Years ago, I read a great book titled: “Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing Magnetism That Leads to Success” by Tony Alessandra.

In the chapter on vision, Alessandra tells the story of a kindergarten teacher who asked a student what she was drawing:

I’m drawing a picture of God,

the child quickly answered.

But sweetheart,” said the teacher, “no one knows what God looks like.”

The young girl replied:

They will in a minute!

Alessandra notes:

Charismatic people possess a similar, almost childlike faith in their vision and their ability to create change. People will follow leaders (and clients will rely on lawyers) whose vision inspires them and makes their lives more meaningful.

Do you have a clear vision for your future? Do you convey to your clients a clear vision of how you can help them?

When I coached lawyers over the last twelve years, I believe the most popular agenda item at the first coaching session was time management.

It was not surprising because I believed that time and energy are our two most important assets. The question typically included how can I find time for client development and came from lawyers who had not previously had a written plan with goals. My answer was always:

You have to make time and the way to do it is through a plan. If you don’t, you will never “find” it.

For each lawyer, making time will be different. As lawyers I coached know, I made time for my writing and speaking preparation on Saturdays and Sundays from 6am to 9am.

I chose those times because I was up anyway and because Nancy was working out or “easing into her day” with coffee, and Jill was still asleep. I spent Saturday afternoons with Jill. We called it our father-daughter time.

We started when she was young and continued until she left home for college. We frequently at lunch in international restaurants that her mom would not likely pick.



How do you recruit lawyers of the Millennium (or Y) Generation and how do you retain them?

Those were the questions I was recently asked by a recruiting coordinator of a major law firm. I think it begins by understanding them and how they are different from lawyers in my generation.

When I was in charge of attorney development at my old law firm, I sought to better understand the Y Generation lawyers. Here is my list of Top 10 things that are important to this group:

  1. They want to work for firms whose leaders do not take themselves too seriously.
  2. They want to work in a comfortable atmosphere, one in which they can be themselves.
  3. They want to work for firms where they have an essential contribution to the success of their firm and their clients.
  4. They want to work for a firm that values – and practices – community service.
  5. They want to work on teams and to make friends at a firm.
  6. They want their work to be interesting, and will get easily bored if unchallenged.
  7. They want their firms to provide them with the most up-to-date technology to better perform their work.
  8. They want and will seek constant and continuous feedback from their supervising attorneys.
  9. They want to be treated fairly – as they define it – and will place a very high value on it.
  10. They want – demand – sincerity from firm leaders.


If you are a regular reader, you know that at the end of last year I mentioned I planned to retire. Afterward, Larry Scott, a former partner of mine suggested I consider becoming a recruiter.

At first, I was skeptical, but I received many encouraging messages from law firm leaders and lawyers I have coached. So, in January I met with my former partner and the Managing Member of the recruiting firm.

One lawyer wrote:

You see, I don’t see your role as a recruiter as being the guy out there hustling to make the sale at all costs regardless of whether the move would really be good for the attorney, the attorney’s family, or the target firm. I see you as the guy you have always been, the trusted advisor, the one who takes the time to get to know the firm that is hiring, the candidate, the candidate’s family, lifestyle, goals and then, if the move would be a good move for them holistically, telling them so, but if it wouldn’t, also telling them so. You may not make as many “sales” that way, but the sales you do make, will add value to the firms, the candidates, and the people’s lives — as you’ve always done in your other work. So really, you’re still coaching, you’re just coaching with an option for movement if it is justified and, in such cases, you make some money along the way.

Fast forward. I’ve decided to join Lateral Link, a Division of Mainspring Legal. I hope if you ever need help, you will consider contacting me.

Four years ago this week I posted a blog titled: If I write a novel about a law firm…I need your ideas. As you will see, on that day I was starting a novel writing class. In January of 2014, I began writing a novel.

Four years and nine drafts later, I have finally published it. The title is The Billionaire’s Lawyer. It is available here in both softcover and e-book versions. You can also find it on Amazon. I understand the Kindle version will be available on Amazon in a few weeks.

Why did it take four years to write and why did it take 10 versions until I was willing to publish it? There are two reasons. First, I was never satisfied with my work. I always thought, and still believe, I could make it better. Second, I’ve been able to incorporate events that have taken place over the last four years. Several times, I have thought,

What’s happening in real life is far stranger than anything I could possibly make up.

When I began writing, I hadn’t considered that the government might have hacked into a news reporter’s computer, corporations and political groups might use social media in ways no one ever thought of to sway opinion, and I had never heard of the term “fake news.”

My original protagonist was the great-granddaughter of a Galveston Mafia boss. Why did that character interest me? I didn’t know the Galveston history of the Free Galveston era, and was fascinated when I studying it. You can check it out here. (My second novel will likely be about this character.)

Gabriela Sanchez is the protagonist of The Billionaire’s Lawyer. She grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and moved to Dallas to prove to herself, and perhaps her father, that she could make it on the big stage. Why did I want the protagonist to be a Hispanic woman from the Rio Grande Valley?

There are many reasons: First, I wanted to write about someone different than me. I decided the protagonist should be a woman because, having coached and mentored hundreds of young women lawyers, I know women face different challenges while striving to be successful.

Why did I want my character to be a Hispanic woman? While doing research I discovered that Hispanic women make up around 7% of the US population, but less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the partners in law firms. I also recognized in my research that because of movies and television shows, Hispanic women have been unfairly stereotyped. I’m sure you know this, but if you are interested here is a Latina Magazine article: 10 Latino Stereotypes We’ve Heard All Our Lives That Are Completely False.

Why did I decide my character had grown up in the Rio Grande Valley? There were many reasons. Our daughter taught school there. Our son-in-law grew up there. Sadly, the Rio Grande Valley is one of the poorest and most corrupt regions in the country. See: Rio Grande Valley Tops List of “America’s Poorest Cities” and Corruption On The Border: Dismantling Misconduct In The Rio Grande Valley.

More important than all of those reasons, I mentored a young lawyer who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I learned a great deal from her. She told me her mom was a teacher and her dad was a principal. She went to both college and law school on scholarships. At Notre Dame Law School she was the only Hispanic student and other students believed she was there only because of “affirmative action.” She later proved them wrong when she outperformed most of them.

She once told me that many times she wondered if she measured up and sometimes believed someone would figure out she was not as smart or not as capable a lawyer as them. Those feelings motivated her to work harder and probably contributed to her success.

I’m not sure if the lawyer I mentored will see this, but I have to thank her for sharing ideas that became the inspiration for my protagonist.

So, what’s the story about?

Gabriela Sanchez is a young lawyer who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley watching her father in court. After clerking for a federal judge and working with her father, Gabriela moves to Dallas to prove she can make it in the big city. At first, much to her dismay, Gabriela becomes known for being named one of the Top 10 Most Beautiful Women in Dallas by D Magazine (There was an annual list. Check out 2015 here.).  and for an award from Catholic Charities for her work helping refugee and immigrant children.

Then, a trial consulting firm (think of Dr. Jason Bull TV character) recommends Gabriela to defend the richest man in Texas in the most highly publicized white collar criminal case since Enron. At the beginning, Gabriela believes the poor have little chance to defend themselves, but during her defense of Sparks Duval, she discovers how tough it is for a rich man to get a fair trial when the DOJ is hellbent to convict the defendant at any cost including destroying his lawyer.

I enjoyed writing the book and incorporating what was happening in real life. I strongly considered not publishing it because I was writing it for my own education. I’m still not sure it is ready for prime-time, but if I can borrow words from a Seth Godin blog titled: Art is what we call...

What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.

Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.


This could be my last post, but…maybe not. I’ve been asked to consider doing legal lateral recruiting and law firm mergers. I’m giving it serious thought, so…who knows?

In my completed draft novel, my protagonist is striving for success. But, she has changed. Her father points out she has become less focused on the person she is and the wants to become.

If you want a little year-end inspiration, take a look at this Lou Holtz commencement speech.

Both my dad and my mom passed away in the month of December. In 1980 on December 20, Nancy, Jill and I were getting ready to fly from Roanoke, Virginia to Chicago to be with our families over the Christmas holiday.

We received a phone call from my dad’s business partner who reported my dad had suffered a heart attack and had passed away. With sadness, we opened the gifts my dad planned to give each of us that year.

My mom passed away nine years ago this week and even now, nine years later,  I reflect on how much she and my dad influenced my life.

When I prepared to speak about her to her church family, I found a quote from poet Robert Frost:

You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular. The father is always a Republican towards his son, and his mother’s always a Democrat.

Using the political analogy, my mom was such a liberal Democrat raising me that she forced my father to be a tough love Republican. When I was grown, he frequently told me, he didn’t particularly enjoy that role. Even so, the combination served me well.

My dad taught me to live, my mom taught me to love. My dad taught me to be successful, my mom taught me to be fulfilled. My dad taught me to be confident and to make my own way, my mom taught me to be humble and faithful.

If you are a lawyer I coached over these last 12 years, you probably see both my dad’s influence and my mom’s influence in my coaching.

I believe lawyers cannot be truly successful and not be fulfilled, but we tend to focus more on our success. I want you to focus on both.

So, as you begin 2018, think about the one most important thing you can do in 2018 to be more successful. Write it on a sheet of paper.

Then, think about the one most important thing you can do in 2018 to be more fulfilled (it might be something to make your family life even more fulfilling). Write it on a sheet of paper. Put the paper in desk drawer, so every time you open the drawer you see what you wrote.

Finally, make sure you actually do both things.

I must share with you at the outset that when Alabama plays Clemson, I will be cheering for Clemson. As a Virginia Tech grad, I want to cheer for the ACC team.

I also confess I wasn’t a huge Nick Saban fan. It’s a long story, but it stems from when he was the head coach at LSU and they came to Blacksburg Labor Day weekend, 2002. I wouldn’t mention it had Virginia Tech lost the game. The game summary is here.

But, after watching a 60 Minutes segment, I understand why he is an outstanding coach.

I was looking for something and found this quote attributed to him:

It’s not human nature to be great. It’s human nature to survive, to be average and do what you have to do to get by. That is normal. When you have something good happen, it’s the special people that can stay focused and keep paying attention to detail, working to get better and not being satisfied with what they have accomplished.

In this last week of 2017, if you haven’t already started planning what you want to accomplish in 2018, this would be a really good time to start. Think about getting better, and don’t be satisfied with what you have accomplished.

If you have been a regular reader for a long time you won’t find anything new here. I’ve said it all before. But, perhaps you will find the reminder valuable.

When I was billing 2000 hours I did not have time to study or understand why some lawyers are successful and have a great family life and why others are not. I also did my client development activities instinctively and some things worked very effectively while other things did not work quite as well.

Now, that I’ve spent the last 12 years coaching and working with lawyers, I have a much better idea of the attributes of the most successful lawyers who also have a family life and I understand better why certain client development efforts work.

While each of you have unique talents, weaknesses, ambitions and practices, and there is no magic pill or formula, there are principles that I urge you to think about and try. If you are a long-time reader, each point below should be familiar to you.


I believe it starts with your attitude.  When you talk to yourself do you say: “Yes, but…” or “Sure, how…” do you say: “My problem is…” or “my opportunity is…” do you say: “I don’t have time to…” or do you say: “I will make time to…”


Next, you must have clarity on what you want in your career and in your life. Your time and energy are your most important assets.

If you do not have clarity, you will likely waste precious time. For me to have clarity, I think on paper with written goals and a plan for using my time.

Client Needs

Next, you need to focus on what your clients need. They do not want to be sold on how good you are or how good your firm is, and they do not care about what you do. They hire you to solve their problems, help them achieve opportunities or deal with internal or external changes.

To be relevant, what you do has to address those issues or it doesn’t matter. The best way to figure out what potential clients need, is to identify your target market and make sure you understand their industry.

Become the “go to lawyer’

You need to build your profile, so clients find you when they need a lawyer in your field. To borrow my favorite Seth Godin quote:

Being the best in the world is seriously overrated.

Over time think about what you can be the “go to lawyer.”  It should be something clients need and you are passionate about.

Building your profile gives you the opportunity to build relationships with clients and potential clients. Client development is all about relationship building.

Build your team

When you become more successful you need to build a team. Young lawyers who will later work with you will be thinking “what is in this for me to work with…?”

MAKE time for your family

Finally, you need to plan your personal/family time at the very least as well as you plan our work time. You need to be in the moment, not answering emails or texts on your iPhone X.  I learned from Dr. Stephen Covey that when you are with your kids, do things with them rather than for them.

Most clients assume you have the legal skills necessary to handle their matter. In surveys they say they are less are less concerned about your legal skills, your billable rate and your track record.than they are about how much you care.

How do you show you care about what you are doing for a business client? I think it begins with a thorough understanding of the client’s industry, business and strategies. After that, it is small things like:

  1. Asking good questions
  2. Being empathetic
  3. REALLY listening
  4. Being responsive
  5. Doing something beyond what is expected
  6. Being appreciative

What would you add to this concise list?

Back when I was practicing law,  we held a client roundtable discussion as a kick-off for our Construction Law Practice Group retreat.  Five of our clients’ in-house lawyers came to Dallas to share their ideas with us.. We had the opportunity to ask questions and get their candid responses.

I asked: What is most effective way we can, at our expense, invest in our relationship with you?
GC Client 1: Provide memos explaining new court cases that would affect our business.
GC Client 2: Don’t charge for learning about our company.
GC Client 3: Willingness to help train, share forms and answer simple questions without opening a file and recording time.
GC Client 4: Meet with us and find out what we need.
GC Client 5: Coming back after completion of a project and asking for feedback.

When I practiced law, I was asked by our HR director, what attributes I looked for in associates. I think he assumed honesty and integrity and expected beyond that I would say hard-working, great attitude and all the normal things.

When I told him that curiosity was very high on my list he looked confused. He asked me to explain and I told him about how my curiosity helped me attract business. I want to share what I told him so you can find a way to make it work for you.

During my career, I was very blessed to have helped contractors who were building very complex and difficult bridge construction projects, including a design-build bridge project in Maine and a bridge that sunk while under construction in Washington state.

I was blessed to have helped contractors who were constructing many complex tunnel projects including the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (I-664) in Virginia, Metro Tunneling for the Green Line in Washington, DC, and a copper mine tunnel in Libby, Montana.

How did I get the opportunity to work on those complex construction projects and why should it matter to you? I hope I got those opportunities because the clients thought I was a good lawyer. But, I know there was more to it than that.

Contractor clients hired me to advise them and help them with contract issues on complex bridge and tunnel projects because I was insatiable learning how bridges were designed and constructed and how tunnels were bored or placed in deep water, or underground in a metropolitan area.

In the 80s I worked on a big contract claim for additional compensation involving the construction of a complex segmental bridge in Richmond, VA. I started reading books on bridge design and construction, and American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) articles.

I sensed that bridge was not the only one with time and cost overruns, so I made a Freedom of Information Act request of the Federal Highway Administration on all cable-stayed and segmental bridges constructed that had either time or cost overruns. After I gained greater knowledge, I wrote about the construction of bridges and tunnels in a way that demonstrated I had spent time learning. That led to speaking opportunities

I was not a better lawyer than the many others who could have been hired, but I anticipated there would be bridge construction contract disputes before other lawyers, and I worked very hard to learn about design and construction.

So, what about my experience can help you?

You can create your own client opportunities by outhustling the competition. You read what they are not reading and see the problems your clients will encounter. Many, if not most, lawyers with whom you compete think they are too busy to spend the time it takes to be more valuable to clients.

So, here’s the key marketing tip.

if you are willing to make the effort to learn what your clients expect you to know, you don’t have to sell yourself, clients will find you.