I watch high school and college students clicking on their phones even when the person with whom they are communicating is close enough to speak in person. I fear young lawyers have gone from meeting in person and talking on the telephone to email and texting.

When I was still practicing law and mentoring our firm’s young lawyers, I frequently played the role of a business client and video taped my first meeting with a young lawyer. It was a great way for our young lawyers to practice.

I got the idea way back when I was in law school. In our Estates class, the professor played the role of the client and over the semester we had to probate an estate with the county clerk going along with the exercise.

Several years ago I read a short article by famous writer and management consultant Peter Drucker in the Harvard Business Review. The title of the article was What Makes an Effective Executive. He noted that the CEOs with whom he had worked were all over the map. Some were extroverted and some were near reclusive. Yet, what made them all effective is they followed the same eight practices.

It occurred to me that effective lawyers and business developers follow most, if not all, the same eight practices. Here is the list.

  • Practices 8.pngThey listen first and speak last
  • They asked: “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked; “What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans
  • They took responsibility for decisions
  • They took responsibility for communicating
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems
  • They ran productive meetings
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I”

Don’t these really apply to lawyers? If so, which of these practices are you actually doing?

In 2020 you may have to practice on-line meetings with clients. If so the same principles would apply.

I have been asked why I chose to focus on transportation construction contractors. The answer is really pretty simple: I loved the people in the industry and I marveled at the magnificent projects they constructed.

Contractors who build complex construction projects have to have a “can do” attitude. Occasionally they are building a project that has never been built before. It is one thing to draw it up and another to actually design and construct it.

I am reminded of what I have read, seen and heard about the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1800s. For many years people wanted to build a bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, but the idea was always thought to be impractical. When it was completed in 1883,  it was the world’s longest suspension bridge. Thirty men, including the bridge designer, lost their lives during the construction.

Several years ago I sat in the conference room of a firm I was coaching at the time. Ann-Marie came in with a gift. It was a book written by famed historian David McCullough titled: The Great Bridge. I had read his book John Adams. I had listened to his book 1776 on the Revolutionary War. I didn’t know he had written about the Brooklyn Bridge. I read the book cover to cover with great interest in the history and background.

If you want to learn more take a look at this short video clip. I wanted to work for people who built projects like the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

I have struggled this year with on-line church. In the past I have struggled with on-line Spanish classes and on-line writing classes. I guess I am old fashioned in that I need to be there in person to stay attentive.

Teaching, training and coaching lawyers on client development has never been more challenging. This year, more than any, you’ve got to deliver the training/coaching in bite sized pieces.

Over the years starting when I was still a partner in my law firm, I gave many presentations on client development at law firm retreats, state bar meetings, ABA meetings and in webinars. You may have participated in one of those presentations.

Some people said I motivated and inspired young lawyers and gave them practical tips they could implement to bring clients into the firm. While that was a kind compliment, and I beamed when I heard it, I realized that no matter how well I connected with the lawyers during a presentation, very few lawyers would retain the information and even fewer would actually make the changes necessary to apply what they have learned.

To teach, encourage and get your young lawyers more involved in client development, break down your training into smaller components and let them implement those components a piece at a time.

After all, you are not teaching them how to do a client development crash diet. Instead you are teaching them how to make a life style change.

Want some examples? You can reach out to me and I will be happy to share ideas with you. That said, I would start with how to prepare a business plan that works and implement it.

When I started practicing law, back in the old days, the rules of the game were well known:

  1. You went to law school and got good grades.
  2. When you finished, you went to work for a high quality law firm.
  3. While an associate, you worked hard and billed lots of hours (far fewer than what is considered lots of hours now.)
  4. At the appropriate time, you made partner.
  5. In at least some firms, compensation was “lock step,” meaning even as a partner you made what others in your class made.

You never had to worry about bringing in clients, because the firm had all the clients it wanted. The firm leaders likely told you the firm did not want you to learn about client development. Your job was to keep the firm’s clients happy.

I know you realize that practicing law and law firms have changed. In most firms, the new reality is if you do not bring in clients and business, or at least expanding relationships with existing clients, you may have to find another job.

Why did the rules of the game change? I think because the practice of law went from being a profession to being a business. When did it occur? It had to be as early as 1988 because there is a Vanderbilt Law Review article that year titled: The Law: From a Profession to a Business.

To show you how practicing law has changed, I want to share with you a question I received years ago when I spoke at an associate retreat:

Why should I want to take time to develop business and have clients who rely on me?

She went on:

Why do I even want to make partner – what’s in it for me?  I don’t mean that to sound cynical, but as I get closer to the goal it’s clear that making partner no longer means what many of us thought it would when we were young, namely prestige, lower billables, or more money. What are the actual advantages?

rsalesman_smiling_business_woman.jpgWhen law went from being a profession to being a business, young lawyers like the one who asked the question debated whether they even wanted to become a partner in the new game.

Sadly, in 2020, without clients, at best you will have no control over your life and career. At worst, you will not be in private practice. See: Pay Cuts, Layoffs, and More: How Law Firms Are Managing the Pandemic, or Adjusting the COVID-19 Response: How Law Firms Are Altering Austerity Measures

When I began at my first law firm, I had already practiced law for five years in the USAF, mostly litigating government contract cases. I quickly discovered that to have any control over my life and my future, I would need to develop business and client relationships. When I began my client development efforts, the partners for whom I worked were not happy. They would have preferred for me to remain dependent on them.

I was motivated by my desire to control my destiny and by the satisfaction I felt from the relationships, including friendships, with my clients. But, naturally having a book of business and client relationships enabled me to become a partner also, and it kept me in the game during each recession that followed.

So, if you want to build a career in private practice and want control of your career and your life, begin focusing on developing and expanding relationships with clients.

When I practiced law, almost every new client that considered hiring me came as a result of a recommendation. Your potential new clients will consider you when someone recommends you. I believe in 2020 it may be even more important than it was when I practiced law.

Here are three questions to consider:

  1. Do you know who is out there recommending you?
  2. Do you know why they are recommending you?
  3. Are you doing anything to thank them for recommending you?

I knew who recommended me. Many times I simply asked the new client who called me.

While it is important, people will not likely recommend you just because they think you are a good or nice person. Almost always a person will recommend you because he or she thinks you are a “go to” lawyer who understands the potential new client’s problem and business and thinks you will be a “good fit” for the client.

After you find out who recommended you, send a handwritten thank you note. More importantly, the best way to say thank you is to make your referral source look good by doing an extraordinary job to help your new client.

I recently visited my doctor for my regular check-up. After studying my labs, she told me to eat fewer carbs, exercise more and lose some weight. I have heard that advice before and sometimes I even start to implement the advice.

But, by the time I visit again I am back where I started.

I know what I need to do, and back fifteen or so years ago I did it. I lost weight down to 150 pounds. How? I broke down my eating and my exercise into smaller components and kept track of how I was doing on each.

Okay, I am confessing this to you because I promise to write a blog in 2021 saying how I am doing. I’m determined to break it down again.

I often wonder if law firms are teaching client development to young lawyers in 2020? Is your firm?

If your firm is teaching client development to young lawyers, how are you doing it?

If your firm is just having a speaker do an on-line presentation to your young lawyers I doubt many will change and follow through. They will look at client development as if they were climbing Mount Everest and will not take the first step.

I gave many presentations on client development at law firm retreats, new partner orientation and for bar associations. My goal was always to motivate and inspire young lawyers and give them practical tips they can implement to bring clients into the firm.

But, as lofty as my goal and as interested the lawyers were in learning, I realized that no matter how well I presented ideas and tips, very few lawyers  retained the information and even fewer actually made the changes necessary to apply what they had learned.

To get your young lawyers more involved in client development, break down your training into smaller components and let them implement those components a piece at a time. Then, follow up to see if they got it and see if they are making changes. The follow up is as important as the initial efforts.

After all, you are not teaching them how to do a client development crash diet. Instead you are teaching them how to make a life style change.

As you may know, I have written two novels. I started The Billionaire’s Lawyer in 2014 and finally finished it after writing ten versions in 2018.

I wrote about my efforts in a blog titled: My Novel: The Billionaire’s Lawyer.

My 2018 blog post answers the question of why I chose Gabriela Sanchez as my protagonist. Our son-in-law grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. Our daughter taught school in the Rio Grande Valley. One of my most favorite lawyers I mentored grew up in the Rio Grande. I have learned through my coaching and research that Latina lawyers still face challenges. See: FEW AND FAR BETWEEN: THE REALITY OFLATINA LAWYERS. (One Latina lawyer I coached told me a partner had once mistaken her for a member of the cleaning crew.)

A great deal has happened since that post. I had used a self-publishing company which had pressured me to send them the manuscript even before I had finished editing, proofreading and looking for errors. I did, interpreting an email to mean they would edit, proofread and look for errors before publishing. They didn’t.

If you go back to the blog I published in 2018, you will find a different cover. It is from the old version that has errors I found embarrassing.

After I published The Billionaire’s Lawyer, I started receiving cold calls. The caller usually started by telling me someone in his/her company had read my novel and wanted to present it to screenwriters in Hollywood to make a movie. I was excited by the first call, by the third or fourth I had figured out the scam and asked that the person who thought my novel was worthy of a movie should call me and share with me why he or she thought it was movie worthy.

I also received cold calls from marketing companies. Those callers also claimed someone had read The Billionaire’s Lawyer. Their pitch was that they could get my book in book stores, libraries and more on-line sales…. for a price. I finally told the callers I had written the book for my own satisfaction and for my friends and I didn’t care about sales. (Good thing because my royalties so far have been just enough to re-load my Starbucks card.)

I published my second novel, Countdown to Justice in 2019. Gabriela Sanchez, fresh of her defense of the Texas Billionaire is asked to represent a lawyer her age who refuses to testify before the grand jury investigating whether her client bribed my fictitious Texas governor.

This time, I paid an editor to edit, proofread and correct errors before it was published. Like my first novel, sales have not been great and you won’t find it in your local book store.

I am currently working on my third novel, about a lawyer representing a seventeen year old girl in Dallas who is stuck in the Dallas County Jail because her trial, which was supposed to take place in March has been postponed indefinitely because of COVID. I chose a seventeen year old because to my surprise, Texas is one of the few states that treats seventeen year olds as adults and they have their own floor at the Dallas County jail.

Writing a novel is far more challenging than the many briefs, articles, guides and even business parable books I wrote while practicing law and coaching. I struggle with concepts like “show don’t tell, deep POV and using strong verbs. It doesn’t come natural to me.

So, why do I write? I love to learn. I love to try and get better. I love creating a story. I even love doing the research.  Here’s one interesting thing I have discovered. No matter how wild or crazy and idea I have for the story, when I do research I inevitably discover that something at least as wild or crazy, and in most cases even more wild and crazy happened in real life. So much for my efforts to be original.

 

Do you have lifetime goals? At the age of 15, John Goddard (The Real Indiana Jones) listed 127 goals he wished to experience or achieve in his lifetime. In the linked article, Goddard is called “The Greatest Goal Achiever,” and rightly so.

After reading about Goddard’s lifetime goals many years ago, I decided to create my own list of lifetime goals. A few years later, I put my lifetime goals in four categories:

  • Physical/Economic
  • Mental/Learning
  • Emotional/Relationships
  • Spiritual/Values

I shared my lifetime goals with lawyers I  coached and I will share them with any of you who are interested. Just send me an email at cparvin@cordellparvin.com. Several lawyers I coached created their own lifetime goals.

I will tell you in advance that my first lifetime goal was to weigh 175 pounds. At one point before I drafted the goals I weighed 150 and had more energy than anytime I can remember. To get to 150, I increased my calorie burning exercise and decreased my calorie intake so as to lose about one-two pounds a week. I don’t weigh 175 now…even though I know how to do it.

Why have I shared that tidbit with you? Just simply I want you to know that setting a goal, while the first step, becomes meaningless if you don’t take the required action to achieve the goal.

If you haven’t done it, take some quiet time and create your list of lifetime goals. If you want some feedback, share your list with me.

 

I want to help you become a more successful lawyer. If you think, you can only be successful if you sacrifice a good family life, I disagree. But, you have to make success happen. You can’t expect success by waiting for it to happen.

A few years ago I read Jack Canfield’s book: The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. In the book he reports that psychologists tell us that 90% of our behavior is habitual. I agree.

If that is true, what are your habits? What client development habits do you have? What career development habits do you have? Are they contributing to your success?

Canfield begins Principle 35 with a quote from Ken Blanchard:

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

That is a powerful stuff. For years I was committed to my personal fitness. I woke up the same time every morning and went to the fitness club.

A few years ago I was only interested in my physical fitness, but not committed. I made excuses for not working out. Needless to say, working out was no longer part of my daily habits and I was not feeling as well as when it was. I also gained weight.

Now, I am in my 70s. I read how important it is to getting vigorous exercise each week. I struggle because I lost the habit a few years ago.

Here are some questions for you on commitment:

  1. What are you committed to do?
  2. Are you committed to becoming a better lawyer?
  3. Are you committed to learning more about your client’s business?
  4. Are you committed to providing extraordinary service to your clients?
  5. Are you committed to making client development efforts part of your every day habits?
  6. Are you committed to helping other lawyers in your firm succeed?
  7. Are you committed to working collaboratively with other lawyers in your firm?
  8. Are you committed to making time to be with your family and friends?

While COVID-19 has not changed the principles of client development: you have to become visible and credible to your target market, build rapport and trust, get hired, get results and provide extraordinary service, the means of accomplishing the principles during COVID have changed.

 

 

Were you practicing law in 2000? If so have you given any thought to how different practicing law is today?

In 2000:

  • Getting email was kind of a novel thing and you did not get emails on a portable device
  • None of the articles you had written were downloadable from your website bio
  • You and your target market clients had not done a Google search of you
  • You were not blogging
  • You were not doing podcasts
  • You were not downloading podcasts to your mobile device
  • You were not doing internet radio shows
  • You were not doing webinars
  • You were not posting presentations to YouTube
  • You were not on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and you were not a member or leading a group on any of those pages
  • You were not holding Zoom meetings
  • You were not working from home

The Internet levels the playing field in many ways and gives young lawyers opportunities to become visible and credible to their target market during COVID-19 like never before.

Why? Clients are very busy. They want lawyers to tell them things they did not know and they want it to be timely. You may not be able to tell them in person.

How can you take advantage?

By seeing the potential legal minefields or opportunities before other lawyers, and even better before your target market, and then write or speak about it at just the very time your client needs to know about it using the Web opportunities above to distribute it.

Just imagine if you blogged or did a podcast or Zoom conference about something your clients did not know, but needed to know.

All of a sudden you can become the “go to” lawyer to that group. And then just suppose that group found what you had written or spoken about so helpful that they sent the link to their friends in their industry. What an opportunity.

In 2020, when you are stuck working from home and not meeting clients in person, are you taking advantage of the on-line opportunities to reach clients?