If I have coached you, or you are a regular reader, you know I owe a great deal of my client development success to my writing. It worked well for me and I am confident if you follow my thoughts below it will work well for you also.

Writing articles and blogs is a great way to raise your visibility and credibility with your potential clients. If you are planning to use this tool, keep these three essential points in mind:

  1. Select a topic that your clients and potential clients care about. (I spent more time selecting a topic than I spent writing the article.)
  2. Write it so they will actually read what you have written. (I spent more time deciding on the title and writing the first paragraph than I spent writing the rest of the article)
  3. Use social media as one tool to get as wide a distribution as possible. (I didn’t have this tool for distribution, but you do have it. Use it)

It is that simple, yet many, if not most, lawyers do not do all three well.

They spend little time thinking of the topic. Then they decide on a lame title that does not capture the reader’s attention. If you would like to learn more about writing and speaking to get hired, check out my  video program and workbook.

P.S. I want you to try these three points. Help me write a blog post for lawyer readers. Pick a topic for a future blog post, then create a title you think would attract lawyer reader. If you have the time, write the first paragraph for me. If I select your topic, title and first paragraph, you can have access to my Video Coaching Program and Workbook.


Client development is all about being found when a client needs a lawyer and all about building trust based relationships.

If you want to start building a reputation and building relationships with clients focus on five important points. I know, I’ve made all of these points many times over the last 11 years. But, maybe I have not made them this succinctly.Man with beard in suit

  1. Client development is not about “selling.” It’s all about positioning yourself to be found when your clients need a lawyer, and then providing exceptional service.
  2. You will not develop client relationships merely by being a highly skilled lawyer and doing quality work. It is a necessity but only a starting point. Being a highly skilled lawyer is merely the price you pay to get in the game.
  3. Client development is not about what you do, it’s about what your clients need. Find ways to learn what they need and put the work you do in that context.
  4. Strive to differentiate yourself from your competitors. One way is to anticipate a potential problem or opportunity before other lawyers see it.
  5. Better yet, identify and provide solutions to problems before the client realizes there is a problem. That will do more to build a lasting relationship than almost anything you can do.

Your clients do not care about what you do. Yet many lawyers I know focus on what they do as they try to develop business.

Your clients care about their industry, their business, and their problems, opportunities, internal changes and external changes.

What does it mean to be “client focused?”

Const Crane

Your focus is on your client and not on you. How can you do that in client conversations? Go visit your client’s place of business and then:

  1. Talk less and listen more
  2. Ask good questions
  3. Do not talk about your experience or expertise or your firm’s experience or expertise unless you are asked
  4. Figure out the strategic, operational and economic issues that your client’s or prospect’s team regularly discuss, including:
    1. Capital: funding for on-going operations, acquisitions & growth
    2. Products/Services: the what, when, where and how of commerce (customers, vendors, markets, distributors, intermediaries, etc.)
    3. Competition: differentiation and how they compete in their market
    4. Distribution: go-to-market strategies (direct, independent distributors, franchising, licensing, retail, wholesale and internet strategies)
    5. Talent: Recruitment, Training and Retention
  5. Small talk-limit it. When you talk about it, make it something they are interested in. That might be business news, sports, current events, their children.

I was coaching a group of lawyers for the last time recently. At the end of our group meeting, the group’s leader asked for a good summary of what we had covered. I shared this blog post with the group and thought you might find it valuable.

I read a recent survey report of large (big law) firms. There was one survey question that really got my attention:

How important is business development to success in a law firm?

Here was the answer:

 A lawyer’s ability to generate business is the single most determinative factor in whether a lawyer will become an equity partner.

That certainly was no surprise. In fact, I thought that was kind of a Duh question and it certainly does not just apply to lawyers in large law firms.

I know how to develop business. I did it and many lawyers I have coached or who worked for me are doing it. If you want to learn, I want to help you. I urge you to learn how to:

  1. Motivate yourself to learn and attract clients
  2. Figure out and adopt attributes of successful lawyers/people that will work best for you
  3. Define what success means to you by figuring out what you want to achieve in your career and life
  4. Set stretch goals
  5. Prepare a detailed action plan to achieve goals
  6. Determine what learning will provide you with the greatest return on your time
  7. Determine what kind of client development efforts will best work for you
  8. Make time for client development when you are busy with billable work and have a family
  9. Get organized for a more productive day
  10. Hold yourself accountable for client development activities
  11. Best get outside your comfort zone to take your practice up a notch
  12. Be patient and persist when you are not seeing results
  13. Raise your visibility and credibility-Building Profile
  14. What organizations will be best for you
  15. Write an article, or blog post: picking the topic, how long, title, opening, closing
  16. Give a presentation: picking the topic, getting the opportunity, homework before the presentation, PowerPoint, opening, format, speaking skills, handout
  17. Use social media: blogging for business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,
  18. Build relationships with referral sources so they recommend you
  19. Network at events
  20. Determine what are your best sources of business
  21. Focus on Contacts (Client relationship management)
  22. Make pitches to clients who consider hiring you
  23. Make great first Impressions
  24. Clients Select: importance of website bio, relationships, recommendations, strength of weak ties, building trust and rapport, developing questions, listening skills and how to ask for business
  25. Provide extraordinary client service and cross-sell: what clients want, how to deliver it, ways to add value, cross-selling planning
  26. Develop your the team: leadership, team building, motivating younger lawyers, supervision and feedback

What else can I do to help you?


Parvin Dad.pngMy dad’s birthday is tomorrow, March  31. If he was alive he would have been 106 today. He passed away in 1980.

My dad was an artist, a photographer, a musician, and an entrepreneur. He loved fishing and hunting. He also loved fixing sports cars.

I never gave him the chance to teach me to draw, paint or carve. I was too busy playing baseball, basketball and football. He tried to teach me to play the piano, but I wouldn’t practice so he gave up.

When I was a teenager, my dad frequently towed home sports cars that he repaired in our garage and resold. I remember the first car was a green Jaguar XK 120. He frequently tried to get me to work on the cars with him. I tried, but I got bored quickly and went back to playing baseball.

Looking back now, I can say that while I was passionate about playing baseball, hunting, fishing and working on cars together are father-son experiences we could have shared for a lifetime. I missed an opportunity.

Even though I never gave him the chance to teach me to be an artist, I believe he unknowingly taught me about art and drawing in a way that made me a better lawyer and that is the point I want for you to get from this post.

Seth Godin talks about making art. He says it has three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, describes taking a week long drawing class and being taught that drawing is about seeing relationships between positive space and negative space, light and shadow, angles and proportions.

In a  blog posted a few years ago, Pencil as a Power Tool Daniel Pink talked about drawing again. He said drawing:

is a terrific way to develop the aptitude of Symphony, the ability to put together seemingly unrelated pieces to create something new.

I believe my dad taught me to see things others did not see. I had a unique interest in anticipating what might impact my clients. I believe I had the aptitude of Symphony. Lawyers I coach have heard me suggest many times to:

  1. Identify a client problem, opportunity or change before the client does
  2. Create a remarkable solution
  3. Give it away

That is what making art as a lawyer is all about. If you are not making art, consider taking a drawing class or a photography class and focus on relationships of things to other things. Then, diligently read business news and industry publications.

Are you making art as a lawyer? If your father is still alive, what experiences are you sharing?

How are dentists like lawyers? Read on, you’ll get my take on the question.

As you are reading this blog, I will be sitting in the chair at my favorite periodontist getting my second surgical implant done, and hoping I won’t need the pain pills he prescribed that I declined.

A few years ago, a young lawyer I was coaching at the time and I met with Tyler, an associate who had worked for me. When Tyler’s wife became a permanent federal appeals court clerk in Kansas City, Tyler left our firm and went in house with a large construction company.

During the conversation the associate asked Tyler a very interesting question:

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you were practicing law with Cordell?

Tyler’s answer took me by surprise. He replied:

Even when you do a really great job handling a litigation matter, your in-house counsel will still not be happy. It is just the nature of litigation.

I’ve spent more time in my life than I would have ever wanted seated in dental chairs.

It all started with braces, then getting two of my teeth loosened beyond repair in a football practice, without pads or helmets. Our fullback went the wrong way and the crown of his head found my mouth.

That, of course, made them look dark when the braces came off and that’s when the serious dental work started. I like to tell my friends that I could own at least one Mercedes Benz or BMW car for the amount of money I’ve paid to dentists.

I believe dentists, thankfully not mine, can give you a greater understanding of Tyler’s point. No one get’s up in the morning and says:

Oh boy, I get to visit my dentist this morning.

I know I didn’t say that this morning. Even when they do a great job with your teeth, you hate paying them.

Some dentists, again thankfully not mine, want feedback. I saw a question one time, with ratings from 1-10.

How happy are you with your smile and the whiteness of your teeth?

I don’t know about you, but if I had responded with anything other than “damn happy,” I’d probably not return to that dentist.



  • Does your dental hygienist tell you that you are not flossing enough, or you aren’t doing it right?
  • Does your dentist discuss your “treatment plan” without ever telling you the cost of the treatment plan?
  • Instead, when you are taken aback by the extent of your “treatment plan” are you then turned over to a “treatment coordinator?” Yes, she’s the one who shields the dentist from telling you the bad news that your treatment plan will cost more than you ever dreamed possible.

If you need substantial treatment, do you feel like you are giving up control of your mouth and pocketbook to professionals you may not really know? (I’ve had work done by a dentist who was not very good. It cost even more to fix his mistakes.)

Aren’t there about 1oo other ways you’d rather be spending the money?

The truth is your clients feel the same way, only for you it is likely worse. You are like the dental hygienist telling your client they didn’t do something right. You are like the dentist telling your client how you can fix the problem. Then, you are like the “treatment coordinator” telling the client it will cost an arm and a leg and be money they would rather spend on at least 1oo other things.

No one gets up in the morning and says:

Oh boy, I get to see my lawyer today.”

Tyler was right. Your clients hate the cost, hate the time it takes, hate the uncertainty and fear they may not have the best lawyer for the job.

One final thought: I recommend that you never tell a client: “If only you had not…” 

I spent my career in entrepreneurial law firms. I don’t believe I would have lasted in a firm with so-called institutional clients.

In 2015, I had the pleasure of  working with Simmons Olsen Law Firm located in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The firm has a senior group of lawyers and is working to develop their next generation of lawyers. It was a great experience for me because even the most senior lawyers in the firm were open to new ideas.

I asked Steve Olsen to share with you what his firm is doing.

Cordell Parvin advises law firms, including ours to critically assess:

  • What they are doing,
  • Why they are doing it,
  • How they are doing it,
  • How they are preparing for the future, and
  • How they are reacting to a changing market?

Our firm had discussed those issues for years.  It was not until we had the chance to work with Cordell in late 2015, that we really understood how to analyze these matters.  It is one thing to strategically plan, it is another to work that plan.


Cordell persuaded our attorneys to create a strategic plan for the firm and individual business plans that were consistent with the firm’s strategic plan. He also helped us go from a shot gun approach to a laser focused approach.

In 2016, we started our firm strategic planning.  In addition, all of our lawyers created their own business plans.

Once that was done, it was up to us to work our plans and hold each other accountable.  We’re a full year into the process and our senior mentors are encouraging and supporting our junior lawyers. Additionally, our attorneys have all created their business 2017 plans expanding and stretching on what each lawyer accomplished last year.

My take-aways from our work with Cordell, include:

  1. We better understand the demographics of our firm.
  2. We understand our efficiencies in providing excellent service to clients.
  3. We have plans in place to help us expand.
  4. We have a strategy that will emphasize client retention.
  5. We are more aware of the importance of maximizing our profiles and presence as it relates to marketing.

Does your entrepreneurial firm have a plan? Do your lawyers? If you have plans are you working the plans or just keeping them in desk drawers.


I hate to be sold anything and I know clients do not want to be sold. Many marketing consultants treat client development and marketing as if it were selling a product or service.

Perhaps that approach is based on their experiences outside of the legal field. When lawyers hear that approach they cringe each thinking about the cold calls they have received from boiler room stockbrokers.

Your clients are like you. They cringe at that thought of being sold anything by a lawyer. They know when they are about to receive a sales pitch from a lawyer and they resent it (and that lawyer.)

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If you are like me, cold calls are very difficult. How can you avoid it? Give something away without any expectation of getting anything in return. 

I did that throughout my career. Back several years ago the federal regulations on a topic of particular interest to the highway construction industry changed. Before the ink was dry on the revised regulations, I had written a summary in simple non-legal language with bullet points on what to do and what not to do. I sent my summary to as many potential clients as possible, as well as contractor associations who published my summary and suggestions in their newsletters.

You might say that was a cold call, but I looked at it as simply trying to help them understand something that was vague and confusing.  I did not include a firm brochure or any other sales materials. All I did was put my contact information on the cover sheet of the memorandum underneath the title. 

What is changing in your client’s world that you can identify, educate and expect nothing in return?



A few years ago I spoke at a firm’s associate retreat on client development. I began by saying I had good news and bad news and I asked which they wanted to hear first.

The associates picked the bad news. The bad news is that client development has never been more complicated. In 2017, it is at least as important to figure out what not to do as it is to figure out what to do.

The good news is that a very small percentage of lawyers will actually do the activities that will enable them to build their client base. And second, blogging and social media has made it easier for clients to find you.

Some lawyers will never start developing business and others may start and then quit when they hit a dip or simply get bogged down doing billable work.

How can you increase your chances of doing the activities that will ultimately develop business? Here is my suggestion:

If you know what you want (not need) to do and have a good answer to the why question (why it is important to you) you will far more likely have the commitment and discipline to do it, even when you hit a dip.

There is one other really important thing that will make you far more likely to do something. Many studies have shown that people are far more likely to do something if they in advance identify specifically what they intend to do and WHEN they intend to do it. Columbia professor, Heidi Grant Halvorson calls that “If, Then Planning.”

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So, anything you decide you want to do, you will far more likely do it if you also identify when you will do it rather than leaving that ambiguous. If you have about 25 minutes, watch Heidi Grant Halvorson’s Ted Talk: The Incredible Benefits of a “Get Better” Mindset


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.