Well, sadly it happened. Something I ate did not agree with me and I was up all Tuesday night. I did not have my A game for our four hours of class Wednesday. and I slept most of the afternoon. Thankfully, I feel better this morning.

How are my classes going? I enjoy them, but I still struggle to remember words when I am under pressure in a conversation. I’ll have to work on that when I get back home.

On Wednesday I was asked what was in my room.  I wanted to include mi maleta (my suitcase). I have no idea what I said, but it wasn’t maleta.

Let’s get to business. Are you a young lawyer looking for a mentor? In my book “Prepare to Win” I wrote a chapter titled: “The Importance of Role Models and Mentoring.”

I have written extensively on mentoring because I feel I owe a great deal to the mentors I had in my career beginning with my father. I also enjoy helping young lawyers.

Give me the Young Lawyer

I frequently receive email questions about mentoring from lawyers and professional development professionals. Here is an example of an email with questions about mentoring:

“Cordell, I recently thought about your article where a partner mentored you early in your career and how this partner met with you early in the morning to teach you about the practice of law. What advice do you offer to today’s young attorneys about forging similar relationships?

How can a young attorney turn a grumpy old partner, who is only concerned about his billable hours, into a mentor?”

Those are great questions. My first thought was:

“Gosh, I hope none of the associates who worked for me thought I as a grumpy old partner.”

My second thought was that the older the partner, the more likely he or she will be to take the time to listen and provide advice. The greater challenge is getting a grumpy young partner to take time away from billable hours.

I am not sure a young attorney can ever turn a partner who is only concerned about billable hours, into a mentor. Here are my suggestions for young lawyers:

  • Find the right partner. Lawyers in your firm who are good mentors are likely well known throughout the firm.
  • Find the right time to spend time with the mentor. As explained above, I met with my first mentor (we never used that term) the first thing in the morning over coffee. I learned early on that he spent some time early getting ready for his day and he was open to meeting with me then.
  • Convey that you want to learn and become the best attorney you can be. Experienced lawyers admire young lawyers striving to learn and be the best they can be.
  • Ask good questions. Experienced lawyers generally like to tell younger lawyers about their experiences. When I met with the young partner who took me under his wing, I frequently began the discussion with: “Have you ever…?”
  • Actively listen to your mentor.
  • After the mentor offers his or her ideas, don’t say: “Yes, but…” or “My problem is…” Any time a lawyer said that to me, I decided he really wasn’t seeking my help. Instead he just wanted to complain.
  • Come up with your own action plans after a mentoring session.
  • Pass it on. Find a new lawyer in your firm and offer to be his or her mentor.

Speaking of mentoring, you may know I wrote an e-book you can download here: Strategy for Your Career and Your Life. In it I discuss my own strategy and strategies used by other lawyers. I also include a workbook for you to use to develop your own strategy. If you think the book is helpful pass the link on to your friends and colleagues.

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?

If you are  not interested in my effort to learn Spanish in San Miguel de Allende, you can skip to the end of this post to learn how my efforts relate to your efforts to become a rainmaker.

Hola from San Miguel de Allende. I am in my second week of Spanish Immersion at Habla Hispana. After this week I will be half way to completion. It’s the rainy season in San Miguel, which has made life here a little more challenging.

I was afraid when I left Dallas I would be bored and lonely on the weekends when we do not have class. As expected, last Saturday, I was both bored and lonely, but I walked around town and watched many celebrations including a wedding where the bride rode in a horse drawn carriage.

The people here are incredibly friendly and they are willing to help us learn and pronounce the words correctly. After my first class a week ago I needed a spiral note pad to take notes. (I have since gone to my computer after realizing I cannot read my own writing). I went to a small office supply store and met Isidro, and his daughter who is home from school in Mexico City for the summer.

Isidro and I started talking about my visit and when he heard I was here to learn Spanish, he offered to help me if I would help him with his English. He speaks English very well, so you know who is getting the better part of the bargain.

We practiced later in the week and I offered to take him and his daughter to lunch on Sunday at a place he picked. So, on Sunday I met Isidro and his daughter at his store at 1:00 and we drove to Querétaro, a larger more industrial city an hour from San Miguel de Allende. (As an aside, I am still struggling to pronounce Querétaro correctly. It kind of sounds like kay ray tear o, but not exactly).

Throughout the afternoon, Isidoro spoke to me in Spanish and explained what he had said in English if I didn’t understand.

During my first week here, I experienced challenges trying to remember words and  pronouncing the Spanish words correctly.  Like everything else I have attempted in life,  I worked incredibly hard, but  in this case, I don’t believe I worked smartly or strategically.

As a result, I had so much floating around in my brain that I could barely remember how to tell people my name in Spanish.  The last time I processed this much information was when I took the bar exam in 1971.

Over last weekend, I focused on figuring out a more strategic plan to learn. As  result,  I decided to work on vocabulary and pronunciation one-on-one with tutoring from my favorite teacher, Teresa.

Yesterday, during our four hours of class,  I understood what the teachers and my classmates were saying. It was huge fun. I must have felt the same way when I was a young boy and finally figured out how to throw a baseball. So, as we say here at the school, I’m getting it poco a poco (little by little), but the joy of getting it a little is great.

In my search on how to learn, I found a quote from a very famous foreign language teacher, Michel Thomas.

“What you understand, you know. What you know, you don’t forget.” – Michel Thomas

The Defense Language Institute says it takes about 600 hours to become relatively proficient in a language. I read elsewhere that it is one hour of class to two hours of personal study. You can understand why many people give up before they become proficient. I don’t believe I will be proficient after four weeks of class. It will take more later.

The key of course is motivation. I like to say you have to have a big enough “why” to stick with it. In my case, my big enough “why” to learning Spanish is simply to prove to myself I can do it.  I don’t need it for my work. I can get by without it when we travel to Mexico. But, I’m driven to prove to myself I can do it.

To stay motivated, I create a list of goals each day on what I want to accomplish and before I go to bed, I review my list. But, it takes more than motivation.

So, my questions are:

  1. Do you have a big enough why to stick with your client development efforts.
  2. Have you figured out what areas you need to improve?
  3. If what you are doing is not working, have you thought about a different strategy?
  4. Are you working hard to get better, or are you focused and working strategically?
  5. Would it help to set goals for each day on what you want to accomplish?

Hasta luego.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cordell Nancy Phyllis Lind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Junior Associates:

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

Senior Associates:

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

New Partners:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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