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. 


Four years ago this week I posted a blog titled: If I write a novel about a law firm…I need your ideas. As you will see, on that day I was starting a novel writing class. In January of 2014, I began writing a novel.

Four years and nine drafts later, I have finally published it. The title is The Billionaire’s Lawyer. It is available here in both softcover and e-book versions. You can also find it on Amazon. I understand the Kindle version will be available on Amazon in a few weeks.

Why did it take four years to write and why did it take 10 versions until I was willing to publish it? There are two reasons. First, I was never satisfied with my work. I always thought, and still believe, I could make it better. Second, I’ve been able to incorporate events that have taken place over the last four years. Several times, I have thought,

What’s happening in real life is far stranger than anything I could possibly make up.

When I began writing, I hadn’t considered that the government might have hacked into a news reporter’s computer, corporations and political groups might use social media in ways no one ever thought of to sway opinion, and I had never heard of the term “fake news.”

My original protagonist was the great-granddaughter of a Galveston Mafia boss. Why did that character interest me? I didn’t know the Galveston history of the Free Galveston era, and was fascinated when I studyied it. You can check it out here. (My second novel will likely be about this character.)

Gabriela Sanchez is the protagonist of The Billionaire’s Lawyer. She grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and moved to Dallas to prove to herself, and perhaps her father, that she could make it on the big stage. Why did I want the protagonist to be a Hispanic woman from the Rio Grande Valley?

There are many reasons: First, I wanted to write about someone different than me. I decided the protagonist should be a woman because, having coached and mentored hundreds of young women lawyers, I know women face different challenges while striving to be successful.

Why did I want my character to be a Hispanic woman? While doing research I discovered that Hispanic women make up around 7% of the US population, but less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the partners in law firms. I also recognized in my research that because of movies and television shows, Hispanic women have been unfairly stereotyped. I’m sure you know this, but if you are interested here is a Latina Magazine article: 10 Latino Stereotypes We’ve Heard All Our Lives That Are Completely False.

Why did I decide my character had grown up in the Rio Grande Valley? There were many reasons. Our daughter taught school there. Our son-in-law grew up there. Sadly, the Rio Grande Valley is one of the poorest and most corrupt regions in the country. See: Rio Grande Valley Tops List of “America’s Poorest Cities” and Corruption On The Border: Dismantling Misconduct In The Rio Grande Valley.

More important than all of those reasons, I mentored a young lawyer who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I learned a great deal from her. She told me her mom was a teacher and her dad was a principal. She went to both college and law school on scholarships. At Notre Dame Law School she was the only Hispanic student and other students believed she was there only because of “affirmative action.” She later proved them wrong when she outperformed most of them.

She once told me that many times she wondered if she measured up and sometimes believed someone would figure out she was not as smart or not as capable a lawyer as them. Those feelings motivated her to work harder and probably contributed to her success.

I’m not sure if the lawyer I mentored will see this, but I have to thank her for sharing ideas that became the inspiration for my protagonist.

So, what’s the story about?

Gabriela Sanchez is a young lawyer who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley watching her father in court. After clerking for a federal judge and working with her father, Gabriela moves to Dallas to prove she can make it in the big city. At first, much to her dismay, Gabriela becomes known for being named one of the Top 10 Most Beautiful Women in Dallas by D Magazine (There was an annual list. Check out 2015 here.).  and for an award from Catholic Charities for her work helping refugee and immigrant children.

Then, a trial consulting firm (think of Dr. Jason Bull TV character) recommends Gabriela to defend the richest man in Texas in the most highly publicized white collar criminal case since Enron. At the beginning, Gabriela believes the poor have little chance to defend themselves, but during her defense of Sparks Duval, she discovers how tough it is for a rich man to get a fair trial when the DOJ is hellbent to convict the defendant at any cost including destroying his lawyer.

I enjoyed writing the book and incorporating what was happening in real life. I strongly considered not publishing it because I was writing it for my own education. I’m still not sure it is ready for prime-time, but if I can borrow words from a Seth Godin blog titled: Art is what we call...

What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.

Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.


For many years I have said lawyers focus too much on what they do and not nearly enough on what their clients need. How can you learn what your clients need? Put simply, if you do some research and listen intently, they will tell you.

In law school, you  were taught to

think like a lawyer.

Imagine if you had also been taught to

think like a client.

You would be in a far better position to help your clients. To “think like a client” you must work on being empathetic and walking in your clients’ shoes and you must build trust and rapport with them.

According to Wikipedia, empathy is defined as

one’s ability to recognize, perceive and feel directly the emotion of another.

For you, it is the ability to look at things from your client’s perspective. It is very important for you to understand how your client or client representative views the matter you are handling and what is important to them. Keep in mind that for a business client, your legal work is in the context of their business and for an individual client, your legal work is in the context of their life.

Habit Five, in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey, is:

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood..

That is a great habit for lawyers to follow. Covey points out that only a small percentage of people engage in empathetic listening. Most of us are figuring out what we will say instead of listening intently to what our clients are telling us.

Covey also urges readers to diagnose before prescribing. Far too many lawyers want to demonstrate their brilliance before the client has finished describing the situation.

How do you diagnose? We need to ask questions and listen intently. Here are some questions or statements you can use:

  • Tell me about…
  • What is it like…
  • Tell me more…
  • Help me understand…
  • Can you give me an example of…
  • How did you…
  • Bring me up to date on…

Sometimes your clients will tell you one thing, while their body language is telling us something different.

In his book “The Likeability Factor,” Tim Sanders points out that the first step to understanding how others feel is to recognize their emotions which, with practice, can be read on their faces long before they tell us how they feel. Sanders references the work of Dr. Paul Ekman and includes a quote:

Facial expressions, even quickly passing, signal emotional expression. The face is the mind’s involuntary messenger.

How can you build your empathy skill set?

There is plenty of information on the internet. I recently found a blog that included: 15 Questions to become more empathetic. 

I recently received a copy of an email from a lawyer I am coaching to the others in her coaching group. She said:

I am not sure how many of you are reading Cordell’s book, but I just read a great tip in there that I thought that I would share with you.  It is not one that I had heard before.

Determine who 5 leading lawyers are in your field.  Print out their biographies.  Study their biographies to determine what has made them successful (e.g. speaking engagements, leadership roles, pro bono, memberships).  Emulate their success.

A few years ago I read a quote attributed to Bobby Knight and also to Paul (Bear) Bryant. It was:

“Many have the will to win, but few have the will to prepare to win.”

I believe  successful lawyers are not successful by accident.

Most I know prepare to win by figuring out what is important to them, setting career and life priorities, developing a plan with goals and taking action to achieve them.

I also know now that attracting new clients and building a lasting relationship with them is not an accident. The successful lawyers I know prepare to win with clients and potential clients by taking time to understand their needs and making sure they effectively address those needs.

In your career, “the will to prepare to win” will be way more important than the “will to win.”

So, I chose “Prepare to Win: A Lawyer’s Guide to Rainmaking, Career Success and Life Fulfillment” as the title for my  book. If you click, you’ll see you can order it for your Kindle for only $2.99.

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This book is not about winning in court or on appeal. Instead, it is a workbook designed to help you define your own success and then achieve it.

I hope you will find it a helpful tool as you focus on your career, client development, and living the kind of life that is important to you. I hope you find some valuable nuggets in the book that will help you think through what your career and life priorities are and how you can achieve them.

Here are the Chapter titles:

Chapter One:  How Do Rainmakers Do It?

Chapter Two:  Living and Practicing Law with a Purpose: You Have to Answer the “Why” Question

Chapter Three:  Your Vision of Success: How Do Rainmakers Do It?

Chapter Four:  Core Values: How Do You Want to Live?

Chapter Five:  The Importance of Role Models and Mentors

Chapter Six:  Setting Yearly Goals and Developing Your Career Plan

Chapter Seven:  A Call to Action: Executing Your Plan

Chapter Eight:  Mind Games: Getting and Staying “In the Zone”

Chapter Nine:  Building Your Profile: The Power of Writing and Speaking

Chapter Ten:  Community Service and Networking

Chapter Eleven:  Connecting with Contacts

Chapter Twelve:  Top Ten Client Development Mistakes

Chapter Thirteen:  Improving Client Service

Chapter Fourteen:  From Niches to Riches

Chapter Fifteen:  Important Extras: The Value of Extraordinary Client Service

Chapter Sixteen:  The Business Case for Better Balance

Chapter Seventeen:  Building the Next Generation of Rainmakers

If you get a chance to read Prepare to Win, let me know what ideas you took away and implemented.

Many of you know that several lawyers I coach read books and then share their takeaways from the book with me and sometimes with others in a group they formed.

Melissa Lyon is an energy lawyer in the Fox Rothschild Denver Office. She writes on the firm’s Energy Law Blog and as you will see from her bio, she’s been selected as one of the “Top Women in Energy” by the Denver Business Journal in both 2015 and 2016.

I have enjoyed reading her blog posts over the year we’ve worked together. Here is a link to a recent post, Did you just ask me to dance the Contango? It will give you an idea on why I enjoy reading Melissa’s posts.

Melissa is one of the lawyers I coach who is an avid reader. I’ve asked her to share with you her takeaways from a couple of books.

Melissa Lyon

Last week, I read the #1 New York Times Bestseller, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero in connection with my ongoing business development meetings with Cordell.  It seemed like a natural fit with my business development plan I have been working on…and it did not disappoint!

The short and skinny on this book is that it does not pull any punches.  It is a tough love reminder of how awesome you truly are and that you really can accomplish what you want.

Sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants, and author Jen Sincero gives it to you.  The tone of the book reminded me of talking to my blunt and feisty grandfather in a way – true to his Wyoming roots, he tells me often to “buck up, cupcake.”

It is true, sometimes we do just need someone to tell us bluntly to buck up, dust off your chaps and get back on your horse.  There are times when we just need to hear that and be reminded of who we are…

That we are crazily awesome and wonderful and that we will accomplish everything we set out to.

Jen Sincero, a success coach commonly referred to as a “motivational cattle prod,” is direct and mildly vulgar at times, which made the book feel like a conversation over coffee or cocktails with a good friend that has zero filter.  This kept the book from feeling too kumbaya and more real life, which I appreciated.

This book is a roadmap to getting very clear on exactly what makes you happy, what is your priority and what makes your heart race and makes you feel most alive.  Heavily focused on the well-known “law of attraction” (what you focus on, you create/manifest more of in your life) it sets out the path to changing the way you think so that you can make your goals happen.

One concept that truly resonated with me was to treat yourself like you are your best and closest friend.  It is so easy to be your own worst critic, to focus on your weaknesses instead of your strengths and to dwell on every mistake you make and every misadventure that befalls you instead of focusing on all of your amazing accomplishments and challenges you have risen to.

I appreciated the idea that you would never treat your best friend in such a horrible fashion – so you must treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend, someone you value.

A reminder to focus on how awesome you are is never a bad thing, nor is being reminded to decide to be the best version of yourself every damn day.

Choosing to be grateful for the many miracles in your life attracts more good stuff, and true to Cordell’s guidance that you have to believe you are capable of achieving what you want, this tough love reminder will help you truly believe with every ounce of your being you are capable of manifesting the life that you want.

Because you are a badass.

Jen Sincero also writes a blog worth checking out – “Blog of Badassery.”

As you know I am writing a novel about a Badass lawyer from the Rio Grande Valley called upon to defend a billionaire Texas Oilman in the age where the average juror would like nothing better than seeing a rich man, even if self made, put in jail and his company destroyed.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story, but let’s just day that the billionaire has hired a PR firm to help him win. You can get some ideas where that might lead.

We frequently visit a family with a daughter who will be a junior in high school in September.  I have rarely seen her eyes as they are usually focused on her cell phone texting back and forth with friends. 

I wonder what it will be like at a law firm when the current high school students become lawyers?

Years ago, I listened to a podcast interview of Timothy Ferriss, the author of a book titled, The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

As I listened, my first thought was it is a shame no lawyer could ever have  a four hour workweek.

My second thought was: Suppose I only worked four hours a week, what in the world would I do with the rest of my week?

I listened intently and thought Mr. Ferriss had some nifty ideas that we can apply to our own hourly billing driven careers. He coined the acronym DEAL.

  • Decide what you want
  • Eliminate things that do not lead you to what you want
  • Automate and delegate to others things they can do that enables you to do more important things
  • Liberate-use your newly found free time

Since I wanted to learn what I could do with the rest of my week, I bought Mr. Ferriss’ book and went on his webpage:


There, I found an interesting discussion of E-Mail addiction.

Mr. Ferriss noted that “Crackberry” was the official winner of the 2006 Word-of-the-Year as selected by the editorial staff of Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

He also referenced IQ tests done in 2005 by a psychiatrist at King’s College in London. The tests were given to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points.

More interesting was that the group stoned on pot did 6 points better than the group distracted by phone calls and emails.

If the tests reflect on the ability to concentrate, what do you suppose is happening to us as you try to do important work for clients while you are being constantly interrupted by the vibration or ding that you have gotten another email?

How to confront the addiction: I know it would be challenging, but consider only looking at email from 11:30 to 12:00 and 5:30 to 6:00, or only looking at it the last 10 minutes of each hour.

I believe we could be more focused and actually more efficient. Just suppose you created an auto-response, the kind you use when you are out of the office, that told people you are focused on an important project and will be checking email at 11:30 or 5:30.

Do you think you would lose any clients? I think clients would actually appreciate knowing you are totally focused on their matters.

“Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.”

I loved this quote when I first read  Seth Godin’s at book: The Dip.

What does it mean to be “the best in the world?”

First, it is being perceived as the best by your clients and potential clients. You can not become the best until you clearly understand their perceptions, and they know you understand them.

It is their world, not yours. Being the best also means clients have compared you to other lawyers they have used or met. I’ve found that comparison very interesting.

I have told this story here several times. When I was a young lawyer, I was on a plane with Mr. Burrows, the CEO of my largest client. We were on our way to Florida to try and settle a big contract dispute.

Mr. Burrows was my father’s age and since my father had passed away, I looked at him as a father figure. Mr Burrows passed away a couple of years ago and I still think about how he influenced my career.

We were in aisle seats across from each other.


During the flight, Mr. Burrows reached over and grabbed my arm and said:

“Cordell, there is something I need for you to know. I hate every lawyer I have ever met.”

I could not think of a response. Then, Mr. Burrows grabbed my arm a second time and said:

“But, of all the lawyers I hate, I hate you the least.”

So, on that day I learned that being hated the least by a contractor was “being the best in the world.”

Later, after we had settled the case, I paused to think about what Mr. Burrows was really telling me.

I think he hated me the least because I didn’t talk like a lawyer. I talked more like a contractor who also had a legal degree.

He appreciated that he did not have to pay me to learn about the highway construction contract clauses. I had learned about them long before I did any work for his company.

I also learned that clients expect us to do the highest quality work. If we don’t, we have a far bigger problem.

Where you can differentiate yourself is through being the best in your client’s world at understanding them, their company, and their business (industry).

What are you doing to become “the best in the world” in the eyes of your clients?

If you are a regular reader, you likely know that I organize book groups for lawyers across North America where the group picks a book from a set of my recommendations that is relevant to professional, business and personal development.

The lawyers in the club exchange their thoughts on each chapter of the chosen book every second Friday with ideas on how they may implement what they have read.

One group recently finished Daniel Pink’s book: To Sell is Human. McCarthy Tetrault Toronto partner Leila Rafi volunteered to share her top takeaways from each chapter.

RAFI_leila_060620135_055 copy

Chapter 1: 

I found this quote to be right on target: “One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not now they have. (I can practically hear Cordell saying this.).”

Chapter 2:

The best way to make change is to motivate individuals to develop their best potential – this can only only happens when an individual is passionate about what’s at hand (recognizing that everyone is motivated differently). It’s important to connect individual goals to the larger picture in evaluating one’s potential.

Chapter 3:

I think that the changing role of sellers to having to clarify information as compared (pre-Internet age) as the sole source of information puts the onus on the seller (in our case, the lawyer) to know their product. Knowledge and passion are what distinguishes sellers nowadays. Typically those who know their product (industry and their clients’ businesses) and are passionate about the outcome, deliver the best results

Chapter 4:

I agree that getting into people’s heads is what fosters the ability to move people and in order to do that, one must be open to understanding other’s perspectives. As a lawyer who actively listens can accomplish this.

I have seen humility win the day at work – the most successful partners are those that lead the clients to the answer without telling them (or making them feel) that they have been led, allowing the client to ‘sit in the big chair’ of recognition.

Chapter 5:

I truly believe that emotions can be contagious as I have seen the effect positivity has on people, regardless of their initial state of being (being positive opens doors, and removes dread). Being authentic and genuine can only occur when you embrace the negative things that happen in your life and try to learn from them (instead of not self-aware and/or artificial).

I believe that one of the most effective traits of a negotiator is understanding what is important to the other side and being able to negotiate a deal whereby each side leaves the table satisfied (and doesn’t feel ripped off). This helps pave the road for a long-lasting relationship that is not fraught with resentment.

I believe in the power of asking and receiving. This includes asking management in one’s own law firm or asking a potential client for his/her business.

Chapter 6: 

I found the reference to ‘clarity’ eye opening (no pun intended) – the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways leading to the identification of  problems they didn’t realize they had

I found it interesting that most people who create breakthroughs in art, science or life tend to be problem finders and take more time with their work than others.

I liked reading about the VP of sales at the Italian company that makes Mentos mints and how he thinks of his best salespeople as those that think of their jobs not so much as selling candy but as selling insights about the confectionary business. We aren’t selling legal services and much as selling our ability to help clients achieve their goals in specific industry areas.

I agree with the author’s thought about it being important to “step out of our bubble” to better understand what we value in it. Traveling outside of North America (or at the very least, off Wall Street or Bay Street) is a good way to do that.


Chapter 7: 

I learned about three key abilities in this chapter: 1) to pitch, 2) to improvise and 3) to serve. A successful pitch does is not necessarily to move others to immediately adopt your idea but rather, is one that engages the audience for the purposes of collaboration – Be Compelling!

I believe the following three items Pink describes are crucial questions the pitch delivery person must answer before a successful pitch can be delivered:

  • What do you want the audience to know;
  • What do you want the audience to feel; and,
  • What do you want the audience to do?

Most lawyers fail on the last question one as they don’t follow-up after a pitch or provide the audience with links to additional information. Also, many lawyers make (potential) clients feel ‘less smart’ as opposed to feeling engaged or brighter as a result of the pitch.


Chapter 8:

Was surprised to learn that little to no effort is made in the educational process (including law school) to teach people how to listen more effectively. It is a client development skill that could differentiate one talented lawyer from another.

Believe the following statement is is true for a law firm: Making your partner look good, does not make you look worse – iIt actually makes you look better.

Word of mouth marketing has increased 10 fold by social media. Are law firms, and lawyers taking advantage of this? Generally, I think the answer across North American firms, is no.


Chapter 9:

I learned that sales and non-sales selling are ultimately about service and improving others’ lives, and in turn, improving the world. So I want to remember to make my selling activities it ‘personal and purposeful.’

I think that many times, people just need a bit of encouragement. An encouraged individual feels relevant and as though what they think actually matters in achieving the larger goal – this also helps strengthen the relationship between team members.

I liked the quote: “Really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers. They want to be part of something larger than themselves.” I think that is true of great lawyers I have known. They take joy in helping their clients and their law firm succeed.


Your Thoughts:

Have you read the book? If so please send a comment if you have anything you want to add.

Does your firm have any first year lawyers starting work today? I have an attorney development manifesto for you to consider.

What is a manifesto? I looked it up and here is what I found:

A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.

When I was in charge of attorney development in my old law firm, there came a time when firm leaders wanted to cut back on attorney development. I hear that is happening again in many law firms. So, here today is my Attorney Development Manifesto.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Chinese Proverb

I guess the firms that are cutting back think it will improve their Profits per Partner (PPP). It may over the short term, but over the long term…

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What is your firm’s purpose, vision, and its core values relating to its attorney development program? Here is what I suggest you consider:


The purpose of our law firm Attorney Development Program is to enable our attorneys to better serve our clients, to increase our realization, and to provide opportunities for greater achievement and career satisfaction.


We seek to have an attorney development program recognized as preeminent by our clients, our lawyers and law students.

Core Values

  • Our attorneys will take responsibility for their career development and satisfaction.
  • Each attorney, associate, partner, and of counsel must contribute in some way.
  • Supervising lawyers will give clear direction, answer questions, pay attention to quality, and provide real time constructive and supportive feedback.
  • Teamwork is encouraged at all levels.
  • Each attorney and staff member will be shown respect. Respect engenders respect.
  • We will endeavor to provide consistent, real and specific direction on career advancement. 
  • CLE will be used as a means of acquiring skills necessary to better serve our clients and enable our attorneys to grow.
  • We will demand a lot from our lawyers.  They will work hard, meet high standards of excellence, and over time and with our guidance and support, learn to be outstanding lawyers, trusted advisors and mentors for a new generation of outstanding young lawyers.

If you are thinking about your own attorney development program, keep in mind that each associate in your firm has a unique background, unique skills and unique dreams, but  they also share things in common. 

Hopefully if you hired the right lawyers, they all want to learn and become better lawyers.  They want to work on interesting projects. They want to feel like they matter, know where they stand, and whether they are on track, and they want to feel respected by senior lawyers and peers.

When graduating law students arrive at your door, they know more about the science of law and less about the art of lawyering than they will ever know in their career. So, focus on developing their lawyering skills

When it comes to the future, many of your young lawyers are confused.

  • They feel like they are on a trip to an undefined and constantly moving destination (making partner).
  • In 2015, many may not even want to become a partner in your firm.
  • They are uncertain of the time expected for their arrival, feel they have not been given a map to get there, and no compass to let them know where they are.
  • They feel they have no coach or sponsor.

You need your senior lawyers to teach them the art of lawyering and help clear up the confusion. This requires your senior lawyers to get to know them, to understand what makes them unique, and to encourage them to achieve success as they define it.

Your work with your clients is not any different and just as you get good vibes from helping your clients achieve their business objective, you will get the same feeling helping your young lawyers achieve their career goals.

You will have more fun and success helping other people achieve their goals than you will trying to reach your own goals.

Dale Carnegie

A lawyer I am coaching recently shared with me her idea for a new niche practice. Her novel idea made me think of a blog I wrote in 2013: Who will become the “hot sauce” industry go-to lawyer?

I was impressed because her idea was one I had never even considered. I told her she was thinking like an entrepreneur.

What did I mean?


I absolutely enjoy reading the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge web page. Several years ago I read an interview with Professor Joseph B. Lassiter III titled: Turning High Potential into Real Reward.

In the interview Professor Lassiter is asked what the keys for success are for a new venture moving from product development to marketing and selling the product. The professor responded:

In these high-performance ventures, entrepreneurs leading the ventures look ahead and say, ‘Two or three years from now, this is exactly the customer and exactly the product, and this is exactly why they’re going to be compelled to buy.”

He described what this means for MBA students (substitute lawyers).

What that means is that most MBA students should go to work in an area they think is going to be hot—and they’ve got to anticipate where it’s going to be hot—and then build up a deep knowledge of who the good engineers are, who the interesting customers are, what the right channels are, and who the essential business partners are.

I believe client development begins in much the same way. As a lawyer you should ask yourself:

  1. What do my clients need now?
  2. What will my clients need in the future?
  3. What do I have to offer them?
  4. Why should they want to hire me rather than other lawyers?

I did that long ago. I decided I wanted to represent transportation (highways, bridges, airports and rail) construction clients. At the time I had experience handling government contract claims.

Over time I gained experience in other areas. I thought they should hire me rather than other lawyers because I was so specialized that I understood their industry and the business and legal challenges they faced better than lawyers less specialized.

Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.

I love this quote from Seth Godin at the beginning of his book “The Dip,”

Ask yourself the four questions above and write down your answers. I hope you will become more focused in your client development efforts as a result.

P. S. I am still looking for the lawyer who decides to create a niche practice in the Hot Sauce Industry.