Cordell Parvin Blog

Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Client Development: What is Presence and Why It’s Important

Posted in Client Development

I’ve written about it many times. My first mentor (don’t think I ever used that word) told me clients wanted lawyers with a “confidence inspiring personality.”

What does that mean? I believe it is having a presence. What does that mean?

You’ve likely heard the phrase “stage presence.”  I looked it up and found this definition.

The ability to command the attention of a theater audience by the impressiveness of one’s manner or appearance.

I looked further and found an article: STAGE PRESENCE: WHAT IT MEANS, WHY IT MATTERS, AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT. I found this:

Stage presence refers to the certain charisma and charm that a theater actor or performer possesses that draws in an audience and commands their full attention. (My emphasis)

Body language is clearly one of the elements of presence. If you have a few minutes you might watch this Harvard professor Amy Cuddy TED Video

So, what is presence for a lawyer? I believes it includes your facial expressions, your voice, your posture, your openness and your body language. Finally, and maybe most importantly, your presence is the quality of your questions and how well you listen.

Clients will judge whether lawyers have a confidence inspiring personality. How will they judge you? Are you conveying confidence, trustworthiness and likeability?

Client Development Coaching: Writing articles Part 1

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I am flying to Los Angeles this morning where this afternoon and tomorrow I will coach a group of lawyers for the third time this year. One thing we will talk about is writing to get hired.

Why write articles or in 2016 post blogs? For me there were two main reasons.

  1. To demonstrate your knowledge and
  2. To get the opportunity to speak at events where your potential clients will be. Writing leads to speaking.

In part 1 of this video coaching session I go over some thoughts on why and how to write articles to get hired. (Note my short hair and use of Mac camera. After this and other videos I purchased an HD camera.)


Senior Lawyers: Want to Coach Your Lawyers?

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I returned from Denver last night. On Tuesday after coaching, I planned my solo dinner. I was staying at the Westin and the easiest thing to do would have been to eat at The Palm.

I’ve done that before and I enjoy their steaks. But, I wanted to do something different. So, I started a search for restaurants within walking distance of the Westin. I finally settled on Red Square Bistro.

What about that restaurant appealed to me? For one thing, they offer a wide variety of Vodkas. After all it is a Vodka Bar. I also discovered they were known for their Beef Stroganoff. I ordered it and it was the best I have eaten.

What does this have to do with client development coaching? The short answer is when I am coaching lawyers, I am looking for what makes that lawyer unique and different and then we focus on how we can best use that to develop business and relationships.

So with that story, let’s get to the point of the post.

I started coaching before I left my law firm. I enjoyed it so much that I gave up my law practice to do it full time.

I’ve been coaching lawyers in US and Canadian firms for over 11 years and over that time I have a few observations that might help you if you decide to coach your lawyers.

What does it take to coach lawyers?

Some experts hold the view that in executive coaching, the coach does not need to be a subject matter expert.

I believe that in client development coaching for lawyers, the coach does need to be a successful lawyer who has developed business. Lawyers are skeptical and they are less likely to listen and pay attention to someone who is not a lawyer or a lawyer who doesn’t have a proven track record.

So, the coach should be a lawyer in the firm who is well respected by his or her peers and has a proven track record.

Coaches also need to be open minded to more than one approach. What made the coach a rainmaker may not work for some or all of the lawyers in the program.

The coach must recognize that one size does not fit all. The coach must work to develop good questions, actively listen and be empathetic to the lawyers he or she is coaching.  Coaching is less about giving the right answers and more about asking the right questions.

What Will You Do As a Coach?

As a coach you will help the lawyers you are coaching with:

  1. Figuring out what they want to accomplish-their definition of success.
  2. Understanding their values.
  3. Planning and goal setting.
  4. Figuring out their major strengths and offering ideas and best practices on how to use those strengths.
  5. Figure out the best ways to deal with obstacles they encounter.
  6. Questions, feedback and suggestions.
  7. Accountability: This could be your most important role. Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.

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As a trainer and teacher you will help the lawyers with and by:

  1. Role playing and experiential learning.
  2. Presentation/communication/writing articles and blogs skills coaching.
  3. Understanding how clients select lawyers and how to be considered and selected.
  4. Networking, developing relationships and converting those relationships into business.
  5. Referral to sources on career and client development.
  6. Create opportunities for team.
  7. What clients expect and how to provide it.
  8. The role of blogging and social media.

I loved practicing law. I chose to leave my law practice because I get even greater joy when a lawyer finds an even greater success and fulfillment than he or she thought was possible.

Client Development Coaching: Building Your Profile

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

If you are a regular reader you’ve read:

In 2016, it’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows what you know.

You have to be visible and credible to your target market. How can you do it?


For me it was writing and speaking. For others, it might be being active in the local, state bar association or the ABA. For others, it might be leading a community organization.

In this short video coaching session, I share some of those ideas with you.


Referral Sources: Your Coaches or Sponsors

Posted in Client Development

As you know, on January 1, 2005 I left my law firm to coach, mentor and teach law firm lawyers in the US and Canada.

Recently I received an email from a construction contractor who needed my help. If I had taken on the matter, it would have paid me a multiple of what I will make this year coaching.

I am at the point in my career and life that I didn’t give it a second thought. Instead, I introduced the potential contractor client to lawyers who practiced with me and lawyers I have coached.

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I have been  a referral source. But, I have been more. I coached the lawyers on how to get the work and by referring them I was their sponsor. I was vouching for them.

Throughout my career I have always had coaches or sponsors either within a client or potential client’s company or outside. The coach or sponsor was someone who recommended me or vouched for me or gave me inside information.

This week I was the coach or sponsor by introducing a lawyer to the contractor who contacted me to help.

Since I started coaching I also introduce construction lawyers to construction association executives. In my career those executive directors were coaches or sponsors for their contractor members. They recommended me.

I coached several lawyers this week. A couple said to me, “I don’t want to come across like a salesman.”

I didn’t either. That’s why developing relationships with a coach or sponsor is important.

Each of you have potential coaches or sponsors. I am certain they would be happy to help you. Are you getting their help?

Client Development Coaching: What is Your Target Market

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I’ve said it many times.

If you market to everyone, you market to no one.

What is your target market?

When I settled in Roanoke, Virginia after my stint in the USAF, my target market could have been Virginia Tech graduates who own businesses in Southwest, Virginia, except a more senior lawyer in my own firm had already targeted that market.

Ultimately, in 1978 my target market became construction contractors in Southwest Virginia.

Here is a short coaching session video clip with my thoughts on defining a target market.



Mentoring: Meet the 2016 Dallas Mentor of the year

Posted in Career Development

Tricia DeLeon is a commercial litigation and bankruptcy partner at Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP in Dallas, Texas.

I’ve worked with Tricia for over 7 years and always applauded her efforts to mentor young lawyers.

She was recently recognized by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers as the 2016 “Mentor of the Year.” Tricia has written many guest posts here, so when she received the award,  I asked her to share why young lawyers respond well to her style of mentoring.

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How to be a Holistic Mentor

Have you ever played that word association game where someone says a word and you say what immediately comes to mind? When I hear the word “mentor,”

I immediately think of a person, rather than a word–Justice James A. Baker, a former Texas Supreme Court justice. I was privileged to be one of his briefing attorneys from 1999-2000. He was one of the most influential mentors I ever had. He taught me that an effective supervisor cares about your development as an entire person.

For example, he treated his chambers staff like family. We regularly shared meals with him and his equally-gracious wife. He supported my crazy idea to run my first marathon while working at the Court. He showed me how to serve my community. He constantly smiled, made you laugh and encouraged everyone he encountered. Although my legal skills flourished because of his teaching, I think I learned more about how I wanted to live my life.

Now, 17 years later, I still try to honor Justice Baker’s legacy by being a holistic mentor. I humbly accepted the DAYL “Mentor of the Year” award on April 29, 2016. I admire, respect and am inspired by the talented lawyers who nominated me. Here are a few examples of what they said mattered to them most in our mentoring relationship:

Be committed. Calendar time on at least a monthly basis to meet for an hour over a meal or coffee, outside of the office. You may already receive regular “windshield time” while driving together to client events, the airport or the courthouse. This time doesn’t count if you are only talking about work. Share what is going on in your life outside of work and invite the mentee to do the same.

Be a team. Look for ways to incorporate your mentee into client development activities. Invite her to join you at a non-profit luncheon. Lead a bar committee together. Co-author an article and tag-team at a speaking engagement.

Serve together. Take on a pro bono case together. This is my favorite way to work with young lawyers who may not specialize in the same area of law. If you do not work at the same firm, serve in your community together.

Exercise. Almost every Friday afternoon, I send an e-mail out to dozens of friends, many of whom are young lawyers. I invite them to join me for a Saturday morning run, yoga or just breakfast. If you are going to be successful in business, you also need to value mental and physical fitness.

Set goals together. Cordell Parvin taught me how to draft a business plan with measurable goals to hold myself accountable. I ask all mentees to do the same. Mine incorporates holistic goals for these categories:

  • Faith,
  • Family,
  • Firm,
  • Fitness,
  • Finances,
  • Friends and
  • Fun.

Instill confidence. None of us comes out of the womb knowing how to practice law. It’s challenging. Take time to encourage your mentees. Praise their strengths, especially to other lawyers and clients. It’s not always about you.

Tricia, congratulations on an honor well deserved. The lawyers you have mentored will remember you through the rest of their careers. You have made a difference in their lives.

The Go To Lawyer: Why it is important to become one

Posted in Client Development

I have written about it many times here, including most recently last September when I posted: Are You Helping Your Young Lawyers Become Artisans or Virtuosos?

Most clients want to believe their lawyers are experts in their fields.

Recently I re-read Artisans and Virtuosos: Cultivating Adaptive Expertise in our Children–and In Ourselves.  For the heck of it I decided to click on a link to a chapter from a book: How Experts Differ from Novices, which I had also referenced in the blog post last year.

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There I found some of the ways experts differ from novices. As you think about them, consider how they apply to lawyers attracting clients.

  1. Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.
  2. Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter.
  3. Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability: that is, the knowledge is “conditionalized” on a set of circumstances.
  4. Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.
  5. Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others.
  6. Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations.

Client Development Coaching: My Advice for Senior Associates

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I love coaching senior associates. They are open minded and eager to learn.

Several years ago, one year before the big law firm recession in 2008, I coached 15 senior associates. When we began the group had generated around $600,000 of business the year before our work.

Two years later, they generated around $1,800,000, 3 times the first amount.

In this short video I share some ideas I went over with those senior associates. You might also find these slides helpful.


Success: Wake Up and Work Hard

Posted in Career Development, Client Development

This past weekend on Saturday and Sunday we took our third grade pal and neighbor, Claudia to watch the LPGA Volunteers of America Texas Shootout Golf Tournament.

On Saturday we arrived after some of the women had finished their second round and before the women started their third round. We stood and watched several on the putting green. One was Anna Nordqvist. After she finished practicing putting, her caddie handed Claudia a golf ball.

All of a sudden, Claudia became a fan. She wanted to follow Anna.

One of Anna’s playing partners was Christel Boeljon. On one of the holes, her caddie handed Claudia a ball. That gesture made Claudia her fan as well.

On Sunday, lucky for us, Anna and Christel were paired together again. Claudia decided we should follow them around the course. On one hole after she had putted out, Christel came over and sat next to Claudia and talked to her.

At the end of their round, Christel gave Claudia the golf glove she had worn that day and she and Anna signed autographs and allowed us to take photos with Claudia.

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This personal touch by the professional golfers is what makes the LPGA so special. On our way home, Claudia was really excited and said what a great day she experienced.

Years ago I wrote about Anna, who at the time was an LPGA rookie and won the fifth tournament she played. Given our great experience watching her over the weekend I want to share that post again.

Nancy and I played golf yesterday morning. In the afternoon we watched the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.

For those of you who are not fans or did not see the final round, Anna Nordqvist, a rookie playing in only her fifth tournament was the unlikely winner. You might enjoy reading The Washington Post report of her victory.

Nordqvist started the final round with a two stroke lead. She built it to as much as a five stroke lead, and then her playing partner Lindsey Wright birdied 8, 9 and 12.

Nordqvist bogeyed 13 and the lead was cut to one. The TV announcers said: “Game On.” The remarkable thing was that the young rookie did not wilt under the pressure and she won by four strokes.

Wright, who shot a 70, said of Nordqvist:

“It was amazing. Under that amount of pressure, not being in that position before and in a major and being a rookie? You can’t get any better than that.”

When I drafted the blog about Anna, I went to her webpage, which has since changed. I found her quote:

“Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard for it”

What does it mean to wake up and work hard for it as a lawyer?

It means waking up and working each and every day to improve your skills. It means waking up and working hard each and every day to figure out what is going on in the world that may impact your clients. It means waking up and working hard each and every day to add value and exceed your client’s expectations.

Thank you Anna Nordqvist for reminding us all that we are never too young, never too inexperienced to wake up and work hard to be successful. (And, in 2016, thank you and Christel for making a 9 year old a fan for life.)