Greetings from Phoenix, where unless you live here, it’s hard to imagine how hot it is outside. I’m coaching lawyers here and one topic we have been discussing is how each lawyer can become a “go to” lawyer in his or her field.

Do you remember a blog I posted: Lawyers: Being the Best in the World is Seriously Underrated ?

 The title is based on  Seth Godin’s quote: “Being the best in the world is seriously under rated.” The world in this case is being seen by your target market as being the best at something they need.

My first target market was commercial businesses, then I narrowed it to the construction industry. A few years later I further narrowed my target market to highway, heavy civil construction contractors.

At the time, that was a fast growing industry due to Interstate construction throughout the United States. Narrowing my focus was one of the most important things I ever did.

You might be thinking that focusing on an industry may not work for you. If you are, I urge you to reconsider, because the more narrow your focus, the more likely you can be “best in that world.”

Forbes recently published: The 10 Fastest-Growing Industries in The US. Take a look. Reading it almost made me return to my law practice and put my guides pictured below on social media.

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Which industries are growing fast, but are not over crowded with lawyers seeking to serve those businesses? If you find one with those characteristics and one you would be passionate about representing, you can become the “go to lawyer.”

Before Father’s Day, Jill asked what I wanted. I told her I didn’t want anything she could buy. I would prefer something she could make or something that shared her thoughts about our father-daughter times.

On Sunday she gave me a small book titled: “What I love about Dad, by Jill.” She couldn’t have come up with anything better. One of the pages was titled: “I admire your dedication to…” Jill completed the sentence with “learning.”

It was an insightful choice. I owe my career to constantly learning. I’m still learning. Next week, you’ll learn about my next learning adventure.

Are you focused on relationships with only people your age? If so you are not alone and you would likely tell me those friends are not in a position to send you business.

When I was a young lawyer, I never thought I should limit my relationships to people my age. Some of my very best friends, clients and referrals sources were actually my father’s and mother’s age. A few of them also played a big role in helping me and giving me opportunities.

If you are a regular reader, you might remember that I met Harry Lindberg in 1981 when I did a presentation for on November 7, to the Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association (VRTBA). In those days, before PowerPoint, I wrote each word I planned to say, memorized it, and took no notes to the podium to speak. I kept many of those written presentations that I studied for hours before speaking.

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At the time Harry worked with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

After hearing me speak, he asked that I speak to the national association. That single gesture was likely the most important opportunity I ever received. I spoke to the ARTBA contractors in the summer of 1982 and that led to my speaking again on the panel in 1983.

Harry later became the executive director of  the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association (WTBA). Harry invited me to speak at many WTBA annual meetings, and introduced me to several Wisconsin contractors who became lifelong friends and clients.

Nancy and I loved Harry and his wife Phyllis. They were very close friends and we loved doing road trips with them. We met them during the winter in Palm Springs and in Scottsdale.

Cordell Nancy Phyllis Lind

As seen above, one summer we went on what we called “Our Great Wisconsin Road Trip.” We started in Madison, drove to the far northeast corner of Wisconsin. Then we drove across the state to the Apostle Islands, where the photo was taken.

Another year in September Nancy and I flew to Madison and watched the Badgers play on Saturday, Then Harry and Phyllis took us to Green Bay and we watched the Packers play on Sunday.

If you are a young lawyer, there is someone older than you like Harry who can be a great friend and who can help you. Don’t ignore them, Seek them out.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. Each year I think about what my father taught me long ago.

It was Saturday, December 20, 1980. Nancy, Jill and I were getting ready to visit my family for Christmas. We got a call that day. My dad had died of a heart attack. I still miss him.

I thought of my dad when I did a program for associates based on my book Prepare to Win.

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During the program, I asked for the characteristics of effective goals.  One associate said: “They need to be realistic.” I didn’t say it at the time, but the lawyers I know who set realistic goals do so because they are easy to achieve. Super stars set goals that challenge them, stretch them and inspire them. My dad taught me to set those kind of goals.

My father was a creative artist and used his talent in the sign business. When I was five years old he left one of the largest sign businesses in Chicago and started his own business with a young partner named Bob Clauss. The Parvin-Clauss Sign Company is still in business today.

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How can what I learned from my dad help you become extraordinary? My dad was an entrepreneur and a risk taker. He started the Parvin-Clauss Sign Company without any assurance of the volume of business he and his partner would generate, but with the confidence he could do it.

When he retired from the business, he decided to create wood carvings and make jewelry. Once again he had no assurance anyone would buy what he was making.

I believe more people fail who are content and unwilling to take risks than those who dream big dreams. It must have taken courage to start a business with a family. It takes courage to be responsible for your own success, the well being of your family and to dare to try something others may think is unrealistic.

I have been an entrepreneur and risk taker during my career. I have been in small law firms, started a law firm, became a partner in a large firm and left that firm when I was at the top of my game to help other lawyers enjoy the fun and success I have experienced.

Do you have confidence in your ability to generate clients and business? Are you willing to take risks to try to be extraordinary, or will you settle for just doing good work for someone else’s clients? Even in a large firm, you can become a “go to lawyer” if you dream big dreams and work every day to achieve them.

I leave you with this quote from Dr. Robert Schuller:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?

 

 

Does your law firm have a client development coaching program? In my experience only a handful of firms are investing in helping young lawyers develop those skills.

If your firm thinks it is valuable for your younger lawyers to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, here are some client development skills you might consider teaching them.

Junior Associates:

  1. Dress for Success
  2. Business Etiquette
  3. How to Network
  4. How to Remember Names
  5. Active Listening Skills
  6. Systematic Ways to Keep in Contact
  7. What Clients Want and Expect
  8. Taking Control of Your Career
  9. How to Set Goals and Prepare a Development Plan
  10. Using Non-Billable Time Wisely

Senior Associates:

  1. Client Development Principles and Practical Tips
  2. Building Profile:
    (a) Your Website Bio;
    (b) Writing Articles that Will Generate Business:
    (c) Presentations the Will Generate Business;
    (d) Joining Organizations and Associations;
    (e) How to Follow Up After an Event
  3. Building Relationships with Clients:
    (a) How Clients Select;
    (b) What Clients Want;
    (c) Learning the Voice of the Client;
    (d) Thinking Like a Client;
    (e) How to ask questions;
    (f) Client Service;
    (g) Building Trust;
    (h) Building Rapport;
    (i) Personality Traits;
    (j) Following Up After Completing Project
  4. RFPs and Client Pitches
  5.  Client Interviews

New Partners:

  1. Coaching Program-Group and Individual: (a) Setting a Group Goal; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Group Goal; (c) Accountability
  2. How to Prepare a Business Development Plan: (a) Setting Business Development Goals; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Goals; (c) Making Client Development Part of Habits
  3. StrengthsFinder and How Each Can Best Use Time
  4. Becoming the “Go to” Lawyer
  5. Delegating and Building the Team
  6. Cross Serving
  7. Client Visits
  8. Selling Skills
  9. Becoming a Trusted Advisor
  10. Client Development Mistakes to Avoid
  11. Dealing with Difficult Clients

 

Does your firm have anyone helping to develop the next generation of rainmakers?

Our firm didn’t have anyone, so I started coaching our new partners. I loved that work so much that I gave up my big partnership draw, left my law firm and started coaching lawyers full-time.

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Over more than 12 years, I’ve figured out what I’ve done to  help the lawyers with whom I have worked:

  1. Identifying what is the lawyer’s definition of success
  2. Planning and goal setting to achieve the success
  3. Figuring out each lawyer’s major strengths and offering ideas and best practices on how to use those strengths
  4. Answering questions and providing feedback and suggestions
  5. Accountability: Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  6. Overcoming challenges.
  7. Role playing and experiential learning
  8. Presentation/communication/writing articles and blogs skills
  9. Understanding how clients select lawyers and how to be considered and selected
  10. Networking, developing relationships and converting those relationships into business
  11. Understanding what clients want and how to give it to them.
  12. Referral to outside sources on career and client development
  13. Opportunities for team building and cross-selling

Do you remember I recently wrote about the difference between teaching and coaching?

As you will see, the first six actions are in the coaching portion of the program and the last seven actions are in the training and teaching portion of the program.

I loved my law practice. I loved my clients. I appreciated what I was being paid, which was more than I ever dreamed possible.  But, there’s nothing better than receiving a hand-written note from a lawyer I coached several years ago, describing how the lawyer has become a top rainmaker, or leader in their firm.

If you know me, you know why that is so valuable to me.

I like to tell lawyers I coach that the difference between a teacher and a coach is:

A teacher will give you the right answers. A coach will ask you the right questions.

My goal in coaching is to help lawyers change and become more focused and purposeful about their client development efforts. I realize from my own experience that change is extremely difficult, especially for lawyers who are busy doing work for clients. I also realize that becoming more focused and purposeful is much easier if you have someone helping you.

I ask questions to get to know the lawyers I coach. I want to know their unique strengths, their unique experiences, what motivates them, what unique challenges they face and what client development activities they have done before they met me.

I frequently look for a good definition of a coach. Recently I saw this one:

What is a coach? “Part therapist, part consultant, part motivational expert, part professional organizer, part friend, part nag — the personal coach seeks to do for your life what a personal trainer does for your body.”

~MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL STAR-TRIBUNE

I think lawyers with whom I have worked would say at any given time I have taken on each of the roles described above.

Some time ago, I enjoyed reading The Harvard Business Review Blog: Five Coaching Strengths that Produce Champions. The writer focuses on coaching olympians and concludes that the most important of the five coaching contributions was:

build a strong coach-athlete relationship

I believe that also applies to client development coaching I do with lawyers. The lawyers who have been most successful working with me have allowed me to get to know them and we maintain a strong relationship years after the coaching program ends.

Create Your Own Client Development Coaching Group

I’ve written many times that if your firm is not willing to provide a client development coach, like me, get a group together and coach each other.

If you would like, I’ll make myself available by webinar for your first group meeting and share with you how to get the most out of working together.

 

 

Would you agree that little girls are encouraged to dream big dreams and be ambitious, but when women grow up, at least some of them,  hate to even talking about ambition?

When I was a busy lawyer, I didn’t really think much about how men and women view ambition differently. But, since I’ve been coaching,  I’ve discovered men and women speak differently when it comes to ambition.

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As you likely know, I’m writing a novel. Actually I’ve finished it, and now my sister is proofreading and I’m editing the story.

My character, now named Gabriela,  is incredibly  ambitious. On the one hand, her ambition drives her to succeed. On the other hand, her ambition is her achilles heel.

I’ve done some research as part of my writing. I found a Harvard Business Review article: Do Women Lack Ambition? I urge each of you to read it. I’ll share this point here.

In nearly all of the childhood ambitions, two undisguised elements were joined together. One was mastery of a special skill: writing, dancing, acting, diplomacy. The other was recognition: attention from an appreciative audience.

These elements are true not just for children, but also adults, and true for both men and women. So, read on further in the article and you’ll find a section titled: What’s Dashing Women’s Dreams?

Perhaps my novel will give you some of the answer.

My character is a young Mexican American lawyer who grew up in The Rio Grande Valley, known simply around these parts as “The Valley.” While growing up, her father,  a lawyer, encourages her to believe she can accomplish anything if she is passionate about it and willing to make the effort each and every day.

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After clerking for a Federal Court Judge in Dallas, and practicing law with her father in The Valley, my character is recruited by one of the big Dallas law firms, not known for its diversity. Partners in the firm refer to Gabriela as a “twofer” since the firm gets diversity statistical credit for having both a woman lawyer and an hispanic lawyer in one lawyer.

During orientation, the managing partner mistakenly refers to Gabriela as a secretary. Guess he didn’t get the memo stating the firm had hired its first Hispanic female lawyer. During her first deposition, the lawyer on the other side asks Gabriela if she is the interpreter.

Hopefully, you see why Gabriela  is ambitious. In her firm interview, when asked what she wants to accomplish, she replies, “I want to be on the cover of Texas Monthly, after being named the top litigator in Texas.” The partners laugh and snicker at her audacity.

I don’t want to give away my whole story. For now, let’s just say, while her male colleagues are praised for bing ambitious and setting stretch goals, Gabriela is chastised for doing the same. Some of the partners say Gabriela  is egotistical, full of herself, a narcissist, and those are just the characterizations I can write on a PG rated blog.

Some of her female colleagues, who also have worked very hard, shun the attention and give credit to others for their success, whether deserved or not. They don’t want to make waves.

Some of you have read or heard this story before. After coaching a group of women lawyers, I came home and told Nancy that group was my niche coaching group. Nancy gave me the jaundice eye look, but finally asked why. I replied,

Because women lawyers underestimate their ability to become rainmakers, while some of their male counterparts grossly overestimate their ability. When I coach motivated women, if I can just persuade them to believe and see themselves as rainmakers, they’ll achieve it.

I’ve coached many incredible women lawyers over the last twelve plus years. Many of those lawyers have become top rainmakers or top leaders in their firm. Many of you reading this post are those lawyers.

To those of you I have coached, both men and women, I can’t express how much I have appreciated getting to know you, and hopefully help you strive for more than you dreamed possible.

P.S. If this subject interests you, here are a couple additional articles you can read:

THE INFANTILIZING WAYS WE TALK ABOUT WOMEN’S AMBITION

The 7 Most Effective Ways For Women To Own Their Ambition

 

 

 

 

 

As you might imagine, I read dozens of blogs written by lawyers at least one time. What causes  your dream potential client to go back and read a second, third, fourth post and subscribe?

If we’ve worked together, you already know the answer.  Your potential client is looking for three things when he or she reads a blog written by a lawyer:

  1. Does the blog help him with his business?
  2. Does the blogger know her stuff?
  3. Is the blogger someone he or she would like to know?

Seth Godin posted recently: Microcopy in the age of a glance It’s worth a moment to read it. He points out that today, most people rarely get to the end of what you have written. He’s right.

If you read on, you’ll find he describes the importance of being human and being confident.

If your dream client read your blog for the first time today, would he or she see those two important elements?

I could answer by simply saying that every lawyer I have coached wishes he or she had started focusing on client development earlier in their career. But, let me give my own example.

Is your firm providing client development coaching for it next generation?

I tell law firm leaders that when I was growing up I played baseball every day during the summer. I played all the way through college.

I have not swung a baseball bat in 30 years or more. If I went to a batting cage today, I am not positive I would hit the ball, but I am postive I would not think about the technique of my swing.

On the other hand, I never played golf when I was young. I played for the first time when I was in law school. Now, 40 plus years later, when I stand over a golf ball, I am still thinking about all the things I need to do—technique.

If baseball and golf analogies do not resonate with you, think about driving. If you drove to work today, did you think about technique: I need to brake now, I need to put my turn signal on now? I bet you did those things naturally.

Then think back when you were in drivers’ ed. When you drove then, I am confident you thought about what you needed to do. It was not natural like it is today.

Becoming a rainmaker and generating business takes the same kind of practice. The earlier in your career you can work on client development and learn how to do it, the sooner client development and people skills will come naturally to you.

If you start now, at some point when you are meeting with a potential client, or giving a presentation, or attending a networking event, you will not think about your technique.

So, if your firm offers a program to help you become a rainmaker, jump at the chance to participate. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a chance to work on it together.

You likely have potential rainmakers in your firm that you are overlooking. You might even have concluded these lawyers are not motivated to make rain.

I have learned from coaching lawyers that there is more than one way to be be motivated. I will show you by telling you the tale of two lawyers. For purposes of this discussion, I will call one of them Sandra and the other one Jill. I bet you know lawyers who are like each of them.

Sandra is a go getter. She is very upbeat and has high energy. She is obviously highly motivated and very focused on her goals. She is very positive and very competitive. She is creative and willing to take risks on client development, but sometimes she is not very strategic using her time. She sets stretch goals and achieves them. When she achieves a goal she is highly charged. If she finds anything she believes she will not do well, she simply does not try doing it.

Jill, is much different. While she is highly motivated, she is not as positive. She does well and succeeds because she does not want to look like she doesn’t know something. She likes to say that she fears that her clients may come to realize that she is not the expert that she appears to be. She is very focused and not easily distracted. She is very detail oriented. She values getting it right more than getting it done quickly. She struggles with being a perfectionist. When she achieves a goal instead of being charged up, she is actually relieved.

Winston Churchill said it well:

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Sandra is the optimist and Jill the pessimist. Some law firm leaders or marketing professionals may believe that Sandra will easily become a rainmaker and Jill will never become a rainmaker.

I am sharing this story simply to tell you that both can become successful rainmakers, but  you cannot coach and motivate them the same way. If you try and use the power of positive thinking with Jill, it will not motivate her.

So, how would you motivate Jill to become a rainmaker in your firm? If you want some ideas read: Getting Others to Embrace Risk by Heidi Grant Halvorson. If you want even more ideas, read her book.