Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

7 Weeks Client Development Class

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I am taking an on-line Advanced Fiction Writing Class from University of North Texas. The cost of the course is $93. Today is my last class. Here is a link to the Course Syllabus.

I like the concept. In May, I will begin two other writing courses. There are two lessons per week which include a short video clip, five chapters, a quiz, an assignment and a discussion board to post the completed assignment and get feedback from the professor.

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Well, I have gotten so much out of this program for the money invested, that I want to try the idea on my 7 module detailed assignments client development course. I am designing it like the course I am taking.

Each week you will watch a video and do the workbook assignments for that module. If you email your assignment to me along with any questions you may have on the module, I will respond like my writing professor does.

Because I want this class to be so inexpensive that lawyers like you will not need to get firm funding, I am offering it starting the first of each month for only $95. So, the first class starts with Module 1 on May 1.

If you want to give the program a “test drive,” you can watch the entire first module for free here. While watching use the Module 1 workbook by clicking SRE Participant’s Guide Intro Mod 1.

Please share this post with your colleagues and friends and jump in on May 1. Contact to sign up.


Law Firm Success: Getting Lawyers to Work Together to Build Your Firm

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

Professional services guru, David Maister, once wrote an article: Are Law Firms Manageable? He began:

After spending 25 years saying that all professions are similar and can learn from each other, I’m now ready to make a concession: Law firms are different.

He then identified why law firms are different:

Among the ways that legal training and practice keep lawyers from effectively functioning in groups are

  • problems with trust;
  • difficulties with ideology, values, and principles;
  • professional detachment;
  • and unusual approaches to decision making.

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I thought he was describing my old law firm. David Maister also wrote: The Problems with the Traditional Law firm Management Model. Sadly, I recently read a 2010 article about my old firm:  Taxes and Death: The Rise and Demise of an American Law Firm. Leave aside the tax issue that brought the firm down, the writer’s thoughts on law firms more broadly is helpful:

We should be especially wary of assuming that law firm managers wield power in a relatively direct system of command and control. Lawyers, for instance, typically have a strong desire for independence. Coordinating their activity thus can be extraordinarily difficult. Unlike in the typical business organization, law firm leaders derive little authority from their positions alone. They usually are unable to influence behavior by issuing edicts from on high. In addition, the relative ease of moving from one firm to another can give profitable lawyers an effective veto over managerial initiatives. Law firm managers therefore must rely mainly on negotiation and persuasion to gain the cooperation of others.

I did some research on how lawyers might address these issues. I found an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review October, 2006 issue: “The Tools of Cooperation and Change” by Clayton M. Christensen (Author of a great book: How Will You Measure Your Life, Matt Marx and Howard H. Stevenson.

The focus  of the article was on leaders using the right tools to encourage people to work together to get results based on the circumstances they face. I thought of law firm leaders as I was reading and decided I would share the authors’ points as if it was written for a law firm rather than a company.

The authors suggest that leaders who want to move their organizations in a new direction must first understand the degree to which law firm partners and associates agree in two dimensions:

  1. What they want out of being a member or associate of the firm and
  2. How to achieve what they want.

My friend and law firm consultant, Roger Hayse, made the same point to me.

He showed me a chart he had done with a list of statements on the left and 1-5 on the right with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree. His list included things like profits per partner, collegiality, holding firm members accountable, teamwork, client service, work-life balance and a variety of other topics.

Roger told me that if the super majority of lawyers in a firm either strongly agreed with an item or strongly disagreed, that would be ok. But, if a good number strongly agreed and a like number strongly disagreed, that would make it very difficult to lead the firm.

The authors of the Harvard Business Review article would agree. They state that when people in an organization disagree on what they want and how to achieve it, the only tools that induce cooperation are “power tools, which are essentially coercion and fiat” Since lawyers are so autonomous, there is no way that tool would ever work for any extended period of time.

The authors believe that if people want the same thing but disagree on how to achieve it, “leadership” tools will be effective. What does that mean for law firms? I say:

If a firm’s lawyers agree on what they want, a charismatic law firm leader with a powerful vision of what the firm can accomplish that is clearly articulated, can move the firm’s lawyers to achieve it. Those leaders will motivate and energize the members of their firm.

Are there a super majority of lawyers in your firm who agree on what they want? If not, leading them will be extremely challenging.

Career and Life: Don’t be too content or too driven

Posted in Career Development

I have coached well over 1000 lawyers. At one extreme I find it difficult to coach lawyers who are so content that they do not want to focus on getting better. At the other extreme, while I love coaching the most motivated lawyers, I also have seen that their intense drive to succeed can also cause burnout.

If you are a regular reader, you know I have been writing a novel for over a year. I have written about my work on it: Women Lawyers: Self Confidence Key to Your Success and Lawyers: Are You Confused About Appropriate Attire?

My protagonist, Gina Caruso has an intense desire to excel and her greatest fear is failing at anything in her career and life. She is “all in” at her law firm, her physical fitness and her relationships.

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In the Snowflake Method, a writer starts with a sentence to describe his novel. Here is mine:

A superstar young lawyer is so driven to excel and be a top Texas lawyer that she risks her career, marriage, and even her life.

While doing research for my book, I not only found the articles linked to in the two blog posts about self confidence and appropriate attire for lawyers, but I also found: Fire Your Inner Task Master. The subheading describes Gina and many other lawyers I have met:

Want to work for someone who pushes you relentlessly, criticizes  your efforts and makes your entire life miserable? Of course not. So why are you doing it to yourself?

That subheading reminded me of a blog Seth Godin recently posted titled: Self Talk.

I found many points in both the blog and the article informative. One from the article really described my career as a lawyer because I always said it to myself.

Sarah is always anxious that if she delivers a merely satisfactory performance, she will be exposed as the fraud she secretly believes she is.

I can relate. I actually described this condition as healthy paranoia during my career. I was insatiable to research and learn as much as I could about construction and trial advocacy because I was afraid I would be exposed as a fraud. I think my fear was healthy, but I can see how it easily could be debilitating.

I urge you to read the article if you are so intensely going for the gold that you are risking your health and happiness in the process.

How can you be successful and avoid this problem? There is no magic pill, but I tell lawyers I coach to start with clarity on what, other than work, is most important in your life. Once you know that, plan and spend more focused time on those priorities.

Client Development Coaching: Make Sure and Cover These Topics

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching
I was recently asked what I cover in client development coaching. It is really pretty simple at the broadest level.
  1. Coaching SS 81984502How to put together a plan with goals and use your time wisely. Do you have a written plan with goals?
  2. How to become visible and credible to your target market. Are you raising your visibility and credibility to your target market?
  3. How to build relationships that get you hired. Are you building relationships?
  4. How to make your existing clients raving fans. Are your clients raving fans?

Each of these four main topics have many multiple parts. What would you have under each main topic?

Many of you with whom I have worked know that coaching is more than those four broad subject areas. Coaching is helping you figure out your best client development strategy. It is helping you stay on task, even when you are seeing no results. More than anything, it is encouraging you to believe in yourself and stretch to become the lawyer you want to be.

Have you signed up for the 7 weeks video and email coaching program? It is only $95 for the entire program. Contact Joyce at to sign up.

What You Want to Be

Posted in Career Development

Short blog post today on self reflection and dealing with difficult times.

I read a David Brooks New York Times column published last week: The Moral Bucket List and I just want to make sure you see it.

In the column he talks about the person I know that I would like to be. I think about that more at this time in my life than the many years I spent focused on becoming a successful lawyer. Here is the opening paragraph:

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

David Brooks says those people are not born that way they are made. Think about what you and I can do to make ourselves more that way. Many of us wanted to become lawyers because we wanted to serve people who need our help.

In the column Brooks describes “The Call within the Call.” What is your “Call within the Call?” Are you doing anything about it?

His final paragraph begins with:

The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be…

Please read the rest of the last paragraph and think about what simple things in life you are grateful for and put his new book: The Road to Character on your reading list. It will be the next book read by my book club.

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I also want to write as a Virginia Tech grad. Yesterday, April 16 was the 8th anniversary of the mass shooting on the Virginia Tech campus. I saw a couple of things on Facebook yesterday morning and it changed my whole mood. I had been very upbeat about presenting to a large group, but all of a sudden I was sad.

I went to Youtube and searched for Nikki Giovanni. I needed her words of reassurance. A great writer and speaker is able to pick the right words, deliver them in the right cadence and move people. Professor Giovanni’s 3 minute speech accomplished all of that and more.

Do you have 3 minutes? If so watch it.

5 things your firm can do to be more successful

Posted in Client Development, Law Firm Leadership

Greetings from Boca Raton where I am speaking today to construction lawyers.

Let’s get right to the point: Law firms cannot control the economy and many other things, but there are things totally within a law firm’s control. Here are 5:

Industries law firms represent

  1. Hire highly motivated lawyers and  staff and make a greater effort than your competitors to teach, train, mentor and coach them.
  2. Make sure every lawyer and staff member knows the firm vision and clearly knows what is required of him or her.
  3. Raise the level of client satisfaction by finding out what clients want to exceeding those expectations and then compensating in part based on client satisfaction.
  4. Create Industry teams.
  5. Collaborate and build a team approach and compensate based on teamwork. Must reading is recent Harvard Study: Law Firm Collaboration Pays Off. You will also find this valuable: Managers Can Motivate Employees With One Word

Traditions: Call Me Old Fashioned

Posted in Uncategorized

Call me old fashioned, or maybe just nostalgic. I cherish traditions. Does your city have any? Does your law firm have any?

I grew up in Lombard, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Lombard is the Lilac Village and each year has a Lilac Festival and a Queen and her Court each year. I saw on the link that it is May 2-17 this year.

I am speaking at an event in Chicago on May 14, so I may just have to take a few hours and walk through Lilacia Park during the festival.

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Last week I wrote about my upcoming trip to Montreal. Because the American Airlines non-stop flight lands at almost midnight, I flew up on Saturday night and I was there on Sunday, the last day the Quebec Region’s Sugaring Off Maple Syrup Festival.

Most of the Sugar Shacks are outside of Montreal, but the City has created its own version where they invite top Montreal chefs to create unique dishes, all with some amount of Maple Syrup.

Montreal lawyer Ayse Dali and her family took a good part of their Sunday to take me to the  Old Montreal: Back at the Sugar Shack. For me it was a once in a lifetime unique and wonderful experience.

Sugar Shack

As you know, Nancy and I recently moved to Prosper, Texas. It is a small town well known for its Christmas Festival. A few years ago, Nancy and I attended the annual Waimea Christmas Parade on the Big Island of Hawaii. Even though we were visiting, we felt we were a part of the community.


My old law firm had a tradition. It wasn’t a big one, but it was an important one. Every Friday we had the “All Attorneys’ Lunch” on our 37th floor.

This was an opportunity for us to spend time with our colleagues from different floors and practice groups. Since there were about 200 lawyers in Dallas on 8-9 different floors, leaders thought this tradition was an important one.

I visited my old firm (now part of a larger firm) last year and was pleased to learn that the Dallas lawyers still eat lunch together on Fridays.

What are the traditions in your home town or your law firm? If you have an extra minute, please share them by commenting here.




Client Development: Why Narrow Your Focus

Posted in Client Development

This week I will make a presentation at the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry Annual Meeting. My Topic: Professionalism and Client Development for Construction Lawyers – Old Tools/New Tools.

As I prepared, I thought about how fortunate I was to  narrow my client development focus long ago.

If you are a regular reader, you likely recall me saying:

When you try to market your services to everyone you usually end up marketing to no one.

I know because when I started my client development efforts, I could not figure out how to market a “general commercial litigation practice.” I tried many cases and enjoyed that opportunity, but I couldn’t figure out how to strategically use my client development time.

I joined the Rotary Club, I was active in our church and active in the Virginia Tech Hokie Club and Alumni Association. I went to lunch every day at the Shenandoah Club where Roanoke’s top business people gathered.

I was told to just stick with it and I would eventually break through. I did stick with it, but I  do not remember ever attracting a new client from my flurry of non-strategic activities.

After a few very frustrating years, I decided to focus my efforts on the construction industry, and within a year I narrowed that focus to transportation construction contractors.

Bridge Under Construction

Here is what I learned and can share with you: When you focus your client development efforts within an industry, you build relationships more easily and efficiently. You see the same people at your industry’s annual meetings. You write columns for industry magazines that those same people read. You speak at industry conferences to the same people.

One final thing: If your experience is anything like mine, you will look forward to the opportunities to engage potential clients and referral sources at the next event and you will make friends for life.

Marketing For Young Lawyers: You Have to be Visible and Credible

Posted in Client Development

On Monday I will be in one of my most favorite cities in North America: Montreal. As the website link puts it:

Few cities can compete with Montréal’s mouthwatering mix of food, festivals and fun-centric living.

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I will be able to enjoy my favorite Montreal Bagels (check the article for the difference between New York Bagels and Montreal Bagels) and I will likely eat Cassoulet Toulousain (recipe) at Alexandre et fils.

As wonderful as that will be, my greatest joy will be making  two presentations to a law firm’s Montreal associates.

The first will be for the junior level associates and I will focus on what they can be doing now to build momentum that will start showing results when they are eligible for partner. The second will be for the firm’s senior associates and will cover both building their profile and their relationships.

As I prepared this week, I had a coaching call with a senior associate. He sent me his agenda for a coaching call. Here is what he said:

For today’s coaching call, I would like to discuss how to develop a particular client base. The problem is I am a younger lawyer and need to find a way to gain an audience / get my foot in the door.

This is a question many of you likely have asked.

Many years ago I heard networking guru,  Ivan Misner,  talk about the VCP Process™ of networking. VCP stands for Visibility, which leads to Credibility and eventually Profitability. Take a look at this 2003 article: Build Relationships That Last to get the idea.

I looked back at my career and found I had created visibility and credibility at the same time by writing and speaking on subjects the construction industry greatly valued. That did not lead right away to profitability. Instead it led to the opportunity to become trustworthy and likable in the eyes of my potential clients.

I had friends in the construction industry long before they were clients. In fact, their fathers ran the companies and already had their own favorite lawyers. How in the world, could I possibly unseat the lawyers who had long standing relationships with contractors who were my father’s age?

As a young lawyer, my best chance to “get my foot in the door” was to become an expert on a subject that was important to the contractors, and on which the generalist lawyers were not experts.

I wrote a law review article on highway construction contract claims. When I wrote it, I did not expect potential construction clients to actually read it. I just wanted them to know I had written it.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 4.16.51 PMA few months later,  I made a presentation on highway construction contract claims at an annual contractor meeting. That led to articles and a presentation to a national highway and transportation construction association. That led to many more presentations.

All of a sudden, I was able to convert these friends to clients, because I had become credible in their fathers’ eyes. Think about a subject you can write on or speak on that will demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.

I did it and I know you can also. On April 29 at 12 Noon EDT, I will be offering a Webinar titled: Writing and Speaking to Get Hired. If you are interested in participating, the cost is only $95 and if your firm wants a conference room of lawyers to participate the cost is $195 Contract to find out more and register.

Making Rain: Serving Rather Than Selling

Posted in Client Development

Scott Funk is a Gray Reed & McGraw shareholder from Houston. One of the primary things Scott learned when I worked with him eight years ago was the importance of asking friends good questions, even if the friend was happy with his outside counsel.

Scott shared this story that I have told to the many lawyers I coached after him. I want to make sure you get a chance to read about it.

One of my long time friends owns an oilfield equipment and service company that primarily operates and sells in the U.S., and has operations in India and China. Based on our conversations, I knew my friend was happy with his existing corporate attorney. But I could also tell my friend was looking for something more.

Before our coaching, I would have tried to “sell” him on hiring our firm and why we were the right firm for him, and probably tried to convince him to use LRM instead of his existing attorney.

Based on what I learned in the coaching program, I first set out to find out more about my friend and his company. I learned more about his background, and more about his company operations and opportunities in China and India. He let me know he wanted to expand his company by acquiring a Canadian company. When he said he was hiring a New York firm to help obtain financing for a $1,000,000 fee, I asked him to give me 30 days to help him find financing at a lower cost.

In the next 30 days I introduced my friend to consultants, several bankers, an investment banker, and a private equity firm. He let me know he was extremely thankful and impressed. While he said that he liked his attorney, he was impressed that we went far beyond just focusing on the legal work.

After he got the financing for the acquisition, our firm became his law firm.

I don’t think I would have obtained this client before coaching program because I would have tried to talk instead of listening, and I would have tried to sell our firm rather than demonstrating how we can add value.

So, what is the point of Scott’s story?

It is really pretty simple. When you go from thinking about how you can get hired to thinking about how you can add value without expecting anything in return, good things happen.

Scott asked questions, listened and uncovered a need where his firm could add value.