Well, I’m finally back home from San Miguel de Allende, the city awarded best in the world by Travel and Leisure. I’ve been told that the number of searches for San Miguel de Allende since the award is incredible.

I am happy to be home, but, I miss the great learning experience at Habla Hispana, the  $1.20 lattes, inexpensive meals, watching 100s of families gather at El Jardin, buying vegetables and street corn from the same vendors at the Mercado.

But, most of all I miss the local people I met and my classmates, who like me poured their heart out  learning to speak and understand Spanish.

San Miguel’s award: Best in the World, and what is likely to follow made me recall Seth Godin.

Being best in the world is seriously underrated.

is Seth Godin’s opening line from his book: “The Dip.” He talked about it in this video, as one of his 10 rules.

He says the only way to win is to be talked about. People do not talk about average companies,  or average law firms.

What is being the best lawyer in the world? It is simply being the best is in the eyes of your clients and potential clients. They define what best means. For most legal work, “best” does not mean literally the best. It means “best” at the time, “best” value, “best” for the particular matter.

Since the big recession, business clients have redefined “best in the world. In many cases it is no longer big law firms whose associates billing rates are $300-$500 an hour. If your firm is not one of those pricey ones, what are you doing to become visible to the large companies that are looking for more value for their money? Do you know who the influencers are for those large companies? Do you know what they read?

Business Section of Paper

You won’t be very successful by trying to sell those clients. Everyone is trying to sell them, so they will not believe what you say. You will be more successful by showing them.

Suppose a General Counsel of a large company came to your law firm website. What do you suppose she would be looking for? Do you suppose she would find it on your website, or is your website just like every other law firm’s site?

Wow, this is my last post from San Miguel de Allende. Tomorrow I will meet with Martha from 11:00 to 1:00. Then a car will pick me up and take me to a Leon Airport hotel. On Saturday, I will catch a 6:00 AM flight and I’ll be home before 9:00.

Have I learned Spanish in four weeks? No, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about anything I did in the past or anything I will do in the future, as I only know the present tense of verbs. Also, my son-in-law (yerno en español) will tell me I still speak Spanish like a gringo. It’s going to take a lot of listening and speaking out loud to hopefully one-day pronounce words and sentences correctly.

But, there is hope. While here, I decided to research why Selena was so popular. I found a website, 20 Reasons Selena Quintanilla Will Never Be Forgotten. There, I discovered that when she died. thousands of her fans remember what they were doing, like those of us who were alive when President Kennedy was assassinated.

More importantly, I learned: Selena didn’t actually speak Spanish at the beginning of her career. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla taught her to sing in Spanish — learning lyrics phonetically — so she could resonate with the Latino community.

I have the video of her last concert from the Houston Astrodome on my iPad. Her Spanish, including, pronunciation es excelente. So,…maybe there’s hope for me.

Ok, enough about me. let’s focus on you. While here learning, I’ve been thinking about your learning.

Have you learned how to:

  1. Create a Business Plan?
  2. Determine goals that will challenge and stretch you?
  3. Determine what activities to undertake to meet your goals?
  4. Find articles and other materials about your clients’ industries and their company?
  5. To write articles, blog posts and guides and give presentations and webinars that will enhance your reputation and increase your chances of getting hired?
  6. Develop a Focused Contacts Plan so you focus on your best contacts?
  7. Determine what your clients want and expect?
  8. Get business without appearing to be needy or greedy?
  9. Build trust and rapport?
  10. Become more client focused?
  11. Hold yourself accountable?
  12. Develop the young lawyers on your team, so they can be trusted by your clients?

Here is a short clip from the video coaching program I created for lawyers.

You’ve heard the expression:

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

In your career, you are constantly judged by the first impression you make. If you are not interested in learning more about San Miguel de Allende. skip down to where I discuss first impressions.

I’m in my last week of Spanish immersion at Habla Hispana in San Miguel de Allende. Starting last Friday, I am working one-on-one with Martha. This has been the highlight of my experience in school. Among other things, Martha is teaching me to pronounce the words correctly. (quite a task).

Over the four weeks, I have added many words and phrases to my vocabulary. When I see the English words on a flash card. I remember the Spanish. However, if I only hear the words, my brain takes a moment to process. So when Martha asks me a question, she also writes the question, and my answer, and at the end of our class gives me her written pages

Big things are happening here in San Miguel. Last week I learned that San Miguel received Travel and Leisure’s award as the number 1 city in the world. If you get a chance, click on the link and read about San Miguel and spend three minutes watching the video.

Our class members were very active on Saturday. After my session learning with Martha, we all went to the Botanical Garden to hike. We saw the waterfalls, the dam, and the natural surroundings.

Saturday night we went to the first annual  Ultimate Food & Art Fest Featuring Renowned Chefs & Artists. The event was held in Parque Benito Juarez. It is a huge and wonderful park. The last time Nancy and I visited here, we went to the park several times and watched organized girls basketball teams play.

On the way to the food and art festival. we saw a young 15-year-old and her court of young boys posing for her Quinceanera. They must have felt like movie stars with all the people, including me taking photos.

 

When I get back home, I’ll go back to working on my novel. My main character, Gabriela, is one of those outgoing lawyers who makes a positive first impression.

If you know anything about writing novels, you likely know as a writer you should try to show, don’t tell. But, just in case you are interested, some experts say show, don’t tell is a myth, or a lie. See:  Why “Show, Don’t Tell” Is the Great Lie of Writing Workshops.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s just say I want to show that Gabriela makes good first impressions. I might say when she walks into a crowded room, heads turn like they are watching a top model walk down the run-way. As she walks, she smiles and makes eye contact with people seated near her. When she gets to the table, she pauses in front of Christopher,  looks him directly in the eye, grasps his hand and arm and asks about his children by name. ( Ok, I admit this could be over the top, but I’m practicing here, so you’ll get the idea.)

Woman waving SS 88006990

Suppose you are going to a function where you will have the opportunity to connect with potential clients. You should apply the same principles. Stand tall, look and feel energetic.  How can you be energetic?

  • You might listen to music before the event. I always chose Tina Turner live concerts before I met anyone. When you meet someone later, you’re more likely to smile because you will still energized by the music.  
  • Look into their eyes and determine their eye color, because that will force you to pay close attention.
  • Be open (arms not folded). 
  • Make sure your attitude is warm, confident, relaxed and engaged.
  • Be genuinely interested in the other person. You can’t fake it.

 What I have described may sound mechanical but it isn’t. If you watch people who connect with others, it is very natural.

I want to share with you a study done by professors and discussed in the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. In Nalini Ambady’s study, a group watching video, without sound, matched the evaluation of the students who had actually taken the course. The researchers kept reducing the time of the video until it was 2 seconds. The results stayed the same.

If you want to read about the study, check out: 10 Seconds: The Time It Takes a Student to Size You Up. There, you will find:

Ambady compared those snap judgments (10, 5, and 2 seconds) of teacher effectiveness with evaluations of those same professors made by their students after a full semester of classes, and she found they were also essentially the same.

For the study report, check out: Half a Minute: Teacher Evaluations from Thin Slices of Nonverbal behavior and Physical Attractiveness on Stanford Professor Nalini Ambady’s webpage.

What does Professor Ambady’s study tell us?

People, including your potential clients, including jurors during your next trial, make up their minds quickly and your body language is way more important than your words or tone of voice. Body language is your eyes, your smile and whether you are open.

Practice, practice, practice making a great first impression.




 

I’m in my third of four weeks of Spanish Immersion in San Miguel de Allende. I am just starting to feel like I am learning more vocabulary and I can actually carry on a conversation, albeit slowly. So, yesterday, when asked, I could actually describe what I did over the weekend…only it was in present tense.

I have found a website that is helpful. If you are learning a language, you may know it memorize.com.

During the week I am busy with class,  and doing things with my classmates. So, I’m rarely bored and lonely. Tonight a las seis, our class is going to  La clase de salsa en la calle homobono!

The weekends are another story. I study, but after a couple of hours, I get tired of it.

One thing that is fun is to watch the wedding at the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. I’ve been told there are more than 600  weddings there annually. I believe it. If you are interested, you might enjoy the photos on this photographer’s website.

To say the weddings are a big deal, understates it. While we were eating dinner last night we saw a parade of horses outside the window of the restaurant. After eating we walked to near the Parrquuia and watched the wedding guests arrive. All of the men wore black tuxedos or black suits and all of the women wore full length dresses. I commented that they looked regal.

Well, let’s get to our topic today.

Have you ever been to a retreat you thought was a waste of time? Several I attended were a waste, other than getting to know other firm lawyers.

I remember the last one I attended. The theme was “One Firm,” meaning we were focusing on working together and teamwork. I wish I had saved my yellow tee shirt (the color designated the group of team builders I was in).

On Monday after we all went back to work, we retreated into our silos. So much for the “one firm.” I always wanted to be part of a firm which was constantly seeking to improve. Now that I’m coaching, the lawyers I enjoy the most are those constantly seeking to get better.

Excellent Firms Tom Peters

If you want to make your retreat valuable, consider discussing some or all of these questions and developing action plans. Most importantly, actually implement the plans when you go back to work:

  1. Are you totally satisfied with the amount of business members of your practice group are generating? If not, Group A, decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business for you in the next year. Group B decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business from 1-3 years out. Group C decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business from 3 years out and beyond.
  2. What is the industry or industries most of your clients are in?
  3. Your clients are members of what industry associations?
  4. What industry association executives do you know and how can they help you reach out to their members?
  5. What problems, opportunities or changes are your client contacts facing?
  6. What industry changes will take place in the next three years that will create opportunities for you to help and add value?
  7. What have you learned about working with clients in this industry that others in your practice group may not know?
  8. What are you doing to provide extraordinary service to your clients  and improve your clients’ satisfaction?
  9. If resources were not an issue, what are three things each of you could do that would attract new business?
  10. If resources were not an issue, what are three things each of you would do that would attract more business from existing clients?
  11. What are the challenges you face developing new business and how can they be overcome?
  12. What are the names of three potential clients you are most likely to get work from in the next 18 months?
  13. What is it that you are uniquely able to offer this industry, that is of value, and that these potential clients can’t get from any other firm?
  14. Who are your main competitors?
  15. What are you competitors doing better than your group and what is your group doing better?
  16. What benefits might you expect from working together as a team on client development and client satisfaction?
  17. What are the benefits to your clients from your working as a team?
  18. How can you use blogging, podcasts, webinars LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media most effectively?
  19. What is the one thing each of you is doing that is making our clients ecstatic about using our law firm?

Ok, I’ve completed three days of Spanish classes with my five other classmates. We love our teachers and we’ve bonded together like many coaching groups with whom I have worked.

So, I can answer my title question in one sentence:

Start your own coaching group because it is more likely you will make client development efforts you are not making now and it is more likely the efforts you make will over time produce results.

I contend:

Client development coaching is about getting lawyers to make changes and create new habits. Making changes is more likely to occur when the lawyers are part of a group. Plus, it is more fun to make those changes with a group.

A couple of years ago I studied why making changes is so difficult. I found a very interesting article by David Rock titled: A Brain-Based Approach to Coaching. If you are interested in the science and research, you will find it in this article. Rock talks about why coaching is needed:

In the last few years, neuroscientists have been confirming what many of us know all too well: change is much harder than we think. You can take this statement literally: change requires more than just scant thought; it requires ongoing attention and a significant effort of the will.

 

A few years ago I worked with a group of 5 highly motivated lawyers.  I knew they were motivated because they were paying for the group coaching out of their own pocket.

They were from different firms and different practices and did not know each other before we started. Each month I conducted a one hour group telephone coaching session. I purposely limited the number in the group so there was a distinct individual coaching component and a group coaching component. During our sessions I asked each lawyer what they had worked on the last month.

Each month we also focused on a topic and I did short presentation. One month I focused on Motivation and Accountability. One lawyer described my role as similar to a fitness trainer because I helped each member in the group take action and be accountable.

When I worked with fitness trainers, I always did more than when I was by myself. If you have a client development coach you will do more and  do what is more valuable.

If your firm is not willing to have me come and help you do more and do what is more valuable, create your  own group, meet regularly and hold each other accountable.

While I favor creating your own coaching group, having sat through three days of classes I can say the teachers (coaches) drive us to push ourselves further than we would on our own.

San Miguel

I took this photo on Monday, near the Jardin. I believe the young boy’s parents were taking his photo at the same time.

For my lunch Monday and yesterday I went to the mercado. On Monday, I ate steak in a salsa rice, beans and homemade tortillas for 40 pesos. Yesterday I ate corn in a cup (street corn) and a large glass filled with fruit for 30 pesos. I’ve learned that when the vendor tells me cuánto cuesta (how much) in Spanish, I have to rack my brain to remember the numbers.

I came back to my room to do my homework. One assignment was to write what we like or dislike about each of the four seasons in our home state. The other was to write sentences that included a fruit or vegetable and a number.

Last night a group of five of us ate dinner nearby. All five ordered a meal. Two of us ordered beer and a third ordered Sangria. The other two ordered coke. Out total bill was 316 pesos. I’ll let you find the exchange rate and do the math.

P.S. We each needed a tablet of paper for notes. I found a place, and took a  classmate. The gentleman who owns the little store offered to have each of us tutor the other in our new languages. I’ll talk to him in Spanish and he’ll talk to me in English and we’ll help each other. His English puts my Spanish to shame so…I may be getting the better end of our bargain.

I recently read a Seth Godin post: Who are we seeking to become?

I particularly like this quote:

The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you’ve spent your time along the way.

I coached a successful lawyer who decided to focus her time on her family, church, health and law practice/clients. As you might imagine she accomplished a great deal in each of those categories.

With coaching and law firm consulting work at almost a standstill, I’m focusing my time on becoming fluent in Spanish, becoming a better novelist and becoming a better golfer.

I’m actually in San Miguel de Allende in a Habla Hispana Spanish Immersion class.

Habla Hispana

Yesterday, I went to class with five other beginners from 8:30 to 1:00. Three teachers worked with us and it was intense learning for an old guy like me. I had to listen very carefully.

I arrived on Saturday and moved into my room on the second floor at the school. On Sunday morning, I was awake at 6:00. I tried to go back to sleep, but…Around 6:45 Needing coffee, I searched to see if any coffee shops were open and discovered one near the El Jardín plaza opened at 7:30. (Starbucks opens at 8:00 AM on los domingos.)

When I arrived at 7:30, I I took this photo of El Jardín and the Parrish Church of San Miguel. The coffee shop was open,  but they hadn’t started making coffee. I sat waiting for 15 minutes and finally gave up and walked back to Via Organic  near Habla Hispana. Francisco fixed me a latte and I learned he had moved back to San Miguel from Los Angeles to help his aunt run the business.

La Jardin

 

To get a full appreciation of how beautiful the Parrish Church is, here is better photo.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 1.17.06 PM

Believe it or not, I’m nervous about this experience. I’ve taken a Spanish class here in Dallas and I have a tutor. The first thing I realized is I probably have not focused on memorizing things since I took the Bar Exam in 1971. That’s a lot of years between memorizing things.

I’ve been asked why I want to learn Spanish. My father spoke fluent Spanish. He loved Mexico, and when I was 12, we traveled by car all the way from Chicago to Acapulco. If you think about Chevy Chase and the Vacation movies, we would have a good one on that trip.

My son-in-law’s first language is Spanish and Nancy and I travel to Mexico regularly. All of our friends who live there speak English. We love them and I want to speak to them in their language. Will I be able…? I’ll try my best and let you know.

If you’ve never been to San Miguel de Allende, I recommend it. The weather is never too cold or too warm. Many Americans and Canadians live there.  Check out Living, Working, Retiring in San Miguel de Allende. There are two golf courses, so I  have my golf clubs with me. But, having sat through class one day, I can picture the golf clubs remaining in my travel bag,

I’m determined to learn Spanish. The teachers here are awesome, but I know it will take more than my four weeks of intensive learning. I wonder if I’ll be able to write a blog in Spanish when I return.

 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 8.54.28 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 11.50.41 AM

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.

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.

IMG_0503

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.