Client Development Coaching

School started yesterday in Prosper, Texas. As I was cruising Facebook I noticed several Windsong Ranch moms posted photos of their kids who are seniors and titled them the last, first day of school.

One mother lamented that no one posted the last first day of work. I could be at that point. In 2010, I coached 125 lawyers and I was on the road every month. Since I left my law practice in 2005, I have never coached as few lawyers as I am coaching in 2017.

So, maybe January 2, 2017 was my last first day of work. We’ll see.

I practiced law a long time. I’ve coached lawyers for over 12 years. I’ve seen and coached a lot of rainmakers.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, here are some traits I have observed:

  1. Most rainmakers have the right attitude Most rainmakers have a “can do” attitude. That enables them to persist when others quit. They are not like the pessimist described by Winston Churchill.
  2. Most rainmakers are really good lawyers They may not be the smartest lawyer in their field but they have focused on always getting better and becoming the best lawyer they can be.
  3. Most rainmakers are genuinely likeable They connect well with other people in large part because they are able to convey they really care. They are empathetic and understand the other person’s point of view. They are good listeners. They are able to build trust and rapport quickly. They are open and friendly.
  4. Most rainmakers have a confidence inspiring personality Clients need to feel you can take care of their problem. They are entrusting something really important to them in your hands. Rainmakers are able to instill confidence.
  5. Most rainmakers are willing to get outside their comfort zone I believe real achievement occurs when you stretch and try something that is uncomfortable.
  6. Finally and perhaps most importantly, rainmakers know what they want, they know what their clients need and they deliver value and exceed expectations. It all starts with knowing what they want and having a burning desire to achieve it and then using their non-billable time wisely.

There is nothing magical about the traits in the list above. I know some traits may not come naturally to everyone. When I was practicing law, I worked harder on those that did not come naturally to me. You can follow that path also.

Two final points:

  1. Rainmaking skills can be developed. You don’t have to be born with them. I know because I certainly was not born with innate rainmaking skills. Many of you also know because you have worked to build your profile and relationships with clients and referral sources.
  2. You don’t have to be an extrovert who is the life of every party or event. That doesn’t mean you can just hide in your comfort zone. Be willing to engage people.

Seth Godin posted a really short, to the point interesting blog on January 20. The title: Everyone is better than you are… Take a moment to read it, at least the last line because in that one sentence he describes how to be successful at client development.

His blog reminds me of his book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

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He makes many great, thought provoking points in the book. Here is one of them:

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

And here is another, explaining what it takes to be a linchpin.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

When I was a young associate, a partner in my first firm unknowingly gave me about the best piece of advice I have ever received. He said:

Cordell, you are a very smart lawyer. After all you finished third in your law school class. But, smart lawyers graduate from law school every year and they are easily replaced by other smart lawyers. Your success in this firm will depend more on how well you attract, retain and expand relationships with clients. Lawyers with those skills are indispensable.

Are you busy doing the work for senior lawyers in your firm and hoping they appreciate your work so much that it will be ok for you to never have clients of your own? I hope not. If you want to become indispensable:

  1. What are you learning about client development?
  2. What are you doing to attract new clients?
  3. What are you doing to exceed your clients expectations and create value for them?
  4. What are you doing to build relationships with your clients and with partners in your law firm?
  5. What are you doing to become a linchpin?

Before I begin, I want to share that I’m still looking to coach lawyers in two more law firms this year. If your firm is considering a client development coaching program for 2017, reach out to me.

I received an email this week from a lawyer I am coaching. He said:

Cordell, I know it’s important for me to have a 2017 Business Plan, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure where to start and I want to make sure my plan will help guide me.

I shared with him this blog that I posted in 2012. If you’re also stuck, I hope it will help you.

I have always learned from seeing what other lawyers were doing and then adapting the best I saw to my own situation. I believe most lawyers learn the same way.

This month I have received several requests from law firms and lawyers asking for workshop materials and plan templates I have created for lawyers.

If you or lawyers in your firm are still stuck on how to create your 2012 Business or Personal Performance Plan I hope you will find the workshop materials, plan templates, articles and workshop slides valuable.

If you haven’t read it, you can read my Practical Lawyer article: Making 2012 Your Best Year Ever. You can also go through the slides from my 2011 Planning Webinar.

If you’ve been stuck, I hope you find these materials valuable.

It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.

Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.

I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.

As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.

Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.

In January, I will start my 13th year of client development coaching. I’ve worked with 100s of incredibly motivated lawyers in the US and Canada.

Many of you are subscribers. I want each of you to know that while I loved practicing law, working with you has brought me even more satisfaction as I have seen you take your practice to the next level.

Is your firm considering a client development coaching program for 2017? If so, I’m available. I’m looking to coach lawyers in five new firms in 2017. Here’s how it will work.

I will come to your office either quarterly, or every other month and coach 6-7 lawyers individually and put on a lunch program for all in the office who want to participate.

Each lawyer will create a business plan for 2017 and each time I meet with them we will end our session with a 60 Days or 90 Days Action Plan. In the first group lunch, the group will create goals for 2017 and an action plan to achieve them.

The two main criteria for a successful client development coaching program are:

  1. Selecting the right people to participate, (I can only help highly motivated lawyers, not those who “need” coaching) and
  2. Having the unfettered support of firm leadership.

Young partners or senior associates selected should have a strong desire to develop business, expand client relationships and develop their reputation. They should be open to coaching and trying new ideas. They should be comfortable getting outside their comfort zone.

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Second, to be successful, firm leadership must support the program and ensure it is supported by lower level leaders in the firm. In this way it can be a win-win for the selected lawyers and for the firm.

  1. Purpose-Why are you creating a client development coaching program? Firm leaders need to clearly articulate the purpose, focus, or mission of the project and it must be aligned with the participants’ personal wants and needs. This might include providing maximum opportunities for them to develop their individual practice and to work synergistically as a team
  2. Challenge-Participants need to set challenging individual and team goals that stretch them.
  3. Camaraderie-Participants should feel like a team, get to know each other well, learn from each other and think synergistically.
  4. Accountability-Each participant must be hold themselves accountable and also be accountable to their group members and the coach.
  5. Responsibility-Participants must take responsibility for their success and the group’s success.
  6. Growth-The program should include learning and growth. If participants feel they are moving forward, learning new concepts, adding to their skill base, and stretching their minds, motivation will remain high.
  7. Leadership-Participants should lead group meetings held without the coach because the teachers always learn more than the students.

Here is the most interesting thing I have experienced in the 12 years I have been coaching lawyers: If the first coaching group is successful, there is a “buzz” around the firm and firm lawyers are most anxious to get selected for the second group.

The firms where I have coached over many years, routinely have more lawyers apply than they have slots for each coaching group.

If your firm is developing a client development coaching program, take a look at my Client Development Coaching eBook and my presentation slides.

As you will see, I like to include both a group component and individual coaching. The lawyers in the group feel like a team and no one wants to let the team down.

If you want to learn more about the program described above including the cost, check out the Work with Me page and then give me a call at 214.305.3121, or send me an email.  I would be happy to share with you the cost and answer any questions you have.


I love coaching senior associates and junior partners, especially when they are energized and want to learn more.

Most lawyers my age never had coaching on client development when they were senior associates or junior partners. So, naturally many ask why it is important for lawyers now.

There are several reasons why coaching is important.

First, developing business now is more challenging than it was 35-40 years ago. When I was a junior partner we could develop business by just “doing good work,” getting an AV Martindale rating and being active in the community. There were far fewer lawyers, almost all clients were local and loyal.

Now, each year the competition is greater, clients have been acquired and merged, client expectations have increased and the time available for business development has decreased.

Second, many junior partners are in the transition stage of their career where they are moving from being solely service providers to being responsible for building client relationships and developing new business. For many young partners, client development is a mystery.

Third, in 2016, there are far more ways to do client development than ever before. As a result of the mystery, lawyers client development efforts may be unstructured, unfocused, and ultimately unsuccessful.

They procrastinate, are undisciplined, have no plan, little focus, and ultimately little or no execution. Mentors within the firm can balance the current situation with both institutional firm knowledge and their own experience, but they do not have the time to focus on the business development of more junior partners.

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Coaching is designed to assist junior partners in their client development and ultimately make client development a habit.

Like working with a fitness coach, participants learn what activities will provide the greatest benefit to them and then will have regularly scheduled sessions with the coach to report on activities and learn more.

Any coaching program should include:

  • Developing a Business Plan that includes the non-billable activities designed to lead to the greatest return on investment
  • Determining both group and individual goals that will challenge and stretch them
  • Determining what activities to undertake to meet their goals
  • Learning how to write articles and blog posts and give presentations that will enhance their reputation and increase their chances of getting hired
  • Developing a Focused Contacts Plan
  • People skills including asking questions and actively listening
  • Being held accountable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it take to coach lawyers?

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

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

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

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

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

What Will You Do As a Coach?

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve said it many times.

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

What is your target market?

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

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

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



As I mentioned yesterday, I’m off to West Palm Beach. I received an email yesterday from one of the lawyers I am coaching telling me what she has been working on since we last met. She’s off to a really great start.

A few years ago, I was asked by three Legal Marketing Association chapters to make a presentation on Client Development Coaching.

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In my presentation, I focused on:

  1. Tools to convince skeptical law firm partners-Those who say “lawyers either have it or they don’t.” You have to be able to convince those partners that your firm will generate more revenue.
  2. Why coaching– One shot training programs do not work. There’s no follow up or accountability. With coaching, it’s more likely your lawyers will make positive changes and achieve their goals.
  3. What will make it successful-starts with selecting the lawyers most likely to be “all-in.” Breaking down plans to bite size pieces. Creating both a group component and individual component.

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Want to see the slides from my presentation? Here they are. You might also be interested in an eBook I wrote. You can download it from iTunes (Just search my name under books), or here is a link to it on SlideShare.


Greetings from Chicago, where it is…to put a positive spin on it…brisk. Last night I ate my dinner at the Harry Caray Italian Steakhouse bar while watching the Cubs first home game from Wrigley Field.

Today, I’ll be coaching individual lawyers and at lunch talk to whole group about Client Development in 2016-Old Tools, New Tools.

I think it is important to know how to use the new tools, but in 2016, the old tools are more important than ever. (When’s the last time you sent a handwritten note?)

In the last few weeks on my client development coaching posts, I’ve shared with you Client Development Principles and Client Development Practical Tips created by a group of lawyers I coached and based on what they had learned in the coaching program.

Today I want to share a short video clip where I wrap up the Practical Tips coaching.

Looking back over the last few weeks, which of the principles and which of the practical tips can you use in your own practice to become more valuable to clients?