I’ve coached well over 1000 lawyers since I left my law firm and started coaching in other firms in 2005. I believe most, if not all the lawyers I have coached would like to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Why are some of the lawyers I’ve coached successful and others are not? Many who do not succeed are really only saying they wish they could attract more clients.

Those who succeed do it a variety of ways. In some cases there’s luck of being in right place at the right time. In some cases there is luck of being born in the right family, marrying into the right family or having a friend who created a billion dollar company.

But, for most of lawyers I have coached who attracted major clients, they did it the old fashioned way.

They were motivated and worked hard, like an athlete training each and every day, and not seeing immediate results.

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I read an interesting Psychology Today article titled: Don’t Let Your Thinking Sabotage Your Goals, written by David Ludden, Ph.D. Please take a look because the writer treats the motivation to lose weight as I just explained above about the motivation to attract clients. Then, Ludden writes:

According to University of Chicago psychologist Oleg Urminsky, a sense of connectedness to the future self is essential for achieving long-term goals. (My emphasis)…

Urminsky considers his idea of connectedness to the future within the larger context of a well-documented phenomenon in behavioral economics known as time discounting. This occurs when people discount the value of a resource when there’s a delay in receiving it. For instance, if I offer you $120 now or $180 a year from now, you’ll most likely take the smaller-but-sooner option over the larger-but-later one.

Therein lies the problem, client development and attracting clients is a long term process. It requires lots of hard work for which there is no pay, and no immediate benefit. I know it took me two years of work, work, work before the first construction client called me.

I’ll leave you with one final example. I coached a lawyer 10 years ago. When I began coaching her, she had a very small amount of business in her column.

Recently she wrote to me and told me that a few years ago, she had set a goal of originating $3 million by the time she was a certain age. She told me she had reached and even exceeded her goal in 2016.

How did she achieve this awesome goal? Just as the motivation article suggests, she saw herself as a $3 million originator by a certain age, then she broke it down into smaller chunks and worked each year to get closer and closer to her long term goal.

 

If you have been a long time reader, you likely remember that a lawyer I coached a few years ago has gone in-house. Starting in 2015, he has shared tips for me to pass on to those of you still practicing in law firms.

You might recall reading:

2016 Tips from My In-House Lawyer Friend

Client Development: Even More Tips from a Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Client Development: More Tips from a Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Client Development Tips: From Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Business PeopleCordell, I’ve got some new ones. These focus on communication which seems to be lacking by firms. It is so frustrating.

  1. It shouldn’t take longer than a day to respond to my e-mail or that of someone at my company. If you can’t check your e-mails each day (such as you being on vacation), have someone do that for you.
  2.  A congratulatory e-mail to me when we announce a new product or have a significant development tells me you are paying attention to my company.
  3. When I send you an email inquiry asking for assistance, acknowledge the email so that I am aware you received it. If you can’t respond substantively immediately (which is fine), let me know when you can get to it so I can assess if I need to call someone else.
  4. If you get a call or email from someone other than me and I am your usual contact, you should inquire if I am aware of the inquiry. If one the departments I support reaches out to you, I would like you to tell me before you get started.

At the end of each year I post the Top 10 Blog Posts based on views. As in some previous years, posts done earlier than 2016 made the list.

10. Law Firms: 21 Ideas to Improve Client Service

9. Work Like You Don’t Need the Money

8. About Me

7. Are You Pursuing Excellence or Success

6. 12 Tips to Make Your law Firm One of the Few Your Clients Will Recommend

5. 2015 Planning: Organize into Categories of Your Life

4. Selling Legal Services Do’s and Don’ts

3. Career Success: Why You Should Relentlessly Chase Perfection

2. 50 Topics for Client Development Discussions in Your Firm

1. Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan?

In case you are wondering, the reason Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan is Number 1 is that I recommend each lawyer I coach use it as a starting point for preparing his or her business plan. You could do the same for your 2017 business plan.

Seth Godin recently posted: Not enough ‘if’ or not enough ‘then’? Take a look at it.

How does it apply to you? Lawyers rarely have an ‘if” problem, because when clients need a lawyers help, they need the help.

But, lawyers frequently have a ‘then’ problem. You must demonstrate to your potential clients that ‘you’ are the lawyer they should hire. How can you do that?

I have written many times that you should understand your clients’ business and industry. Your potential clients rarely know whether you are a top notch lawyer, but they always know if you understand their business and industry.

 

I hope each of you had the chance to read Mette Kurth’s guest post: Your Sales Pitch: Better to be like Pistachio.

I believe that authenticity can be Pistachio. So, speaking of debates, I believe the Vice Presidential debate showed an interesting contrast.

I believe the public likes both Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. I suspect if you do a Google search today, you’d likely find someone suggesting he or she would prefer if they were running against each other for President.

But, Tim Kaine was not the Tim Kaine most people know and like at the Vice Presidential debate. See this Washington Post article: Tim Kaine seemed like he was trying too hard at the VP debate. The writer questioned Kaine’s authenticity.

At the vice-presidential debate here Tuesday, however, Kaine turned in a performance that threatened to undermine the image of authenticity that has been one of his greatest strengths.

If you are a regular reader, you may recall that I lost a jury trial in 1981 and was devastated by the loss.

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After I finally picked myself off the mat and dusted myself off, I read a book authored by famed trial lawyer, Gerry Spence. If nothing else, I learned I had to be my authentic self in the courtroom.

Thereafter, in rapid succession, I won a white collar criminal case, a patent infringement case and a construction contract case, all in federal court, all with the same judge.

There are many articles you can read about Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College. Here are links to a couple with quotes about authenticity:

JR Clary, Faculty Co-Leader at the upcoming February 2016 Georgia Regional Seminar on Closing Argument, discusses the value of TLC methods in his practice. Clary says:

What I’ve learned time and again at the College is that to unleash the power of your client’s case, you have to be willing and courageous enough, and have the fortitude, to release yourself to tell your truth. You have to impart the truth about yourself first or you’ll never know the truth that exists within the hearts of the jurors with whom you are interacting.

Authenticity, Honesty, and Humanity: Lessons From the Trial Lawyers’ College. Attorney Andrew Mishlove says:

I can summarize the entire experience down to three words: authenticity, honesty, and humanity.

I believe clients are like jurors. They can tell when the lawyer sitting across from them is authentic, or when he or she is not.

When I was a young lawyer I had the opportunity to see many senior lawyers interact with clients. At first I tried to emulate what one of them was doing. It didn’t work. When I found my own voice, I was more comfortable and more successful.

 

 

Last Monday, I posted: Travel: My Latest Lesson Learned about getting stiffed by a third party travel company that we paid last December, only to learn this December they had not paid the resort we had booked.

We hated paying a second time, but we enjoyed our stay at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos. On Saturday, December 12, we moved to Diamanté Cabo San Lucas.

We played golf there for the first time in January, 2010. Juan Carlos was our caddie and we had the opportunity to have him again on this trip.

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We purchased a week there in January, 2011 before the first place to stay had been constructed.

At first I was nervous because we had paid for our week and couldn’t use it. I wasn’t sure what we had bought other than the opportunity to play golf at a world ranked golf course.

Now, Diamanté is our very favorite place to visit.

The Dunes Golf Course, which is rated #38 in the world is Nancy’s number 1. So, the golf by itself makes Diamanté unique and special. But, there’s more.

At Diamanté the facilities are great. We just stayed a week in our two bedroom location in the Dunes Resort Club. It was really great and we had a wonderful view of the 18th fairway and the ocean,

We walked down the stairs for a Latte, dinner and the golf pro shop. There is a wide variety of food and it’s very good. For the first time ever we spent a week and never left the Diamanté property. But, there’s more.

Because we own the right to use a week at Diamanté we run into many of the same families each year. So, we don’t feel like we don’t know anyone else staying there. But, there’s one more thing that really makes Diamanté special.

What we love most about Diamanté is the staff. They love working at Diamanté so we see the same people every visit. That includes the guys who meet us when we arrive, the waiters in the bar and restaurants, the staff in the pro shops and even the maids who clean our room.

They remember us and make us feel like we are visiting our second home. We get to know them and learn all about their families.

This trip for the third straight year, Javier caddied for us four days. He knows how we play and helps us read putts and pick out the right clubs. We think so much of him that our photo with him last year was our Christmas card photo this year.

Here is our photo with him this year. IMG_0675

It was really funny. On our flight home Nancy and I ate a Christmas cookie from Diamanté and the couple from Wisconsin next to us figured out right way that we had been there.

Look, we are back home now, and there is no place like home, especially for the holidays. But, more than anything else, when we travel, staying at a place that makes us feel like it is our second home is incredibly special.

As many of you grow older, if you can find that kind of place, I guarantee you, it will be the place you want to visit away from your home.

Have a great holiday season.

What are you reading for your career?

Seth Godin recently posted: Did you do the reading?

I always “did the reading.” What kind of reading?

First, I read everything I could get my hands on about the construction industry. I read books on civil engineering, road design, and bridge design. I read books on the business of construction. I subscribed to the American Society of Civil Engineering Journals.

I read books about leadership, business, negotiation, successful companies and persuasion. I read biographies of famous lawyers. I read books about famous trials.

Whenever I read a business book of any kind, I underlined, later highlighted and created my list of takeaways. It’s the only way to make reading the book worth the time.

If you are a regular reader, or if you just know me well, you likely know that several lawyers I coached read books together and every other Friday at 3:00 PM Eastern time they send an email to me and the group outlining their takeaways from a chapter and how they plan to implement what they have learned.

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Some of the books they have read include:

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

Give and Take by Adam Grant

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

They’ve read even more, but I just want to give you a sample.

What are you reading? Will it make you better able to serve your clients, or  lead your lawyers?

Want to start a book group in your firm? Want to be part of one with lawyers I coach?

Thinking of overwhelming this morning because we woke up at about 4:00 AM to the tornado siren outside our house. A few minutes later we, along with the dog were huddled in the closet and heard and felt a tremendous wind going over our house. Just a couple of minutes later it was quiet again.

One of the great joys I have working with law firms across the US and Canada is the opportunity to meet and learn something new from outstanding lawyers.

One example is Pierre Raymond, one of Canada’s leading M&A lawyers, and  the former chair of the well known Canadian firm, Stikeman Elliott. Pierre and I served as a panel sharing ideas with the Stikeman Elliott associates.

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I enjoyed listening to Pierre and asked him to share some of the same ideas with you. Here is Pierre’s guest blog.

When I talk about Business Development to articling students, associates or junior partners, my mantra is always the same, irrespective of their seniority:

1. Get known by as many potential clients as possible;
2. Earn the trust of the potential clients; and
3. “Ask for the order”.

Throughout our career, everything we do in Business Development revolves around these three directives.

1. Get known by as many potential clients as possible: the lawyers senior to you in your firm when you are starting your career and members of the business community when you are a partner.

As an articling student or junior associate, your very first aim ought to be: every associate senior to me and every junior partner in my firm (they are your first pool of clients and will remain so for numerous years) knows (i) that I exist and (ii) that I am eager to work, not only for the lawyers of the firm in general but specifically for him or her.

There are may ways to achieve this goal, here are a few thoughts. You ought to look for a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd: make the first move.

You would be surprised to know how impressive it is for a “senior” to be politely approached by a younger lawyer who introduces himself or herself to me, for example, in an elevator, the lawyers lounge, an office get together, a retreat or (the best) who knocks on my office door and who tells me unequivocally something like “my name is x. I understand you do public M&A and, next time there is an opportunity, I would be very interested to work with you and learn from you”.

Sounds corny? Wrong, big time wrong!

Let the older guy (me) tell you: it is hard not to be impressed by the forthrightness and desire to work shown by a young lawyer who approaches you in such a way. The next time that I am looking for help, do you think that I will be leaning towards asking the articling students/junior associates who wait in their office for seniors to knock on their door to give them work or towards asking the fellow who “got himself/herself known” to me and “asked for the order” a week or two before? Don’t be shy, your seniors will truly be favourably disposed towards you as a result.

2. Earn the trust of the potential clients: being socially apt is useful, but the lawyers senior to you/the external clients will not handover to you the file/ business they are responsible for unless they think you are smart, knowledgeable, reliable and will bring value to the resolution of the matter.

This is not just a fuzzy concept you read about in books (or blogs). As you work on a file for a senior or for an external client, -every day-, ask yourself if you are, at this very moment, earning the trust of your client (internal or external) as a result of

(a) the quality of the work you do for your client this very day,

(b) the timeliness of your deliverable,

(c) the way you summarize verbally your findings, etc.

Every day, be aware of that. Each of those item is an opportunity to earn (or loose) the trust of your client. Don’t miss it.

In my view, one of the best Business Development tools per se and also a great tool to develop your business development abilities is to give a substantive presentation to your practice group or to an external client. Every year, you should participate in two or three of such presentations.

By doing so, you obviously touch on the first two segments of the mantra. But, as or more importantly, such presentations are hard to beat at demonstrating your substance on a particular topic, and in general, hence at gaining the trust of your potential clients.

Of course, giving a presentation can be intimidating at first. But cut your teeth with your practice group, then move on to the whole section. Also, you don’t have to do it all by yourself.

Share the presentation with someone else, it will dilute the stress. Same for client presentations or even lunches with clients, bring someone from another section. It will make the presentation or the lunch livelier and the clients will feel that they got insights from two lawyers with two different backgrounds instead of only one.

3. Ask for the order. Lawyers usually agree with the first two segments of the mantra but are often shy to “ask for the order” explicitly. They push back and say to me “I don’t need to be that outright, the client must know that this is what I am looking for”.

Obviously, you need to be polite but leave the ambiguity at home and you must hear yourself say: internally:

“Do you think that I could be on your team for your next litigation file?”; to an external client:

“Would you retain me and my firm for your next acquisition?”

Doing anything less than that will raise doubt in your clients’ mind as to your determination or you will give them an easy excuse to use someone else who is more insisting (and your internal or external competitors will not be shy, trust me!)

By the way, senior associates and junior partners also ought to knock on their seniors’ doors to get better known (as suggested in 1. above for articling students and junior associates) but principally to “Ask for the order.

Senior associates and junior partners are usually not very keen to do this and say to me:

“I can’t go and knock on doors of lawyers senior to me and ask outright for work, the seniors will think that I am not busy” (and hence that I am probably not a good lawyer in the eyes of the lawyers who generate work in the office).

This is simply paranoia or a bad excuse! Again, the seniors are really pleasantly impressed to see the juniors eager to work and proactive to fill their plate. And, by the way, all seniors have had (and more than once!) a slow period and they will probably secretly think that they should have done then exactly what you are doing now with them!

You can’t get yourself to admit to seniors that you are not busy? Say a white lie (and if you are busy, you nonetheless need to plant the seeds for when you will experience a slow down, say the truth):

“I am quite busy these days, but I would really like to work with you/but we haven’t worked together in a long time. Can you keep me in mind in the near future ?”

Note that I said “Can you keep me…” and not “Please keep me…” Subtle pressure will not hurt!

To sum up, if you look at the Business Development tool kit, some of its tools can, at the outset, be intimidating as they require time, commitment, social skills, etc. But other tools are immediately accessible, numerous small steps that you can easily insert in your everyday routine.

Yes, it requires stepping out of our comfort zone, but ever so slightly. Really. And, as it is for any other matter in our life, stepping out a bit of our comfort zone is…fun and tremendously rewarding professionally and personally.

Pierre Raymond

 

 

If you are a regular reader or if you know me, you know that in 1965 I left the friendly confines of Lombard, IL to begin my college life at Virginia Tech.

T. Marshall Hahn was the President of Virginia Tech then. He was an incredible man and maybe one of the best college president leaders of his time.

I played baseball and lived in Miles Hall for two years with the other Virginia Tech athletes. (When I say I played baseball, that is giving me too much credit, I played as a freshman and “practiced” to play as a sophomore.)

In those two years, I learned about a defensive back in our dorm on the same floor, number 25 a guy named Frank Beamer. He was a great player, but maybe overshadowed by number 10, Frank Loria.

I knew even as a nothing baseball player down the hall that both of those guys were the real deal and would become great coaches. As an aside, I also knew that my friend, Johnny Oates would become a big league player and manager and he did both.

Both Frank Loria and Frank Beamer would become college football coaches. Frank Loria’s life would be cut short in the Marshall football team plane crash. Frank Beamer would become the Virginia Tech head coach in 1987.

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He didn’t start out very well. But Virginia Tech believed in him and he became a legend and the active coach with the most victories.

Frank Beamer announced his retirement on Monday and gave a press conference. While I’m sure there comes a time to “move on” and hire a younger coach, I was teary eyed listening to Frank and watching this  about him.

Virginia Tech alums and fans became so accustomed to 10 win seasons with major bowl appearances that when we didn’t do as well the last four seasons, many wanted Frank to retire. He did, but you could tell he was very sad.

I could feel his pain as I watched.

So many have come forward and shared wonderful stories about Frank Beamer. I want to share just one that I read on Facebook. Please click here and read it because it shows what kind of person Frank Beamer is.

I’m writing a novel. If you know about writing you likely know about a character’s “arc.” In my novel, my protagonist Gina comes to realize she has focused all her attention on what she has achieved, rather than focusing on what kind of person she has become.

Frank Beamer has achieved so very much. He put Virginia Tech on the map, created Beamer Ball and played for a national championship with an underdog team.

But for those Virginia Tech grads who know more than the wins and losses, we will always treasure the man, the unassuming guy from Fancy Gap, Virginia, who was the real deal and showed everyone respect. That is true character.

We love you Frank. Thanks for being the guy any parent would want a son to play for.