Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Client Development: Identify the Problem, Offer a Solution

Posted in Client Development

What are you doing to stay on top of your clients’ businesses and industries and help them identify a problem and create a solution before they know of the problem?

Here are some important thoughts on how the internet makes it ever so much easier than it was when I was a young lawyer:

  1. It far easier to research and find what is going on in your clients’ industry and business.
  2. You can more timely write and publish blog posts than I could write and publish articles.
  3. Today’s technology takes a lot of the luck out of your potential clients finding what you have written or a presentation you have made.

What should you do after you identify a problem or opportunity? One thing to consider is to create an ebook or guide.

For example, when the US Department of Transportation sought permission from Congress to experiment with innovative contracting techniques, including design-build, I put together detailed guides and began doing workshops.

Over time I was asked to help states draft legislation and contracts, and more often I was asked to help contractors put together proposals,  identify risks and negotiate contracts with designers and the state DOTs.

One book I recommend to lawyers is The Best Damn Sales Book Ever. In the book, author Warren Greshes tells an amazing story how Peter Rosengaard, a life insurance agent, sold a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $100 million on the life of entertainment entrepreneur David Geffen. At the time that was the largest life insurance policy ever sold.

When Peter Rosengarrd discovered that MCA, the large entertainment company, had just purchased Geffen Records for $600 million, he realized that David Geffen was the single, indispensable, driving force behind Geffen Record Company and that if anything ever happened to David Geffen MCA’s $600 million purchase would be worth very little. Rosengaard identified a problem and offered a solution before the CEO thought of the problem.

If you want to learn more about Rosengaard, read: The adviser who sold the biggest life policy (and insured a Mafia hitman)

What problem may impact your clients and potential clients and how can you help them deal with it?


Law Firm Partners: Are you giving your associates/junior partners a chance?

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

I confess: I totally missed it when I was practicing law, and I only learned what I had done, after a few years and then I made a change.

What did I miss? I had a superstar associate working for me, and for a few years I did not give him the full opportunity to develop his own practice. For my former colleagues and friends, his name started with a T. For this blog I will call him Tom.

I provided Tom with at least 2000 hours of billable work a year, including one year traveling to Las Vegas every single week for several months to work on a big project there. I gave Tom articles to write for my monthly Roads and Bridges column, without giving him the credit for contributing to the column. Tom also helped me put together presentations for clients.

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I finally realized, after Joyce said something to me, that my star associate was miserable. Tom hated being gone from his family Monday through Friday and he did not appreciate spending many non-billable hours helping me without getting any credit.

At that point, there was nothing I could do about the Las Vegas project. Thankfully, after a one day mediation it settled. Instead of having him write for me, I found opportunities for him to get his own articles published. Instead of helping me prepare presentations, I made him a co-presenter. After a short time, Tom was being asked to make presentations and do workshops for clients without me.

So, here is the issue every senior partner with a large book of business faces. You may have associates and junior partners who feel they are unable to develop their own business relationships and profile because they are working full time on your clients’ matters.

They won’t say anything to you, but they will ask someone like Joyce:

  • Where is the time?
  • How do I make the time to do that, work on my own matters, work the partner’s cases, and see my family ?
  • How do I get to the point where the partner starts transitioning cases to other associates and junior partners because I now have a sufficient caseload of your own?

So, I ask once more: Are you giving your associates and junior partners a chance to succeed in their own right?


10 Questions to Improve Your Client Development Efforts

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

I know many young partners and senior associates who are working as hard as they think they can. So, when I tell them they can increase their level of business by 50% in a couple of years, instead of seeing excitement in their eyes, I see pain.

I can tell they are thinking: “I don’t want to work any harder.”

Less is More

The top producing lawyers work hard. There is no doubt about that. But, most of them also make time for their families and personal interests, because they use their time wisely. They have a plan and use systems to be efficient. They also employ the 80-20 rule, spending 80% of their time on the top 20% of clients or activities that produce business. 

If you want to improve your client development efforts in 2015 without burning out in the process and you do not know where to start, here are 10 questions to answer:

  1. What is the industry of your major clients?
  2. What steps have you taken to understand their industry, their business and their needs?
  3. What are you doing to build a team to help you with your work?
  4. What do you consider to be your major strengths?
  5. What do you consider to be areas where you could improve?
  6. What client development efforts did you make in 2014? Which were successful?
  7. What do you perceive as obstacles to your client development success (either firm or self-imposed)?
  8. What have you done to expand relationships further with your existing clients?
  9. What are your clients problems, opportunities and changes that are impacting them and what makes you uniquely able to solve the problems or help them with opportunities and changes?
  10. What is the one thing you can do that you are not doing now that would have the greatest impact on your client development efforts?

Isn’t it time to develop a business plan and focus on achieving it? I have a 2015 Business Plan I urge lawyers I am coaching to use as a starting point. Download it from the link and get started.

Rainmakers: Develop Your Next Generation Now

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching, Law Firm Leadership

Do you subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog? I am a big fan. Almost every day he writes something that applies to lawyers. Yesterday he posted: Along for the Ride. It is very short (I wish I could make such great points as succinctly as he does).  

It reminded me of two different ways law firms treat associates. Some firms treat associates like they are just “along for the ride.” Others encourage associates to develop their skills both as lawyers and as business developers.

How many law firms, big and small, have senior lawyers over 55 or over 60 who bring in most of the firm’s business? I saw a firm where all but one of the top 20 rainmakers were over 55. I wondered how the firm would survive when those lawyers were gone.

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Doesn’t it make sense for your firm to develop the next generation of rainmakers now?

Before considering how to build the next generation of rainmakers, it is important to understand what makes rainmakers different. I think rainmakers exhibit some or most of the following attributes:

So what do the characteristics of rainmakers tell us about creating the future rainmakers? I recommend you consider the following:

  • Rainmaking will be natural for few and a challenge for many. But, it can become natural for almost all of your lawyers with practice.
  • Focus on raising  your lawyers emotional intelligence.
  • One size does not fit all (customize your training to the individual).
  • Teach associates to set goals and prepare a plan.
  • Make your client development training interactive and experiential.
  • Start working with your associates during orientation.
  • Programs for 1-3 year associates should be vastly different than programs for 4-7 year associates.
  • For junior partners,  focus on developing a business plan, developing their profile and how to connect with clients and potential clients and enrich their relationships.
  • Your client development program will have little value if there is no follow-up individual coaching.


What Would Law Firms be Like if They Were Led by Women?

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to speak at the firm retreat of the Tennessee law firm Lewis Thomason. The firm leader who asked me to speak is my friend Lisa Cole, the firm’s managing partner. I met Lisa many years ago when I was working with her husband Jonathan Cole.

Lisa asked me to speak on Client Development 2015: Old Tools and New Tools and on Preparing a Business Plan for Success. I enjoyed both presentations.

A few months ago, I was asked for my prediction for 2015 which was included in: 25-Plus Predictions for the Legal Industry in 2015. As you will see, I predicted:

My prediction for 2015 is that women lawyers will assume more leadership positions in large law firms and many will start their own law firms.

What I suggested when I was asked is supported by what is happening. See: Two Women Win Spots Atop Big Law Firms.

I have coached hundreds of women lawyers. At the risk of over generalizing, I have long believed that women have some unique attributes that make them very well suited to lead law firms and practice groups and offices.

Many years ago I read a hilarious and fascinating blog post by UConn professor Gina Barreca  in Psychology Today Run By Women, The World Would Be Better and More Fun.I found it thought provoking, but the satire may not be for everyone.

Ok, what is it about the women I have coached that causes me to see they have great leadership attributes? Here are some distinguishing attributes. The women with whom I work are:

  • Less focused on individual lawyer silos and more focused on teamwork and collaboration
  • Less focused on how we always have done it and more focused on innovation
  • Less focused on rigid rules and more focused on flexibility
  • Less focused on dictating and more focused on listening
  • Less focused on profits per partner and more focused on values

I looked at my list and said to myself: “Wow, I would love to be a partner in that kind of firm.” Unfortunately, as reported in a 2008 article: Women Law Firm Leaders Still Sparse only 8% of firms are led by women. There are a variety of reasons cited in the article, not the least of which is only a small percentage of men, and smaller percentage of women, have any desire to lead a firm.

Concerned that my instincts might be inaccurate, I looked for scientific research, and was surprised to discover I was pretty much on target. Of the many studies and papers, here are two with interesting insights:

In the study, male leaders were exceptional in each of the areas, but women leaders set a new standard. They are or have:

  • More persuasive in part because of how well they listen, read situations and see all sides
  • A stronger need to get things done
  • More willing to take risks
  • More open
  • More empathetic which enables them to be more persuasive
  • Stronger interpersonal skills
  • More inclusive consensus builders
  • More collaborative

What do you think a woman led law firm would be like? I invite your thoughts on this interesting subject.

TOP SECRET: Why Client Development Coaching Works

Posted in Career Development, Client Development Coaching

I recently received a phone call from a law firm asking me about my coaching program. During the call I was asked:

Cordell, how do you motivate the lawyers you coach?

That was a great question. I told her I cannot motivate lawyers who are not motivated. But, I have the secret to help motivated lawyers become more successful. In this short blog, I will share my secret with you and give you some material from professionals supporting my premise.

When I am coaching lawyers, I ask lawyers to grade themselves, not on their successes, but rather on their efforts.

Why do I approach it that way? I learned long ago how the feeling of making progress motivates us to do more and stick with it.

Recently I read a Fast Company article that supported this thought: 3 MOTIVATIONAL MIND TRICKS DESIGNED TO POWER PROGRESS. I urge you to take a couple of minutes and read it, including what studies have shown. I like this quote:

Countless game, app, and website designers grasp this potency of visible progress. Managers can leverage that motivating effect by communicating progress to their team and showing how their work interacts to move the needle. Everyone gets a boost by showing their work, keeping track of and recording their accomplishments.

I hope I have you convinced. Even so, I also think you will find valuable this HBR article: The Power of Small Wins. Here is a Ted Talk clip of Psychologist Teresa Amabile, one of the authors of the paper:

In the talk, she focuses on engagement and shares how every organization can improve work place performance. Inner work life drives performance.  She found that the single most motivating event in the workplace is making progress on meaningful work.

If I have coached you, then you likely have experienced a breakthrough. It wasn’t necessarily securing a new client. It could be as simple as posting a blog that someone on Twitter retweeted. Hopefully you now understand why when I am coaching you, I am focusing on your small wins.

Client Develop Tip: You Want Clients to Find You, Not the Other Way Around

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

During a group telephone coaching session I was asked:

Cordell, did you solicit potential clients?

I never did that. I would have felt uncomfortable and disingenuous.

A few years ago a firm where I was coaching asked me to do a presentation. They wanted the title to be: How to Ask for Business/Making the Sale.  I told them I did not believe in closing or asking for business, but they insisted that I not change the title. If you are interested here are the slides.

As you will see from the slide below. I made clear that it was not selling and closeting that would get the business. Take a look at the slides that follow to get my take on what does get the business.

A few years ago, I read Michael Port and Elizabeth Marshall’s  book: The Contrarian Effect: Why It Pays (Big) to Take Typical Sales Advice and Do the Opposite. I liked it, because just as I suggested in my presentation, I did the opposite of what salesmen are advised to do. Early in the book I found these two quotes that support my thoughts on client development:

Today, customers (in our case clients) initiate the buying process, evaluate whether they want what you have to offer, and then raise their hands when they want to buy…

This means that sales professionals (in our case lawyers) must find a way to build relationships and to be there when customers (clients) are ready to buy—a totally different worldview and way of interacting with potential customers (clients).

Ok, if you agree that trying to “sell” clients won’t work, how do you find a way to build relationships? In 2015, I believe you want to be found when your potential client does a Google search on the legal topic for which they need help. So:

  1. Create content (articles, blog posts, presentations, Webinars, podcasts) your potential clients value.
  2. Use social media tools to widely distribute that content.
  3. DO NOT blast email client alerts. Send them individually.

What other ways can you build relationships?

  1. Hang out where they hang out. Join industry associations.
  2. Identify a potential client problem, create a solution and give it away.
  3. When you get a meeting with a potential client, do your homework and ask great questions.

As the Contrarian Effect authors put it:

Instead of constantly trying to close the sale, companies can adopt a valuable keep-in-touch strategy that provides timely and meaningful information designed to help their potential customers find solutions to their problems.

If you change your mindset from selling to helping, you will find other ways to reach your potential clients.

This is one of the webinar and coaching topics we have for our 2015 Group Webinar and Group Telephone Coaching Programs. The lawyers who have participated over the last several years found the sessions helpful. I am confident you will also. Contact if you are interested in participating.



PG or Office Leader: Here are Some Ideas from My Old Plan

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

Greetings from Prosper, Texas. Nancy and I moved yesterday and are dodging boxes this morning.

If you are a Practice Group Leader or an Office Managing Partner, or if you are leading your firm, do you have a written plan on what you intend to do?

I remember a year when I billed more hours than any other year working on the NJ and Northeast EasyPass contract. After we finished that project I went to our firm leaders with my plan to lead my practice group.  I wrote a plan and gave it to firm leaders,  in part so I would actually do what I planned.

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I was looking at some documents on my server on leadership and I found what I presented to the firm leaders. It is 18 years old now, but just maybe some of my ideas at the time are still good ones today. Here it is.


  • Meet one-on-one with each of the lawyers in the Practice Group and get their career goals and objectives.
  • Establish credibility with each of the lawyers in the Practice Group. Determine what motivates them, ask what they are working on and how I can help them.
  • Reduce billable hours by 200 annually and develop plan on using the 200 hours for leadership of the Practice Group.
  • Identify roles, use weekly planners (guess it would be my computer/iPad/iPhone calendar today) to plan activities.
  • Establish performance criteria with members of the Practice Group. Get each member to agree on goals and an action plan.
  • Provide on-going feedback as I spot the need on performance and suggestions for improvement. Look at all of each person’s accomplishments, and express appreciation before raising the bar.
  • Meet with each member of the Practice Group to find out which work in the past year he or she found most rewarding and why. Also find out which career tracts would provide greatest satisfaction. Have them list three actions they can take in the short term.
  • Determine strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and fears of each member of the Practice Group. (Write them down and remember.)

I discovered that our law firm leaders talked a good game about the importance of Practice Group Leaders, but when it came to doing anything meaningful to encourage it or reward it, they didn’t.

I also discovered that my plan only worked with the lawyers in my group who wanted to create and be part of a great team. The naysayers thought the ideas didn’t apply to them. So, they refused to cooperate.

During a practice group retreat one time, two of the naysayers had a few drinks and were making fun of our practice group strategic plan. One looked at me and said in a loud voice:

Cordell, you are not a real lawyer. You are nothing but a salesman.

I guess he thought that would offend me. I actually laughed since he depended on me to provide him legal work.

If you take a close look at each of the bullet points, you likely will see how they apply to the coaching I am doing now. I have to say it is way more fun to coach lawyers who want to develop their client development skills than it was to lead lawyers who did not want to be led.


Charisma: What are the Qualities You Need to Develop to Have It?

Posted in Client Development

I originally published this two years ago, but I found a recent Wall Street Journal article: How to Develop Your Personal Presence on Social Media and in Real Life and decided to publish it again. I could tell you what the writer suggests that you do to develop your presence, but I will leave that for you to determine.

Recently, a lawyer I coach told me she doubted she could ever be a rainmaker. I asked why she felt that way. She replied:

I am not an extrovert. I am rarely the life of the party. I don’t enjoy going to networking events and I do not have charisma.

I told her that she had a misconception on what it takes to be a rainmaker and what it means to have charisma. I told her I believe that introverts are more likely to have charisma than many extroverts because extroverts tend to talk too much about themselves.

Several years ago I read Tony Alessandra’s book: Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing Magnetism That Leads to Success. I like his definition of charisma:

Charisma is the ability to influence others positively by connecting with them physically, emotionally and intellectually.

He lists seven main components:

  • Your silent message.
  • Your ability to speak well.
  • Your listening skills.
  • Your persuasive talent.
  • Your use of space and time.
  • Your ability to adapt to others.
  • Your vision, your ideas.

A month ago, I was flying home from San Antonio. A young 12 year old African American girl, who was traveling by herself, sat next to me in the waiting area before we boarded the plane. She was reading a book. I asked what she was reading. She told me it was the third book she had been assigned to read that summer. That peaked my interest. She told me she would be starting school at a fine arts school in Fort Worth. That prompted the lady sitting on the other side to ask what she wants to do when she grows up. She replied: I want to be an actress.

When we boarded both the 12 year old and I were seated in first class. In the hour flight to Dallas, everyone seated in first class and all the flight attendants got to know the 12 year old. She had charisma. When we landed in Dallas, I wanted to get the girl’s name and take her photo with my iPhone. I am convinced she will be famous some day.

My experience marveling at the 12 year old girl’s charisma reminded me of a story Alessandra tells that was originally told by Sheila Murray Bethel in her book Making a Difference. The story is of a kindergarten teacher who asked a student what she was drawing:

“I’m drawing a picture of God,” the child quickly answered.

“But sweetheart,” said the teacher, “no one knows what God looks like.”

The young girl replied: “They will in a minute!”

Alessandra notes:

Charismatic people possess a similar, almost childlike faith in their vision and their ability to create change. People will follow leaders (and clients will rely on lawyers) whose vision inspires them and makes their lives more meaningful.

I will leave you with one more short piece to read: 5 Qualities of Charismatic People. How Many Do You Have?

How many of the 5 do you have? What can you do to develop those qualities?

I am contemplating doing a webinar on charisma and law. If you are interested in participating contact

Young Lawyers: Are you kicking …?

Posted in Social Media

In 2012, I posted a blog You are Never Too Young, Too Inexperienced, Too... I argued that If you are hungry to become more valuable to your potential clients and if you are willing to do what older lawyers are not doing, you have a real opportunity.

Because many senior lawyers are not creating content for their clients and potential clients or not using the web to distribute it widely, there are great opportunities for young lawyers to differentiate themselves from more senior lawyers. I read and recommend you read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? I found a great quote about the power of the web by Hugh MacLeod:

The web has made kicking ass easier to achieve, and mediocrity harder to sustain. Mediocrity now howls in protest.

Seth Godin points out that the internet has raised the bar because it’s so easy for word to spread about great stuff. So, if you are a young lawyer you want to produce great stuff and then get it into the hands of people who will share it with others including your potential clients.

Seth Godin also says there is more junk than ever before. I agree and believe lawyers are creating more junk than ever before.

I read a lot of blog posts that are not well written and not aimed at helping clients and potential clients.

If you are a young lawyer and you want to “kick ass,” you must create content that your target market will value reading or hearing and then you must write it or present it in a way that grabs their attention.