talk about?
  6. Is she willing to learn new things?
  7. What are his goals?
  8. Is she stretching outside her comfort zone?
  9. Is he holding himself accountable?
  10. Will she persist, persevere and be patient when she does not have immediate results?

Do you have a couple of minutes? If so read: An Eye for Success. If you have two additional minutes, let me know your thoughts.

Our next 7 weeks coaching program starts in June. You can sign up now for only $95. We are also starting a new 12 months client development coaching program for mid-level litigators. The cost is only $95 a month.

If either program interests you contact

Claire Underwood: Do You Like Her?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Do you watch House of Cards? If so, do you like Claire Underwood?

Look, I know she is not a “good” person. But, does she seem confident? Competent? Likable? Does she need to be a likable character?

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Why do I ask? As you know I am working on a novel. A friend told me that my character Gina Caruso is not likeable. As my friend put it Gina is focused on herself, work, sex and family in that order.

I at first thought that would be a problem for a female character. For a male lawyer character it would be ok. After all, some of the most likable and admired men in the world who are focused on themselves, work, sex and family in that order. I suspect you can think of a few.

In one of the North Texas University classes I am taking our assignment was to tell what our passion was for writing our novel and what our theme of the novel is. Here is what I shared:

Passion: The challenge faced by women lawyers to succeed and thrive in the male dominated profession with male dominated clients.

Theme: In 2015 Women lawyers still have fewer opportunities to advance, are judged by different standards leading to greater scrutiny of professional and personal life and are under great pressures to be successful while raising a family.

With that passion and theme, do you think it is important that Gina Caruso be likeable? Can she be like Jessica Pearson? Alicia Florick? Claire Underwood?

As you are pondering the idea, take a look at a Slate post: What’s So Bad About Likable Women? And if we like an unlikable woman, doesn’t that make her likable? Here is a quote:

There has long been a plague of poorly developed female characters outfitted with symbols of likability—good looks, one-liners, adorable flaws—instead of personalities.

Claire Underwood may be an unlikeable woman, but I like her and I believe Robin Wright is brilliant in her portrayal. Check out this recent Vanity Fair article: Robin Wright on Her Role as Claire Underwood and Her Marriage to Sean Penn. Wright describes Claire:

Claire Underwood has been described as manipulative, ruthless, and calculating, but Wright doesn’t really see her that way. “I can’t see her as evil and cunning. To me, she’s utilitarian and efficient,” Wright said between sips of tea.

I also give great credit to the costume designer. Here is another quote from the Vanity Fair article:

Her wardrobe, by first-season costume designer Tom Broecker, is a study in muted elegance, by way of Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Armani, and Zac Posen.

Since I like the character, the actress and the wardrobe I decided to look for more. I found 6 Reasons Claire Underwood From House Of Cards Is The Anti-Hero We Need And Deserve. What are the 6 reasons? Would they make her a lawyer who would appeal to clients?

  1. Claire Underwood is the definition of ambition, and she does not care if you like it. I liked this quote: “Claire clutches to her power by any means necessary, and while I certainly don’t support the majority of her actions, her sheer conviction in achieving her goals is wildly admirable, undoubtedly brave, and absolutely terrifying.”
  2. Claire supports her husband Frank, but never at the detriment of her own goals.
  3. Dat. Wardrobe. Doe. Those expertly tailored pants. Those crisp Oxford shirts. THAT STRAPLESS SILVER DRESS FROM THE CWI FUNDRAISER… Even Claire’s running clothes are more chic than literally anything I own or ever will own.
  4. Claire will not abide thirst.
  5. Underneath her hard exterior, she does have a heart.
  6. She understands the importance of physical fitness.

If you are a House of Cards fan, what do you think? Is she likeable? Do you like her in spite of her being unlikeable? Most important is she an interesting character?



Light My Fire: Motivating and Developing Your Next Generation

Posted in Career Development, Client Development, Client Development Coaching

Greetings today from Chicago. As you know Nancy and I grew up in Chicago. I am speaking here today at the IADC/FDCC Joint Law Firm Management Conference.

I will cover business succession and motivating and developing the next generation of law firm leaders and rainmakers. The title of our panel discussion is LIGHT MY FIRE: It’s Not ALL About Money. It’s About Passion, Purpose, and Fulfillment.

Here is a link to my slides. As you will see, I included a short clip from the Doors appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

Have you ever thought about why your lawyers are not transitioning from being associates whose main function is to get the work done to partners whose main function is to bring in business, build and expand relationships with clients and supervise the junior lawyers?

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When I was the partner in charge of attorney development at my old firm, I spoke at our new partner orientation each year. I began my presentation by asking:

How many of you have written goals and a written plan to achieve them?”

The first year I asked this question, I was astonished when no hands were raised. Here I was addressing our very best young lawyers and not one of them had written goals and a plan.

I wanted to understand why. I discovered:

  • I had greatly underestimated the challenge of getting lawyers to change.
  • The carrot and stick approach did not work and
  • Client development training and coaching should start  before the lawyers were promoted to partner.

Recently scientists have done considerable research on the brain’s role in both learning and performance. They have found that we have both a “hard wired” part of our brain and a “working memory” part of our brain.

For the learning and training you offer lawyers to be effective, you must seek to move it from the working memory part of the brain to the hard wired part of the brain. In other words, you want your young lawyers to develop habits.

In a nutshell, what does this scientific information mean? Your young lawyers are “hard wired” to get their hours. But, they are not hard wired to develop their profile as a “go-to” lawyer and build relationships with contacts and clients.

What should you do?

  • Start training early in your associates’ careers
  • Work on bite sized pieces. Let your young lawyers learn something and implement it before moving to the next subject.
  • Get them to focus on client development ideas and solutions, not on the problems they have to overcome to do client development.
  • Let them come to their own answers. Studies have shown that when people experience an “ah ha” moment on their own there is a sudden adrenaline energy rush that is conducive to making changes.
  • Finally, training by itself will not likely be successful. However, training with follow-up mentoring or coaching will way more likely be successful.

Get started now. There is no better time to “Light Your Young Lawyers Fire.” I have done it and found it rewarding when they experience that “Aha Moment.”


Raising Rates Just Because: Sure Way to Lose Some Clients

Posted in Law as a Business

For several years, my trusty assistant Joyce and I ate lunch almost every Tuesday at one of our favorite restaurants. It was a Tex-Mex Grill in far north Dallas.

We traditionally dined there on Tuesday because the restaurant features “Double Punch Tuesdays” and we get two punches on our card. When we have 10, punches we get a free meal (up to a certain $$ amount), and with 20 punches we get two free meals.

Several months ago after we were seated I noticed we had been handed new menus. I was excited to check out what they had added to the menu.

As I skimmed through the new menu, I found the restaurant had not added any new dishes. Instead,  I found substantial price increases (some as much as 20%) on the same items.

The longer I looked at the menu and realized I would be charged an additional $2.00 for one of my favorite lunch items, the more bothered I became.Finally, I looked at Joyce and suggested that we go somewhere else for lunch. She agreed and we were out of there and on the road in a jiffy.

We never went back, not even on Tuesdays. Why? no one explained to us why the restaurant had raised prices and why the price increase was so dramatic.

I remember the leaders in my old law firm demanding that I raise my rates each year. I hated the idea and protested.

I told the leaders that just because we had entered a new year, that was not reason enough to increase rates. My clients would want to know why.  Had I become smarter by being a year older? Could I do their legal work more efficiently because I had gone from 31 to 32 years of experience?

I asked the firm leaders to give me the “talking points” to explain why my rates would be higher going forward. Needless to say, I never received anything I could share with clients. I refused to raise my rates and told firm leaders I would just work harder.

I left a fine restaurant and may not return simply because the restaurant had raised prices without explaining how we would get more for our money, or the circumstances that made the price increases necessary.

Unless your firm is the “best in the world” and price is no object for your clients, when you raise your rates and provide nothing more than you provided before, you will alienate many clients, some of whom may leave you.



Client Development: Adopt Billionaires Traits

Posted in Client Development

Last week I read an article in the Dallas Morning News Business Section: Learn the fascinating traits that billionaires have in common. As I read my first thought was that the billionaire traits were the very same that I looked for when hiring young lawyers.

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If you develop these traits and make them part of your habits, I predict you will see a dramatic rise in your client development numbers.

  • THEY INVEST IN THEMSELVES: Lawyers who invest in themselves are more successful. Those lawyers may take classes to learn more about their client’s industry. Those lawyers may learn a second language to better serve their clients. Those lawyers develop their client development skills.
  • THEY ARE CONSTANTLY CURIOUS: I was once asked what was the number one trait I looked for in a young lawyer. I responded I want lawyers who are intellectually curious and have the fire in the belly to learn.
  • THEY SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH SMART PEOPLE: I have a friend who yearly brought to his firm millions of dollars of business. He was one of the smartest lawyers I have ever met. But, he routinely told me that the lawyers who were on his team were smarter than him and willing to work as hard as him.
  • THEY RARELY EAT ALONE: The same lawyer mentioned above, never ate alone. Many times he even ate breakfast or lunch twice with different people. In those breakfast or lunch meetings, he asked great questions and actively listened.
  • THEY OWN UP TO MISTAKES: In the competitive world of law firms, this one is a difficult one. But, the top rainmakers take responsibility when things go wrong.
  • THEY KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO USE LEVERAGE: This one again is about building the team, giving the team members credit and doing so to create loyalty and to make the pie bigger. Lawyers who hog credit typically do not retain the super stars with whom they work and rarely make the pie bigger.
  • THEY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSSESSIONS AND GROWTH: I agree with what was said in the article that many billionaires live frugally. If you are a top rainmaker, how are you investing to develop your team?
  • THEY DON’T ALWAYS PLAY IT SAFE: I like to say that the top lawyers I have coached have worked, as part of the coaching, to do things that are outside their comfort zone. If you want to learn more on this subject, take a look at this Huffington Post piece: 6 Reasons To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.

If this post resonated with you and you want to do something about it, drop me a note or make a comment on how you plan to make these ideas part of your habits.

By the way, going back to the first attribute: They Invest in Themselves, I invite you to join our next 7 weeks client development class.

The May group just finished the first of seven modules, sent their assignments to me and received my feedback. Here is a link to the first module the class completed, and here is a SRE Participant’s Guide Intro Mod 1 with the assignment they completed and sent to me.

Contact Joyce jflo@cordellparvin. com to sign up for the June class. The cost is only $95. I have spent more than that in a month on Starbucks Lattes.

Community Newspapers: Why I love them

Posted in Client Development

If you regularly read my blog, you know that Nancy and I grew up in Lombard, IL, a Chicago suburb. On Facebook each day, my Lombard friends are posting photos of the annual Lilac festival. I just saw that Sunday May 17 will be the annual Lilac Parade, a special occasion indeed.

When I grew up in Lombard, our local newspaper was the Lombardian. When I clicked on the newspaper, the first photo to come up was of the 2015 Lilac Queen.

Even I was featured in the Lombardian many times when I played football, basketball and baseball at Glenbard East High School. I have to confess, I was very proud to play for the  Glenbard East Rams and still like the football helmets.


Fast forward: 50 years later, Nancy and I have moved to Prosper, Texas. We love it. In 2 months we have met more neighbors than we met in the 18 years we lived in north Dallas. We have also become big fans of the Prosper Press News, which we receive each Thursday.

Let me share with you what is going on right now in Prosper. First, there is a scholarship program designed to provide a college opportunity for all Prosper High grads. Second, the Prosper Senior High Choirs received awards and will be performing on May 14.

I can’t picture Nancy and I ever going to see a high school choir in Dallas, but I will not be surprised if we go to see the Prosper Choirs on the 14th.

In sports, the Eagles varsity baseball team just wrapped up an undefeated district baseball season and are playing their first game in the playoffs tonight as I am writing this. I have been following the team since we moved here. I can’t remember ever following a high school team when we lived in Dallas.

By the way, I read that a Prosper author just released a new book.  I am hoping the Prosper Press will do a feature when I release my new novel.

I would have written this even if it had nothing to do with law or client development, but I think there is a connection.

What does any of this have to do with client development? Can you guess?

When you live in a big city, there are so many high schools, lawyers restaurants etc. that it is hard to be newsworthy. When you live in a smaller town, it is easier to be newsworthy. For those of you in smaller towns, have you ever written anything for your local paper?

Client Development Tip: Focus on Differentiation

Posted in Client Development

What makes you unique? What makes you different? Have you figured out how to take advantage of it? Are you using it to help define your target market?

It could be that you speak a foreign language. I coached a lawyer whose first language is English, but he likely speaks French more often since he practices law in Montreal.

Speaking English and French in Montreal would not differentiate any lawyer. But, the lawyer I coach also speaks German. In fact his children are enrolled in a German speaking school. That differentiates this lawyer.

It could be you worked in an industry before you went to law school. A lawyer I coached many years ago worked in banks for several years and then went to law school. Her practice focused on banking. So, her work experience differentiated her.

One of the best lawyers who ever worked with me had grown up and ultimately ran his family’s highway construction business before he came to work for me and before he went to law school. His construction knowledge and his construction business experience differentiated him and still enables him to attract business today.

It could be that you worked for a government agency or worked on the hill. That experience differentiates you. I coached a lawyer who worked in a specific government agency and now appears before that agency on behalf of clients. She knows what is expected in hearings before that agency and that knowledge sets her apart.

It could be that you are a CPA or you have an LLM in tax.

It could be that you are a woman and your law specialty or the industry you are serving is dominated by men.

You get the idea. The point is simply to take advantage of anything that differentiates you from other lawyers.