I am into my 11th month as a legal recruiter. So, I can’t say I have lots of experience.

However, I may have even more valuable experience. I was heavily recruited for many years and my experience with legal recruiters was not very positive. Most, if not all legal recruiters did not do their homework, and none of them asked great questions. They asked what I was being paid, what my portable book of business was, what my working attorney numbers were, and what my billing rate was.

But, here is a list of questions I can’t remember ever being asked:

  1. What do you want to accomplish during the rest of your career?
  2. When do you want to retire?
  3. Other than compensation what are you looking for from a law firm?
  4. What core values in a law firm are important to you?
  5. How did and how do your clients find you?
  6. What would you like to see a firm do to help you expand your practice?
  7. How many young lawyers are working for you, and do you want them to come with you?
  8. Do you have a written business plan with goals?
  9. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
  10. Other than your book of business, your hard work, and your great personality, is there anything else you have to offer a new firm?

Before I get to the point of this post I want to share a couple of things with you.

First, I had two surgeries in November. The first was an eye muscle surgery, to correct my left eye seeing below the right eye. I now realize why fly balls in the outfield kept bouncing up and down when I played baseball. The eye surgery was a walk in the park compared to the second surgery.

On November 8, my right foot was fused under my big toe because arthritis was so bad there was no joint and I could barely walk. I was humbled by the experience. After the surgery, I felt pain like never before and I have a new appreciation for people who are unable to walk or drive.

Yesterday was my first stand up with a walker shower and today, I will be able for the first time to put 20% weight on my right leg while using a walker. Believe it or not, it’s a little scary.

Ok, my second bit of news is that I have spent the last month in a chair, foot raised with a laptop working on my second novel. It has been an interesting experience. I have been working on this story for four years and have made incredible changes over time. Most recently during my month in the chair, I went back to the first person.

Why am I sharing my novel writing with you? As a favor, I would like for three or four of you to read my draft before I publish it. I still have line editing to do, but I am looking for people who can share if they enjoy reading the story, or suggestions on how I could make it even More interesting. Let me know if you are interested.

Are You an A, B or C Player?

In my career, I worked with dozens of young lawyers, I coached well over 1500 lawyers and I am now helping place lawyers. Interestingly, I am most enjoying placing A Players who have the potential to achieve great things in their career.

Over time, I put lawyers into three main categories: A Players, B Players, and C Players. Let me describe each type because I am willing to bet you fall into one of the three classifications.

C Players

C Players are competent and bright lawyers. They show up about the same time each day and do quality legal work to the best of their ability and they leave at about the same time each day.

For them, being a lawyer is a job and a means to something else in their life. Because they view their work as a job, they do not take responsibility for their careers, they spend very little non-billable time on their career development or on client development.

B Players

B Players are somewhat similar to C Players, except they bill more hours. They work very hard and in some cases burn out prematurely. They focus on what they do rather than what their clients need. They rarely build a team of lawyers working for them because they don’t take time to develop the junior lawyers working with them.

A Players

I was thrilled to have A players in my practice group. I was even more thrilled to coach A players and now help them find the right firm.

A Players have high energy and are extremely motivated. I could tell from their first year that they were future stars. When coaching, I could tell from our first session together they were future stars.

A Players know what they want, take responsibility for their own success and have a plan to achieve their goals. They know when there is a crisis and they pitch in to help without being asked. They have a passion for their work and their clients. Finally, they strive each and every day to become a better lawyer and be more responsive to their clients’ needs

So, which description best fits you?

Recently I posted a blog that made available for the first time my Client Development Video Coaching Program with the Participant’s Guide. Want to get the most out of the experience? I hope this helps.

I am only rarely coaching lawyers in person these days. But, in the hopes you will get the most out of the free video program, I wanted to share with you a summary of an email I received years ago from a lawyer I coached. He sent this email to a group of his colleagues who were just starting to work with me.

Cordell’s Coaching Program is a transformational opportunity for people who buy in completely. The main shortcoming is that people who are cynical/skeptical about the process won’t invest the time and effort to reform their daily lives to make the lessons (and the year-long program) work for them.

Cordell’s like a personal trainer – he’s going to work if I show up at 6 am for our meeting and follow his plans but he’s not much good to me if I still am eating Twinkies every day after the workout.

Cordell’s program provides a solid foundation on identifying the skills a person needs to be personally and professionally happy as their career progresses to more advanced stages.

Cordell has helped me focus on what I want long-term, middle-term and short-term out of life and my experience at an AMLAW 100 firm. I think that’s invaluable and suspect many others have reached the same level of enhanced personal and professional satisfaction through this program.

I’m happier today with myself and the firm than I was before I started this program. Nothing the firm has ever done for my development matches the investment that this program has made in my maturation as a lawyer, leader, and person.

During the past year, I have read books Cordell recommended on marketing, self-improvement, public speaking/persuasive skills, new media, people management, building client trust, etc. Cordell has convinced me that I must look to master a range of business skills that will (1) complement my legal expertise, (2) make me more attractive to clients, (3) a better teammate to others in the firm, and (4) a better leader of those who will work under me in the future.

Without Cordell’s pushing/prodding and recommending specific books (and following up on me to discuss them) I doubt I would have read any of this or found time to focus on self-improvement.

With Cordell, I have updated a personal mission/vision statement with personal values of importance to me and a list of 100 experiences in life I want to have; while I have had these things for 15 years, Cordell helped me to really reshape them to reflect who I have become and what I want in the future. Now I have the list handy and I am focused on living up to the statement and figuring out how to fulfill those life experiences, a few each year.

Cordell helped me focus on the basics of client services, in terms of making sure I have regular contact with all my clients and that the contact is always positive in nature. From little things, like sending them articles of interest, or calling to say happy birthday, or sending Christmas gifts telling them I appreciate the chance to represent them, I think I have seen progress with the clients. I’m much less frustrated with my relationships with clients and feel better prepared to handle the difficulties that inevitably arise.

I hope you will find these ideas helpful as you view the videos and use the Participant’s Guide to create a plan, have a better idea on how to build your profile and repuation and work on developing relationship.

 

 

I am under the impression that law firms are not developing the next generation of law firm leaders. I am also under the impression that leadership isn’t something that most lawyers have in their DNA, meaning it needs to be developed.

I recently read a Forbes Magazine article: Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work. I found the article interesting, in part because it supports my contention that one shot workshops are insufficient to develop the next generation of leaders or rainmakers.

If you are interested in developing your next generation, I urge you to read the article.

Here is a quote:

After two or three weeks, you might remember the concept but not how to implement the idea, and you’ll be lucky if you retain even two of the ten key points from the session. According to a Mckinsey & Company survey, adults typically retain just 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures. Cramming all the key learnings into one lengthy training makes logistical sense, but it greatly restricts learning retention…

Simply learning what to do over the course of one to two days doesn’t lead to acting differently in the long run.

Those of you I coached, or in firms where I coached know we worked together over 12-18 months. In our first group session, I taught you the concepts we would be working on in the future. You likely recall one of our goals was to make client development part of your habits.

You likely know there are well-respected leadership training programs out there.

Harvard and Columbia both have a program. I became online friends with the lawyer responsible for creating the University of Santa Clara leadership for lawyers program. I worked with a lawyer who is now a Global Senior Advisor with The Center for Creative Leadership.

I believe all the programs are truly excellent, but I’m not sure any of them change habits as envisioned in the Forbes article. So, suppose you wanted to develop your own program. Where would you start?

Years ago a well-known law firm asked me to help develop the initial leadership training for new partners. In my work with the firm, I created a Leadership Training Workbook. 

My workbook was in large part based on what I learned from reading many, many books on leadership. If you want to get started in your firm, or if you are a junior partner and want to start learning more on leadership, I hope you will find my workbook helpful.

It was 2003, and I was having a record year. Near the end of the year, two large international law firms with Dallas offices offered me far greater compensation than I was making at my firm.

The difference was significant enough that many lawyers would have jumped to one of the firms just based on the increased compensation. I didn’t. I stayed with my firm one more year and then left to coach lawyers full-time.

I read recently that in a study of lateral partners barely more than half (52.8 %) responded they were “very satisfied” with their new firm. Based on my experience, I believe the laterals who were not “very satisfied” did not know enough about their new firm before making the change.

Lateral partner recruits: How much do you know about the firm that is about to make you an offer? What should you know?

Having been heavily recruited when I practiced law, I came up with questions I wanted to be answered from firms that wanted to make me an offer.  Here are some of those questions:

  1. May I review the firm’s partnership (shareholder) agreement?
  2. How would you describe the firm’s core values?
  3. Does the firm have a strategic plan?
  4. What are your expectations for partners? Associates?
  5. How do you hold your lawyers accountable for what is in the plan?
  6. Does the firm have a marketing plan and a marketing budget?
  7. How does the firm encourage lawyers to engage in client development efforts?
  8. Are associates encouraged to help with client development?
  9. Do your partners have a written business plan with goals?
  10. Do your associates have a development plan or some kind of plan for their non-billable time?
  11. Do you have a plan for cross-selling and expanding relationships with existing clients?
  12. How do you encourage partners to help develop your next generation of successful lawyers?
  13. What is the retention rate for partners?
  14. What is the retention rate for associates?
  15. Does the firm have any debt?
  16. May I see the firm’s financial statements for the last three years?
  17. What is your plan to successfully integrate me into the firm?
  18. How many total number of clients does the firm have, and what percentage of the firm’s business is coming from the top ten clients?

I was sitting in the barber chair and looked over and Tina Turner was on the cover of People Magazine. In the magazine was an excerpt from her autobiography that was recently published. Being a huge fan, I had to read the excerpt which was a bit challenging while my hair was being cut.

Reading reminded me of how Tina Turner influenced my presentations when I practiced law.

After I made a presentation at an ABA YLD meeting a young lawyer came up to me and asked how I learned to make presentations? I responded that Tina Turner had taught me all I needed to learn.

It was 1971, I was in my last year in law school when Nancy and I and two other couples sat in the second row to watch The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

First, Ike and the band came out, then the Ikettes came out and sang.

Then the announcer, in a very deep voice said:

“Let’s welcome the star of the show, the hardest working girl in show biz…Ladies and Gentlemen: Tina Turner.”

Tina was unbelievable. She had the entire audience clapping and singing along to “I Want to Take You Higher.” I don’t remember many of the songs in the middle of the concert, but as it was reaching the end, she sang: “Proud Mary.”

When she finished the crowd was standing and asking to hear more from Tina. Here is a video clip from the 1971 concert tour with Tina Singing “Proud Mary.”

Fast forward to 2000. Tina Turner is live at Wembley Stadium in London. Her opening song: “I Want to Take You Higher.”

Like the concert in 1971, Tina came to the end of the Wembley Stadium concert and sang “Proud Mary.” Once again the audience clamored for more.

Other than my enjoyment of Tina Turner in concert, what is the point for you?

I suggest you take a lesson from Tina Turner when you are giving a presentation.

Start strong and end strong. You have about 90 seconds for the audience to answer the question: “What’s in this for me?” Do not end your presentation with: “Are there any questions?” Instead, as you are approaching the end, say: “Before I conclude are there any questions?” Then, conclude powerfully with a call to action.

In an interview author and expert, Nick Morgan said:

“The last thing you do with an audience is the most important and what they will remember the best. Q&A is open-ended and not in your control. A great speech can be undermined by a hostile or stupid question at the end. So save the last three minutes for a knock-them-dead wrap up that sends the audience on its way with jaws agape.”

Clearly when Tina Turner ends a concert with “Proud Mary” she knocks-them-dead and has the audience wanting to hear more. If you open strong and close strong your audience will want to hear more, and maybe they will even want to hire you.

Big wheel keeps on turning…

When I was busy practicing law, there came a time when I had an Ah Ha Moment. It was the day I discovered that some of the lawyers who were working for me were pessimists who were not very motivated to succeed. It seems obvious now, but at the time I was surprised.

If you have read my recent posts, you know that when I coached lawyers, I frequently told firm leaders I could not help pessimists or unmotivated lawyers.

Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I have been asked how I can tell if a lawyer I am helping is optimistic and motivated. It’s really pretty simple. I listen to the lawyer.

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “Yes, but…                     Motivated Optimists Say: “Sure how…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “My problem is…          Motivated Optimists Say: “My opportunity is…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I need to…”                  Motivated Optimists Say: “I want to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I will try my best…”      Motivated Optimists Say: “I will achieve…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I can’t find time to…”   Motivated Optimists Say: “I will make time to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: ” I want realistic goals” Motivated Optimists Say: “I want goals that challenge me”

I’m sure you know that I gave many presentations about career success and life fulfillment. If you are interested in taking a look at one of them, check out: Secrets to Career Success and Fulfillment. 

 

In my new recruiting work I don’t place a lot of law firm associates because the associates I coached are now partners in their law firms. Some now have leadership positions in their law firms and others have become top rainmakers.

But, when I was coaching, I loved working with law firm associates. Why?  The associates with whom I worked were eager to learn and open to new ideas.

Some of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on associates. I have shared with them, it is important for their candidates to prepare a Personal Development Plan. I  have shared with my colleagues an idea on how their candidates can get started and I want to share it with you also. If you are not a law firm associate, please pass this on to one you know.

Here are steps to get you started on your plan:

  1. Define success for you at the end of 2023 (5 years from now). It could be a number $1 million in business. It could be recognized as go to lawyer in_______ field in _____ (for me Transportation Construction Law in the US.) It could be a variety of other things. The important thing is it must be something that will motivate you.
  2. Next, ask yourself why achieving that goal is important to you. It might be family security. (For me, it was wanting to be recognized as being the best at something.)
  3. Next, write down 10 (it could be 8, it could be 15) stream of conscious things you want to do in 2019 to work toward achieving your 5-year goal. (For my 5-year plan writing articles and speaking at contractor meetings topped my list.)
  4. Then review your list and combine those that are really the same. Then, rank the items on your list 1- (if you could only do one, it would be … if you could only do 2 you would add…).
  5. Once you have ranked the items, ask for each one why you think it will lead you toward your 2023 goals. Write down the reasons.

With this background, you are ready to create your 2019 Development Plan. You can click on the Development Plan for a link to a template.

One final note: Your plan will be worthless if you don’t put it into action and hold yourself accountable.

 

 

Yesterday, I posted a Pele (The Brazilian super-star soccer player) quote that I particularly like on social media sites.

After posting, I received a comment:

Very true, but we may add that luck also is one factor.

Luck is indeed a factor, but I have always believed

Successful people make their own luck.

I also like:

Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

You might enjoy reading: 5 Things People Who Make Their Own Luck Always Do.

If you are a long-time reader, you know I contend I owe my legal career success to luck. But, in most cases, it was luck meeting preparation. I’ve told these stories before. They illustrate my point.

I had been practicing law 12 years and I was in Roanoke, Virginia, when I received a call from the general counsel of what was then the third largest construction company in the United States. He said:

We have a $30 million problem in Atlanta and we’ve been told you are the lawyer to help us.

At the end of the call, I asked who recommended me. He told me it was a Federal Highway Administration lawyer who had been on a panel with me on the subject of the problem in Atlanta.

Was it luck? Yes. If the general counsel had talked to the lawyer in the office on either side of the lawyer who recommended me, they wouldn’t have known me. I can’t begin to tell you how many non-billable hours I had spent studying, writing and speaking on that subject. The preparation I did months before being asked to be on the panel is what gave me the opportunity.

If you can bear with me, I’ll give one more example.

It was Thanksgiving weekend in 1990. I was still practicing law in Virginia. I watched national news coverage of a bridge collapse on the west coast. Later that evening I received a call from the Transportation Secretary of the state where the collapse occurred. He asked if I could fly to the west coast on Monday and meet with his team.

At the end of the call, I asked: How did you find me? He told me the name of a famous bridge designer who had recommended me.

Was it luck? Yes. The Transportation Secretary talked to a famous bridge designer who had heard me speak and read what I had written on bridge design and bridge failures. Once again, I can’t begin to tell you how many non-billable hours I spent studying those subjects, including documents from a FOIA request of the Federal Highway Administration. My preparation over many, many months before is what gave me the opportunity.

 

 

A friend of mine reminded me of a riddle:

When was the last time a lawyer could be successful in a law firm without having clients?

His response was:

When Houston had a football team called the Houston Oilers.

Having watched the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Houston team that moved to Tennessee, I could have said: The last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. That was actually the year before the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

I recently discovered that several of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on recruiting associates. I am reposting this blog with some edits to update for those recruiters and the associates with whom they work. But, if you are a law firm associate this is also for you, and if you work with associates, I hope you will share it with them.

If you read the entire post, you will find that it includes slides from a presentation I did for senior associates and slides from a presentation I did for junior associates. I hope to also include handouts I gave for those presentations.

In a podcast interview with Dallas lawyer Tricia DeLeon, I asked: What is One Piece of Advice for Young Lawyers? When you listen you will hear her say “start your client development efforts now”. 

Are you an associate in your firm? Have you begun learning about client development and implementing what you are learning? Does your firm have a program on client development for associates?

Every partner I coach tells me they wish I had coached them earlier in their career. The time to learn, to practice and to ramp up client development activities is significant. By the time you are eligible to be promoted to partner, your firm leaders expect you to have the skills to attain, retain and expand relationships with clients.

I gave presentations for Junior Associates and Senior Associates on client development. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Junior Associates for the Junior Associate slides. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Senior Associates for the Senior Associate slides. Here is the handout for Junior Associates.  Here is the handout for Senior Associates.

I am frequently asked for ideas for these two groups. Here are a few.

Junior Associates:

  • Focus on learning your legal skills
  • Treat your supervising partner like a client
  • Make a list of 50 people you know who you think will be successful in the future and stay in contact with them
  • Each time you work on a project do research on the client’s industry
  • Get to know client’s business by reviewing the company website and setting up Google Alerts on the client
  • Develop a system to remember names
  • Develop a plan with written goals
  • Send hand written notes to contacts
  • Dress for success

Senior Associates:

  • Find a client development mentor
  • If the firm has blogs, contribute posts
  • Practice public speaking in front of groups
  • Become visible in the firm
  • Visit other offices if your firm has more than one
  • Start to think about a niche
  • Find a sub niche within the niche
  • Consider working toward leadership positions in bar associations
  • Be a mentor for a junior lawyer
  • Join industry organizations your clients belong to and go to the meetings
  • Read industry publications your clients read
  • Create a business plan with goals
  • If it is appropriate to help develop your practice, be active in your community
  • Get outside your comfort zone

Law Firms: When was the last time your law firm did any kind of program to help associates get started on learning and practicing good client development habits?

Associates: Take my word, if you start learning client development skills now, you will enjoy your career more in the future. I did it and had a blast practicing law.