Nancy and I have a friend who knows no strangers. She has a knack for starting a conversation with a stranger and building rapport. Then, more importantly, she remembers their names and what they told her. I’ve watched and I can tell she makes a positive impression on the people she meets.

I, on the other hand, rarely strike up and conversation with a stranger and I struggle to remember names.

I recognize my weakness and I am on the 12 step active listening program working to do better. Years ago I practiced remembering names each week in church when we were asked to greet someone sitting near us. Even though I really tried, when I returned to church the following week and sat near the same people, I rarely remembered their names.

More recently, I type the names in the Notes on my iPhone. Over time, having this crutch helps me remember the names of our fellow church members.

Several years ago I was a speaker at a contractors association annual meeting. One of the other speakers was a Canadian named Bob Gray. He taught the audience how to remember names and some other facts. Here is what I got from his program:

  • Ask if you did not hear the name
  • Use the name in the conversation as often as you appropriately can
  • Picture the name on the person’s forehead
  • Associate the name to something else. The more exaggerated the something else is the better. I am not so good at the exaggerated something else so I usually tie it to a famous sports or entertainment figure
  • Use alliteration techniques like “Sassy” Sally “Cocky” Kevin
  • End the conversation using the person’s name
  • Remember the name an hour, a day and a week later

I recently learned for the first time that there are Apps to help remember names. I read 8 APPS TO HELP YOU REMEMBER PEOPLE’S NAMES. I may have to try one of them to see if it helps me.



When I coached lawyers, I frequently heard

Cordell, I’ve been too busy to do any client development

When I practiced law unless I was in the middle of a trial out of town, I was never too busy to do client development. In fact, I did more client development work when I was busiest than when I wasn’t busy.

Now that I’m recruiting lawyers if a lawyer candidate told me he or she was too busy to do client development activities, I would likely not recommend that person to a great firm.

Why? It is really pretty simple:  I believe it is because they don’t have a strong enough motivation to cause them to “make” time for client development. And, the law firms I try to help don’t need that kind of lawyer.

Years ago, a lawyer I was coaching told me he had heard a sales seminar where the presenter said:

Time management is a waste of time.

The lawyer asked what I thought.  Here is how I replied:

Interesting. I did a Google search and saw this article: How Managing Your Time Is a Waste of Time.  I noted the writer said:

It’s the compulsive aspect I find problematic. Our national obsession with self-improvement and personal productivity bears remarkable similarities to the self-help genre and our endless pursuit of quick fixes, miracle cures and wonder pills.

I don’t view time management or pursuing excellence to be an “endless pursuit of quick fixes, miracle cures and wonder pills.” If anything it is the opposite of a quick fix.

Then I saw this article by a guy who said he used to think time management was a waste of time: How To Get More Done: Time Management For The Rest Of Us. He wrote:

I now rank everything that is important to me–both professionally and personally–on one piece of paper. They are the most important things I want to accomplish written done in list form.

I personally feel I am better able to focus on my top priorities by doing what he suggests.

To me, saying time management is a waste of time is similar to saying creating a business plan is a waste of time.

Some successful lawyers in my old firm told me they didn’t need a business plan. They kept their plan in their head.

I suspect they did not want anyone able to judge whether they were doing what they put in their plan. I wondered how much better they might have done simply by thinking through a plan and putting it on paper.

Time and energy are your two most important resources and I don’t think you can waste either.



As you know, I grew up playing sports and I still enjoy sports. I have often wondered how the top coaches motivate star athletes. When I think of college sports, the top programs in any sport recruit the greatest number of 5-star athletes.

But, what about teams like the Loyola Ramblers?  

They made it to the final four without 5-star recruits. In 1963, while I was a teenager growing up in the Chicago suburbs, and listening to their games on the radio, the Ramblers won the national championship without the top recruits.

I recently read an article about how coaches motivate players Motivation and Coaching – A Misunderstood Mental Matter. 

I found this statement to be true:

Inspiration is something that comes the outside: from listening to another person or being involved in an event or through observing something which triggers an emotional response.

Motivation, however, comes from within. Motivation is a fire: a fire which is ignited by a dream and fuelled by passion.

Three years ago I made a presentation at the IADC/FDCC Joint Law Firm Management Conference.

I spoke on business succession and motivating and developing the next generation of law firm leaders and rainmakers. The title of our panel discussion was LIGHT MY FIRE: It’s Not ALL About Money. It’s About Passion, Purpose, and Fulfillment.

Here is a link to my slides. As you will see, I included a short clip from the Doors appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

Have you ever thought about why your lawyers are not transitioning from being associates whose main function is to get the work done to partners whose main function is to bring in business, build and expand relationships with clients and supervise the junior lawyers?

Bwoman business presentation SS 77534098


When I practiced law, I had an aha moment the day I realized I could not motivate the unmotivated. My aha moment came when I was the partner in charge of attorney development at my old firm, I spoke at our new partner orientation each year. I began my presentation by asking:

How many of you have written goals and a written plan to achieve them?”

The first year I asked this question, I was astonished when no hands were raised. Here I was addressing our very best young lawyers and not one of them had written goals and a plan.

I wanted to understand why. I discovered:

  • I had greatly underestimated the challenge of getting lawyers to change.
  • The carrot and stick approach did not work and
  • Client development training and coaching should start before the lawyers were promoted to partner.

But, this group of lawyers didn’t have the fire and there was no way I could light it for them. I suspect that now, 15 years later, most if not all of those lawyers have not become top lawyers.

Having coached over 1500 lawyers in the United States and Canada, I came to the point that I knew during our first coaching session if a lawyer was self-motivated. That experience will likely serve me well in recruiting.

Recently scientists have done considerable research on the brain’s role in both learning and performance. They have found that we have both a “hard-wired” part of our brain and a “working memory” part of our brain.

For the learning and training, you offer lawyers to be effective, you must seek to move it from the working memory part of the brain to the hard-wired part of the brain. In other words, you want your young lawyers to develop habits.

In a nutshell, what does this scientific information mean? Your young lawyers are “hard wired” to get their hours. But, they are not hard-wired to develop their profile as a “go-to” lawyer and build relationships with contacts and clients.

What should you do?

  • Start training early in your associates’ careers
  • Work on bite-sized pieces. Let your young lawyers learn something and implement it before moving to the next subject.
  • Get them to focus on client development ideas and solutions, not on the problems they have to overcome to do client development.
  • Let them come to their own answers. Studies have shown that when people experience an “ah ha” moment on their own there is a sudden adrenaline energy rush that is conducive to making changes.
  • Finally, training by itself will not likely be successful. However, training with follow-up mentoring or coaching will way more likely be successful.

Get started now. There is no better time to help self-motivated lawyers “Light Their OwnFire.” I have done it and found it rewarding.


Now that I am a recruiter, I can make judgments on candidates for law firms that might be more persuasive than my judgments were when I practiced law.

One summer I was given the task of getting to know our Dallas summer associates and recommending which ones to hire. Although I was busy, I took my task seriously and I took each one to lunch, hosted a summer associate in-home dinner, and I looked over some of their work. When it came time to offer associate jobs, firm leaders ignored my recommendations and offered jobs almost exclusively based on class-rank and the prestige of their law school.

While those criteria were important, I didn’t believe they gave us as good an indicator of the students’ future success. How was I looking at it differently and why?

Psychologists have found that in the workplace, emotional intelligence is an 85 percent predictor of employee success, as opposed to only 15 percent for IQ.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence, made popular by Daniel Goleman, who wrote a bestselling book by the same name, was conceived in the mid-1990’s as the ability to perceive, access, generate, and reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is essentially the measure of someone’s skills, which Goleman says can be more critical to success than IQ.

A person’s level of emotional intelligence is not dependent on his or her innate personality. In other words, a person who is introverted could have a high emotional intelligence.

Mitch Anthony, author of Selling With Emotional Intelligence tells the story of a best-in-nation mutual fund salesman who almost didn’t get hired because he failed a personality assessment. The company wanted results-driven, high-energy go-getters.

“But, he was soft-spoken, more of an analyzer and togetherness personality,” Anthony says. The man convinced managers he could be successful, telling them, “I may not have that rah-rah personality, but I build relationships and am good at servicing clients.” Within three or four years, he was the number one producer in the country.

So, if personality alone is not an indicator of selling success, what characteristics of emotional intelligence do rainmakers share? Anthony says there are five traits that are common to the top salespeople in any profession.

1. Optimism
Optimistic people are generally more pleasant to be around than their gloomy counterparts, so clients are attracted to lawyers who are upbeat. Lawyers may be trained to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, but the ones who exude confidence will retain and attract more business.

2. Resilience
Anthony calls resilience the “spinal column” of emotional intelligence in sales. It’s the ability to hear 15 “no’s” before you get a “yes.” In law practice, winning a client can be a matter of timing. Some relationships take awhile to develop, and the needs of clients change. The business owner who didn’t need your services in January might feel differently in June or October, and you will be remembered favorably if you’ve kept in touch during the intervening months.

3. Self-Motivation
Some experts say self-motivation is difficult to teach, and this may be true when it comes to reaching external goals like a sales quota or billable hours. But everyone has a desire to meet personally devised goals that really matter to them. If you take responsibility for your future, designing an action plan with your goals in mind, your internal motivation will propel you to meet those goals. You will also attract the clients whose needs are aligned with yours.

4. Personability
Clients gravitate to lawyers they like. A friendly, sociable associate will attract more clients than a surly lawyer who finds meeting people an unpleasant chore. Although some people may be naturally more outgoing than others, anyone can improve their social skills through coaching or simply observing

5. Empathy
This is the underpinning of all emotional intelligence skills. Using emotional radar to discern what makes a person “tick” is essential. If you’re a good listener, if you study body language, and if you communicate well, you’re an empathic person. In Myers Briggs tests, the vast majority of lawyers are thinkers rather than feelers. For this group, listening and trying to see the world from the client’s perspective is even more important.

So, is your firm like my old firm and focused only on class rank and quality of a candidate’s law school. or are you thinking more long term and seeking to determine the EQ of your candidates?

In this post, I try to answer the question, what is possibly the best firm for you if you are looking for a change. If you are busy and want my idea right away skip to the bottom. Otherwise, here is some background information from my experience.

In 1976, when I left the United States Air Force after spending four years and eight months on active duty, I had many options.

  • I was offered two positions on the west coast in-house with government contractors (One of my best friends took one of the two offers and spent the rest of his career as an in-house lawyer.)
  • I was offered a position as an associate with a government contracts practice group in a large DC firm. (I turned it down, having spent the last few years litigating against lawyers in that firm and discovering the role of the junior associates.)
  • An associate position with what was then considered a mid-sized law firm in Roanoke, Virginia. (I took this one even though it paid far less than the other two opportunities and even paid less than I was making as a Captain in the Air Force.)

I took the opportunity in Roanoke, in part because I graduated from Virginia Tech, just 37 miles away. That was only a small part of my decision. I took the opportunity in Roanoke because I believed it offered me the greatest opportunity to control my own destiny.

For 20 years I proclaimed I would never be part of a large law firm because I didn’t want to be told what to do. Then, I joined one. In my first year, I doubled my collections because the firm had lawyers who could help my clients with work I could not do myself. By my third year, I had tripled my collections.

Our firm leaders were super conscious about where we stood in the AM Law 100. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I could say that the higher we rose, the more each of us was making. I guess that part was nice, but the so-called prestige of our ranking was something that did not resonate with me.

Fast forward to my coaching career. In my 12 years coaching lawyers in US and Canada firms, I discovered there are many firms out there that have the resources I would have needed to serve my clients but have far lower overhead. I discovered I could have made almost double what I was paid in the big Am Law 100 law firm.

I know many of those firms and many of the managing partners of those firms. If you are a partner in an Am Law 100 firm, looking to make a change, take a look at firms half your size. Look at the bios of lawyers who would help serve your clients, or bring your current colleagues with you.

In a 2017 article titled: 7 reasons Americans are unhappy, I read:

Americans are more unhappy than they were before the great recession. 

Then, I found a Washington Post article titled: Why the U.S. rating on the World Happiness Report is lower than it should be –and how to change it. I read:

Thirty years ago, studies found that Americans are getting richer, but they’re not getting any happier. That remains the case today. Our incomes are going up. But our well-being is not going up. It’s barely budged for 50 years.

College students, graduate students, young professionals, and businessmen and women increasingly find that their lives are void of happiness and meaning. But, most are not as unhappy as lawyers. Just a few months ago, an article was published: Why are lawyers so unhappy?

In the article, the writer discusses the chapter “Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy” from Martin Seligman’s book: “Authentic Happiness” It is worth reading the article to discover the three reasons that lawyers have the highest depression rates of the 104 occupations surveyed.

According to Richard J. Leider’s The Power of Purpose, adults over the age of sixty-five consistently say that if they could live their lives over again, they would be more reflective, more courageous, and more focused on finding purpose earlier on. Evidence of the decline in happiness and purpose is apparent when one looks at the recent rise in the study of how to attain them:

  • Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change was first published in 1990. Since then, more than 10 million copies of the book have been sold.
  • In 2002, The Purpose Driven Life, a Christian book about finding purpose, was published. It quickly became a worldwide bestseller.
  • In 2006, the most popular course at Harvard in the spring semester was Psychology 1504, “Positive Psychology.” Close to nine hundred students crowded into Memorial Hall Sanders Theatre each Tuesday and Thursday to hear Professor Tal Ben-Shahar’s lecture on “how to get happy” and how to find “a fulfilling and flourishing life.” In a March 10, 2006 article about the course, The Boston Globe reported that in the last several years, positive psychology classes have cropped up on more than one hundred campuses around the country.
  • A recent study found teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy. (See: What might explain the unhappiness epidemic?)

Clearly, finding happiness and fulfillment in our careers and in our personal lives is an enormous challenge that we face. Moreover, the line between our careers and personal lives has largely been erased, and thus many of us lack a sense of control over our lives.

The net result is that more and more people feel stressed and burned out. Despite today’s challenges, some people are thriving in their careers and personal lives even while working the same amount of time as those who are burning out.

What accounts for this disparity? The answer begins with attitude. Those thriving assume responsibility for their happiness and success and take a proactive approach to cultivating fulfilling lives. They’ve established their goals, discovered their values, and defined their own sense of work-life balance based on their priorities. As a result, they are “in the zone” in whatever activity they undertake, and they have found purpose in their careers and lives.

Most of this blog comes from the introduction I wrote many years ago to my book: to Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Conquering Career Burnout.

In Ciao, I answered the question of how one goes from burnout to balance by demonstrating how one can adopt the proper attitude and put into practice the methods of those who’ve attained career and life satisfaction.

Ciao was the parable story of Tony Caruso, a young, burned-out attorney who learns how to live according to his priorities and, thereby, achieves his desired career and life balance.

Ciao is still available on Amazon. 


How do you feel when you get a cold call from a recruiter? I am wrestling with that because I sense I will have to call lawyers I have never met and who have never heard of me.

I’m reluctant to make those cold calls, meaning I may never place a lawyer with a law firm.

Why am I reluctant?

It’s not because I’m afraid of being turned down. It’s because I’m afraid of being perceived in the same way I perceived the recruiters who called me again and again when I was at the top of my law practice, and everyone knew Jenkens & Gilchrist was in trouble.

They did not know me. Many didn’t understand my practice. None understood what motivated me, or what kind of law firm would be a good fit for me. I don’t want to be perceived like that. I want to know the lawyers I place and know the law firms they might be joining.

It’s the approach I have used throughout my career(s).

When I was building my book of business as a lawyer, I was focused on identifying problems, opportunities and changes my clients might face. Then, I wrote articles and made presentations on those issues with the goal of convincing clients to call me when a problem, opportunity or change created a legal issue.

I wrote a monthly column for Roads and Bridges magazine. I created guides for contractors on a variety of issues that impacted them and I made presentations regularly to national and state construction highway and transportation construction associations. I even created a video as shown below.

My strategy worked. I became well known and was sought after by some of the top contractors in the United States.

When I gave up my legal career to help lawyers, I pursued the same strategy. I started blogging in 2006. I wrote a column in The Practical Lawyer. I made presentations at ABA meetings, state and local bar meetings and for professional development directors, marketing directors and others.

I put the slides from many of the presentations on SlideShare. I created YouTube video presentations. I was also active on Twitter, LinkedIn and I created a Facebook coaching page.

Way back in 2006, I even made a presentation for the National Association of Legal Search Consultants, (NALSC), never dreaming that I would eventually become one.

At first, creating content with the hope that law firms would watch, read or listen and then call me worked very well. In 2010 I coached 128 lawyers throughout the United States and Canada. But, by the end of 2017, no firms had contacted me to coach their lawyers in 2018.

When I started recruiting, my friend sent me a link to a podcast created by a recruiting guru. I listened to the first one and the guru said, while blogging and social media may be fine, you have to pick up the phone and call strangers who aren’t specifically looking to make a change and let them know about a great opportunity.

I know people who are great at making those calls and know no strangers. So far, I’m not one of them. I could only coach lawyers that I got to know first. When I got to know them, I understood what motivated them and what was their definition of success.

I believe I can only be an effective recruiter if I get to know the candidate in the same way. Will it take a cold call for me to start that process? I’ll have to see. All I can say is so far, no one has reached out seeking my help.


I was doing some research on women successful in business for my second novel and I came across a Harvard Business Review Article titled: Alpha Females: Deadlier Than the Male?

The writer discussed three incredibly successful women, stating:

Here are three who have stood out in recent years for being truly impressive and groundbreaking in their respective fields and I am sure there are many more who will come to light in the coming years.

All three intrigued me, but I found the discussion of Karren Brady most interesting.

Karren Brady, the 38-year-old managing director of Birmingham City Football Club, the first woman to hold such a post in English league soccer.

Melissa Lyon is a Denver based Fox Rothschild associate. She was one of the most motivated lawyers I coached. Among her many achievements, she has been selected as one of the “Top Women in Energy” by the Denver Business Journal (2015, 2016, 2018).

When I told Melissa about Karren Brady, she volunteered to write a guest post. Here it is.

We all know that Tom Brady, NFL quarterback for the Patriots, is referred to as the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.). Tom Brady is referred to not only as the greatest quarterback of all time, but he is referred to by some as the greatest football player in NFL history – ever.

I am here to tell you that there is another Brady who should be on your radar. She is truly the G.O.A.T.
Her name is Karren Brady – the link to her website can be found here.

To say Karren Brady is an amazing woman would be the understatement of the year. Not only is she a self-made success – she is a born leader and exceptional businesswoman with the Midas touch – she is an inspiration and has actually been rated one of the 50 most inspirational people in the world, according to her biography.

That is why I jumped at the opportunity to write a guest post on Karren Brady’s Rules for Success.

Karren Brady’s Rules for Success were originally posted on her blog on October 13, 2015. But, let’s not kid ourselves – although these rules for success are over 2 years old, they are timeless and like red lipstick or a little black dress will never go out of style. Karren Brady’s Rules for Success will forever be the keys to the kingdom.

Now you may be thinking, “I am not a CEO or the president of a company. Heck, I am just a peon. Low man/woman on the totem pole. These rules for success won’t help me, they are for folks who are already successful businesspeople.”

What I like the most about Karren Brady’s Rules for Success is that they are for everyone, regardless of your starting point and these are rules that are to be applied in every aspect of your life. They are not career rules; they are life rules. As a true G.O.A.T., Karren Brady lays out the framework for the life you want to have.

Out of Karren Brady’s 10 rules, there is one that stands out for me personally. It is number 2 on her list, “HAVE CONFIDENCE.” Karren Brady makes an interesting point which I had not thought of and that is that “confidence lies at the root of personality.” It is really about having the strength of will to be who you are and show your true colors. I love that perspective on having confidence.

The importance of having confidence cannot be understated and it is something many of us have to remember to let our je ne sais quoi shine.

Trust me, take the opportunity to learn from the G.O.A.T. whenever you can – just like a quarterback would go to a quarterback’s camp taught by Tom Brady, check out Karren Brady’s Rules for Success to learn her playbook.

You are sitting at your desk working on an important client matter. All of a sudden you get an email from a friend about going to an event over the weekend. Do you continue working and ignore the email? Or, do you stop, read and answer the email and then go back to your work?

I believe the most successful lawyers in 2018 and beyond will be those who are able to stay focused and not be easily distracted. 

Years ago,  I gave a presentation on career success and life fulfillment to 250 Dallas Junior League members I began:

Can any of you tell me the date today?

Several in the audience called out “October 9th.”

I continued: “As you will read in the handout materials, October 9th in 1978 was a defining moment in my life. Our daughter, Jill was born 6 weeks prematurely that day and the Doctors didn’t know if she or my wife Nancy would pull through.

I asked the group.

Why am I taking you back to 1978, other than to remember our daughter’s birthday?

It was easier to have a successful career and a fulfilling life then. It was easier to stay focused on what was important in your career and life.

Think about it, we had no smartphones, no tablets, no text messages, no ATM machines, no email. We didn’t even have computers on our desk. Our assistants were still typing with carbon paper and using white outs to erase. I think our firm may have gotten it’s first IBM mag card typewriter that year.

Our office was very formal. Mr. Martin was the founding partner. I called him Mr. Martin. His assistant was Miss Johnson. I called her Miss Johnson.

It was easier to “be in the moment.” Arguably, in 2018, we have too much abundance, but not nearly enough time to enjoy it. We have too many choices, and not nearly enough help to make the right ones. We have too much technology, and not nearly enough freedom from it.  And, we focus too much on outward success and not nearly enough on inward fulfillment.

I told the group:

Today it is more important than ever to take control of your career and life. Over the next hour I will give you a roadmap on how to do it.

Over the hour that followed, I talked about focusing on priorities in your life and career, being willing to say no to things that are not priorities, putting together a plan that includes career goals and life goals and making time for items on the plan.

So, today I ask: What are you focusing on? Are you really focused, or easily distracted?

Imagine for the moment that I am helping you find the right firm. I want you to go through this exercise:

Describe what makes you different or unique in 25 words or less

I picked this exercise because what makes you unique is a common interview question. If I was interviewing a partner who had a $1 million book of business, I might ask:

Why do your clients hire you?

Where did I get the idea? Years ago I am read a great book on communication titled: “10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators.

Author Carmine Gallo has captured secrets that every lawyer should consider. You should also check out his other books on communication.

Simple secret 6 is brevity. Gallo references “What Clients Love” where Harry Beckworth writes:

If you cannot describe what makes you different and excellent in twenty-five words or less, don’t fix your copy. Fix your company.

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about how clients select lawyers, you might find David Maister’s article: How Clients Choose, valuable.