In 2020 client service may be more important than ever before. Based on my experiences with my clients and what I have read, here is a list of things I believe clients value:

  1. Putting the client’s interest first
  2. Responsiveness
  3. Team players
  4. Lawyers who listen
  5. Innovative thinking and solutions
  6. Anticipation of problems
  7. Stability of representation team
  8. Responding to feedback
  9. Technology proficiency and resulting efficiency
  10. Comprehension of the client’s business goals and challenges, its industry, its reputation within the industry, its products and services, its market share, and its competitors
  11. Availability of mutually beneficial alternative fee arrangements when appropriate
  12. Billing with clarity and accuracy

What does discovering your values have to do with becoming a successful lawyer?

Simply stated, you can be successful outwardly without focusing on your values, but you cannot be inwardly fulfilled without focusing on your values.

The key is to dig deep and discover what matters most to you. Doing so will enable you to make the commitment and maintain the discipline you need to achieve your life and career purposes.

How can you discover your values?

Think about what you want others to say about you, including your family, best clients, colleagues, support staff, and adversaries.

How do you want to be remembered?

What qualities do you admire in others that you want to cultivate in yourself?

What brings meaning to your life?

If someone were to take something or someone away from you, what would you grieve for the most?

Think about the times when you’re in the zone. What do you do for its own sake?

Your answers will help you to determine what you value most in your life.

Sir Laurens van der Post, a naturalist and author, may have said it best:

There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness, but we use the term as if it were the ultimate in human striving. What gives far more comfort to the soul…is something greater than happiness or unhappiness and that is meaning. Meaning transfigures all.

I posted this a few years ago and decided associates who didn’t have a chance to read it then might find it valuable. And, if this is your first year with a law firm, make sure to click on my Practical Lawyer article Forty Important Things I wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was a First Year Lawyer.

I am able to look back now and see how a few things I figured out when I was a young lawyer contributed to my career success and life fulfillment. Here is what I figured out:

  1. What I wanted in my career and life. I really gave a lot of thought to what was important to me.
  2. What would motivate me and help me stay on track. I found motivation very necessary to get through difficult times.
  3. That I had to have a plan to achieve it and stay focused on what was important to me. I discovered I can easily get distracted by unimportant things.
  4. What my clients and potential clients wanted and needed. After I developed my legal skills, I spent a great deal of my non-billable time focusing on clients.
  5. Different ways I could give them what they wanted and needed. I thought creatively and out of the box.
  6. That having the right attitude and not ever giving up were essential.
  7. Each of the people who worked for me was unique and different. This was a major breakthrough because for a time I thought what motivated me would motivate each of them.
  8.  The importance of focusing on my family and to the extent that I could do it, arrange my work schedule to enable me to do things with them that they value.
  9. Finally, each and every day, I wanted to try to get better at what I did in my professional life and personal life. I spent an entire career studying successful and fulfilled people and borrowing from each something that would work for me.

 

 

I wrote last week about developing skills and linked to a Seth Godin post on the subject. So, now you might ask what skills are most important.

Most lawyers aren’t very good at it. I wasn’t very good at it. I tried to get better, but I still had a long way to go.

If you haven’t looked ahead, do you know what skill might be most important for you to develop? They don’t teach it in law school. You can’t get CLE credit if you could find a course teaching it.

Your clients can sense when you have this skill. You will be able to ask better questions when you have this skill. Have you figured it out yet?

Yes, the skill is listening. Seth Godin recently wrote a blog titled: Listening is difficult. It’s short and worth reading.

Here is my thought about listening,

A good lawyer listens and hears what is said. A great lawyer listens and hears what is said and is able to discern what isn’t said.

To become a great lawyer who actively listen requires lots of practice. If you are interested in working on it, take a look at this Forbes article: 10 Steps To Effective Listening

There are at least a dozen Ted Talks on Listening. Find one you think is the best and share it with me.

I recently read a Seth Godin blog: Should schools reward skills or talent?

As you may remember, I have written about this subject many times over the last fifteen years, including a Practical Lawyer article titled: Rainmaking: Talent Is Overrated.

I’ve written about the two summer associates who worked for me one summer.

The first was a student in the top five of his class at a top law school. He bragged to me how many classes he missed because he didn’t need to go to class to get the top grades. He didn’t feel like he had much to learn. He was extremely gifted and talented, but he didn’t make a top effort to develop his skills.

The second  was a student who received B’s by putting in a greater effort than others. When they worked with our firm, he was in the office from the time the first lawyer arrived until the last lawyer left. He wasn’t doing that to make an impression. Instead, he wanted to get the most out of his summer associate experience.

You know where this is going. The first student started as an associate with us, but he lasted only about two years. The second student started as an associate with us and over time became a very successful lawyer because he focused on developing the skills it takes to be a successful lawyer.

Nancy and I returned from Diamanté in Cabo San Lucas on Saturday. In part because we felt safer there than in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex we plan to return in August. We wore masks in public. The dining servers wore masks plus shields plus gloves. At a grocery store only one person was allowed to enter.

On this trip we did not rent a car so when we left the Dunes for the El Cardonal golf course we took the shuttle. Before we got on the shuttle the driver sprayed hand sanitizer and sprayed a sanitizer on the bottom of our shoes. At the golf course, they sanitized our golf bags. In the pro shop we were not allowed to touch the clothes, much less try something on. At each entrance to a building we sanitized our hands and stood in a sanitizer for the bottom of our shoes.

Every one in Cabo followed all the rules. They were so happy to be back to work after three months away. The government didn’t make stimulus or unemployment checks. Diamanté paid employees and members created a Go Fund Me page, but I am sure employees did not receive what they would have had they been able to work.

Because of our wonderful experience last week, I want to republish this blog I wrote about Diamanté and why we are big fans.

This is the fourth in my series giving clues on how to ask for business/close the sale.

Have you ever met anyone that you liked right away? What was it about that person that made her so easily likeable? I suggest she has charisma and you probably decided you liked her before she said a word.

As you may know, Nancy and I belong to a wonderful golf club Diamante in Cabo San Lucas. We first bought a week there in 2010 when no buildings had been built. Nancy had fallen in love with the Dunes golf course, so we took a chance.

We love golfing there and enjoy the friends we have met there. But, what makes Diamante most special for us is the staff. It is like going to a high end resort, only everyone who works there, knows us, welcomes us and makes us feel like we are part of their family. There are too many wonderful people to name.

Here is a selfie with Javier. He has caddied for us for eight years.

When we visited in May, our guest was celebrating a birthday. Nancy, her two sons and her daughter with huge help from the staff at Izzy’s restaurant arranged for a surprise party. It was a great time.

Maya Angelou once famously said:

Recently I read a blog post titled: The Science of Charisma. The writer referenced a well-known UCLA study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian. He found:

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

Reading this blog post, enabled me to better understand what makes the staff at Diamante so special. They have charisma.

We will remember the golf, the lagoon, and the other facilities, but at the top of our list will be each person who enthusiastically greets us and goes the extra mile to make our visits memorable.  Each person gives us his or her smile and caring attitude without any expectation of getting something in return from us. The Diamante staff makes us look forward to returning.

You may think this has nothing to do with lawyers attracting clients and you may think you either have charisma or you don’t. Neither thought is true.

Like it or not, lawyers are in a service business, and clients can easily determine if a lawyer genuinely cares.

While charisma comes more naturally to some than others, it is a skill that can and should be learned. In 2008, the Boston Globe wrote about developing charisma in an article titled: Charm School. There are many excellent learning points in the article. The article mentions that John Neffinger is a founder of KNP Communications, a consulting firm that teaches clients how to be more charismatic through a particular combination of traits: strength plus warmth.

Strength is conveyed primarily with posture and gestures,” Neffinger says. Good, erect posture is strong. Holding one’s hands palms up and facing away is weak, as are “self-comforting” gestures, like rubbing one’s arm. Warmth is conveyed mostly by a genuine smile (in which the eye muscles smile in addition to the mouth muscles); but one must not smile in a way that undermines strength.

Isn’t that exactly what clients are looking for? They want a lawyer who inspires confidence and they want a lawyer who genuinely cares about them. If you believe in yourself you will show strength and if you genuinely do care about your clients, the warmth will come through in your facial expressions and body language.

Whether you like it or not, people are sizing you up before you say a word. To use a famous quote: ‘You only get one chance to make first impression.”

What first impression are you making?

 

An associate I coached several years ago asked me:

What gave you the biggest return for the least amount of time?

That’s a great question and my answer was easy. I wrote a monthly column for Roads and Bridges magazine for 24 years. The column was one page, about 675 words. The magazine was read by most everyone in the highway and bridge construction industry.

I spent more time figuring out the topic than writing the article. I think I might have spent on average two hours a month on the column.

My answer best fit my industry based practice during the time I practiced law. In 2020, hopefully coming out of the worst economic downturn in our lifetime, what is your best use of client development time?

Figuring out the answer may be more important now than ever before. You need to know your strengths, your clients, your law practice, and what you can do that will be most valuable to your potential clients and referral sources in the year of the coronavirus and going forward.

 

I recently read a Christian Science article: How coronavirus will change the US, from where we live to the way we connect. Here is the main points of change:

  • Life moves online
  • Another urban flight?
  • Not all heroes wear camo
  • Valuing real connection

Recently I also read a Dallas Morning News article, Collin County Zooms into Court, that also made national news, Texas court holds first US jury trial via videoconferencing

Are you prepared to practice law in this new world?

Then, I got my cup of coffee and went to my computer and opened my news page to find a Forbes article, Here’s How Firms Can Prepare For The New Normal After Coronavirus.

The article quoted from a McKinsey report suggesting eight actions CEOs should take:

  1. Create a detailed relaunch map
  2. Reassure customers about the safety of their products and services.
  3. Safeguard the health and safety of employees
  4. Revive demand
  5. Reboot operations and the supply chain
  6. Shift IT and technology to restart mode
  7. Steer the restart with care
  8. Sustain value creation born from crisis and reinvesting in recovery

Admittedly not all eight of the suggestions apply to law firms, But, some of the eight do. What is your firm doing now for the new normal? What practice areas will be hot? What practice areas will be cold?

Some lawyers and law firms have probably already positioned themselves for change. If you haven’t, then you better start now.
In his book “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Pink includes a chapter on symphony, which he calls:

…the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than analyze; to see relationships, between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.

Good lawyers are able to analyze situations. Great lawyers are also able to analyze. What sets them apart is their ability to synthesize what is going on in the world and how it will create legal issues their clients will face. At no time in my career has it been more important to synthesize.

So, let’s make a list of what is going on that will likely create legal issues:

  • We are in the worst recession since the great depression.
  • Workers have been laid off in record numbers. Some will need to be retrained to be productive.
  • Airlines, retailers, and the hospitality industry will likely face the worst year in their history.
  • At least for the moment, the government is pumping record amounts of money capital into businesses and unemployment.
  • Many state and local governments need more money to operate.
  • Our infrastructure still needs repair and replacement and Congress may finally try and stimulate the economy by pumping money into infrastructure projects.
  • The world remains dangerous.
  • Federal Government spending is increasing and so is the deficit. At some point someone will have to pay for this.
  • The public is fed up with the division in Washington.
  • Young Americans finishing college will find it increasingly more difficult to get a job.
  • Professional, college and high school sports may be played in empty stadiums.
  • Baby boomers, who are most likely to be struck by Covid-19 are retiring from the workforce in record numbers and, after watching their life savings go up in smoke, they need to return to work in a market with high unemployment.
  • More health care will be needed. We may well have a shortage of physicians and nurses in the near future.
  • The talent pool is shrinking and those in it are more diverse.
  • State governors are exercising power they may not legally have.
  • United States ranking in education, particularly math and science continues to fall.

You will likely be able to see other news that will create legal issues for your clients. How well you synthesize these issues and what you do to be “first to market” with your synthesis will have a great impact on your future.

Let’s face it: 2020 hasn’t been the year we dreamed and talked about when 2019 came to an end.

All that has happened to us in the last few months means July 4th 2020 will be different in so many ways than any July 4th in my lifetime. Even in February, who could have predicted what we would be experiencing this July 4th?

It won’t be the same this year. For example. Addison, Texas known throughout DFW for its fireworks called “Kaboom Town” will be live-streamed. See: Addison Kaboom Town! Fireworks Will Be Livestreamed Only This Year Due To COVID-19. That means you can watch it from your home in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. Just go to the Addison YouTube channel at 9:30 CDT July 3, and watch.

If you are like me you may wonder why the fireworks are on July 3. Here in Dallas, at the very least this year, but also before, you could go to a different fireworks show on many different nights.

I have loved July 4th from the time I was a kid growing up in Lombard, Illinois. Fireworks were always fun, but more recently, I loved the music even more.

I recently watched A Capitol Fourth 2019 – Full Broadcast on YouTube. I looked at the faces in the crowd, smiling, waving flags, celebrating. If you watch, you will see a wide variety of performers.

If you want to learn a little about the history of the July 4 concert, take a look at A Capitol 4th. The Beach Boys played several years in the 80s. In 2017, they called themselves The Beach Boys, but some suggested that absent the Wilson brothers and Al Jardine, it might have been more appropriate to call them Mike Love and his band.

When Nancy was pregnant in 1978, she and I and another partner and his wife attended the Nashville Music Festival, a three day gala in Columbia, Tennessee.

It was described as the Greatest Country Music Show on Earth. It is probably too challenging to read, but among the many performers we watched in a farmer’s field in the hot sun were Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, Tammy Wynette, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Hank Williams, Jr. and many other top performers.

I understood that the idea of the concert was to compete with Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic. and The Statler Brothers Happy Birthday USA  in Virginia.

Willie started his 4th of July picnic in 1973.

You may be aware that Macy’s sponsored a July 4th concert. In 2011, Beyonce performed at a Macy’s concert on July 4th in New York.

More recently, Jennifer Lopez performed at a Macy’s concert on July 4th in New York.

I don’t know that she sang it on the 4th of July, but I enjoy watching Whitney Houston sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic while waving an American flag.

I pray for happier times, kids able to go to school in the fall and maybe even being able to watch college football.

God Bless America.