I recently received a copy of an email from a lawyer I am coaching to the others in her coaching group. She said:

I am not sure how many of you are reading Cordell’s book, but I just read a great tip in there that I thought that I would share with you.  It is not one that I had heard before.

Determine who 5 leading lawyers are in your field.  Print out their biographies.  Study their biographies to determine what has made them successful (e.g. speaking engagements, leadership roles, pro bono, memberships).  Emulate their success.

A few years ago I read a quote attributed to Bobby Knight and also to Paul (Bear) Bryant. It was:

“Many have the will to win, but few have the will to prepare to win.”

I believe  successful lawyers are not successful by accident.

Most I know prepare to win by figuring out what is important to them, setting career and life priorities, developing a plan with goals and taking action to achieve them.

I also know now that attracting new clients and building a lasting relationship with them is not an accident. The successful lawyers I know prepare to win with clients and potential clients by taking time to understand their needs and making sure they effectively address those needs.

In your career, “the will to prepare to win” will be way more important than the “will to win.”

So, I chose “Prepare to Win: A Lawyer’s Guide to Rainmaking, Career Success and Life Fulfillment” as the title for my  book. If you click, you’ll see you can order it for your Kindle for only $2.99.

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This book is not about winning in court or on appeal. Instead, it is a workbook designed to help you define your own success and then achieve it.

I hope you will find it a helpful tool as you focus on your career, client development, and living the kind of life that is important to you. I hope you find some valuable nuggets in the book that will help you think through what your career and life priorities are and how you can achieve them.

Here are the Chapter titles:

Chapter One:  How Do Rainmakers Do It?

Chapter Two:  Living and Practicing Law with a Purpose: You Have to Answer the “Why” Question

Chapter Three:  Your Vision of Success: How Do Rainmakers Do It?

Chapter Four:  Core Values: How Do You Want to Live?

Chapter Five:  The Importance of Role Models and Mentors

Chapter Six:  Setting Yearly Goals and Developing Your Career Plan

Chapter Seven:  A Call to Action: Executing Your Plan

Chapter Eight:  Mind Games: Getting and Staying “In the Zone”

Chapter Nine:  Building Your Profile: The Power of Writing and Speaking

Chapter Ten:  Community Service and Networking

Chapter Eleven:  Connecting with Contacts

Chapter Twelve:  Top Ten Client Development Mistakes

Chapter Thirteen:  Improving Client Service

Chapter Fourteen:  From Niches to Riches

Chapter Fifteen:  Important Extras: The Value of Extraordinary Client Service

Chapter Sixteen:  The Business Case for Better Balance

Chapter Seventeen:  Building the Next Generation of Rainmakers

If you get a chance to read Prepare to Win, let me know what ideas you took away and implemented.

Many of you know that several lawyers I coach read books and then share their takeaways from the book with me and sometimes with others in a group they formed.

Melissa Lyon is an energy lawyer in the Fox Rothschild Denver Office. She writes on the firm’s Energy Law Blog and as you will see from her bio, she’s been selected as one of the “Top Women in Energy” by the Denver Business Journal in both 2015 and 2016.

I have enjoyed reading her blog posts over the year we’ve worked together. Here is a link to a recent post, Did you just ask me to dance the Contango? It will give you an idea on why I enjoy reading Melissa’s posts.

Melissa is one of the lawyers I coach who is an avid reader. I’ve asked her to share with you her takeaways from a couple of books.

Melissa Lyon

Last week, I read the #1 New York Times Bestseller, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero in connection with my ongoing business development meetings with Cordell.  It seemed like a natural fit with my business development plan I have been working on…and it did not disappoint!

The short and skinny on this book is that it does not pull any punches.  It is a tough love reminder of how awesome you truly are and that you really can accomplish what you want.

Sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants, and author Jen Sincero gives it to you.  The tone of the book reminded me of talking to my blunt and feisty grandfather in a way – true to his Wyoming roots, he tells me often to “buck up, cupcake.”

It is true, sometimes we do just need someone to tell us bluntly to buck up, dust off your chaps and get back on your horse.  There are times when we just need to hear that and be reminded of who we are…

That we are crazily awesome and wonderful and that we will accomplish everything we set out to.

Jen Sincero, a success coach commonly referred to as a “motivational cattle prod,” is direct and mildly vulgar at times, which made the book feel like a conversation over coffee or cocktails with a good friend that has zero filter.  This kept the book from feeling too kumbaya and more real life, which I appreciated.

This book is a roadmap to getting very clear on exactly what makes you happy, what is your priority and what makes your heart race and makes you feel most alive.  Heavily focused on the well-known “law of attraction” (what you focus on, you create/manifest more of in your life) it sets out the path to changing the way you think so that you can make your goals happen.

One concept that truly resonated with me was to treat yourself like you are your best and closest friend.  It is so easy to be your own worst critic, to focus on your weaknesses instead of your strengths and to dwell on every mistake you make and every misadventure that befalls you instead of focusing on all of your amazing accomplishments and challenges you have risen to.

I appreciated the idea that you would never treat your best friend in such a horrible fashion – so you must treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend, someone you value.

A reminder to focus on how awesome you are is never a bad thing, nor is being reminded to decide to be the best version of yourself every damn day.

Choosing to be grateful for the many miracles in your life attracts more good stuff, and true to Cordell’s guidance that you have to believe you are capable of achieving what you want, this tough love reminder will help you truly believe with every ounce of your being you are capable of manifesting the life that you want.

Because you are a badass.

Jen Sincero also writes a blog worth checking out – “Blog of Badassery.”

As you know I am writing a novel about a Badass lawyer from the Rio Grande Valley called upon to defend a billionaire Texas Oilman in the age where the average juror would like nothing better than seeing a rich man, even if self made, put in jail and his company destroyed.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story, but let’s just day that the billionaire has hired a PR firm to help him win. You can get some ideas where that might lead.

We frequently visit a family with a daughter who will be a junior in high school in September.  I have rarely seen her eyes as they are usually focused on her cell phone texting back and forth with friends. 

I wonder what it will be like at a law firm when the current high school students become lawyers?

Years ago, I listened to a podcast interview of Timothy Ferriss, the author of a book titled, The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

As I listened, my first thought was it is a shame no lawyer could ever have  a four hour workweek.

My second thought was: Suppose I only worked four hours a week, what in the world would I do with the rest of my week?

I listened intently and thought Mr. Ferriss had some nifty ideas that we can apply to our own hourly billing driven careers. He coined the acronym DEAL.

  • Decide what you want
  • Eliminate things that do not lead you to what you want
  • Automate and delegate to others things they can do that enables you to do more important things
  • Liberate-use your newly found free time

Since I wanted to learn what I could do with the rest of my week, I bought Mr. Ferriss’ book and went on his webpage: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com.

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There, I found an interesting discussion of E-Mail addiction.

Mr. Ferriss noted that “Crackberry” was the official winner of the 2006 Word-of-the-Year as selected by the editorial staff of Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

He also referenced IQ tests done in 2005 by a psychiatrist at King’s College in London. The tests were given to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points.

More interesting was that the group stoned on pot did 6 points better than the group distracted by phone calls and emails.

If the tests reflect on the ability to concentrate, what do you suppose is happening to us as you try to do important work for clients while you are being constantly interrupted by the vibration or ding that you have gotten another email?

How to confront the addiction: I know it would be challenging, but consider only looking at email from 11:30 to 12:00 and 5:30 to 6:00, or only looking at it the last 10 minutes of each hour.

I believe we could be more focused and actually more efficient. Just suppose you created an auto-response, the kind you use when you are out of the office, that told people you are focused on an important project and will be checking email at 11:30 or 5:30.

Do you think you would lose any clients? I think clients would actually appreciate knowing you are totally focused on their matters.

“Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.”

I loved this quote when I first read  Seth Godin’s at book: The Dip.

What does it mean to be “the best in the world?”

First, it is being perceived as the best by your clients and potential clients. You can not become the best until you clearly understand their perceptions, and they know you understand them.

It is their world, not yours. Being the best also means clients have compared you to other lawyers they have used or met. I’ve found that comparison very interesting.

I have told this story here several times. When I was a young lawyer, I was on a plane with Mr. Burrows, the CEO of my largest client. We were on our way to Florida to try and settle a big contract dispute.

Mr. Burrows was my father’s age and since my father had passed away, I looked at him as a father figure. Mr Burrows passed away a couple of years ago and I still think about how he influenced my career.

We were in aisle seats across from each other.

Burrows

During the flight, Mr. Burrows reached over and grabbed my arm and said:

“Cordell, there is something I need for you to know. I hate every lawyer I have ever met.”

I could not think of a response. Then, Mr. Burrows grabbed my arm a second time and said:

“But, of all the lawyers I hate, I hate you the least.”

So, on that day I learned that being hated the least by a contractor was “being the best in the world.”

Later, after we had settled the case, I paused to think about what Mr. Burrows was really telling me.

I think he hated me the least because I didn’t talk like a lawyer. I talked more like a contractor who also had a legal degree.

He appreciated that he did not have to pay me to learn about the highway construction contract clauses. I had learned about them long before I did any work for his company.

I also learned that clients expect us to do the highest quality work. If we don’t, we have a far bigger problem.

Where you can differentiate yourself is through being the best in your client’s world at understanding them, their company, and their business (industry).

What are you doing to become “the best in the world” in the eyes of your clients?

If you are a regular reader, you likely know that I organize book groups for lawyers across North America where the group picks a book from a set of my recommendations that is relevant to professional, business and personal development.

The lawyers in the club exchange their thoughts on each chapter of the chosen book every second Friday with ideas on how they may implement what they have read.

One group recently finished Daniel Pink’s book: To Sell is Human. McCarthy Tetrault Toronto partner Leila Rafi volunteered to share her top takeaways from each chapter.

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Chapter 1: 

I found this quote to be right on target: “One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not now they have. (I can practically hear Cordell saying this.).”

Chapter 2:

The best way to make change is to motivate individuals to develop their best potential – this can only only happens when an individual is passionate about what’s at hand (recognizing that everyone is motivated differently). It’s important to connect individual goals to the larger picture in evaluating one’s potential.

Chapter 3:

I think that the changing role of sellers to having to clarify information as compared (pre-Internet age) as the sole source of information puts the onus on the seller (in our case, the lawyer) to know their product. Knowledge and passion are what distinguishes sellers nowadays. Typically those who know their product (industry and their clients’ businesses) and are passionate about the outcome, deliver the best results

Chapter 4:

I agree that getting into people’s heads is what fosters the ability to move people and in order to do that, one must be open to understanding other’s perspectives. As a lawyer who actively listens can accomplish this.

I have seen humility win the day at work – the most successful partners are those that lead the clients to the answer without telling them (or making them feel) that they have been led, allowing the client to ‘sit in the big chair’ of recognition.

Chapter 5:

I truly believe that emotions can be contagious as I have seen the effect positivity has on people, regardless of their initial state of being (being positive opens doors, and removes dread). Being authentic and genuine can only occur when you embrace the negative things that happen in your life and try to learn from them (instead of not self-aware and/or artificial).

I believe that one of the most effective traits of a negotiator is understanding what is important to the other side and being able to negotiate a deal whereby each side leaves the table satisfied (and doesn’t feel ripped off). This helps pave the road for a long-lasting relationship that is not fraught with resentment.

I believe in the power of asking and receiving. This includes asking management in one’s own law firm or asking a potential client for his/her business.

Chapter 6: 

I found the reference to ‘clarity’ eye opening (no pun intended) – the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways leading to the identification of  problems they didn’t realize they had

I found it interesting that most people who create breakthroughs in art, science or life tend to be problem finders and take more time with their work than others.

I liked reading about the VP of sales at the Italian company that makes Mentos mints and how he thinks of his best salespeople as those that think of their jobs not so much as selling candy but as selling insights about the confectionary business. We aren’t selling legal services and much as selling our ability to help clients achieve their goals in specific industry areas.

I agree with the author’s thought about it being important to “step out of our bubble” to better understand what we value in it. Traveling outside of North America (or at the very least, off Wall Street or Bay Street) is a good way to do that.

 

Chapter 7: 

I learned about three key abilities in this chapter: 1) to pitch, 2) to improvise and 3) to serve. A successful pitch does is not necessarily to move others to immediately adopt your idea but rather, is one that engages the audience for the purposes of collaboration – Be Compelling!

I believe the following three items Pink describes are crucial questions the pitch delivery person must answer before a successful pitch can be delivered:

  • What do you want the audience to know;
  • What do you want the audience to feel; and,
  • What do you want the audience to do?

Most lawyers fail on the last question one as they don’t follow-up after a pitch or provide the audience with links to additional information. Also, many lawyers make (potential) clients feel ‘less smart’ as opposed to feeling engaged or brighter as a result of the pitch.

 

Chapter 8:

Was surprised to learn that little to no effort is made in the educational process (including law school) to teach people how to listen more effectively. It is a client development skill that could differentiate one talented lawyer from another.

Believe the following statement is is true for a law firm: Making your partner look good, does not make you look worse – iIt actually makes you look better.

Word of mouth marketing has increased 10 fold by social media. Are law firms, and lawyers taking advantage of this? Generally, I think the answer across North American firms, is no.

 

Chapter 9:

I learned that sales and non-sales selling are ultimately about service and improving others’ lives, and in turn, improving the world. So I want to remember to make my selling activities it ‘personal and purposeful.’

I think that many times, people just need a bit of encouragement. An encouraged individual feels relevant and as though what they think actually matters in achieving the larger goal – this also helps strengthen the relationship between team members.

I liked the quote: “Really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers. They want to be part of something larger than themselves.” I think that is true of great lawyers I have known. They take joy in helping their clients and their law firm succeed.

 

Your Thoughts:

Have you read the book? If so please send a comment if you have anything you want to add.

Does your firm have any first year lawyers starting work today? I have an attorney development manifesto for you to consider.

What is a manifesto? I looked it up and here is what I found:

A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.

When I was in charge of attorney development in my old law firm, there came a time when firm leaders wanted to cut back on attorney development. I hear that is happening again in many law firms. So, here today is my Attorney Development Manifesto.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Chinese Proverb

I guess the firms that are cutting back think it will improve their Profits per Partner (PPP). It may over the short term, but over the long term…

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What is your firm’s purpose, vision, and its core values relating to its attorney development program? Here is what I suggest you consider:

Purpose

The purpose of our law firm Attorney Development Program is to enable our attorneys to better serve our clients, to increase our realization, and to provide opportunities for greater achievement and career satisfaction.

Vision

We seek to have an attorney development program recognized as preeminent by our clients, our lawyers and law students.

Core Values

  • Our attorneys will take responsibility for their career development and satisfaction.
  • Each attorney, associate, partner, and of counsel must contribute in some way.
  • Supervising lawyers will give clear direction, answer questions, pay attention to quality, and provide real time constructive and supportive feedback.
  • Teamwork is encouraged at all levels.
  • Each attorney and staff member will be shown respect. Respect engenders respect.
  • We will endeavor to provide consistent, real and specific direction on career advancement. 
  • CLE will be used as a means of acquiring skills necessary to better serve our clients and enable our attorneys to grow.
  • We will demand a lot from our lawyers.  They will work hard, meet high standards of excellence, and over time and with our guidance and support, learn to be outstanding lawyers, trusted advisors and mentors for a new generation of outstanding young lawyers.

If you are thinking about your own attorney development program, keep in mind that each associate in your firm has a unique background, unique skills and unique dreams, but  they also share things in common. 

Hopefully if you hired the right lawyers, they all want to learn and become better lawyers.  They want to work on interesting projects. They want to feel like they matter, know where they stand, and whether they are on track, and they want to feel respected by senior lawyers and peers.

When graduating law students arrive at your door, they know more about the science of law and less about the art of lawyering than they will ever know in their career. So, focus on developing their lawyering skills

When it comes to the future, many of your young lawyers are confused.

  • They feel like they are on a trip to an undefined and constantly moving destination (making partner).
  • In 2015, many may not even want to become a partner in your firm.
  • They are uncertain of the time expected for their arrival, feel they have not been given a map to get there, and no compass to let them know where they are.
  • They feel they have no coach or sponsor.

You need your senior lawyers to teach them the art of lawyering and help clear up the confusion. This requires your senior lawyers to get to know them, to understand what makes them unique, and to encourage them to achieve success as they define it.

Your work with your clients is not any different and just as you get good vibes from helping your clients achieve their business objective, you will get the same feeling helping your young lawyers achieve their career goals.

You will have more fun and success helping other people achieve their goals than you will trying to reach your own goals.

Dale Carnegie

A lawyer I am coaching recently shared with me her idea for a new niche practice. Her novel idea made me think of a blog I wrote in 2013: Who will become the “hot sauce” industry go-to lawyer?

I was impressed because her idea was one I had never even considered. I told her she was thinking like an entrepreneur.

What did I mean?

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I absolutely enjoy reading the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge web page. Several years ago I read an interview with Professor Joseph B. Lassiter III titled: Turning High Potential into Real Reward.

In the interview Professor Lassiter is asked what the keys for success are for a new venture moving from product development to marketing and selling the product. The professor responded:

In these high-performance ventures, entrepreneurs leading the ventures look ahead and say, ‘Two or three years from now, this is exactly the customer and exactly the product, and this is exactly why they’re going to be compelled to buy.”

He described what this means for MBA students (substitute lawyers).

What that means is that most MBA students should go to work in an area they think is going to be hot—and they’ve got to anticipate where it’s going to be hot—and then build up a deep knowledge of who the good engineers are, who the interesting customers are, what the right channels are, and who the essential business partners are.

I believe client development begins in much the same way. As a lawyer you should ask yourself:

  1. What do my clients need now?
  2. What will my clients need in the future?
  3. What do I have to offer them?
  4. Why should they want to hire me rather than other lawyers?

I did that long ago. I decided I wanted to represent transportation (highways, bridges, airports and rail) construction clients. At the time I had experience handling government contract claims.

Over time I gained experience in other areas. I thought they should hire me rather than other lawyers because I was so specialized that I understood their industry and the business and legal challenges they faced better than lawyers less specialized.

Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.

I love this quote from Seth Godin at the beginning of his book “The Dip,”

Ask yourself the four questions above and write down your answers. I hope you will become more focused in your client development efforts as a result.

P. S. I am still looking for the lawyer who decides to create a niche practice in the Hot Sauce Industry.

As you know, I find inspiration from quotes. I doubt many of you have ever heard of James Allen.

He was an English author in the late 1800s. His quotes have inspired many, but few have ever heard of him.

He was a self-help guru when self-help gurus were not cool. Here are just a few of his quotes that I hope will inspire you.

You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.

To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.

For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?

All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.”

If you want to learn more about James Allen and download his most famous book As a Man Thinketh, check out James Allen (1864-1912)An unrewarded geniusa website devoted to his writing and teaching.

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Chapter Four of the book focuses on having a purpose, something I believe we all need. I particularly like this paragraph from that chapter:

A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts. It may take the form of a spiritual ideal, or it may be a worldly object, according to his nature at the time being. But whichever it is, he should steadily focus his thought forces upon the object which he has set before him… Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.”

What Allen described is still valid today. Take a look at this Atlantic Monthly article: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. I like this quote:

In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, in the meaningful life “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

So, have you decided what your major definite purpose is for being a lawyer? Have you focused your thoughts on achieving it?  

 

Did you watch the race? Nancy and I had a dinner reservation for our 45th anniversary, but we couldn’t leave until we saw the Belmont Stakes.

I had seen Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed win the triple crown, but like many I wondered if I would ever see a triple crown winner again. I suspect that for less than three minutes, everyone in America came together cheering for American Pharaoh.

So, thank you to American Pharaoh. See: American Pharoah Wins Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown for an article about the win.

As I watched the pre-race and the race, I wondered if thoroughbred horses get nervous before a big race. American Pharaoh looked pretty calm and collected, so maybe not.

I did some research and found: Stable Goats Help Calm Skittish Thoroughbreds.

Not that they have much of a choice, but do those horses ever want to just quit? Owners get to make that choice and that is currently a topic for American Pharaoh. After American Pharoah’s Runaway, Pondering Whether to Quit While Ahead.

Would it surprise you to know that I thought of quitting a few times in my career?

The first time was when I was a first year law student. During the first semester I worked very hard and had no idea how I was doing. I thought to myself: “Who needs this?” I’ll just quit law school and fulfill my active duty commitment to the Air Force.

Well, I didn’t quit and at the end of the first semester I was third in my class, which is where I finished when I graduated.

In 1980 I tried a case in West Virginia. One issue in the case was the reasonable cost of completing a construction project. I argued $130,000. The contractor’s lawyer argued $30,000. We had jury interrogatories with the specific question: “What was the reasonable cost to complete the project?” The jury answered: “0.”

I was devastated. I asked the judge to send the jury back. After all, the amount had to be somewhere between $30,000 and $130,000. He refused. On my way back home, I thought to myself that maybe I was not cut out for this stuff. But, what else could I do. So, I stuck with it again.

Several years ago Seth Godin wrote a 78 page book: The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches When to Quit (and When to Stick). I just looked and you can get it on your Kindle.

The-Dip

I liked it because it focuses on the importance of being number one-“the go to person” in your field. Godin says that to be a superstar it helps if your niche has a steep dip-the barrier between those who try and those who succeed.

He points to Microsoft as creating a dip so deep and wide that its competitors quit before catching up. He also points to Apple which at the time had done the same for  iTunes and the iPod. Fast forward and I think Apple has done the same with the iPad.

I believe I created a steep dip with my writing and speaking on transportation construction. No other lawyer created the content I created or made the  number of presentations to highway contractors that I did.

Godin notes that every project starts out to be exciting. Later there is a dip.

Less successful people quit or decide it is OK to be average. Many successful people quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt based on the priorities in their life. They commit to beating the right dips for the right reasons. They actually seek out dips and realize the bigger the dip, the greater the reward for getting through it.

One of the questions Seth Godin is frequently asked is how do you know when it is time to quit. He suggests that it is time to quit when you realize you are have been settling for mediocrity or when you see no measurable improvement and no way to change how you measure it.

Seth Godin says the worst time to quit is when the pain is the greatest.

Thankfully, I never quit when the pain was the greatest. But, I did quit after I had my most successful year practicing law. I decided at that point I wanted to start over and get that feeling of excitement again. Now after coaching lawyers for 10 years, business is very slow and I am stuck in that “dip” again.

Over the years I have been blessed to work with some great law firms and great lawyers. For several years I coached lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault. When I started coaching the McCarthy lawyers, I introduced them to Seth Godin’s blog and his thoughts on creating a purple cow.

In 2013, after I had read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, I encouraged the McCarthy lawyers I coached to read it and share ideas. They did and found the experience very valuable.

A few weeks ago McCarthy Tétrault held its annual firm retreat. Shortly before the retreat I learned the firm had invited both Seth Godin and Adam Grant to speak. Wow, that just had to be the most awesome law firm retreat ever. I asked Leila Rafi and Elder Marques to share their takeaways from the retreat.

As two young partners in one of Canada’s leading law firms, we spend a lot of time looking forward to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do today to get where we want to be. The reality of a busy client-focused practice, however, means it can be a challenge to integrate forward-looking thinking in the day-to-day grind.

To help foster thinking strategically about the future, our firm decided to build an entire firm retreat around the idea of understanding and embracing the change that’s happening in our profession, and urging our lawyers to seize the opportunities created by that change.

Lawyers from all our offices, including our office in London U.K., arrived in Chicago on Friday, October 24, 2014, for Mission 2020 – Fuel the Future. Over three days, we undertook a series of learning opportunities, a powerful community building exercise, and social engagements to build and strengthen connections.

Our CEO, Marc-André Blanchard, moderated a panel discussion featuring leaders from U.S. law firms and advisory firms. The panel tackled the evolution of the legal industry and the ways in which clients are challenging fundamental premises upon which law firms operate – including questioning the billable hour.

We learned about how professional services firms can present their value proposition and measure success for clients in a holistic way and not just the number of hours docketed to a file. The panel also addressed how to effectively manage talent, recognizing that in today’s profession young lawyers are facing a different path towards partnership and are inspired differently as a result.

Today’s world requires innovation, a need to think outside the box, and a real understanding of challenges that clients face in order to foster lasting client relationships.

Listening to Seth Godin, we learned that real innovation can’t happen without failure and that failure is an event, not a person. For the vast majority of lawyers, this represents a radically new way to think about what we do and what we define as “success”.

Our firm leadership has embraced this idea and encourages young partners to take control of their own destiny and safely face the risks associated with trying something that is fundamentally new and different from what others did before. You can see that change to our firm culture starting to happen in many ways, one of which being how our lawyers use social media to connect with our clients and share knowledge with them.

Our retreat also featured Professor Adam Grant, whose Give and Take book is transforming the way many people think about relationships within their organizations and the kind of culture they want to build.

Last year both of us were in a Give and Take book group where lawyers shared their reactions to Adam’s ideas after each chapter. The book and the ideas we shared with our colleagues helped us professionally and personally and the connections we made with other lawyers resulted in business development opportunities and actual work! Understanding how individual behaviour impacts the group is especially important in a legal environment where talent is central to what we offer our clients, and where our most effective work is the product of collaboration.

Cordell Parvin, who has acted as a very effective coach to many of our young partners (including both of us), understood these kinds of changes long before the legal industry did. Cordell first introduced us to Seth Godin and Adam Grant, put together our Give and Take book group, and encouraged us to take ownership of our career development.

He has helped us recognize that today’s profession does not allow any of us to rest on our past achievements, but that we must be flexible and jump into the tide of changes that our clients are facing. We need to adapt; be creative; and master the art of collaboration with others if we are to find real success for ourselves and our clients.

Seth Godin reminded us at the retreat that while we think we have “a job”, what we really have is a platform: a platform upon which to be remarkable. Seth is best known for his ‘purple cow’ concept, the idea that we must throw out everything we know and find ways to stand out in the way that a purple cow would stand out from a crowd of Guernseys. Working in a law firm that recognizes that, and actually embraces it by encouraging its lawyers to ‘just do it’, is truly remarkable.

What will you be doing in 2020?