Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

10 Things You Didn’t Learn in Law School…and Need to Begin Learning Soon

Posted in Career Development

It’s that time of year again. Law firm graduates will start their first year in law firms throughout the US. Over the years, I have given many presentations to first year lawyers during their orientation.

If you are a brand new lawyer, this one is for you. If you are a lawyer in a firm with first year lawyers, please share this with them.

In law school, students are taught to “think like a lawyer.” They are not taught:

  1. To think like a client
  2. How to practice law
  3. Law as a business
  4. How to attract clients
  5. What clients want
  6. How to retain and expand relationships with clients
  7. How to ask clients good questions
  8. How to work with senior lawyers and staff
  9. How to prepare legal documents
  10. How to present their position

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You may know that last October I gave a presentation to young lawyers in Boston. Check out the presentation slides: Brand Yourself: Starting Right for Career Success.

Huge Success: Overcoming the Odds

Posted in Career Development

As the Olympics come to a close, I believe we have all been struck by the “overcoming the odds” or “overcoming great adversity” stories.

I did some research and found: 10 inspiring stories from Olympians who overcame adversity for Rio 2016. I also found: Why We Love Watching the Olympics-How stories of redemption give us hope. I love and am inspired by this quote near the end:

This is the power of stories: When we think we cannot go on, when it is just too hard and no one really understands, we hear these stories, and we gain strength. These stories inspire us and give us hope

Runner Obstacle Pablo

I suppose all of us can say we somehow overcame some odds to become successful. But, for most of us who would say that, we should ask who are we kidding.

I grew up in a middle class family that supported me and encouraged me all the way. My father, mother and aunt all saved money to help put me through school. My grandmother allowed me to live with her during law school.

I know for sure that without their support, I would have never made it. I can say that for sure because, I almost didn’t make it even with their support.

As many of you know, I have been working on a novel for the last two years, actually 30 months. I am up to version 9 and in this version my protagonist is an attractive, young, Mexican American lawyer who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and must overcome the odds thrown her way by the legal and business community in Dallas.

In my earlier versions, Gina complains about not having a mentor or role model to help her or to emulate.

Imagine my surprise, when I recently had lunch with trial lawyer Brady Sparks who told me all about Longtime Dallas lawyer, civil rights activist Adelfa Callejo who died in 2014 at 90.

When I read the obituary in the link, I wondered if I had been asleep at the switch for not knowing of her during the 18 years I practiced law here while she was alive. I guess I was off in my own little legal world and not paying attention to what was going on around me.

Wow, talk about someone who overcame the odds. Adelfa Callejo’s story will inspire anyone. Read the story. Here are just a few highlights and here is a YouTube video.

She was born June 10, 1923, in Millett, a small town of segregated schools and cemeteries north of Laredo in La Salle County, the daughter of immigrant farm workers. In 1939, the Botellos moved to Dallas. Callejo eventually became a bilingual secretary by day and an SMU student by night.

In 1961, at age 37, Callejo became the first Hispanic woman to graduate from law school at Southern Methodist University. Like Justice O’Connor, when she graduated she could only get a job as a legal secretary.

Vallejo became a multi-millionaire over time and gave $1 million to the SMU law school.  She was proud of her money and more than once told friends: “El dinero no habla. El dinero grita.” (“Money doesn’t talk. Money screams.”)

What an incredible story. I am surprised Hollywood has not made of full length feature movie of her life.

Want a little more feel good? Take a look at 16 Wildly Successful People Who Overcame Huge Obstacles To Get There.

P.S. Now that I know there is a great role model out their for my character, how can I use it in my novel? Share your thoughts with me.



Client Development: Getting out from under the shadow

Posted in Client Development

When I asked a lawyer I coached what he wanted to get out of our coaching, he replied:

How do I get out from under the shadow of the giants in my field in my own law firm?

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Great question I thought. In his case there were more potential clients in his field. So, here is what I told him.

You have to do something they aren’t doing.

I suggested he consider creating a weekly podcast. He did and then the podcast became an internet radio show and over a few years his business originations quadrupled.

What can you do to get from under a giant in your own firm?

Career Success: Do what top Olympians do

Posted in Career Development, Client Development Coaching

Several years ago I was beginning to coach a new group of 12 lawyers at a national law firm. The week before the first session, I received a phone call from one of the firm leaders. He asked:

Tom, (not his real name) is a lawyer with $5 million dollars of business annually. He has asked if you would be willing to coach him when you are in our office?

I said sure and had incredible fun working with a guy who brought in more business than I ever had, but still wanted to learn more. 357938lo4lcxf2e

I thought of him at church Sunday, when our minister referred to a Huffington Post blog: 10 Reasons Why The Olympics Improves Employee Productivity.

He talked about one of the 10 reasons and afterward I asked for the link above. As I read through the 10 reasons, they reminded me of the top lawyers I have coached and why they get the most out of our work together. I will share the first sentence, but I urge you to read the entire paragraph on each of the 10 reasons.

If you are one of those lawyers, these points will be familiar to you.

  1. Employees will learn that winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. As you know, I wrote a book titled: Prepare to Win. It is available at a very low price on Amazon and iTunes.
  2. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes embrace conflict for growth.  The lawyers who get the most out of our work together are those who embrace getting comfortable outside their comfort zones.
  3. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes are held accountable on so many levels. One of the primary benefits of client development coaching is the accountability that comes from it.
  4. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes are learning machinesThe top lawyers I have coached are never content, always striving to learn something new and work hard to implement new ideas.
  5. Employees will learn Olympic champions know very good is bad. I believe Stephen Covey once said “no one trains to be in the Olympics to win a silver medal. The top lawyers I coach strive for excellence.
  6. Employees will learn Olympic athletes make “do or die” commitments. The top lawyers I coach are committed to their dream of success and excellence.
  7. Employees will learn Olympic athletes are consistently great. The top lawyers I coach are consistently great. As small a thing as it might be, they do not want to let me or the other members of their coaching group down.
  8. Employees will learn Olympians are coachable. I love this line in the paragraph explaining this one because is so aptly describes the top lawyers I have coached. “The bigger the champion, the more open-minded they are.” The bigger the rainmaker, the more open minded they are to coaching.
  9. Employees will learn Olympians compartmentalize their emotions.  I have written recently on the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The top lawyers I coach have it and do not let things going on around them distract them from striving to achieve their goals.
  10. Employees will learn Olympians think big.  As you may know, for several years I did podcast interviews of top lawyers I coached. My purpose was to show the new lawyers I was coaching how to get the most out of the coaching. I remember asking one of those top lawyers who I coached when she was an associate. “What was the one thing you most valued from our work together. Her answer was to “dream big dreams.” If you have an extra moment you might go back to my post in April of this year: Career Success: Work Hard, Dream Big.

Does your firm have lawyers with these Olympian attributes? If so, I would love to work with them.

Blogging: Your Doing It, But Nothing is Happening

Posted in Blogging

Years ago, I coached a lawyer who was writing an ERISA Law Blog. In one of our coaching sessions he explained.

I enjoy writing the blog, but my target clients are not finding it. The only calls I have received are from employees.

I looked at the blog. At the time he was essentially reporting the ERISA news. I couldn’t tell from his posts that he represented employers. He had not targeted his readers and picked topics he hoped would bring them to him.

As some of you know, I began writing a column in Roads and Bridges magazine in the early 80s. I purposely named the column: Law: The Contractor’s Side. Here is a column I wrote in 2000: The ‘ripple effect’ of change orders.

My target readers were contractors and in the linked column I wanted to demonstrate my understanding and expertise of the ripple effect of change orders in the hope I would be top of mind if a contractor faced that issue.

Writing strategically to reach and intended target reader is one topic I will address in a webinar I am presenting on August 25 for MyCase. The title is Build Your Practice Through Blogging. Click on the title and you can sign up for it.

If you are a blogger and don’t feel your posts are attracting clients or referral sources, I urge you to take the hour on the 25th and learn how to start blogging more strategically and take a look at my Social Media Blogging eBook.

Blogging Tips

I tell lawyers I coach that with each blog, they should:

  1. Identify the intended reader-potential clients, shares, SEO.
  2. Figure out why that reader cares about the topic
  3. Decide what they want the reader to take away from the blog post
  4. Decide what they want the reader to think about them or their firm

Ok, once you have figured out those things, you are ready to draft. Start with a great, “google searchable” headline. You want to choose one that potential clients will find if they did a search of the legal topic.

Second, write a great first line. Think like a journalist. Don’t bury the lead.

Third, write short paragraphs. You want to have a lot of white space to make your blog easy to read on line.

Fourth, include a visual. There are many places where you can find free photographs that do not require attribution. One source I use is Pexels.

When you finish your first draft, look and see if you can shorten the post. Take out any fluff or unnecessary words.

After you post your blog, use Buffer  or Hootsuite to deliver it to your social media sites at the time you think would be most likely read. (I say around 1-2 in the afternoon Central Time is not bad.)

If you want to learn more about getting readers to your blog, I found: 39 Top Bloggers Reveal How They Get More Blog Traffic. Which one do you think would get you potential clients and referral sources readers?

Law Firms: Are You Basing Hiring Decisions on “EQ”?

Posted in Client Development

If you read my post on Tuesday, you know I had surgery that morning. The surgeon had come highly recommended and I am sure he did a great job. But, he’s also just a good guy. He knows how to interact with his patients.

Years ago, my old law firm only hired students in the top 10% of their class at law schools of a certain tier. I thought this was a big mistake and told our leaders we were getting very smart students with little or no people skills.

(As an aside, even though I had finished number 3 in my law school class, I’m not sure my law school would have been a high enough tier for me to get hired by our firm.)

If all we wanted were lawyers who could research and write, then we were on the right track. But if we wanted lawyers who could connect with clients and potential clients, we could do better.

Bus Man vision looking up

When I mentioned the importance of hiring students with Emotional Intelligence (EQ) I received a blank stare. A couple of years ago I wrote: What Skills do Rainmakers Have? In that post I discussed some of the EQ traits I see in rainmakers and future rainmakers I coach.

In 2011, I wrote: If Med Schools Look At More Than Grades, Why Shouldn’t Law Schools and Law Firms?

The other day I was searching for something and came across a Huffington Post article: Future Lawyers Should Be Screened and Trained for Empathy. It supported the points I made in my 2011 blog post, but included information I didn’t know.

If you have a few minutes, I think you will find it interesting. At the beginning you will find a reference to a post about training doctors to have empathy. This quote reminded me of my surgeon.

While we all want great medical care, we also want doctors who listen to us and convey empathy—an understanding of our feelings and concerns, reflected in a warm demeanor. This can help us to trust and feel connected to them. But that combination can be hard to find….

Aren’t clients looking for the same combination?


Client Development: Can you learn to be better the “GolfTec” way?

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I’m having surgery this morning, meaning I will be out of commission for some time. I need the surgery, but it is coming at a time when I have really improved my golf swing, thanks to lessons and practice at GolfTec.

Even if you love playing golf, you may be wondering what is Golftec and what does my learning experience there have to do with learning client development? If you are not interested in golf, skim to the bottom to find out.

If you want to become a better golfer, I recommend you visit GolfTec if there is one in your city or town. How did I find out about it?

Steve, one of my best friends going back now over 45 years had never picked up a golf club in his life. He was a fly fisherman. About 18 months ago he visited GolfTec and I’m fairly confident he has worn out the grip of the 7 iron he’s been using.

A couple of months ago, I made an appointment for an hour long swing evaluation at the GolfTec in Plano, Texas. There I met Doug Smith. (You can see his short bio on the Plano Golf-Tec website.

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The swing evaluation was a huge help. I was hooked up to more advanced technology than I can describe. It measured everything including shoulder turn, hip turn, and swing speed. Then there was the video. I saw my swing from behind and head on. It was eye opening to say the least.

My facial expression while watching my swing that day may have looked something like this.

Funny Man

When we finished Doug asked me for my goals. I told him I wanted to reduce my handicap to a certain number. Then we worked on what I would need to do to get there. In a nutshell I needed to make better contact and do it consistently.

Even though the GolfTec facility is at least 20 minutes from my home in light traffic, I signed up for lessons and practice. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but at the halfway point, I am really glad I did. If you are interested, I think you will find this review of the GolfTec process helpful.

I am playing better than I have in years and as a result I am having more fun. My last round before the surgery was Saturday afternoon in 100 degrees heat. I shot my best score on that particular course, largely because of a lesson with Doug earlier that morning.

Over the last couple of months, Doug has introduced something new only after he believes I have implemented the last lesson.

We started at the very basics-my grip and my stance. I am reminded of Coach Vince Lombardi. Several years ago I read: When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi. In the book, historian David Maraniss explains what happened when Lombardi walked into training camp in the summer of 1961.

He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”

After the grip and stance, Doug showed me I was swaying in my back swing. So he talked about “turning in a barrel.” I won’t bore you with each step in his coaching and my progress. I will simply say the lesson on Saturday was a breakthrough that I was able to take to the course that afternoon.

Ok, what does my golf experience have to do with client development? I see at least three important things.

  1. Begin with a goal and create a plan to achieve it.
  2. Learn one thing at a time, implement it and then move on to the next thing that builds on what you have learned so far. If you want to delve into the science of how our brain works, take a look at  The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills
  3. For things like public speaking, or a meeting with a client, seeing yourself on video can be really helpful. See: Great Speakers Use Video to Improve Presentation Skills


Client Development: Are you trying your best?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Seth Godin posted a blog recently simply titled Effort. I urge you to read it and subscribe to his blog.

In the post he asked:

What does it mean to try your best?

Then he suggests:

The trick: don’t redefine trying. Redefine the circumstances.

Lawyers I coach frequently ask me:

How did you find time for all the non-billable career development and client development efforts you made?

I remind them I didn’t “find” it. I “made” time. My circumstances demanded it.

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For the majority of my career I practiced law in a small firm, as small as three lawyers when we started in 1983. My family depended on me to make time for client development. If I had started my career in a big firm, I’m not sure I would have made the same effort.

I enjoy coaching lawyers in smaller firms because they share that circumstance. They can’t rely on the efforts of other lawyers or the firm’s “institutional” clients.

If you are in a big firm, use your imagination. What if your family depended on your non-billable career and client development efforts?


Take a Clue from Padraig Harrington: Pick Yourself Up and Try Again

Posted in Career Development

Greetings from Los Angeles where I will be coaching lawyers today for a 4th time this year. One thing we will discuss is what happens when you make a pitch to a potential client and you are not selected.

Did you by chance watch the British Open? If not, read: Henrik Stenson Outduels Phil Mickelson to Win British Open.

Mickelson played nearly flawless golf, only to lose to someone who played something just a little bit closer to flawless golf.

Before the Open, Mickelson had not been playing well. But starting on Thursday with a near record breaking round of 63, he was on top of his game. He still lost. How will he rebound from a disappointing defeat when he played so well ?

The PGA Championship Tournament will be contested this week at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

In August 2009, Nancy I made one of our trips to Ireland during the week of the PGA Championship.  We sat in an Irish pub and watched it’s country hero Padraig Harrington lose a chance to win the PGA Championship. It was agonizing.

I wrote about it then and I wanted to share what I wrote with you again, including a link to a column written by a brilliant writer.

For those of you who do not like golf, I hope you will bear with me as I write about another golfer. I choose golf because to use a famous quote:

Golf Reveals Character

Practicing law reveals the character of lawyers, so we all can learn from those whose character is revealed internationally in front of millions.

When this is posted, Nancy and I will be on our way home from a week in Ireland. On Sunday, we played golf and spent time talking to two Irish couples who finished after us.

Our discussion focused on Padraig Harrington. I could tell he is a national hero.

After golf, we went to a busy pub at our hotel. We watched a semi-final match in the Ireland Hurling championship.

A few hours later, we returned to the pub to dine and watch the final round of the PGA tournament. During the first seven holes, the attention of every patron was focused on Padraig Harrington. I could tell his countrymen love him.

Needless to say the patrons were silent and then gasped when they watched Padraig go in the water twice on the 8th hole. I could sense their extreme disappointment after he posted an 8 on the par 3 hole.

The American golfers frequently say they feel more pressure playing in the Ryder Cup because they are representing their country, not just themselves. Padraig Harrington must feel that added pressure every tournament.

There is no way I can capture the feelings the Irish have for Padraig as well as Irish Times writer Roddy L’estrange. In his column, Roddy frequency writes about Vinny Fitzpatrick.

After the PGA tournament, he wrote: Vinny reflects on the wonders of Paddy’s ying and Yang.

Vinny tells his friends who lost money betting on him:

Put yourself in Harrington’s position. He knows he’s blown his chance of winning, but there are no tantrums…no loss of self-esteem. He comes across the same way when he’s on top of his game, as a gent. He acknowledges the crowd, doffs his cap, and smiles. Now, that’s easy when you’ve made eagle or birdie, not so easy when you’ve just had a snowman at a par three.

What can you learn from all of this?

I doubt you will ever suffer public humiliation before a worldwide TV audience of millions, but in your long career as a lawyer you will make mistakes, and the lawyers and staff who work for you will also make mistakes.

How you rebound from your mistakes and how you treat those who work for you when they make mistakes will reveal your character.

In those really tough times, think about Padraig and bear your setbacks with fortitude and dignity and focus on how the experience will ultimately make you a better lawyer.

Client Development Practice: What Would You Practice for 20 Hours?

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

Greetings from Denver where today I will be coaching lawyers for their 4th session with me this year. I want to ask them and you a question.

I’ve written many times here about deliberate practice. See for example: Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 1 and Career Success: Deliberate Practice-Part 2 , where I share some things to deliberately practice and provide  links to writing on the subject.

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Recently I watched this YouTube Video: The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU

The video gave me an insight on why some lawyers I coach may not get as much as they could from the coaching. They may view learning how to become a rainmaker is such a daunting task that they get frustrated early on.

Suppose I told them they could learn the skills to become a rainmaker in 20 hours of practice.

I have a favor to ask. Watch the video. It’s only 20 minutes long.

If you agree that client development is something that can be learned in 20 hours, share with me your ideas on what you would deliberately practice.