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 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.

 

 

Several years ago I met with Thomas, a lawyer I was coaching. He said:

“Cordell, whatever you do, please don’t tell me I have to write or speak at industry meetings for client development.”

I told Thomas:

“You can be really successful and never write one article or give one industry presentation.”

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. I received an email from Thomas. In the email, he told me he had originated over $3 million in business that year. Near the end of the email, he told me he had given his first presentation.

What is the point of sharing that short story with you?

Each lawyer I coached is unique. Each lawyer I place now is unique.

Each lawyer has unique talents, goals, and challenges. So do you.

The point of individual coaching is one size does not fit all and my job was to help the lawyers I coached uncover their unique talents. As a recruiter, part of my job is to discover each lawyer’s unique talents

You may have a senior lawyer who is advising you. He may think what worked for him is exactly what will work for you. It may, but just as likely it may not.

While each lawyer I meet is unique, I believe rainmakers have certain attributes and do certain things. I wrote about it in my column in The Practical Lawyer.

How you can best spend your time will be determined by a variety of things, including:

  • The kind of work you do
  • Your experience
  • The amount of non-billable time you have
  • Your interests and talents
  • Your personality type
  • What you want to accomplish

Some lawyers like Thomas should be out in the community networking and/or active in the Bar.  Other lawyers do not have the time or desire and would rather go home and be with their family.

Some lawyers should spend time developing a social media presence and relationships. Others should spend time meeting with clients and referral sources in person.

Some lawyers should spend time developing new clients. Other lawyers should spend time focusing on their existing clients.

Some lawyers should market externally. Other lawyers should market internally.

Some lawyers should focus on being a subject matter expert. Other lawyers should focus on being a “trusted advisor.”

If you want to build your practice, you should focus on the attributes in my article and figure out your unique talents, goals, and challenges and spend your time most appropriately.

 

Suppose you came to me seeking to join a new law firm. And, suppose during our discussion I asked:

What can you tell me about your career and life habits?

Years ago I read Jack Canfield’s book: “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”

In the book he reports that psychologists tell us that 90% of our behavior is habitual. I absolutely agree based on my own experience. If that is true, what are your habits? Are they contributing to your success?

If you are interested in Canfield’s list of principles you can find it here.

Canfield begins Principle 35 with a quote from Ken Blanchard.

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

That’s a powerful stuff.

For years I was committed to my personal fitness. I woke up the same time every morning and went to the fitness club.

Lately, I have only been interested, but not committed, in my physical fitness. I can find many excuses for not working out. Needless to say, working out is no longer part of my daily habits and I am not feeling as well as when it was.

What are your commitments? Are you committed to becoming a better lawyer? Are you committed to providing extraordinary service to your clients? Are you committed to making client development efforts part of your every day habits?

I have been thinking about what the most important habits lawyers should have if 90% of our behavior is habitual. I am considering writing a book describing these habits and why they are important. Here are the habits I believe are important:

  1. Healthy eating and regular exercise
  2. Positive self-talk and attitude
  3. Focus on learning and becoming a better lawyer
  4. Goal setting
  5. Planning non-billable time and using it wisely
  6. Focus on relationships
  7. Understanding client needs
  8. Extraordinary client service
  9. Leading, supervising, delegating and motivating lawyers and staff
  10. Making and keeping commitments

I plan to blog further on habits. Stay tuned if you are interested.

I’ve written this post mostly about me and what I am thinking about this week. So, when you read this first sentence, you may have asked yourself:

What does any of this have to do with me?

For those of you not likely to read all of this post, let me answer the question up front.

You never know where your career and life will take you, and it’s best to be open to new ideas.

I received a call last week on my cell phone. When I looked at the caller ID I saw it was from area code 404. I rarely answer unknown callers, but I answered this one.

The person on the other end told me his name, Mark Musick, which sounded vaguely familiar. He said he was calling to ask me to be on the Virginia Tech Class of 69 50th Reunion Committee. I had just returned from watching the Hokies lose to Notre Dame, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back next year for a game, but I told Mark I was honored to be asked and I would serve.

When I was a student at Virginia Tech they started The Old Guard. (Click to read about it.) The Old Guard members were the graduates of 50 or more years before. I remember over the years that on homecoming Saturday at half-time, the oldsters walked out onto the football field, if able, and were recognized.

When I was sitting in the stands in 1967, the Old Guard members were those who graduated in 1917 and before. I thought at the time they really looked old. My father, who was born in 1914 was only three when those Old Guard members graduated from Virginia Tech.

I remember thinking: They look old. Some of them may have fought in World War l. They graduated from Virginia Tech before the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression and World War II.

When the current Virginia Tech students see the Class of 69, I doubt they will give it much thought, but they could think: They graduated before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, before CDs, DVDs, video cameras, bank ATM machines, IBM Mag Card typewriters (Current students won’t recognize that one), home and office computers, iPods, iPads, cell phones, streaming video, social media…and the great divide in our country today.

If you are interested and have time, I found this website How The Average American Has Changed Since The 1960s.

I never gave one thought to the possibility that there would come a time when I would become a member of the Old Guard. I’m not sure I even gave thought to what it would be like to practice law for 38 years, and I certainly never thought I would complete my legal career practicing law with a big law firm in Dallas, Texas. I also never thought that just after my best year practicing law I would give up my legal career to coach younger lawyers.

Most importantly, I didn’t think that literally a week after graduation, I would see this beautiful, vibrant, radiant  young woman, named Nancy and over that summer of 1969, we would both work the graveyard shift 12AM to 8 AM, we’d get engaged and the next year we’d get married on June 6.

Over the years young lawyers have asked, how did you know Nancy was the one? Nancy and I have both said “we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” meaning in many ways we were lucky. But, we connected in part because we each felt our lives would be enriched being together. We were both striving to accomplish something in our lives, and we continue with our efforts today.

But, looking back to when the first Old Guard was introduced at Virginia Tech in 1967, I didn’t know I would meet Nancy, and I didn’t know many things about my future.

  • I wasn’t sure I would be accepted at a law school
  • I wasn’t sure the United States Air Force would give me a deferment to go to law school
  • I didn’t know I would have the opportunity to become a government contracts litigator while on active duty in the USAF
  • I didn’t know that after my tour of duty in the USAF, I would start with a law firm in Roanoke, Virginia
  • I didn’t know I would create a niche law practice representing highway and bridge construction contractors
  • I didn’t know I would move my niche practice and family to Richmond, Virginia and later to Dallas, Texas
  • I never dreamed I would represent some of the largest, most successful contractors in the United States
  • I never considered the possibility that when I was the very top of my law career I would give it all up to coach and teach younger lawyers
  • It never entered my mind that in 2018, the year before becoming a member of the Old Guard, I would be living in Prosper, Texas, recruiting lawyers I know for law firms I know and I would be writing my second courtroom novel

When a lawyer comes to me seeking to change law firms, sometime during our discussions I ask:

When it comes to legal work, what do you believe is most important for your potential clients?

I believe most law firm leaders know what business clients expect and want from outside lawyers and firms. But, I wonder if law firms effectively use what they know. The vast majority of business clients report:

  • They hire lawyers rather than law firms. What are you doing to develop your next generation of outstanding lawyers?
  • A lawyer makes final consideration based on recommendations, his reputation, and profile. Do you have a plan for your lawyers to raise their visibility and credibility to their potential target market
  • A lawyer gets hired based on his or her ability to connect and generate trust and rapport with the client’s decision makers. Are you teaching your lawyers how to build trust and rapport?
  • Approximately 75% of the Fortune 1000 General Counsel’s are dissatisfied with their present law firm and would replace the firm if they thought any other firm would do better. What are you doing to make sure your client service exceeds expectations?
  • They are generally not dissatisfied with the quality of the work or the hourly rates of the senior lawyers. How are you making sure that clients will value the quality of work done by your junior lawyers?
  • Instead, they are dissatisfied with the lawyers’ lack of knowledge of the industry, company and decision makers, the lack of innovation and the lack of quality service including responsiveness. Do your junior lawyers understand and know the client’s industry? Are you looking for ways to be more innovative? Have your figured out how your clients define responsiveness and do you have a plan to make sure they receive it?