On Tuesday, I posted The 3 P’s. One of those P’s is persistence. Let’s explore that one further today.

Have you ever thought of giving up on client development because you were not getting the results you wanted?

I know many young lawyers who enthusiastically start a client development program and then get frustrated because they do not see instant results.

I experienced that frustration. I had put my heart and soul into my business development by writing articles and speaking at industry meetings and had not gotten the first client. Many times I wondered whether it was worth all the time I was putting in.

A couple of senior lawyers in my firm also kept putting me down for taking time they wanted me to spend helping them. I kept on because I wanted to control my own destiny and not be totally dependent on senior lawyers.

So, whenever I got discouraged I would picture myself five years later with $500,000 in business. I also made client development a habit and tried to do something no matter how small each and every day. There came a time about two years after I started, when it started raining with new clients and business.

Recently I read that two very important virtues are persistence and flexibility. The writer said:

Persistence beckons you with eternal hope, while flexibility enables you to get through the obstacles that stand between you and your dreams.

I love a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

    • Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Woody Allen once said:

80% of success is just showing up.

That means taking actions. Many lawyers have no plan for client development. Others have a plan, but do not take the actions necessary to be successful.

Flexibility means thinking about a variety of options to achieve a goal. It means being resourceful and changing tactics when appropriate while maintaining the values that are important to you.

Have you ever heard of the book: “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson?

Cheese is the metaphor for what we want in life. The maze in the story represents how we spend our time looking for what we want. You will learn a great deal about persistence and flexibility in the book.

Check the short summary of the book.

Several years ago,  a lawyer I had coached came to advise other lawyers in her firm how to get the most out of our coaching program.

She told them to focus on the three Ps.

  • Persistence,
  • Perseverance and
  • Patience

I know from experience that lawyers who focus on the three Ps are more concerned with learning how to become better at client development than they are with getting early results.

I know many lawyers who are focused on results rather than focused on striving to get better. They fear failure to such a degree that they are unwilling to get outside their comfort zone.

They are not learning about how to become better at client development. Instead they are focused on techniques that may help them get business from the low hanging fruit. When their efforts do not produce results, they give up.

What should you do instead? Work on getting better at things that are outside your comfort zone.

If you want to learn how to network, go to events where you can practice. In fact, go to a networking event and approach strangers and introduce yourself.

If you want to become a better public speaker, speak in public. Consider joining a Toastmasters International club, or starting your own speaking club.

If you want to become a better writer, write articles or blog posts and have someone review them and offer a critique. There are plenty of retired editors and senior lawyers, who would gladly critique your writing.

Finally, remember the three P’s: Persistence, Perseverance and Patience.

If you have been reading my recent posts, you know I am working out with a fitness trainer. I never look forward to going, but afterwards I feel invigorated. He kicks my behind for an hour twice a week and I’m getting back in better shape.

I should be able to work out without a fitness trainer. I know what to do. I have a place to do it. But, I need the trainer to kick me in the rear and push me to do more.

My fitness training reminds me of a lawyer I coached a few years ago.

Years ago, a lawyer I was coaching  sent me an invitation to put in my calendar. No, it wasn’t an invitation for lunch or anything like that. When I put it in my calendar for Wednesday October 12, here is what came up on my screen:

Kick me in the rear if you haven’t heard from me!!

What did she need a kick in the rear to do?

We had an in person coaching session the week before, during which we went over how she was doing on the 90 Days Goals she had established the last time we had met in person.

The first goal she had set was to publish a blog once a week. She shared with me she was in a slump. I told her all of us get in slumps, but she is a potential superstar and superstars get out of slumps. Her invitation to me was her way to work out of the slump.

As you may know I wrote about a superstar lawyer working her way out of a slump in my book Rising Star: The Making of a Rainmaker. You can download it to your Kindle or iPad from Amazon or iTunes.

Gina, the main character, had a record year with a big case for one client. She worries about being a “one hit wonder.” I know many lawyers like Gina, who get into a slump and want to find a way to get out of it.

If you want to take it to the next level I urge you to read the book, or alternatively send me an email invitation to kick you in the rear.

As I concluded a program on planning for New York associates a few years ago I asked for questions. One lawyer asked:

How do you define success?

I thought the question was outstanding. I told her I could not define success for her. She, and only she, can define what success means to her and that requires looking inward. I can only define what success means to me.

Some dictionaries define success as the attainment of wealth, power, favor, or eminence. I have watched young lawyers seeking those things become disillusioned, even when they are doing well. When they earn more money, someone else is earning even more. When they become more powerful in their firm, someone else has even greater power. When they are recognized as a great lawyer, someone else gets even greater recognition.

Long ago, I decided that success was continual learning to become the best lawyer I was capable of becoming. I have to confess, I also defined success as being recognized by the industry as the most knowledgeable transportation construction lawyer in the United States.

I also decided that career success means nothing without life fulfillment. For that I wanted to follow my passions. Several years ago, after working with young lawyers in my firm, my passion evolved into coaching, mentoring and teaching highly motivated lawyers. So, in January 2005, I left my successful law practice to work full time with lawyers in the United States and Canada.

Nancy frequently tells me that I cannot retire because I have no real hobbies, and I have very few friends outside of my work. (Spoiler alert: If you have read this far, my spoiler is that unless more law firms ask me to coach lawyers in 2018, I’ll retire at the end of this year.)

In a way she is right. My “hobbies” are not the normal ones. As you may know, I want to learn to speak Spanish, and I want to write novels about lawyers. So, I’ve studied Spanish at home and in Mexico and I’ve taken creative writing courses at one of our local colleges.

I recently finished the novel I’ve been working on since 2014. It is the 10th version and is so different than earlier versions that I am going back to edit those versions for a second novel. My story is about a young lawyer called upon to defend a billionaire Texan who discovers how difficult it is for a rich man to get a fair trial in 2017.

I admit I haven’t really taken time to make many friends outside of my work. Where we play golf, there are several opportunities to play with the other guys during each week. I’ve only played once.

When I practiced law, my clients were my friends and my friends were my clients. They still are my best friends. Over the weekend, Nancy and I visited one of my first clients and his wife and went to the Virginia Tech v. Duke football game.

Now, my friends also include many of the lawyers with whom I have worked over these last few years. Whenever we are in their city, we make a point of visiting them.

I hope the lawyer who asked the question has looked inward to define what success means to her. How about you? Have you thought about how you define success? What are you doing to find fulfillment in your career and life?

 

Do you have a really challenging goal you want to accomplish either in your career or personal life? If so, I want to help you by sharing a story and putting you on to some reading I know will help you.

I coached an outstanding associate who, at the time, was eligible for promotion to partner in three years. He was with an entrepreneurial law firm, so he was be expected to be bringing in business by that time. I asked him:

I want you to honestly answer this for me, ok? Assuming you make your very best effort, do you honestly believe that you can bring in $500,000 in business in the year  you will be considered for promotion? Be honest with me.

He answered: Yes.

I then asked him to share with me what it will feel like to have succeeded in attracting $500,000 in business in 2017. Yes, this is the year we set out with the three year goal.

Then, I asked him to share with me, the first obstacle he sees to achieving that goal. Then, I told him to share with me something else positive about successfully attracting $500,000 in business. Then, I asked for the second obstacle he saw to achieving that goal.

I was using an approach called “Contrasting.”  This process can be both motivational and helpful in that it forces you to face the reality and be prepared for the challenges you will face.

I first learned of this approach reading Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. I recommend the book. She also discussed the idea in this Psychology Today article: The Motivational One-Two Punch for Overcoming Bad Habits. In the article, she says:

Daydreaming about how great it will be to land that job can be a lot of fun, but it won’t get you anywhere. Mental contrasting turns wishes and daydreams into reality, by bringing into focus what you will need to do to make it happen.

After going through the contrasting process, I asked the lawyer to set up intermediate goals working backwards. To get to $500,000 in 2017, what did he think he would need to generate in 2016? 2015? Then we focused on what actions to take the rest of 2014 that will start him down the path of success.

What do you suppose I plan to do at the end of this year? Yes, I want to find out if he achieved his goal. A lot of it will depend on if he made the same efforts after the coaching program that he made while we worked together.

Try the contrasting approach. Think of a goal that achieving would be really important to you. Then think about obstacles.

I’ve started working out with a trainer again. I am working far harder and far more focused than I ever did on my own. I confess that I am amazed how out of shape I am compared to earlier times in my life when I was regularly running 5 miles.

When I feel like I can’t do any more reps of an exercise, Michael pushes me and I keep going. Yesterday, when I finished one exercise near quitting time, I wanted to say, “Let’s call it a day.” But, I kept going.

So, what does my new workout regimen have to do with client development coaching? Put simply, in both cases, the person receiving the coaching or the training must be highly motivated and willing to try new things.

Do you know which lawyers in your firm will get the most out of client development or career coaching? After coaching well over 1000 lawyers in the US and Canada, I can usually tell after one meeting with the lawyers.

In two instances, I told the law firms they would be wasting firm money if I coached the lawyers they had selected for coaching.

Suppose for a moment I asked your lawyers for their reaction to the following:

Client Development has never been more difficult than it is today.

I would likely be able to tell from their response whether they will be a good candidate for Client Development Coaching.

Fixed or Learning Mindset

Why? Put simply, it might tell me if your lawyers have a fixed mindset: “Lawyers either have the ability to get business or do not have the ability to get business,” or a learning mindset: “I can learn to get better at client development.”

Lawyers with a fixed mindset believe that effort is for those who are not talented. Their greatest fear is really trying hard to develop business and failing at it. As result, they will not make the effort to learn how to do client development and will give up if they do not have immediate success.

Lawyers with a learning mindset will keep striving to learn more and get better even if they were fairly successful when they started the coaching program.

Do You Have Lawyers Like This One?

When I told one of the lawyers I coach that client development has never been more difficult, her response was:

That’s fantastic because very few lawyers will be willing to pay the price to really get good at it. I plan to be one of those lawyers who will pay the price.

A Law Firm Management Committee Question

Ten years ago, I met with a large well known law firm’s management committee about my client development coaching program. Near the end of the meeting, a senior partner asked me to describe the ideal candidate for my coaching program. I quickly replied:

Tiger Woods.

He said:

Tiger Woods doesn’t need a coach.”

I told the group:

Leave aside that Tiger Woods actually has a coach, I am referring to his desire to get better rather than his great talent.

Why I Chose Tiger Woods as the Example

At the time I had watched Ed Bradley interview Tiger Woods. During the interview Bradley asked why when Tiger was the number one golfer in the world, he changed his swing. Tiger responded: “To get better.”

Bradley reminded Tiger that he was doing pretty well with the old swing. Tiger once again said he knew he could get better. Bradley then pointed out that Tiger changed his swing a second time and asked why. By now anyone could guess that Tiger answered once again “to get better.”

If you have even the slightest interest in golf, you have watched the dramatic shot on the 16th hole at the Masters. That is the shot Nike loves because the “swoosh” on the golf ball was visible for a full two seconds before the ball rolled in and CBS announcer Verne Lundquist exclaimed: “In your life have you ever seen anything like that.”

Lessons from Stanford Professor Dr. Carol Dweck

On July 6, 2008 the New York Times published an article titled: If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow.

The writer describes three decades of research done by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck on why some people reach their creative potential in business while equally talented others do not. Dweck believes it is how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe their own abilities can expand (get better) over time. They “really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.”

The writer concludes that, while talent is important, people with the growth mind-set tend to demonstrate the kind of perseverance and resilience required to convert life’s setbacks into future successes.

If you are a regular reader you know I frequently recommend Carol Dweck’s book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her studies are amazing. You can also find many important articles on her website Mindset.

In the first chapter, she refers to a study she did early in her career. She brought grade school children in one at a time and gave them a series of puzzles to solve, each one getting increasingly more difficult.

She watched the reactions of the students and saw something she never expected. One ten-year old boy when confronted with hard puzzles, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out:

I love a challenge.

Others with growth mindsets had similar reactions. They did not see themselves as failing. They believed they were learning and getting smarter. Those young children with fixed mindsets believed they could not learn to do the tough puzzles and didn’t try to do them.

So, give me the lawyers in your firm who have a burning desire to get better. You may not think some of those lawyers need coaching, but I can assure you they will get the most out of it, because they will put the most into it.

Even lawyers for whom client development is anything but natural get a lot out of the coaching if they have the learning mindset. After all, there is great energy around trying to get better.

First year lawyers are starting in law firms this month. If you have any in your firm, you might share this with them.

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.

If you are a regular reader, you know that two of my most read blog posts focused on what I wish someone had told me when I was a first year lawyer. I combined those posts in this Practical Lawyer article:  Forty Important Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was a First-Year Lawyer. Please share this with your first year lawyers

 

Greetings from New York City. I’m here today to sit in on an all day workshop titled: FIND THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE. New York Editor. Donald Maass, is the presenter.  I heard him speak in Dallas a couple of years ago and I was so impressed that I bought his books, and traveled to New York to hear him speak today.

I heard him speak in Dallas a couple of years ago and I was so impressed that I bought his books, and traveled to New York to hear him speak today. He definitely stands out in the crowd of editors and speakers at writers conferences.

With that in mind, I’m writing a series of posts on standing out from the crowd.

As I was thinking about this post, a lawyer I coached sent me a message on LinkedIn about Verrill Dana lawyers whose niche practice is representing breweries. They write a blog titled: Lawyers on Tap, which as best I can de

Seth Godin recently posted a blog titled: Be the Different One. It’s short, take a moment to read it.

I have shared parts of this story before, but it bears repeating. While I was on active duty in the USAF, I represented the Air Force in government contract litigation against some of the top defense contractors and top government contract lawyers.

In 1976, as I was planning the next phase of my life and career, I received offers from large defense contractors to go in-house and from DC law firms with government contracts practices. I chose something different and Nancy and I came to Roanoke, Virginia where there wasn’t a government contractor for miles and miles.

I became a commercial litigator, like at least a dozen or more Roanoke lawyers. Then, I decided to focus on construction law, representing contractors. (I believe I was the first construction lawyer in Roanoke. Now there are several.)

 

The whole idea of being the different one was made clear to me when I was asked to be on a Public Contracts law panel at the 1981 ABA Annual Meeting. During a conference call, each panel member was asked to describe their topic. When I responded I would be talking about highway construction contract disputes, the panel chair said:

Cordell, no one cares about that topic.

I can’t remember exactly how I felt when he put down my topic, but I do remember that after my presentation, I knew I was on to a great practice, because he had probably been right-the lawyers attending that meeting probably did not care about my topic.

I was indeed the different one, and it paid off over the next 30 years of my career.

What’s a different practice now?

School started yesterday in Prosper, Texas. As I was cruising Facebook I noticed several Windsong Ranch moms posted photos of their kids who are seniors and titled them the last, first day of school.

One mother lamented that no one posted the last first day of work. I could be at that point. In 2010, I coached 125 lawyers and I was on the road every month. Since I left my law practice in 2005, I have never coached as few lawyers as I am coaching in 2017.

So, maybe January 2, 2017 was my last first day of work. We’ll see.

I practiced law a long time. I’ve coached lawyers for over 12 years. I’ve seen and coached a lot of rainmakers.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, here are some traits I have observed:

  1. Most rainmakers have the right attitude Most rainmakers have a “can do” attitude. That enables them to persist when others quit. They are not like the pessimist described by Winston Churchill.
  2. Most rainmakers are really good lawyers They may not be the smartest lawyer in their field but they have focused on always getting better and becoming the best lawyer they can be.
  3. Most rainmakers are genuinely likeable They connect well with other people in large part because they are able to convey they really care. They are empathetic and understand the other person’s point of view. They are good listeners. They are able to build trust and rapport quickly. They are open and friendly.
  4. Most rainmakers have a confidence inspiring personality Clients need to feel you can take care of their problem. They are entrusting something really important to them in your hands. Rainmakers are able to instill confidence.
  5. Most rainmakers are willing to get outside their comfort zone I believe real achievement occurs when you stretch and try something that is uncomfortable.
  6. Finally and perhaps most importantly, rainmakers know what they want, they know what their clients need and they deliver value and exceed expectations. It all starts with knowing what they want and having a burning desire to achieve it and then using their non-billable time wisely.

There is nothing magical about the traits in the list above. I know some traits may not come naturally to everyone. When I was practicing law, I worked harder on those that did not come naturally to me. You can follow that path also.

Two final points:

  1. Rainmaking skills can be developed. You don’t have to be born with them. I know because I certainly was not born with innate rainmaking skills. Many of you also know because you have worked to build your profile and relationships with clients and referral sources.
  2. You don’t have to be an extrovert who is the life of every party or event. That doesn’t mean you can just hide in your comfort zone. Be willing to engage people.

I can’t coach pessimists. I just can’t help someone who searches for a reason why he or she will not succeed. I love coaching optimists. Yet, at what point does an optimist have to also be a realist.

I was always optimistic. I believe I owe my success in part to my optimism.

During my career, some people said I was optimistic when I had no reason to be optimistic. In other words, they believed I was unrealistic in my optimism. I’m sure they are right.  But, my optimism enabled me to see possibilities when I was experiencing difficulties.

Watch The Optimism Bias TED Talk, where scientist, Tali Sharot notes it is important to be optimistic for three reasons:

  1. Interpretation Matters: Whether you succeed or you fail, people with high expectations always feel better.
  2. Anticipation Makes Us Happy: People prefer Friday to Sunday. People prefer Friday because of the anticipation of the weekend ahead. I loved the anticipation connected with winning a new client, getting a client matter successfully resolved. When a case was successfully finished, it took me some time to get back on track because I no longer had the anticipation.
  3. Optimism Makes You Try Harder: When you are optimistic, you are far less likely to throw in the towel when you are not achieving immediate success. If you are a long time reader, you likely recall that when I decided to focus on a niche construction practice representing contractors who built roads, bridges, airports and rail, it took over two years before a contractor hired me.

What about being overly optimistic and failing to deal with realism? It can lead to risky behavior, underestimated the cost and time to complete a project and more difficulties. If you are interested in learning more about her work, here is an extract of her book: The Optimism Bias.

I wanted to get other ideas on unrealistic optimism.

Some time ago, I read How I Became an Optimist, a Harvard Business Review guest blog post written by Tony Schwartz. He describes historically being a cup half empty person because he believed being a pessimist was realistic. In deciding to become more optimistic, he created a ritual based on realistic optimism –

namely the practice of telling the most hopeful and empowering story in any given situation, without denying the facts.

The next time you are pessimistic about an outcome, create the most hopeful and empowering story you can without denying the facts.