I feel I was very fortunate to have built a construction law practice that enabled me to work with some of the finest construction companies in the United States.

I remember when I was an associate, one of the partners in my firm said to me:

Cordell, any firm can hire smart lawyers. They graduate from law school every year. Firms are looking for smart lawyers who have a confidence inspiring personality.Those lawyers will over time develop and expand relationships with clients.

That conversation taught me that if I was just a smart lawyer I was expendable. On the other hand, if over time I was able to develop and expand relationships with clients, I would have the greatest asset a lawyer can have. I almost immediately began focusing on how to become more valuable to clients.

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 10.36.30 AM

I have spent many years trying to better understand what distinguishes the most successful lawyers. Successful lawyers I know have many characteristics, but virtually no one has all of those characteristics. Successful lawyers are:

  1. Big picture thinkers. They are better able to see the big picture of how the legal work fits into their clients’ business.
  2. Client focused. They are more interested in helping their clients than they are getting legal work.
  3. Internally driven to succeed and develop.
  4. Patient and resilient. They know building a book of business takes time and they are not afraid to fail or be told “no.”
  5. Not content. They are always learning and becoming better lawyers.
  6. Likeable. They make clients out of friends and friends out of clients.
  7. Authentic and trustworthy. They are comfortable in their own skin.
  8. Thoughtful about how to let people know they care and doing things for people that will help them.
  9. Team builders. They know how to delegate, supervise and build teams.
  10. Active. They are frequently “out there” doing stuff in the community or for the Bar.
  11. High energy. They are able to go the extra mile when others are not.
  12. Risk takers. They are willing to get outside their comfort zone.
  13. Optimistic. They believe in themselves and their ability to take care of their clients’ needs.
  14. Quick reads. They figure out quickly what clients want or need.
  15. Confidence inspiring. They convey to their clients that they truly understand and can take care of the client’s problems.
  16. Unique. They have a “UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION”.

Which of these attributes do you have? What will you do in 2009 to develop the other attributes?