You know there comes a time when it is time to hang it up and I have reached that time now. At 74, I’ve aged out of coaching lawyers. I spend my time writing fiction while realizing I will never be John Grisham.

If you remember the Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley song I Did It My Way you recall the line:

“Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.”

I left my law firm at the end of 2004 after my best year. I still had some legal work I had to complete including a trial that lasted six weeks in early 2005 and ended up in a great result for our client.

I coached close to 1500 young lawyers across the US and Canada. Many of those, including many of you, have become top rainmakers and law firm leaders. While I took a severe pay cut to coach, to go back to the song, I don’t regret giving up my law career to work with young lawyers.

So, what now for us? As you may know, Nancy and I love golf and we love Diamanté Cabo San Lucas. We have sold our house in Prosper, Texas and we are building a Casita at Diamanté. We look at it as an extended retirement vacation and a way of not facing another Snowmageddon – Great Texas Snow Storm 2021.

As you can see in this link, we will be able to sit on our roof, drink in hand, and look at the Pacific Ocean, or the view below.

 

The home is turnkey meaning it will have everything other than clothes. So ever since our home sold we have been selling very cheaply or giving away our worldly possessions. In some ways it feels odd and in other ways it feels refreshing. For example, it felt odd to part with the roll top desk pictured here that had been in our family for over 115 years.

Last week a mother drove over an hour to pick up twin beds from our guest room. That night she sent me a text thanking us because it was the first night her teenage daughters slept in their own beds.

A Cuban couple drove over an hour this morning to pick up a couch we gave to them. They couldn’t speak English. As you know I spent a month in San Miguel de Allende learning Spanish, but I could not communicate effectively.  So he dictated into his phone and a translating program let us read it in English. The look on their face when they thanked us and hugged us made our day.

In the middle of June we are moving what little furniture we have left to an “Over 55” apartment closer to our daughter. It will be our first apartment since I was in the USAF in California in 1971. Our daughter and I found it after she told me that when she delivered food last summer during the break from teaching the under 55 apartments generally had an odor in the hallway from people smoking pot.

If you need career or client development advice you can still send me an email cordpar@me.com and my cell phone works even in Mexico. If a topic interests you put the topic in the search space on the blog and see if I have written on it before.

I want to lose weight. I’ve done it before, but I wanted help this time. So, I’ve signed up for Noom. It is a psychology based approach.

I started listening to the audio and thought I was listening to my coaching ideas for lawyers.

The first step for Noom is having a big picture in mind made up of three parts.

  1. Your Super Goal-Understanding and breaking down to small manageable goals
  2. Your Ultimate “Why” to find your motivation
  3. How your life will be different

If I coached you does that sound familiar? I posted what is below a couple of years ago.

I recently read Seth Godin’s blog: People Don’t Change. It is only a few lines and it applies to several lawyers I have known and some I have coached.

As Godin says the hard part is not changing. It’s wanting to change.

I have written that the only way you will make a change is to have a big enough answer to the “why” question. Why is making the change important to you.

When I was a young lawyer with senior lawyers feeding me work, I wanted to change and develop my own clients.

When I asked myself why that was important to me, I thought of making more money, providing more security for my family, not being beholding to a senior lawyer, the joy of knowing the clients hired me, and the independence I would feel from having my own clients.

I kept asking why each answer was important to me until I ran out of questions to ask. Those answers to the “why” question were enough to keep me motivated when I wasn’t succeeding.

A few weeks ago I received a call from a really outstanding lawyer I coached eleven years ago in 2010 and the call reminded me about what made him outstanding.

When I was working with his group, I was caught in an east coast snow storm. It was so intense that there were only a few cars on the streets.

When I went to breakfast I asked the two women who greeted me if they had spent the night. They told me they had gotten up at 3 AM and shoveled for a couple of hours to be able to get to work. Clearly they went the extra mile to be at the hotel to serve guests.

Snow scene

While I was caught in the storm, I received an email from the lawyer. He was excited that a court had bought his theory in a case meaning he was going to trial for his client with the chance of a nine digit recovery.  Many other plaintiffs had settled their cases for substantially less because their lawyers had not thought of the theory.

The email made me think what separates the best lawyers. In a nutshell they see their clients’ problems and opportunities other lawyers do not see. They also see creative solutions to those problems and strategies for achieving the opportunities that other lawyers do not see.

Part of this skill is God given, just being smart and intuitive helps. I believe the majority of this skill is being far more curious than other lawyers.

Being curious is right brain focused, so you might be interested in the book The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence by Betty Edwards.

I learned of it reading Daniel Pink’s book: A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. To get the idea read this blog post: Nature Study and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by HollyAnne Dobbins.

While nature study has little or nothing to do with practicing law, you will still get the idea of how learning to draw will make you a better lawyer.

Most lawyers I know in private practice have had an outstanding partner or the most promising associate leave their firm. Most have wondered why. I think I may have an answer: The lack of good communication.

I’ve enjoyed watching several 30 for 30 shows on ESPN. One of the best was 30 for 30: Marcus Dupree The Best That Never Was.

I watched amazed at the talent I saw on the screen. I have never seen a college running back like Marcus Dupree. He was remarkable during his freshman season at University of Oklahoma.

Here are some highlights:

In the 30 for 30 segment, Barry Switzer described Dupree as the most gifted player he ever coached. He also acknowledged that the biggest mistake he made as a coach was the way he coached Marcus Dupree. In a Tulsa World article I particularly enjoyed The real Marcus Dupree: Former OU running back at peace with his life, Marcus Dupree describes that communication was the problem.

I guess you could say the message is communication,” he (Dupree) said. “No matter what it is. If it’s marriage, if it’s being a good friend, if it’s a coaching staff, communicate.

As a sports fan, I am saddened that the young man who could have become the greatest running back ever, instead became “The Best that Never Was.”

Having practiced law for more years than I care to mention, I have seen first hand many of the very best lawyers leave a firm because of a lack of communication. What are you doing to improve the communication in your firm?

I guess you could say the message is communication,” he said. “No matter what it is. If it’s marriage, if it’s being a good friend, if it’s a coaching staff, communicate.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/OU/article.aspx?subjectid=92&articleid=20110214_92_B1_Thirty442488

 

  1. Create a yearly Business Plan-If you need a template for a business plan just ask me.
  2. Breakdown Your Plan-Create 90 days or monthly goals (actions).
  3. Plan and Schedule Client Development Activities Each Week-Decide what you plan to do, estimate how much time it will take and then schedule it on your calendar.
  4. Keep a Client Development Journal-Keeping track makes it more likely you will actually do the activities.
  5. Have a Client Development Partner-Like a workout partner, a client development partner makes it more likely you will do the activities.
  6. Join Industry and/or Community Associations/Organizations and Seek Leadership Positions-Join just a few organizations and be active to raise visibility.
  7. Stay in Contact-Use multiple means (notes, calls, lunches, coffee, blogs, email, LinkedIn).
  8. Conduct Workshops and Seminars for Clients-(Get CLE credit if doing it for in-house lawyers)
  9. Put Links to Published Articles on Your Website Bio-You want prospective clients to read what you have written.
  10. Create a Blog-I feel certain you know that blog posts are shorter than articles and they are more timely and more easily shared.
  11. Create a Guide-This can be a handout at industry presentations. Make it short and concise.
  12. Read What Your Clients Read-Find out their industry publications and subscribe to them
  13. Identify Referral Sources-Referral Sources expand your network to prospective clients.
  14. Write Thank You Notes-Let clients know you appreciate the opportunity to serve them.
  15. Get to Know Assistants-A client representative’s assistant can be a great source of goodwill.
  16. Joint Venture Programs with Client Representatives-They will enjoy being asked and working together will help build the relationship.
  17. Become involved in your clients’ favorite charities-This is another way to build the relationship and let the client know you care about what is important to them.
  18. Return phone calls and emails promptly-Clients do not want to wait.
  19. Build database of information on your clients including spouse’s name, children’s names and ages, hobbies etc.-This helps you find reasons to be in contact with clients
  20. Go to events you would rather skip-You never know where you will run into opportunities.
  21. Have your elevator speech ready-Create several so you can use the appropriate one
  22. Have your elevator questions ready-People want you to be interested more than they want you to be interesting.
  23. Call, email and write clients-Just to see how they are doing.
  24. Do something no matter how small each and every day-Make a list of potential things you can do each and every day.
  25. Read books about sales and service-Figure out how other businesses do it effectively by reading about them.

 

When some of you my age read the title to this blog post, you thought it was going to be about George Carlin’s 1972 monologue Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.

No, it’s not George Carlin. It’s a blog post I read several years ago  7 Words That Can Transform Your Business And Life. As you will see when you read it, the 7 words are in a sentence. They are:

What can I do to help you?

I have seen lawyers use those 7 words in a sentence very effectively. They do it effectively because of their sincerity. Jonathan Cole, a Baker Donelson Nashville partner I coached way back in 2006-2007, ended each conversation with me with those 7 words.

I will always remember him because of those 7 words and his sincere desire to help me. Your clients will remember you for the same reason.

You likely know the Maya Angelou quote. I’ve used it in other blog posts:

 

Your clients want to feel appreciated. Here are some initial thoughts on how you can do it:

  1. Saying to a client: “I want to know more about your company because the more I know the better I will be able to help you.” Or, you might say: “Tell me a little about the history of your company, where you are now and where you are going.”
  2. Keeping up with what is going on in your client’s industry, including what its competitors are doing and offering ideas on any implications.
  3. Helping the client obtain more valuable business. If ever you are able to actually expand the client’s business by introducing the client to other clients or to other lawyers in your firm who can do the same, that is always a plus.
  4. Conducting training of some sort or a workshop at no charge.
  5. Putting an associate in the client’s office for a week at no charge.
  6. If your client is local, inviting the client and spouse to your house for dinner.
  7. Finding out about the client’s children and keeping up with them.
  8. Simply saying at the end of every conversation “Is there anything else I can do to help you.”
  9. Saying “thank you” after finishing a matter.‚Ä®
  10. Getting to know your client representative’s assistant and treating that person as well as you treat the client representative.

When it is considered safe to visit, I recommend you spend a day with your clients with no charge. This is especially important if COVID has kept you from seeing clients in person.

I did that frequently as a lawyer and even put associates in my clients’ offices or out on a construction project and did not charge for their time. I remember at least two of my visits were to bridge construction projects like the one pictured here.

I thought of this recently when Nancy and I went to Best Buy to buy a new dishwasher. After deciding on the one we wanted we began speaking with Jacob, our young salesperson about making our home smarter. After a few minutes our young sales representative gave us a brochure for a free home consultation.

A couple of days later our home consultant spent at least an hour helping us figure out options for making our home smarter. It was time well spent and I believe brilliant marketing by Best Buy.

When I was coaching I shared the give away a day idea with many of the lawyers I coached. Each one who did it found it valuable and many came back to the office with one or more new projects.

A law firm leader once asked me if I would suggest questions to ask junior lawyers to determine if they would be the best suited for client development coaching. At the time I didn’t have questions, but at his request I suggested these.

  1. What do you believe you will get out of the coaching program?
  2. You would consider the coaching program a success if________.
  3. What do you want to learn?
  4. What client development efforts have you made the past year and how have they worked for you?
  5. What are your major client development strengths?
  6. What areas in your client development efforts do you want to improve?
  7. Did you create a business plan for last year?
  8. How much time will you commit each month to the coaching program and your client development efforts?

I have written on this subject many times. But, I suspect after COVID-19 fewer law firms than ever have client development coaching programs for their young lawyers.

You will hear baby boomer lawyers say:

When I was a young lawyer, no one coached me.

True. No one coached me either and I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I wasted trying to figure out by trial and error what would work most effectively for me. It was also harder for me to devote quality time on client development because no one was holding me accountable.

So, here are some benefits your firm might realize coaching your up and coming lawyers.

  1. Increase firm revenue and profitability
  2. Make its next generation of partners and firm leaders more focused on client development
  3. Develop individual and group responsibility and accountability
  4.  Make client development a greater part of the firm’s culture
  5. Help each lawyer in the program determine the client development efforts that will work most effectively for him or her
  6. Ensure that each lawyer in the program is taking action
  7. Ensure that each lawyer in the program feel like they are in control of their future
  8. Client development will become part of the daily habits of lawyers in the coaching program
  9. Increase business with existing clients and to bring in new clients
  10. Enable lawyers within the program to get to know each other better, to work effectively as a team, and to collaborate on their client development efforts
  11. Increase opportunities for cross-selling among the lawyers coached
  12. Make client development go from an activity dreaded to one enjoyed