When I coached lawyers, I frequently heard

Cordell, I’ve been too busy to do any client development

When I practiced law unless I was in the middle of a trial out of town, I was never too busy to do client development. In fact, I did more client development work when I was busiest than when I wasn’t busy.

Now that I’m recruiting lawyers if a lawyer candidate told me he or she was too busy to do client development activities, I would likely not recommend that person to a great firm.

Why? It is really pretty simple:  I believe it is because they don’t have a strong enough motivation to cause them to “make” time for client development. And, the law firms I try to help don’t need that kind of lawyer.

Years ago, a lawyer I was coaching told me he had heard a sales seminar where the presenter said:

Time management is a waste of time.

The lawyer asked what I thought.  Here is how I replied:

Interesting. I did a Google search and saw this article: How Managing Your Time Is a Waste of Time.  I noted the writer said:

It’s the compulsive aspect I find problematic. Our national obsession with self-improvement and personal productivity bears remarkable similarities to the self-help genre and our endless pursuit of quick fixes, miracle cures and wonder pills.

I don’t view time management or pursuing excellence to be an “endless pursuit of quick fixes, miracle cures and wonder pills.” If anything it is the opposite of a quick fix.

Then I saw this article by a guy who said he used to think time management was a waste of time: How To Get More Done: Time Management For The Rest Of Us. He wrote:

I now rank everything that is important to me–both professionally and personally–on one piece of paper. They are the most important things I want to accomplish written done in list form.

I personally feel I am better able to focus on my top priorities by doing what he suggests.

To me, saying time management is a waste of time is similar to saying creating a business plan is a waste of time.

Some successful lawyers in my old firm told me they didn’t need a business plan. They kept their plan in their head.

I suspect they did not want anyone able to judge whether they were doing what they put in their plan. I wondered how much better they might have done simply by thinking through a plan and putting it on paper.

Time and energy are your two most important resources and I don’t think you can waste either.



As you know, I grew up playing sports and I still enjoy sports. I have often wondered how the top coaches motivate star athletes. When I think of college sports, the top programs in any sport recruit the greatest number of 5-star athletes.

But, what about teams like the Loyola Ramblers?  

They made it to the final four without 5-star recruits. In 1963, while I was a teenager growing up in the Chicago suburbs, and listening to their games on the radio, the Ramblers won the national championship without the top recruits.

I recently read an article about how coaches motivate players Motivation and Coaching – A Misunderstood Mental Matter. 

I found this statement to be true:

Inspiration is something that comes the outside: from listening to another person or being involved in an event or through observing something which triggers an emotional response.

Motivation, however, comes from within. Motivation is a fire: a fire which is ignited by a dream and fuelled by passion.

Three years ago I made a presentation at the IADC/FDCC Joint Law Firm Management Conference.

I spoke on business succession and motivating and developing the next generation of law firm leaders and rainmakers. The title of our panel discussion was LIGHT MY FIRE: It’s Not ALL About Money. It’s About Passion, Purpose, and Fulfillment.

Here is a link to my slides. As you will see, I included a short clip from the Doors appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

Have you ever thought about why your lawyers are not transitioning from being associates whose main function is to get the work done to partners whose main function is to bring in business, build and expand relationships with clients and supervise the junior lawyers?

Bwoman business presentation SS 77534098


When I practiced law, I had an aha moment the day I realized I could not motivate the unmotivated. My aha moment came when I was the partner in charge of attorney development at my old firm, I spoke at our new partner orientation each year. I began my presentation by asking:

How many of you have written goals and a written plan to achieve them?”

The first year I asked this question, I was astonished when no hands were raised. Here I was addressing our very best young lawyers and not one of them had written goals and a plan.

I wanted to understand why. I discovered:

  • I had greatly underestimated the challenge of getting lawyers to change.
  • The carrot and stick approach did not work and
  • Client development training and coaching should start before the lawyers were promoted to partner.

But, this group of lawyers didn’t have the fire and there was no way I could light it for them. I suspect that now, 15 years later, most if not all of those lawyers have not become top lawyers.

Having coached over 1500 lawyers in the United States and Canada, I came to the point that I knew during our first coaching session if a lawyer was self-motivated. That experience will likely serve me well in recruiting.

Recently scientists have done considerable research on the brain’s role in both learning and performance. They have found that we have both a “hard-wired” part of our brain and a “working memory” part of our brain.

For the learning and training, you offer lawyers to be effective, you must seek to move it from the working memory part of the brain to the hard-wired part of the brain. In other words, you want your young lawyers to develop habits.

In a nutshell, what does this scientific information mean? Your young lawyers are “hard wired” to get their hours. But, they are not hard-wired to develop their profile as a “go-to” lawyer and build relationships with contacts and clients.

What should you do?

  • Start training early in your associates’ careers
  • Work on bite-sized pieces. Let your young lawyers learn something and implement it before moving to the next subject.
  • Get them to focus on client development ideas and solutions, not on the problems they have to overcome to do client development.
  • Let them come to their own answers. Studies have shown that when people experience an “ah ha” moment on their own there is a sudden adrenaline energy rush that is conducive to making changes.
  • Finally, training by itself will not likely be successful. However, training with follow-up mentoring or coaching will way more likely be successful.

Get started now. There is no better time to help self-motivated lawyers “Light Their OwnFire.” I have done it and found it rewarding.


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. 


I was doing some research on women successful in business for my second novel and I came across a Harvard Business Review Article titled: Alpha Females: Deadlier Than the Male?

The writer discussed three incredibly successful women, stating:

Here are three who have stood out in recent years for being truly impressive and groundbreaking in their respective fields and I am sure there are many more who will come to light in the coming years.

All three intrigued me, but I found the discussion of Karren Brady most interesting.

Karren Brady, the 38-year-old managing director of Birmingham City Football Club, the first woman to hold such a post in English league soccer.

Melissa Lyon is a Denver based Fox Rothschild associate. She was one of the most motivated lawyers I coached. Among her many achievements, she has been selected as one of the “Top Women in Energy” by the Denver Business Journal (2015, 2016, 2018).

When I told Melissa about Karren Brady, she volunteered to write a guest post. Here it is.

We all know that Tom Brady, NFL quarterback for the Patriots, is referred to as the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.). Tom Brady is referred to not only as the greatest quarterback of all time, but he is referred to by some as the greatest football player in NFL history – ever.

I am here to tell you that there is another Brady who should be on your radar. She is truly the G.O.A.T.
Her name is Karren Brady – the link to her website can be found here.

To say Karren Brady is an amazing woman would be the understatement of the year. Not only is she a self-made success – she is a born leader and exceptional businesswoman with the Midas touch – she is an inspiration and has actually been rated one of the 50 most inspirational people in the world, according to her biography.

That is why I jumped at the opportunity to write a guest post on Karren Brady’s Rules for Success.

Karren Brady’s Rules for Success were originally posted on her blog on October 13, 2015. But, let’s not kid ourselves – although these rules for success are over 2 years old, they are timeless and like red lipstick or a little black dress will never go out of style. Karren Brady’s Rules for Success will forever be the keys to the kingdom.

Now you may be thinking, “I am not a CEO or the president of a company. Heck, I am just a peon. Low man/woman on the totem pole. These rules for success won’t help me, they are for folks who are already successful businesspeople.”

What I like the most about Karren Brady’s Rules for Success is that they are for everyone, regardless of your starting point and these are rules that are to be applied in every aspect of your life. They are not career rules; they are life rules. As a true G.O.A.T., Karren Brady lays out the framework for the life you want to have.

Out of Karren Brady’s 10 rules, there is one that stands out for me personally. It is number 2 on her list, “HAVE CONFIDENCE.” Karren Brady makes an interesting point which I had not thought of and that is that “confidence lies at the root of personality.” It is really about having the strength of will to be who you are and show your true colors. I love that perspective on having confidence.

The importance of having confidence cannot be understated and it is something many of us have to remember to let our je ne sais quoi shine.

Trust me, take the opportunity to learn from the G.O.A.T. whenever you can – just like a quarterback would go to a quarterback’s camp taught by Tom Brady, check out Karren Brady’s Rules for Success to learn her playbook.

You are sitting at your desk working on an important client matter. All of a sudden you get an email from a friend about going to an event over the weekend. Do you continue working and ignore the email? Or, do you stop, read and answer the email and then go back to your work?

I believe the most successful lawyers in 2018 and beyond will be those who are able to stay focused and not be easily distracted. 

Years ago,  I gave a presentation on career success and life fulfillment to 250 Dallas Junior League members I began:

Can any of you tell me the date today?

Several in the audience called out “October 9th.”

I continued: “As you will read in the handout materials, October 9th in 1978 was a defining moment in my life. Our daughter, Jill was born 6 weeks prematurely that day and the Doctors didn’t know if she or my wife Nancy would pull through.

I asked the group.

Why am I taking you back to 1978, other than to remember our daughter’s birthday?

It was easier to have a successful career and a fulfilling life then. It was easier to stay focused on what was important in your career and life.

Think about it, we had no smartphones, no tablets, no text messages, no ATM machines, no email. We didn’t even have computers on our desk. Our assistants were still typing with carbon paper and using white outs to erase. I think our firm may have gotten it’s first IBM mag card typewriter that year.

Our office was very formal. Mr. Martin was the founding partner. I called him Mr. Martin. His assistant was Miss Johnson. I called her Miss Johnson.

It was easier to “be in the moment.” Arguably, in 2018, we have too much abundance, but not nearly enough time to enjoy it. We have too many choices, and not nearly enough help to make the right ones. We have too much technology, and not nearly enough freedom from it.  And, we focus too much on outward success and not nearly enough on inward fulfillment.

I told the group:

Today it is more important than ever to take control of your career and life. Over the next hour I will give you a roadmap on how to do it.

Over the hour that followed, I talked about focusing on priorities in your life and career, being willing to say no to things that are not priorities, putting together a plan that includes career goals and life goals and making time for items on the plan.

So, today I ask: What are you focusing on? Are you really focused, or easily distracted?

Imagine for the moment that I am helping you find the right firm. I want you to go through this exercise:

Describe what makes you different or unique in 25 words or less

I picked this exercise because what makes you unique is a common interview question. If I was interviewing a partner who had a $1 million book of business, I might ask:

Why do your clients hire you?

Where did I get the idea? Years ago I am read a great book on communication titled: “10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators.

Author Carmine Gallo has captured secrets that every lawyer should consider. You should also check out his other books on communication.

Simple secret 6 is brevity. Gallo references “What Clients Love” where Harry Beckworth writes:

If you cannot describe what makes you different and excellent in twenty-five words or less, don’t fix your copy. Fix your company.

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about how clients select lawyers, you might find David Maister’s article: How Clients Choose, valuable.

As you know, I practiced law a long time. I loved most of my work and I loved most of my clients.

Over my years I discovered many lawyers who did not feel the same way. Some knew what they don’t like. Others hadn’t thought about it. Others discovered they did not want to practice law.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin wrote:

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion

To find your passion you must be able to find what intrinsically motivates you. Over the years I came up with 10 questions you can ask yourself to better understand your intrinsic motivation.

  1. Your Law Firm is holding your retirement party. Picture yourself there. The speakers will include a client, a lawyer in town with another firm who has been opposite you in some matters, a young lawyer in your firm, your spouse and one of your children. What would each person say about you?
  2. Imagine you are older and your grandchild asks: “What are you most proud of in your life?” What would you say?
  3. What lawyer do you admire the most and why?
  4. What lawyer is living the life you would most want to live and why?
  5. What lawyer is doing the kind of work you would most like to do and what is that work?
  6. You want people in your firm, or clients to believe you are the “go to person” to_________________.
  7. What is the work you enjoy most as a lawyer? Why?
  8. What client(s) do you enjoy the most and why?
  9. Imagine it is five years from now. Describe your day.
  10. Over the next five years, what do you want to do? What do you want to become? What do you want to earn? What do you want to learn?


Relationships have always been very important to me. They were when I practiced law. They were when I coached lawyers and they are now as I start my new legal recruiting career.

In March, Nancy and I spent a week in San Miguel de Allende with our friends, going all the way back to college. This week we are with them at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, along with another couple who are close friends. Both husbands names are Bob.

So, why do I bring this up?

Bob B’s company was my first contractor client. Bob F’s company was my last. I haven’t practiced law for over 10 years and they are still among my closest friends.

I was likely very naive, but I was always very happy practicing law. I say naive because once I chose to become a lawyer, it never dawned on me that I could be unhappy with that decision.

Why was I happy?

It wasn’t because I could pour over law books and dictate documents, or later in my career sitting in front of a computer researching and typing. I once said:

I hated the law, but I loved being a lawyer.

I was happy because I had the chance to work with and become close friends with wonderful people.

In 2013, I posted a blog: Photographs and Memories: I shared some with you, about our trips to Wisconsin, and our relationship with Harry and Phyllis.

How can you have a successful career and a fulfilling life? I have done some research and what I have discovered over the years that might be helpful.

Some time ago, an article written by Jonathan Clements appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled: Rich, Successful-and Miserable: Research Probes Midlife Angst. I thought this quote from the article described many lawyers I have met:

In middle age, when you are at the peak of your career and you’re having kids, time is your scarce resource,” says David Schkade, professor of management at the University of California at San Diego. “You’re too busy to improve how you feel.”

Experts sometimes refer to this as the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation,” meaning people rapidly adapt to improvements and thus feel no better off. I found this is true of lawyers who never seemed satisfied.

They strived to make partner and then after they made it, they still weren’t happy. They made more money and still didn’t feel they were better off.

What can be done?

Clements points to research suggesting that you can boost happiness by “counting our blessings.” I get that idea.

When I practiced law, I tended to focus on what I had, not what I didn’t have. I am sure that sounds too “touchy-feely” for some. If so, I think his second and third ideas will resonate with you.

Think about how you spend your spare time. Studies suggest that the activities be enriching and challenging. I have lots of spare time now and what I am doing I find enriching and challenging.

What have been my activities?

Recently, I’ve worked out (with goals using my Apple Watch.) I’ve tried to improve my golf game, (with goals to reduce my handicap). I’ve studied Spanish in Dallas, taken a four weeks Spanish immersion course in San Miguel, and studied on my own. Over four years I studied how to write fiction and I wrote a novel, The Billionaire’s Lawyer. (Click on the title to be taken to Amazon.)

Third, research indicates you need to cultivate friends.

As I mentioned above, my clients were (and remain) my friends and my friends were my clients. That made both my work with those clients and our time together outside of work, more enjoyable.

2014 Golf with Bob and Beverly at Diamante Los Cabos 

If you want to get more ideas on friendships and relationships and how they contribute to happiness, take a look at the PBS This Emotional Life: Connection and Happiness. I found the listed characteristics of close relationships valuable. I thought it was a good reminder of the important things in those relationships:

  • The ability to love and be loved
  • Mutual understanding
  • Caring
  • A source of direct help in times of trouble
  • The celebration of good times
  • Validation of self-worth
  • Security
  • A diversity of ideas and influences to help us grow and learn
  • Fun

Nancy and I have experienced each on the list above with our friends Bob and Beverly and Bob and Jean.  Bob B and Bob F were great to have as clients and even more great to call my friends.

P.S. We originally joined Diamanté because it has one of the top golf courses in the world. What we love about it now is the relationships we have made with the staff who work here. They are special.



First, I’m back working. I started last week as a Senior Director at Lateral Link and discovered just how much I have to learn.

I am at the moment the least experienced legal recruiter in the firm, and yet in Spanish Soy el reclutador más viejo. (I am the oldest).

My new business email is cparvin@laterallink.com. Please feel free to use that email to reach out to me. One thing I really like about working with Lateral Link is I will be able to help lawyers and law firms throughout the United States and Canada.

If you know me, you likely can easily figure out why I decided to pursue this opportunity to help connect lawyers and law firms.

  • In many ways, I have the opportunity to continue my coaching when working with a candidate. In many cases, the candidate will need a business plan to convince a firm that he or she will be a great addition to the firm.
  • A recruiter connects lawyers with law firms. I loved connecting the lawyers I coached with one another. Some of those lawyers from different parts of the US and Canada have become great friends.

I’m sure you know, especially if I coached you that I am happy to help you with career or client development advice, so feel comfortable contacting me. I receive calls from lawyers I coached almost every week and it is a great feeling to reconnect with them.

Since I’m a beginner again, I thought about The Beatles. I was in high-school when The Beatles arrived in America from Liverpool and were an instant sensation.

Few know how much work the Beatles did before they took the trip across the Atlantic.

Your efforts to become a rainmaker require that same kind of work.

Some time ago, Seth Godin wrote a Blog titled: “When did the Beatles Become THE Beatles?

Malcolm Gladwell discussed how the Beatles became successful in his book “Outliers” and talked about the Beatles in a short video that will help you grasp the point.

Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell describe that at the beginning, the Beatles were playing two or three long sets a day in a Hamburg club, making a few pounds if they were lucky. The Beatles worked on their music in these clubs for years.

What are you working on now to make yourself more valuable lawyer to your clients?

Godin says that as the Beatles got more traction they were marketing in every direction.

After you have done your homework, then you will work at becoming visible by writing for industry publications and speaking to as many industry groups as possible. Before you get there, consider writing for and speaking to Bar groups. Even though you are not likely to be hired by competing lawyers, this stage will provide opportunities to become a more effective writer and presenter.

Seth Godin says the transition stage was brief but essential. When people started noticing them, the Beatles didn’t stop marketing. Instead, they poured it on. At this point, they shifted from being the chasers into being the chased.

During the transition stage, organizations notice you and ask you to write for their publications or speak at their meetings. That is the time for you to “pour it on” to gain momentum.

After all the years playing in clubs and developing their skills, the Beatles came to America. Seth Godin says that many reach this stage and stop.

When you feel you have “arrived,” have some healthy paranoia. That means continuing to learn, continuing to figure out what impacts your clients and writing and speaking on those subjects. It also means continuing to focus on building relationships with each of your clients and becoming their trusted advisor.

At this stage, the Beatles became THE Beatles and you will become THE Rainmaker, and hopefully, I will become THE Recruiter.

Years ago, I read a great book titled: “Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing Magnetism That Leads to Success” by Tony Alessandra.

In the chapter on vision, Alessandra tells the story of a kindergarten teacher who asked a student what she was drawing:

I’m drawing a picture of God,

the child quickly answered.

But sweetheart,” said the teacher, “no one knows what God looks like.”

The young girl replied:

They will in a minute!

Alessandra notes:

Charismatic people possess a similar, almost childlike faith in their vision and their ability to create change. People will follow leaders (and clients will rely on lawyers) whose vision inspires them and makes their lives more meaningful.

Do you have a clear vision for your future? Do you convey to your clients a clear vision of how you can help them?