I remember the year our firm offered jobs to two students. The first was about the smartest young student I had ever met in my life. He was a straight A student. I don’t think he ever got a B in anything in his life. I was a little concerned about him because he was so smart he rarely attended class. He didn’t stay with us very long and it is difficult for me to picture him or remember his name today.

The second student was a young man who grew up poor, worked very hard to even get into law school and mostly got Bs. He never missed a class and was like a sponge trying to learn more each day. He stayed with us and worked as hard as a lawyer as he had as a student. I still remember Tyler, and he still asks me questions.

I thought of these two law students recently when I spoke to 4th graders on career day at the school where my daughter teaches. The parents of the kids in the school do not have much. They work hard and struggle when things don’t go exactly as planned. Many of their kids are like the sponge, anxious to learn every day. In one of the classes I noticed two young girls sitting there taking notes on everything I was telling them.

Several years ago, Seth Godin posted a blog On Self Determination. He makes two interesting points. The second of his two points reminded me of the two law students I hired so many years ago. He talks about the A students who took mainstream courses and did the minimum amount of work they needed to do to get an A. They learn for the test.

Those students who didn’t need to work for their A’s are joining law firms every day and they are a challenge to supervise. Why you ask? Put simply, they do not see things that are not immediately obvious. They don’t dig deeper than the exact assignment. They mess up and do not even understand how they messed up. They also do not take criticism very well. After all, they have been told their entire life how smart they are.

Give me the student who should have gotten C’s but worked so hard she got B’s. She has the emotional intelligence it takes to be successful and she will see things her all A’s classmate misses.

I was in Phoenix last Friday. I very likely coached my final lawyer. I very likely made my last presentation to a group of lawyers. I very liked worked for the last time.

When you reach a certain aga, (I believe it is 65), you receive a report from the Social Security Administration which shows what you earned every year you worked. I looked at mine when it came to me and was reminded I had worked and had income every year from age 14. It reminded me that I was first employed by the Lombard, IL Park District to teach baseball and umpire Pony Tail league softball games.

I went to law school year-round from September 1969 to September 1971. Even then, I worked at the law school and at the Virginia State Prison.

So, 2018 will be a different kind of year for me and I know it will take time to get used to the idea that I am no longer working.

I have not recently written anything specifically focused on law students. Before I quit writing, I want to share with students my thoughts on positioning themselves to be hired.

If you are a law student, graduating in 2018, your school’s placement director has likely given you advice on how to position yourself to be hired. Having hired many graduating law students, I want to give you my two cents on the subject.

Other than your performance in law school, what sets you apart? How can you demonstrate you went to law school because you REALLY want to be a lawyer?

Here is a partial list, in no particular order, of things that might set you apart:

  • You worked in a particular industry or worked in a law firm between college and law school
  • You served in the military doing_____
  • You were a leader in college, law school
  • You were active in the bar as a student
  • You juggled many responsibilities while you were a student
  • You studied abroad or you speak a foreign language
  • You performed well in Moot Court
  • You have written books, short stories, poetry
  • You played a sport, played in the band or acted in plays while in college
  • You volunteered or you were active in a charity
  • You grew up in a family business in some particular industry
  • You interned in some particular industry

One final thought: If you were planning on working with a large law firm and that hasn’t worked out, open your search to smaller firms. Many of those firms are thriving and, even though you may be paid less, there is a good chance you will have more valuable experiences.

 

A lawyer I coached sent a blog post Seth Godin posted yesterday: Two Kinds of Practice. If you have 30 seconds, read it.

When I read Two Kinds of Practice I thought about a blog about my own failure that I posted in 2014, and I thought it might be a good time to repost it.

What is your biggest marketing failure? If you haven’t had one, then either you are not doing much marketing, or you are doing it significantly better than I did.

Years ago, I read a very short Seth Godin Blog: Nothing. Here is the entire blog post:

The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.”

Have you ever not started a client development activity because you were afraid of failing? Don’t let fear of failing stop you. I have had many client development failures. Let me share one with you.

My Biggest Marketing Failure

When professional video first gained acceptance, I decided to create a video for contractors. I spent days creating the script and two days in front of the camera with Dr. Michael Vorster at Virginia Tech.

I was confident I had created a masterpiece and I decided to market the tape along with a book on linear scheduling at a price of $495. I believe I sold at most 20 sets of the tape and most of those were to my mother and her friends. (I just recently tossed the last boxes of tapes I was storing in my garage.)

When I realized that my attempt to become a paid movie star was not working effectively, I came up with Plan B. After spending hours going through the program and deciding what to include, I went back to the editor, and paid him more money to create a one-hour summary of the eight-hour tape. I decided strategically to give the one-hour tape away and offer a special price for the full eight hours to those contractors who were intrigued enough to see more.

There came a point when I just wanted to give the tapes away. By then, I laughed at myself, picked myself up off the stage and pressed on with other ideas. Later I mentioned using linear scheduling in one of my Roads & Bridges monthly columns and found it was a better way to reach out to my target market.

My Failure did Not Stop Me from Starting Again

Just to show I am either willing to take another chance, or I didn’t learn my lesson from the first tape experience, I created a three-hour streaming video coaching program with a detailed workbook. Have you seen it? You can find it here on my webpage. If you are interested, in watching and using the workbook, contact Joyce jflo@cordellparvin.com.

So, what is something you haven’t started because you fear you might fail? If you try something that doesn’t work. Don’t fret about it. Instead, think of it as successfully learning what didn’t work.  If you need more support, watch the famous Michael Jordan Nike Commercial video.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~Robert F. Kennedy

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