As you know, I practiced law a long time. I loved most of my work and I loved most of my clients.

Over my years I discovered many lawyers who did not feel the same way. Some knew what they don’t like. Others hadn’t thought about it. Others discovered they did not want to practice law.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin wrote:

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion

To find your passion you must be able to find what intrinsically motivates you. Over the years I came up with 10 questions you can ask yourself to better understand your intrinsic motivation.

  1. Your Law Firm is holding your retirement party. Picture yourself there. The speakers will include a client, a lawyer in town with another firm who has been opposite you in some matters, a young lawyer in your firm, your spouse and one of your children. What would each person say about you?
  2. Imagine you are older and your grandchild asks: “What are you most proud of in your life?” What would you say?
  3. What lawyer do you admire the most and why?
  4. What lawyer is living the life you would most want to live and why?
  5. What lawyer is doing the kind of work you would most like to do and what is that work?
  6. You want people in your firm, or clients to believe you are the “go to person” to_________________.
  7. What is the work you enjoy most as a lawyer? Why?
  8. What client(s) do you enjoy the most and why?
  9. Imagine it is five years from now. Describe your day.
  10. Over the next five years, what do you want to do? What do you want to become? What do you want to earn? What do you want to learn?

 

Relationships have always been very important to me. They were when I practiced law. They were when I coached lawyers and they are now as I start my new legal recruiting career.

In March, Nancy and I spent a week in San Miguel de Allende with our friends, going all the way back to college. This week we are with them at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, along with another couple who are close friends. Both husbands names are Bob.

So, why do I bring this up?

Bob B’s company was my first contractor client. Bob F’s company was my last. I haven’t practiced law for over 10 years and they are still among my closest friends.

I was likely very naive, but I was always very happy practicing law. I say naive because once I chose to become a lawyer, it never dawned on me that I could be unhappy with that decision.

Why was I happy?

It wasn’t because I could pour over law books and dictate documents, or later in my career sitting in front of a computer researching and typing. I once said:

I hated the law, but I loved being a lawyer.

I was happy because I had the chance to work with and become close friends with wonderful people.

In 2013, I posted a blog: Photographs and Memories: I shared some with you, about our trips to Wisconsin, and our relationship with Harry and Phyllis.

How can you have a successful career and a fulfilling life? I have done some research and what I have discovered over the years that might be helpful.

Some time ago, an article written by Jonathan Clements appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled: Rich, Successful-and Miserable: Research Probes Midlife Angst. I thought this quote from the article described many lawyers I have met:

In middle age, when you are at the peak of your career and you’re having kids, time is your scarce resource,” says David Schkade, professor of management at the University of California at San Diego. “You’re too busy to improve how you feel.”

Experts sometimes refer to this as the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation,” meaning people rapidly adapt to improvements and thus feel no better off. I found this is true of lawyers who never seemed satisfied.

They strived to make partner and then after they made it, they still weren’t happy. They made more money and still didn’t feel they were better off.

What can be done?

Clements points to research suggesting that you can boost happiness by “counting our blessings.” I get that idea.

When I practiced law, I tended to focus on what I had, not what I didn’t have. I am sure that sounds too “touchy-feely” for some. If so, I think his second and third ideas will resonate with you.

Think about how you spend your spare time. Studies suggest that the activities be enriching and challenging. I have lots of spare time now and what I am doing I find enriching and challenging.

What have been my activities?

Recently, I’ve worked out (with goals using my Apple Watch.) I’ve tried to improve my golf game, (with goals to reduce my handicap). I’ve studied Spanish in Dallas, taken a four weeks Spanish immersion course in San Miguel, and studied on my own. Over four years I studied how to write fiction and I wrote a novel, The Billionaire’s Lawyer. (Click on the title to be taken to Amazon.)

Third, research indicates you need to cultivate friends.

As I mentioned above, my clients were (and remain) my friends and my friends were my clients. That made both my work with those clients and our time together outside of work, more enjoyable.

2014 Golf with Bob and Beverly at Diamante Los Cabos 

If you want to get more ideas on friendships and relationships and how they contribute to happiness, take a look at the PBS This Emotional Life: Connection and Happiness. I found the listed characteristics of close relationships valuable. I thought it was a good reminder of the important things in those relationships:

  • The ability to love and be loved
  • Mutual understanding
  • Caring
  • A source of direct help in times of trouble
  • The celebration of good times
  • Validation of self-worth
  • Security
  • A diversity of ideas and influences to help us grow and learn
  • Fun

Nancy and I have experienced each on the list above with our friends Bob and Beverly and Bob and Jean.  Bob B and Bob F were great to have as clients and even more great to call my friends.

P.S. We originally joined Diamanté because it has one of the top golf courses in the world. What we love about it now is the relationships we have made with the staff who work here. They are special.

 

 

When Nancy and I lived in Dallas (We now live in Prosper), we were regulars at a Starbucks. We became regulars in part because the baristas knew us.

They remembered my name, what I normally ordered, Nancy’s name and that she was a competitive golfer, that I am a Virginia Tech grad and frequently went back to Blacksburg for football games, and that I worked with lawyers and traveled frequently.

How did they know all this about me?

It was pretty simple. They asked good open-ended questions and then they actively listened to my answers. Here are some questions the baristas asked at Starbucks:

  • What are your plans for the weekend or what did you do over the weekend?
  • Where have you been?
  • What have you got going today?

The people who worked at our favorite Starbucks built a relationship with me by paying close attention to me. They demonstrated they cared by asking good questions and listening.

If you are like me, you are looking for sample open ended questions. Here are a few things to read:

 

 

Do you work out?

You know it is important to exercise and be physically fit. Have you ever had a fitness trainer assist you? If you have I am willing to bet you did more than when you did not have a fitness trainer. Why? You were encouraged, you strived to meet your trainer’s expectations and you were more accountable.

If you work out and had a fitness trainer, you have already know why you should consider having a coach for client development. As a senior associate or junior partner, you know it is important to develop a book of business, but you have not likely made client development part of your hard wiring and a habit.

To successfully develop a book of business you have to change your routine and get outside of your comfort zone.

As you know I set up a coaching program at my old firm and enjoyed my experience so much that I started a second career. During the 12 years, I coached lawyers full-time I learned how a firm can effectively provide coaching for its lawyers.

I wrote an e-Book about it you can download here.

Over my 12 years coaching, I worked with many lawyers just like you. Some rationalized why they were not actively doing what was needed. The most common excuse I heard was:

I have been so busy with billable work that I have not been able to…

When I practiced law, I actually made a greater effort on client development when I was busy because I wanted to plant the seeds for the future.

Have you ever used the  “I’m too busy” excuse? Why is this rationalization so frequently used?

After years working with lawyers, I believe being busy with billable work is something that is familiar to you and your colleagues, and thus more comfortable and less risky than doing client development activities.

If you want to become successful at client development, you must find ways to get through the challenges of making changes until client development becomes part of your hardwiring, just like driving a car.

You also need encouragement, someone to push you and hold you accountable. I believe that is where a coach can help. Having a coach is like having a fitness trainer. He or she will make it more likely that you will do the activities necessary to achieve your goals.

Over the years I coached several lawyers came back to me later for coaching. Why? They wanted someone to push them and hold them accountable.

Now that I am helping lawyers find the right firm and helping law firms find the right lawyers, I am reflecting more on what would motivate me to join a particular law firm if I was still practicing. I know what some of you are thinking:

Money

If that was all that motivated me, I would still be practicing law.

I was a practice group leader in my old firm. Once a month I was required to attend a meeting of practice group leaders and office managing partners.

I rarely thought what we covered was valuable. For the most part, we talked about economics and how we were doing financially. We did not brainstorm ideas on how we could better lead and motivate our lawyers, which in the end would make us more valuable to clients and more profitable.

In his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth Godin references a poll of 20,000 creative professionals done by Richard Florida. He gave the professionals 38 factors to choose from on what motivated them at work.

Here are the top ten ranked in order:

  1. Challenge and responsibility
  2. Flexibility
  3. A stable work environment
  4. Money
  5. Professional development
  6. Peer recognition
  7. Stimulating colleagues and bosses
  8. Exciting job content
  9. Organizational culture
  10. Location and community

Godin points out that only one of the above is a clearly extrinsic motivator.

I am sure many law firms focus on it like a laser beam. In those firms, the popular notion is that the only thing that motivates partners is higher profits per partner and the only thing that motivates associates is compensation and bonuses. The survey would suggest there are motivators that have little to do with money.

Looking at the survey, what can your firm do to attract top talent? I know-compensation matters, but what else can your firm do?

It’s difficult to provide exciting job content all the time. I have done my fair share of legal work that was not exciting. I am sure you have as well. The location of the firm is where it is. So, not much can be done with those two motivators.

At the same time, law firms can easily provide challenge and responsibility, flexibility, a stable work environment, professional development, peer recognition, stimulating colleagues and bosses, and organizational culture.

Top lawyers old and young want to be challenged.

What else do young partners want?

  • They want the flexibility to be able to spend more time raising their children.
  • They want to feel secure knowing they will have a job.
  • They want to learn and develop their skills.
  • They want feedback when they need to improve and when they have done an outstanding job.
  • They want to work with lawyers they respect and trust.
  • They want to work for a firm that lives what it says is its culture.

As I attempt to help lawyers find the right firm for them, I wonder why so many law firms are not focusing on those motivators.

Is your firm? When was the last time you talked about any of these topics at a firm leaders/management meeting?

Parvin Dad.pngI have posted at least some of this a few times over the years. Now that I am recruiting, I believe it is pertinent for what I will try to look for in candidates I will try to place.

In a nutshell, I believe the lawyer who sees things others miss will be most valuable for a new law firm.

My dad’s birthday was Saturday, March  31. If he was alive he would have been 107. He passed away in 1980.

My dad was an artist, a photographer, a musician, and an entrepreneur. He loved fishing and hunting. He also loved refurbishing sports cars.

I never gave him the chance to teach me to draw, paint or carve. I was too busy playing baseball, basketball, and football. He tried to teach me to play the piano, but I wouldn’t practice so he gave up.

When I was a teenager, my dad frequently towed home sports cars that he refurbished and repaired in our garage and then resold. I remember the first car was a green Jaguar XK 120. He frequently tried to get me to work on the cars with him. I tried, but I got bored quickly and went back to playing baseball.

Looking back now, I can say that while I was passionate about playing baseball, hunting, fishing and working on cars together are father-son experiences we could have shared for a lifetime. I missed an opportunity.

Even though I never gave him the chance to teach me to be an artist, I believe my dad unknowingly taught me about art and drawing in a way that made me a better lawyer, and that is the point I want for you to get from this post.

Seth Godin talks about making art. He says it has three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink describes taking a week-long drawing class and being taught that drawing is about seeing relationships between positive space and negative space, light and shadow, angles and proportions.

In a  blog posted a few years ago, Pencil as a Power Tool Daniel Pink talked about drawing again. He said drawing:

is a terrific way to develop the aptitude of Symphony, the ability to put together seemingly unrelated pieces to create something new.

Through his art, my dad taught me to see things others did not see. I became a successful lawyer in large part because I anticipated what would impact my clients.  Then I wrote about and gave presentations.

One small example was when I anticipated highway construction would be changed forever by the move from awarding contracts to the low bidder to design-build, and public-private financing. I started writing about it in the 90s.

I had the aptitude of Symphony. Lawyers I coached  heard me suggest many times to:

  1. Identify a client problem, opportunity or change before the client does
  2. Create a remarkable solution
  3. Give it away

That is what making art as a lawyer is all about. If you are not making art, consider taking a drawing class or a photography class and focus on relationships of things to other things. Then, diligently read business news and industry publications.

Are you making art as a lawyer? If so, you can become a valuable resource for any law firm. I would love to help you find the right firm.

Oh, one more thing: If your father is still alive, what experiences are you sharing?

Now that I am helping partners select the right firm for them I thought back on how I had selected my last firm.

It was 1996, I had generated $1 Million in business that year (at the time that was considered a significant amount). I knew if I was with the right firm, I could add to that number and serve my clients better. I had just begun working for a client that was submitting a proposal to construct and install the E-ZPass toll collection system in New Jersey and some surrounding states.

When he found out I was considering changing firms, a managing partner of a fairly large firm in the city where I went to law school reached out to me. We had several discussions, during which I learned the firm compensated partners based on tiers. The managing partner said I would be placed in the second tier of compensation.

When he shared with me which lawyers in the firm were in the first and second tiers, I discovered I would be earning more money than any of my law school classmates who had spent their entire career with the firm. I decided, right or wrong, I would likely have a target on my back and some of my former law school classmates would resent an interloper making more money than them.

I moved to Dallas because my clients were working on projects throughout the United States and DFW airport had many non-stop flights a day to those cities. I did research on the large law firms.

 

I knew that the two largest Texas firms would not likely be interested in a construction law practice, even though the size and complexity of the legal work on the large highway construction projects were rapidly changing. Some large Texas firms had what they perceived to be construction law practices, but no one particular lawyer was totally focused on construction.

I made a list of what was important to me:

  1. The firm should be growing not declining
  2. The firm needed to have a platform to give me the opportunity to expand the work I was doing for construction contractors
  3. The firm should be entrepreneurial rather than focused on “institutional” clients
  4. The firm should be collegial and might even have a “no jerks (I used a different word at the time) policy”

I started talking to firms in Dallas. When I met with the chairman of Jenkens & Gilchrist, I didn’t need to go any further. David gave me an assignment. He said:

Cordell, pretend like resources are not an issue. I want you to prepare a business plan for me that will triple your book of business in three years.

I prepared the plan, and still have a copy. And, yes, I tripled my book of business in three years. I’m not sure that would have happened had I not been asked to prepare the plan.

I also met Mr. Gilchrist. He was a special man. As written in his obituary, Mr. Gilchrist was a true Texas gentleman. At a later point when Mr. Gilchrist and I were talking about firm values, he showed me something he had written many years before about the importance of Jenkens & Gilchrist lawyers focusing on their families.

P.S. A year after I joined Jenkens & Gilchrist, in January of 1998, the firm was on the front page of the National Law Journal. I believe the headline was something like: Fastest Growing Firm in the US. I was interviewed and asked why I joined the firm. I found my reply in the article below:

The January 1998 National Law Journal article on Jenkens noted the firm’s rapid addition of practice groups from different firms as the basis for its growth, saying that Laney “inspired these lawyers to dream Texas-size dreams.”

As many of you know, the growth that occurred later, specifically adding the Chicago office, led to the demise of the firm. See: Taxes and Death: The Rise and Demise of an American Law Firm.

Did I choose the right firm? Yes and no.

I believe it was the perfect fit for me to expand relationships with existing clients and provide help in other practice areas. The firm had the platform, and resources weren’t an issue for me. I enjoyed being a part of a firm that was growing.

But, our firm grew in a way that caused its demise. I had opportunites to leave and join two firms that were among the largest in the world. I turned them down and started my coaching work. I suspect that had the firm not acquired the tax practice in Chicago I might still be practicing law in the Dallas Fountain Place office.

 

First, I’m back working. I started last week as a Senior Director at Lateral Link and discovered just how much I have to learn.

I am at the moment the least experienced legal recruiter in the firm, and yet in Spanish Soy el reclutador más viejo. (I am the oldest).

My new business email is cparvin@laterallink.com. Please feel free to use that email to reach out to me. One thing I really like about working with Lateral Link is I will be able to help lawyers and law firms throughout the United States and Canada.

If you know me, you likely can easily figure out why I decided to pursue this opportunity to help connect lawyers and law firms.

  • In many ways, I have the opportunity to continue my coaching when working with a candidate. In many cases, the candidate will need a business plan to convince a firm that he or she will be a great addition to the firm.
  • A recruiter connects lawyers with law firms. I loved connecting the lawyers I coached with one another. Some of those lawyers from different parts of the US and Canada have become great friends.

I’m sure you know, especially if I coached you that I am happy to help you with career or client development advice, so feel comfortable contacting me. I receive calls from lawyers I coached almost every week and it is a great feeling to reconnect with them.

Since I’m a beginner again, I thought about The Beatles. I was in high-school when The Beatles arrived in America from Liverpool and were an instant sensation.

Few know how much work the Beatles did before they took the trip across the Atlantic.

Your efforts to become a rainmaker require that same kind of work.

Some time ago, Seth Godin wrote a Blog titled: “When did the Beatles Become THE Beatles?

Malcolm Gladwell discussed how the Beatles became successful in his book “Outliers” and talked about the Beatles in a short video that will help you grasp the point.

Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell describe that at the beginning, the Beatles were playing two or three long sets a day in a Hamburg club, making a few pounds if they were lucky. The Beatles worked on their music in these clubs for years.

What are you working on now to make yourself more valuable lawyer to your clients?

Godin says that as the Beatles got more traction they were marketing in every direction.

After you have done your homework, then you will work at becoming visible by writing for industry publications and speaking to as many industry groups as possible. Before you get there, consider writing for and speaking to Bar groups. Even though you are not likely to be hired by competing lawyers, this stage will provide opportunities to become a more effective writer and presenter.

Seth Godin says the transition stage was brief but essential. When people started noticing them, the Beatles didn’t stop marketing. Instead, they poured it on. At this point, they shifted from being the chasers into being the chased.

During the transition stage, organizations notice you and ask you to write for their publications or speak at their meetings. That is the time for you to “pour it on” to gain momentum.

After all the years playing in clubs and developing their skills, the Beatles came to America. Seth Godin says that many reach this stage and stop.

When you feel you have “arrived,” have some healthy paranoia. That means continuing to learn, continuing to figure out what impacts your clients and writing and speaking on those subjects. It also means continuing to focus on building relationships with each of your clients and becoming their trusted advisor.

At this stage, the Beatles became THE Beatles and you will become THE Rainmaker, and hopefully, I will become THE Recruiter.

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.