I remember the year our firm offered jobs to two students. The first was about the smartest young student I had ever met in my life. He was a straight A student. I don’t think he ever got a B in anything in his life. I was a little concerned about him because he was so smart he rarely attended class. He didn’t stay with us very long and it is difficult for me to picture him or remember his name today.

The second student was a young man who grew up poor, worked very hard to even get into law school and mostly got Bs. He never missed a class and was like a sponge trying to learn more each day. He stayed with us and worked as hard as a lawyer as he had as a student. I still remember Tyler, and he still asks me questions.

I thought of these two law students recently when I spoke to 4th graders on career day at the school where my daughter teaches. The parents of the kids in the school do not have much. They work hard and struggle when things don’t go exactly as planned. Many of their kids are like the sponge, anxious to learn every day. In one of the classes I noticed two young girls sitting there taking notes on everything I was telling them.

Several years ago, Seth Godin posted a blog On Self Determination. He makes two interesting points. The second of his two points reminded me of the two law students I hired so many years ago. He talks about the A students who took mainstream courses and did the minimum amount of work they needed to do to get an A. They learn for the test.

Those students who didn’t need to work for their A’s are joining law firms every day and they are a challenge to supervise. Why you ask? Put simply, they do not see things that are not immediately obvious. They don’t dig deeper than the exact assignment. They mess up and do not even understand how they messed up. They also do not take criticism very well. After all, they have been told their entire life how smart they are.

Give me the student who should have gotten C’s but worked so hard she got B’s. She has the emotional intelligence it takes to be successful and she will see things her all A’s classmate misses.

Over all these past 12 plus years that I have coached lawyers, the most familiar refrain I have heard has been:

I wish I had started my client development efforts earlier

Why have so many lawyers waited until they became partners, when the pressure was on them to bring in business?

I say there are what I call client development myths.Here are the most common myths I see and my response:

  1.  You either have it (skills to develop business) or you don’t. I can tell you from my personal experience that I did not naturally have it. Knowing that drove me to work at it and develop my skills. So, you can learn to successfully attract clients if you are open to ideas and willing to work at it.
  2. Just do good work, get a Martindale A-V rating and wait for the phone to ring. I was told that when I was an associate. The problem is there are thousands of lawyers in your city or state who do good work. Client development is a contact sport. It is about building relationships and adding value beyond the good work
  3. I’m “too young, and inexperienced to…” You are never too young to start learning client development skills. You may not bring in business right away, but that is ok. This is a marathon not a sprint, you are building towards doing so later. If you wait until you are a partner to start making the efforts, you may have the same learning curve.
  4. You have to be an extravert and know how to work a room. I know lawyers who are very outgoing and do poorly because they talk about themselves and do not listen. I know introverted lawyers who ask great questions and listen who do very well.
  5. You have to “ask” for business. Some lawyers are good at asking for business. Others who ask come across as needy or greedy. I was never comfortable asking for business. Instead, I tried to be the “go to” lawyer who would be sought by clients in my target market.
  6. Associates in big firms do not need to learn client development. At the very least, associates in big firms with institutional clients need to learn about those clients and find ways to become more valuable to those clients. In the current economy institutional clients are no longer loyal and they are looking more for value in their outside legal expenditure. As a result, learning the skills to get new clients is more important today than before.

I shared much more with the associates I coached. If you are interested, you can find some of my thoughts in my e-book: Client Development in a Nutshell.

I was in Phoenix last Friday. I very likely coached my final lawyer. I very likely made my last presentation to a group of lawyers. I very liked worked for the last time.

When you reach a certain aga, (I believe it is 65), you receive a report from the Social Security Administration which shows what you earned every year you worked. I looked at mine when it came to me and was reminded I had worked and had income every year from age 14. It reminded me that I was first employed by the Lombard, IL Park District to teach baseball and umpire Pony Tail league softball games.

I went to law school year-round from September 1969 to September 1971. Even then, I worked at the law school and at the Virginia State Prison.

So, 2018 will be a different kind of year for me and I know it will take time to get used to the idea that I am no longer working.

I have not recently written anything specifically focused on law students. Before I quit writing, I want to share with students my thoughts on positioning themselves to be hired.

If you are a law student, graduating in 2018, your school’s placement director has likely given you advice on how to position yourself to be hired. Having hired many graduating law students, I want to give you my two cents on the subject.

Other than your performance in law school, what sets you apart? How can you demonstrate you went to law school because you REALLY want to be a lawyer?

Here is a partial list, in no particular order, of things that might set you apart:

  • You worked in a particular industry or worked in a law firm between college and law school
  • You served in the military doing_____
  • You were a leader in college, law school
  • You were active in the bar as a student
  • You juggled many responsibilities while you were a student
  • You studied abroad or you speak a foreign language
  • You performed well in Moot Court
  • You have written books, short stories, poetry
  • You played a sport, played in the band or acted in plays while in college
  • You volunteered or you were active in a charity
  • You grew up in a family business in some particular industry
  • You interned in some particular industry

One final thought: If you were planning on working with a large law firm and that hasn’t worked out, open your search to smaller firms. Many of those firms are thriving and, even though you may be paid less, there is a good chance you will have more valuable experiences.

 

If you have been reading my recent posts you know I am working out with a trainer. I tell him I don’t look forward to the training during my drive to the fitness facility, I sometimes look at the clock hoping our hour will go by faster, and I always feel energized afterwards.

Is it just me, or do some of you do far more when someone is pushing you than you do on your own?  I’ve worked out at the same facility, done the same routine, but I rarely do as many reps.

I know I “need” to work out, even with no trainer. I’ve “got to” do it at the same level as with the trainer. I “have to,” but I don’t.

Over the years, lawyers I’ve coached have told me they “needed to” …(in one case start a blog). Lawyers I’ve coached have told me they’ve “got to”…(same lawyer get started drafting entries to create a backlog he would later post when his blog went live.) And, lawyers I’ve coached have told me they “have to.”

After listening to many need to’s, got to’s and have to’s, I finally replied:

If you feel like you need to, got to or have to, you won’t. When, your need to, got to and have to turns into “want to,”  I know you will actually do it.

What client development activities are you contemplating? Do you need to do them or do you want to do them?

P.S. The blogger I coached has written one of the most read energy law blogs in the country, and he loves writing it.

 

I was once asked:

Everyone tells you to network. Are there any new strategies for networking that actually work and don’t make you feel like a loser always trying to sell yourself?

First, I argue that networking is not for everyone, and there are many other ways to attract business. So, just because “everyone” tells you to network does not necessarily mean it is a good use of your time.

Second, I don’t think there are any new strategies. I think the old ones work.

I have never enjoyed going to what would be described as “networking” events because the perception of every one there is you are trying to sell yourself.

I remember speaking at a construction law conference several years ago. After I spoke I was surrounded by people. None of them were clients or potential clients. Instead they were all consultants trying to convince me to hire them to help on two big cases they knew I was handling. I never attended that annual conference when I was not asked to be a speaker.

I think the strategy for networking is to build trust, rapport and find common interests. You need to genuinely focus on the person you are speaking to at the time. Ask good questions (ones you have given thought to before you arrived) and then actively listen. When you part, make sure to call the person by his or her name. Finally, find some meaningful way to follow up with the person you met.

Experts tell us we will be quickly judged and you want to show you are sincere very quickly. There are many books written on this subject. If you want any titles of ones I like, send me an email.

BREAKING NEWS:

I’m retiring December 31. ” It’s possible my last post here will be on December 28 or December 29. Is there anything you want me to write about before I quit posting?

“Why am I retiring?” you ask. It’s a great question since I’ve said many times I love my work and I don’t want to play golf every day with the guys.

Law firms are not hiring outsiders to coach their young lawyers on client and career development. Or, at the very least, they aren’t hiring me. In 2010 I coached 125 lawyers. In 2017, I’ve coached only 10.

I was recently asked if I had it to do all over again, would I have left my law practice? That’s also a good question. I enjoyed my law practice and we would be more financially secure, but there’s more to it than that.

I’ll miss my work, and more importantly the outstanding men and women I have coached and mentored over the last twelve years. I coached some of you who were single, got married and now have children. (One lawyer, was single and now has three children).  I coached many of you when you were expecting a new baby. (Actually several lawyers I coached became parents of twins when I coached them). I coached many of you who had young children, who are now off to college.

When someone asks me why I care anything about Facebook, I tell them it enables me to keep up with high school friends, and I have the opportunity to keep up with many of you and your families.

I’ve been to some of your homes. I’ve been to dinner with some of you and your spouses. I’ve eaten meals with some of you, your spouses and your children. I’ve been to events with you in your city, including the Sugar Shack festival in Montreal pictured below.

Some of you after the coaching program came to Dallas for a follow-up weekend of coaching, including dinner out with Nancy and me. Some of you came to Dallas for the Annual Outstanding Women Lawyer’s Roundtable and got the opportunity to meet other outstanding women I coached. Some of you participated with a group of lawyers I coached from other cities for telephone coaching or group book studies.

Many of you have gone on to become firm leaders, or top firm rainmakers in your firm. Some of you were considered so valuable by clients that they made you an offer you couldn’t refuse to come work with them.

That’s enough reminiscing about the great times and great relationships. All I can say is please feel you can keep in touch with me if you have a question or want to brainstorm.

Here are some parting tips for firms who are contemplating creating a coaching program in 2018.

If you are contemplating starting a client development coaching program in 2018, I have one important suggestion: Do not include lawyers who “need” coaching. They likely do not want to be in your coaching program and will drag down your other lawyers.

I always admired Vince Lombardi. In When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi, historian David Maraniss talked about what happened when Vince Lombardi arrived in Green Bay.  I learned that early in his first season, Lombardi gathered the players and told them:

With every fiber of my body I’ve got to make you the best football player I can make you. And I’ll try. And I’ll try. And if I don’t succeed the first day I’ll try again. And I’ll try again. And you’ve got to give everything that is in you. You’ve got to keep yourself in prime physical condition, because fatigue makes cowards of us all.

In that one statement, Vince Lombardi let the players know that the right people for the Green Bay Packers were the ones who wanted to become the best football players they could be and were willing to give everything they had to accomplish that goal. I loved coaching lawyers who share that burning desire.

A lawyer I coached sent a blog post Seth Godin posted yesterday: Two Kinds of Practice. If you have 30 seconds, read it.

When I read Two Kinds of Practice I thought about a blog about my own failure that I posted in 2014, and I thought it might be a good time to repost it.

What is your biggest marketing failure? If you haven’t had one, then either you are not doing much marketing, or you are doing it significantly better than I did.

Years ago, I read a very short Seth Godin Blog: Nothing. Here is the entire blog post:

The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.”

Have you ever not started a client development activity because you were afraid of failing? Don’t let fear of failing stop you. I have had many client development failures. Let me share one with you.

My Biggest Marketing Failure

When professional video first gained acceptance, I decided to create a video for contractors. I spent days creating the script and two days in front of the camera with Dr. Michael Vorster at Virginia Tech.

I was confident I had created a masterpiece and I decided to market the tape along with a book on linear scheduling at a price of $495. I believe I sold at most 20 sets of the tape and most of those were to my mother and her friends. (I just recently tossed the last boxes of tapes I was storing in my garage.)

When I realized that my attempt to become a paid movie star was not working effectively, I came up with Plan B. After spending hours going through the program and deciding what to include, I went back to the editor, and paid him more money to create a one-hour summary of the eight-hour tape. I decided strategically to give the one-hour tape away and offer a special price for the full eight hours to those contractors who were intrigued enough to see more.

There came a point when I just wanted to give the tapes away. By then, I laughed at myself, picked myself up off the stage and pressed on with other ideas. Later I mentioned using linear scheduling in one of my Roads & Bridges monthly columns and found it was a better way to reach out to my target market.

My Failure did Not Stop Me from Starting Again

Just to show I am either willing to take another chance, or I didn’t learn my lesson from the first tape experience, I created a three-hour streaming video coaching program with a detailed workbook. Have you seen it? You can find it here on my webpage. If you are interested, in watching and using the workbook, contact Joyce jflo@cordellparvin.com.

So, what is something you haven’t started because you fear you might fail? If you try something that doesn’t work. Don’t fret about it. Instead, think of it as successfully learning what didn’t work.  If you need more support, watch the famous Michael Jordan Nike Commercial video.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~Robert F. Kennedy

I want you to use your imagination for a moment. Picture a group of your clients meeting and discussing you. What are the 3-5 things you believe they would say about you?

Take a moment and write those things down. Now, think about what you would want them to say about you. Is there a difference?

Many years ago I went through this same exercise. I do not specifically remember what I listed that my clients would say about me, but I do remember what I would have liked them to say about me. I wanted my clients to say I was:

  1. The leading transportation construction lawyer in the country;
  2. A lawyer who understood their business;
  3. A  lawyer who always put his clients’ interest ahead of his own;
  4. A lawyer who could be trusted to always fulfill the commitments he made; and
  5. A  lawyer who searched for innovative ways to help me achieve my business objectives.

Why did I do this exercise and why should you?

I did it because it changed how I was working with my clients. It helped me focus on what was important to them and caused me to search for ways to become the lawyer I wanted to be.

Let me know what you want your clients to say about you.
 

A senior lawyer asked me to boil client development down into a bullet point list of no more than 10 suggestions. I confess it’s hard to pick a Top 10, but here are the 10 that first came to my mind.

  1. Client development has changed. It is more focused than ever on the client and becoming a remarkable lawyer in the client’s eyes.
  2. Your clients expect you to understand their industry, their company and them individually.
  3. By reading what clients read and belonging to organizations they belong to, you are best positioned to identify their problems, opportunities, internal and external changes that require legal help.
  4. Prepare a business plan with goals to focus your attention and not waste time.
  5. To become a “go to lawyer” in the eyes of your clients and potential clients, writing and speaking on their problems, opportunities, internal changes and external changes are the best “bang for the buck” uses of your non-billable time.
  6. Connectors are best suited to get business by being active in the Bar and/or community and building as many relationships with diverse groups of people as possible. Are you a connector? To see, take the test in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point.” I also found a survey you can take: Are You A Maven, Salesman, Or Connector?
  7. Client development is a contact sport. Be purposeful about staying in touch with your contacts.
  8.  Clients hire lawyers more than law firms. You get considered based on your profile and you get hired based on how well you build trust and connect with the decision maker.
  9. Clients are not satisfied with the level of service they receive. It is important to be responsive and to understand their industry company and representative. Think of ways you can enable the client representative to do his or her job more effectively.
  10. Make client development a habit and try to do something, no matter how small, each and every day.

On Tuesday, I posted The 3 P’s. One of those P’s is persistence. Let’s explore that one further today.

Have you ever thought of giving up on client development because you were not getting the results you wanted?

I know many young lawyers who enthusiastically start a client development program and then get frustrated because they do not see instant results.

I experienced that frustration. I had put my heart and soul into my business development by writing articles and speaking at industry meetings and had not gotten the first client. Many times I wondered whether it was worth all the time I was putting in.

A couple of senior lawyers in my firm also kept putting me down for taking time they wanted me to spend helping them. I kept on because I wanted to control my own destiny and not be totally dependent on senior lawyers.

So, whenever I got discouraged I would picture myself five years later with $500,000 in business. I also made client development a habit and tried to do something no matter how small each and every day. There came a time about two years after I started, when it started raining with new clients and business.

Recently I read that two very important virtues are persistence and flexibility. The writer said:

Persistence beckons you with eternal hope, while flexibility enables you to get through the obstacles that stand between you and your dreams.

I love a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

    • Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Woody Allen once said:

80% of success is just showing up.

That means taking actions. Many lawyers have no plan for client development. Others have a plan, but do not take the actions necessary to be successful.

Flexibility means thinking about a variety of options to achieve a goal. It means being resourceful and changing tactics when appropriate while maintaining the values that are important to you.

Have you ever heard of the book: “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson?

Cheese is the metaphor for what we want in life. The maze in the story represents how we spend our time looking for what we want. You will learn a great deal about persistence and flexibility in the book.

Check the short summary of the book.