Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Client Development: A Self Assessment for You to Evaluate the Effort You are Making

Posted in Client Development

I received a lot of nice feedback and tweets from my post Tuesday: 15 Thoughtful Things You Can Do For Clients When You Are Busy. Thanks for letting me know that post was helpful.

I was practicing putting last week when I looked over and saw a young teenage girl practicing. When I saw her green golf bag, I thought she was a member of the Prosper High School Eagles Girls Golf Team. (I’m now following the team on their Twitter page.)

I was really impressed by her deliberate practice on her putting. She was working on putts of about 10 feet and reading each one, lining it up and putting. (I’m always too impatient for that kind of focused practice.)

Back to my story: When I looked at the girl’s team golf bag, I think I saw Class of 2021. When I did the math on my fingers later, I realized if what I saw was correct she was not even in high school yet.

So, here is a young teenage girl focused like a laser beam on improving her putting. I was impressed.

I remember just like it was yesterday, standing at the top of the Dallas Magnolia Hotel, December 31, 1999, wondering if the Y2K problem would totally mess up our law firm’s computers.

What’s the point? Time passes so very quickly. So, as you approach 2017, I have a self-assessment for you to evaluate how you are doing on client development.

Business Section of Paper

  1. Do you set goals for client development each year and have a plan to achieve them?
  2. Do you plan time each week for client development activities?
  3. Are you focused about your contacts with clients, potential clients or people who can refer business to you?
  4. Do you regularly visit/meet with clients just to find out what is going on in their business?
  5. When you see an article, book or seminar that may be of interest to clients, do you forward/send it to them?
  6. When you finish a project do you follow up and seek feedback on your performance?
  7. Do you ask questions and listen well when visiting with clients?
  8. Do you read your clients’ trade publications?
  9. Do you know your clients’ industry, business and strategy?
  10. Do you know your client representatives personally, including names of their family members, their assistant’s name, their interests outside of work and their values?

Between the US Thanksgiving and New Years day I was rarely busy with legal work, and at some point I got bored watching bowl games that didn’t matter. So, I spent time preparing for the next year. I recommend you prepare now.

15 Thoughtful Things You Can Do For Clients When You Are Busy

Posted in Client Development

I coach busy lawyers. I was busy when I practiced law so I know the challenge.

When I was busy, I always went to my list of small things I could do that might make an impact. Here are some thoughts. As you will note, some of them assume your client can accept gifts:

Mya Angelou Feel

  1. Send a coffee loving client a $10 Starbucks card
  2. Send at least one handwritten note each week to a client or referral source
  3. Make a contribution in your client or referral source’s name
  4. If you know a client has a particular interest, send a book from Amazon with a note you can do at the Amazon website (if you give me a topic, I can tell you a book to send)
  5. If you have Google Alerts, or something similar, set up for your clients, send the client an email if you read something favorable about the company
  6. Post thoughtful comments to your friends’ Facebook postings, especially if they have posted something about their children
  7. Take two hours away from your busy schedule and go visit a client’s business facility
  8. Take a few hours to volunteer to help your client’s favorite charity.
  9. Give a gift certificate to your client’s favorite restaurant
  10. Find a client alert, or blog post, your firm has done that will be of particular interest to a client and send it with a personal email explaining why you believe it will interest your client
  11. If you know your client’s children and what they are passionate about, do something nice for the children (One lawyer I coached sent an autographed jersey of his client’s son’s favorite goalie)
  12. Send a travel guide from a place where you traveled and where your client will be traveling
  13. Invite your client to write a guest post on your blog
  14. Invite your client and his/her children to use your firm’s tickets to an event
  15. Do something nice for your client’s assistant or staff


2017: Are you ready for change?

Posted in Client Development

What will be changes that will create legal work in 2017?

In November, 2008, after President Obama was elected I wrote: Are you ready for change?  I don’t remember protests across the country from those who voted for John McCain or didn’t vote. After our recent election I looked back at that post. If you have a moment, you might go back and read it.

I’ve been researching to find something similar to what I found in 2008, and it has been a struggle. I did find: When is Donald Trump’s inauguration, what will happen on the day and when will Barack Obama move out of the White House?  I am posting the link, in part because it has a video clip from President Kennedy’s memorable Inaugural speech.

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 1.09.09 PM

Since I couldn’t find an article outlining what will change, I created  my own list.

  • Infrastructure construction
  • Trade
  • Immigration
  • Tax
  • Health Care
  • Defense Spending (Government Contracts)
  • Banking
  • Cannabis (from state elections)

I’m sure I am missing some changes that will impact the legal profession. What are they?

Lawyer Stars and Superstars: What is the difference?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

Greetings from West Palm Beach, Florida, where the weather is pretty awesome. I’m here for the last coaching sessions with a group of lawyers I have coached this year. One thing we’ll talk about is what separates the superstar lawyers from the stars.

Several years ago, I spoke to first year associates during their law firm orientation. Right before the conclusion of my presentation, I asked for questions. A very astute first year lawyer who had listened intently asked:

What is the difference between lawyers who are stars and lawyers who are superstars? (My paraphrase of the question).

The young lawyer’s question caused me to remember that about 20 years ago David Maister wrote a chapter about dynamos, cruisers and losers in his book True Professionalism.

Bman Bwoman Working SS 2134913

I went back to the chapter and read what he said about cruisers. First he indicated that we all cruise at sometime in our career. Then, he said:

Cruising means working at what you are already good at, and in consequence usually means a low-stress comfortable work life.

Finally he wrote:

The difference between Dynamos and Cruisers is rarely one of ability. Rather, it is one of attitude.

Here is what I have seen when successful lawyers are not getting better. They do some or all of the following:

  1. Become content with their achievement
  2. Focus on what they already know rather than what they don’t know
  3. Quit doing the things that got them to $1 Million a year in business
  4. Take clients for granted
  5. Quit trying to attract new clients
  6. Become cautious, like a sports team with a lead playing not to lose
  7. Refuse to share credit with their colleagues
  8. Do not look for opportunities to add value for their clients with work the firm does outside their practice area.
  9. Let any disappointment or setback cripple them
  10. Fail to keep up with changes in the legal profession

In essence, they simply begin their retirement on the job. They are cruising.

Superstar lawyers I know view a great year to be an event not an achievement. The achievement comes from continuing to strive to get better.

Leadership: Decide What Your Law Firm/Practice Group Wants

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

Many law firms/practice groups remind me of a quote from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

Which road shall I take? She asked.

His response was a question:

Where do you want to go?

I don’t know, Alice answered.

Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.

While most of your clients seem to have no trouble articulating where they want to go, why is your  law firm or practice group like Alice?

Lewis Carroll

Most law firm web pages look alike.

  • They are “full service firms” who represent both large companies and small ones.
  • They are experienced and responsive, and provide exceptional service (usually as defined by them).
  • They are typically strategically located to better serve those large and small clients.
  • They all provide “innovative solutions” to business problems.

I could go on, but my point is to simply say, they all look alike.

Let’s look at other service entities for ideas.  When I stay at a Four Seasons Hotel, I am amazed by the level of service at all levels in the hotel.

Years ago, I was in Houston for a meeting. As I ate my dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel bar, I looked down I noticed the hem on my suit pants had come undone.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 2.58.22 PM

I went to the front desk and asked if for safety pins, or a sewing kit. I was told the hotel seamstress had finished her workday. That took me by surprise. I had never imagined the hotel would have a seamstress.

The manager told me to go to my room and wait for someone to bring me a sewing kit. A few minutes later an older Mexican American lady knocked on my door. She greeted me with a big smile. When she saw my trousers, she gave me that knowing grin as if to say: “I know you are a man and you don’t know how to sew worth a darn.”  She pointed and asked me for my trousers.

Twenty minutes later she returned to my room with the cuff to my trousers sewn to perfection. That is service.

Afterward, I wanted to better understand how Four Seasons did it and I found the Four Seasons philosophy:

A Shared Spirit: Four Seasons strategy is simple. Hire motivated people, train them to be the best they can be, and offer them an environment in which to flourish.

Take a look at the Four Seasons Mission Statement.

As Practice Group Leader of a Construction Law Practice Group, I made sure our group clearly understood what we wanted to become.

Because of the experience and background of our lawyers we decided to focus on representing contractors primarily engaged in constructing large civil construction projects; including highways, airports, mass transit, power, dams, stadiums, etc.

Our purpose was to enable or to help our clients build great projects while achieving their business objectives. We have hired lawyers who had a construction background, civil engineering or construction management undergraduate degree, or who exhibited a passion for the construction industry.

Our legal assistants included civil engineers or construction management graduates with construction experience.

We sought ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, including making efforts to be “first to market” on whatever happened to be the cutting edge legal issue affecting the industry.

We were among the first construction practice groups to have newsletters for clients and to conduct in-house workshops for clients. Several of us have written legal columns in trade magazines or for association newsletters. These were all things we decided we wanted to be.

I mention all these things, not to suggest that any other law firm or practice group adopt any of them, but to simply point out the importance of deciding what you want your practice group or law firm to become.

Without thinking about what you want, deciding and then articulating what you want, you will likely be like Alice and it won’t really matter which way you go.

Setting Goals: Our Daughter Jill Shares Ideas

Posted in Career Development

I’ve coached several lawyers this year whose focus in our coaching sessions is broader than just client development. They’ve been interested on the intersection of their career and their life as fathers and mothers.

I shared a blog about our daughter Jill that I posted four years ago and since many of you were not reading my blog back then I wanted to share it with you again.

Why should you set goals for your career and life? Setting goals gives you a strong sense of where you want to go and will help you:

  • Prioritize
  • Focus
  • Execute
  • Know when you are off track

I recently read a short Success Magazine blog: Take Control of Your Dreams. The writer began with this analogy:

Imagine arriving on the outskirts of a large city and being told to drive to a particular home or office there. But there are no road signs and you have no map. In fact, all you have is a very general description of the home or office, so finding it would be very much a matter of luck. Sadly, this is the way most people live their lives.

As you may know, my daughter Jill teaches special education. As she explains in this guest post, growing up with me pushing her to set goals was a bit of a challenge. On the other hand, she is doing what she set as a life goal many years ago.

When I was growing up my father made me set goals every year and write them down. (He also made me write book reports during the summer). He spent what then seemed like countless hours lecturing me on the importance of setting goals in my life. He always said it is important to be aiming at something you think is important.

Oh, he used to drive me crazy. I felt like I was one of the young lawyers who worked for him and who he was trying to inspire to be a great lawyer. For a long time, I rejected what he was telling me. I would prove to him I could be successful without writing down goals.

I never realized what an impact he had on me until a few years ago. While looking through some old papers I found a list of lifetime goals I had written in high school. (I never told my father I had actually written down goals as he had suggested.) I had not thought about these written goals in many years.

When I looked, I saw that my number one lifetime goal was to become a special education teacher. I had achieved my number one goal! I was excited when I found I had actually done what I had set out to do years before!

My father advocated coming up with goals every year and having lifetime goals. Each year, I write 10 professional goals and right beside them 10 things I want to do in my “real life”—life outside of school.

My “real life” goals can be financial, spiritual or things to do with my family. One of the reasons I write down my goals side by side is because, as I learned from my father, both parts of my life are equally important. As teachers, we often forget that we have lives outside of school because we spend so much time working during the school year.

I think Jill’s approach is one that would also work for you. I guess that is natural for me to say since it is based on me “driving her crazy” while she was growing up.

A Coaching Session with Cordell: When do I revisit my goals?

Posted in Career Development

Before I get started, let’s bow our heads in prayer in the hope that our long ordeal called a Presidential election might possibly end tonight.

Like many, I am sick of watching the drama and I fear that it might not be over, or even if it is, candidates will already be campaigning for 2020.

Last year I was in Canada shortly after the election there. My friends complained that the election had taken 11 weeks. See: Canada Reminds Us That American Elections Are Much Longer. There you will see that one Canadian election only took 32 days.

Can you imagine how our world would be different if an American Presidential election only took 11 weeks?

  • Start with just imagining what could be done with the 100s of millions of dollars spent on advertising.
  • What would the 24/7 news shows cover?
  • What would the pundits and the pollsters do?
  • I suspect that fewer on Facebook would be deleting friends who share a different political view.
  • Would the negative divisions in our country be reduced?

I did a search and found an interesting BBC article: US election 2016: What Canadians make of it. I was surprised that some Canadians feel the Canadian election is not long enough.

My friends and I may be in the minority, but I’ve not found one person who prefers how long it takes in America over how long it takes in Canada.

With that thought off my chest, let’s turn to the subject at hand.

I was interviewed a several years ago by the ABA after giving a presentation to a YLD meeting. The interview was published Q&A with Career Coach Cordell Parvin. I was asked:

When you develop lifetime goals, annual goals, five-year goals – do you continually check to see how you’re doing, or do you review them periodically at specific intervals – for example, every six months?

Lifetime goals shutterstock_78237550

Here is a short version of my answer:

Both. And I’m always reviewing and changing them. At the time I was interviewed I had 100 lifetime goals. (Note: in 2016 my bucket list is down to 82 lifetime goals).

Based in part on what author Brian Tracy suggests, I urge lawyers to sit down and write down their 10 goals for the year. Then, without looking at their previous list, sit down the next day and write down 10 goals for the year. Do this two weeks. At the end of two weeks, compare the lists and when the goals appear on pretty much all of the daily lists, it’s a pretty sure indication that the goal is a priority.

When I was young, I wrote my goals on a sheet of legal paper and I kept the folded paper in my suit coat pocket. And when I was on a plane or waiting someplace, I’d take the sheet of paper out and revisit my goals.

To me goals are not static. They change as circumstances change and I create short term goals every 30-90 days. So, don’t be afraid to revisit your yearly goals throughout the year.





Client Development: Work on Your Credibility

Posted in Uncategorized

Seth Godin recently posted: Not enough ‘if’ or not enough ‘then’? Take a look at it.

How does it apply to you? Lawyers rarely have an ‘if” problem, because when clients need a lawyers help, they need the help.

But, lawyers frequently have a ‘then’ problem. You must demonstrate to your potential clients that ‘you’ are the lawyer they should hire. How can you do that?

I have written many times that you should understand your clients’ business and industry. Your potential clients rarely know whether you are a top notch lawyer, but they always know if you understand their business and industry.


Client Development: Hot tip from a former campaign manager

Posted in Client Development

I’ve coached several lawyers who at one time or another had to raise money. One of those lawyers is Richard Mancini, a Henderson Franklin, trusts and estates litigation lawyer in the firm’s Bonita Springs, FL office.

In our last coaching session, Richard and I talked about “asking for business.” I was always uncomfortable asking until I read a SPIN Selling, a book written by Neil Rackham.

If you are a long time reader, you might recall I included it in My 6 Favorite Books on Selling. If you want to read a quick summary, check out  SPIN Selling: Stop Fumbling & Start Making Sales

As you might recall, SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. Once you ask questions to determine those things, you are in a position to ask the potential client if you can help him or her.

Richard told me a story about working on a political campaign while in college, and I’ve asked him to share it with you.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 4.01.01 PM

When I was a University of South Florida student, I got involved with local politics.  I took classes on campaign management and was hired on to manage a local school board candidate’s campaign.

Everyone said that a first time candidate and a first time campaign manager had no chance of unseating a longtime incumbent.   They were wrong!  We made some local history when my candidate won.

One campaign management training sessions was how to get folks to make campaign donations.  The instructor, a longtime political junky, went through a litany of tried and true political campaign tools, including the direct mail solicitation, the open house at a friend’s house, and others.

But, he said there was one and only one real way to get donations to your campaign.  That one way was to ASK!  Asking in a direct mail piece is OK. Asking in an email is OK.  Asking over the telephone is OK. But asking in person is the best and most effective way.

The session went on for about an hour, with specific techniques and examples of campaign materials.  Finally, a hand went up in the back of the room. One of the other trainees stood up, looked at the instructor and said “I am working for candidate X, can you make a donation to his campaign?”  The instructor smiled, reached in his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill and handed it to the novice campaign worker.  He said he had been waiting for someone to ask.

It was that simple.  Just ask.

I never forgot that simple but very important lesson.

My trust, probate and guardianship litigation practice, demands that I attract new clients. So, I worked on it throughout my 15-year career. I’ve hosted receptions, my firm has sponsored events. I’ve given presentations.

All of these efforts have been beneficial, but the best and most effective way I’ve attracted new clients or gotten new referrals is to ASK!

Asking in an email is OK.  Asking over the telephone is OK. But, asking in person is the best and most effective way.

Cordell asked me to share my advice. It’s really pretty simple: Get up from your computer, meet the referral source or potential client in person, explain your practice, your experience, the qualities of your firm.

But, remember one more thing, before you leave the meeting, ASK!

Darn good advice. Bottom line: There comes a time when you want to ASK and best to do it in person.

Presentations: Tell Stories to Peak Audience Interest

Posted in Client Development

Greetings from Denver where I will be coaching lawyers for their fifth and last time today.

Like my visit to Los Angeles last week, at lunch we’ll go over what we have covered this year and again one of the topics will be presentations.

Lawyers frequently ask me to critique their presentation materials. As I expressed last week, most often when they send me their first draft, there are few or no visuals, bullet points and too many words on a page.

Presentations, even presentations on legal topics, should tell a story.

Let me share an example with you. On July 17, 1981 one of the greatest disasters in American construction history occurred. On that night the walkways at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed killing over 100 people and injuring an additional 200 people.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 7.39.23 AM

Everyone in the construction industry was aware of the tragic accident. It became known as The Hyatt Disaster.

It is included in this list of Top 10 Worst Engineering Disasters. It provided the perfect back-drop for me to discuss the duties owed by architects, engineers and contractors.

After literally months of research, I made at least five presentations in 1982. At the time there was no PowerPoint, which forced me to speak visually and tell a story. In essence, I had to create in the audience mind the two visuals you see and more.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 7.35.03 AM

Take a look at the first page of my Outline of Remarks to Roanoke ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).

I began each presentation with this:

I have a story I want to share with you. It’s a story about one of the greatest engineering disasters in history. It’s a story with legal points every engineer needs to consider and think about as they design complex projects.

I will leave you with this thought: Think about the difference between two potential announcements the ASCE might have done to encourage their members to attend my presentation. If the presentation was not in a story format, the announcement might have been:

Duties, Responsibilities and Liabilities for Civil Engineers

Because the context of my presentation was the Hyatt Disaster, the announcement might have been:

What every civil engineer needs to learn from the Hyatt Disaster

Which program announcement would have created the most interest?

Want to learn more? Take just a few minutes and read: The Power Of Storytelling.