Some law firms are only looking for lawyers with over $1 Million, or more, in business. Many mid-sized firms are looking for lawyers who give their personal best and are capable of attracting $1 Million, or more, in business. I prefer to work with those firms and those lawyers.

Are you someone who wants to give your personal best to client development as you have done to other aspects of your career and personal life?

If so, how can you know if you are giving your personal best?

Here’s my thought: A defining ability is the willingness to get outside your comfort zone to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you are emotionally comfortable, it keeps you from being as creative as you might be.

I owed a great deal of the success and enjoyment of my law practice to being creative and willing to take risks and believing I could achieve a stretch goal.

If you can make it to the edge of your personal or professional abilities, then you know you are giving your personal best. Hope this helps.

A lawyer I am helping find a firm asked me a question I know is a common one.

“We hear all the time that we need to reach out to our clients. Pick up the phone, email, etc. I often find that I am hesitant in doing so when it’s not related to an ongoing piece of work.

The question is…

‘What do I say?’ I feel silly calling to just say hello.” What are some talking points I can use during these ‘casual’ catch-up conversations?

Here are some ideas: Unless a reason exists for the contact either:

  1. By circumstance ~ something reminded you of the client, their child, something they care about.
  2. By you ~ you track their press, their company/industry data or something they care about.

Be real and tell the truth.

Hi, we haven’t talked in a while, so I thought I’d call and see what’s new/how you’re doing/how things are going.

And then ask:

What’s new? How are you doing? How’s it going?

The subtle difference is that you are asking for direct feedback, as opposed to just saying “hello” or “just calling to catch up with you,” which might not start a conversation.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re developing your relationship, not your sales pitch. That should take some pressure off. And if you’re not already, you should be putting systems in place to create reasons for you to follow up like those mentioned above. Then it’s a non-issue.

The key is to genuinely care. That way, whether you have a reason or not, you’re authentic. So put a smile on your face and pick up the phone. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

When I was coaching lawyers I was frequently asked for my top tip on attracting new clients. Over the last year, while I have been recruiting lawyers, I’ve been asked the same question. Put simply, my answer is:

You want to increase the number of “weak ties” who influence your target market and know what you can do to help those potential clients.

I’m a big believer of the “6 degrees of separation.” Click on the link to learn more about the concept.

While we were at Diamante Los Cabos in December, I introduced a young real estate executive I know to a very successful Virginia Tech grad. My fellow Virginia Tech grad has a huge network of friends. Now, the young real estate executive may get to meet people in that network.

Lawyers I coached over the years know I introduced them to other lawyers I coached and to people I know. Those connections were “weak ties,” and in many cases, one lawyer referred business to another lawyer.

Do you know what “weak ties” are? You can read the science behind it here: The Strength of Weak Ties. My simple definition is:

Contacts that are not in your inner circle of family and friends.

I owe the success I experienced in my legal career to recommendations by “weak ties.” My most important client found me in 1984 when a government lawyer with whom I had spent three hours on a panel recommended me to handle a matter on the subject of my presentation.

How do you increase the number of “weak ties” who know what you know? You need a strategy aimed at giving them a greater opportunity to find you.

I suggest you create content they will value and find important. More specifically, I suggest you provide information your target market does not know and needs to know.

Once you create the valuable content, use the platforms where your “weak ties”  hang out to publish and distribute it. Those platforms might be social media sites, or it might not be.


  • Who is in your target market?
  • Who influences them?
  • What does your target market need to know right now?
  • What platforms can you use to get the answer to the target market and their influencers?

I was admitted to the hospital on Monday, December 31, New Year’s Eve. It was an emergency, and all began when my doctor’s professional assistant agreed to see me without an appointment and after everyone else had gone home. She took one look, took a culture and sent me directly to the hospital.

Now, a week later we are still working on taking care of the emergency that sent me to the hospital. It will be a long haul.

I have never been in the hospital for five days. I have never been in the hospital on a holiday. I have never been in the hospital where caregivers were racing against the clock trying to determine exactly what had attacked my body, weeks after surgery, and then figure out how to get rid of it.

The nurses and patient care specialists taught me more than I expected. There is a difference between patient care and caring for patients.

TAKING CARE OF PATIENTS emphasizes objective, professional care, such as the medical and psychological aspects of nursing. CARING FOR PATIENTS, on the other hand, is a humanistic way of interacting with patients that demonstrates sincere care and concern for patients simply because they are human beings.

If any of this interests you, I urge you to read: Nurses’ Compassionate Care Affects Patient Outcomes.I found many quotes: Here is one:

“Patients want to feel cared for and listened to and [whether they feel that way] is based on the actions of the nurses,” said Kelly Hancock, RN, MSN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “It begins with nurses providing compassionate, patient-centered care.”

The nurses and the patient care team took care of me 24/7. More importantly, they each cared for me. I could see it in their eyes.

Are you taking care of your clients, or caring for your clients? Hopefully, you are doing both.


It was late fall 2001. The internet bubble had burst. A stock I owned that had traded at a record $130 per share was on it way to single digits where it remains today. I foolishly bought shares all the way down.

I remember a conversation with our law firm’s financial officer. He told me and a member of our board that based on hours the lawyers were producing, we had 38 lawyers more than we had work available for them to do. Each month that fall, our firm leaders found other ways for us to cut expenses, I tried to suggest we focus on increasing revenue, but my suggestion was never considered.

Think about your own firm. Whether it is a very large firm or only 3-4 lawyers, what would happen if you were able to increase revenue by 15%? I thought of this idea again when I read Seth Godin’s blog post several years ago, 15% Changes Everything. In a law firm, a 15% decline in revenue or a 15% increase in revenue really does change everything.

How can your firm increase revenue by 15%?

  1. Get your highest producers together quarterly and come up with an action plan for them to implement.
  2. Create a client development coaching program for your junior partners/senior associates to get them more focused on client development.
  3. Get each of your lawyers to prepare a business plan for their non-billable time. If you would like a template, click here.
  4. Create a Cross-Serving Plan.
  5. Get each of your practice groups to prepare a plan. In my old firm, we created “Targeted Differentiators.”.

I loved practicing law in law firms. Then I loved coaching lawyers. Now I love recruiting lawyers, in large part because I am still coaching in the recruiting process.

As you may remember, I graduated from law school, passed the bar exam and was admitted to practice law in 1971. Plenty has changed since I started practicing law in 1971, but I know one thing that has not.

The key to success in private practice with a law firm is the ability to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Many of you became lawyers, less because of loving”the law” and more because you could use your knowledge and skills to help your clients achieve their goals.

If attracting, retaining and expanding relationships with clients motivates lawyers, why aren’t more lawyers doing what it takes to have that opportunity?

As you know, several years ago I wrote a book titled: “Prepare to Win.”  It is available from us, Amazon and is available for your Kindle, Nook or iPad.

Screenshot 2015-08-02 09.44.27

I picked the title based on a quote I had seen many times attributed to various famous coaches.

The essence of the quote is:

Many have the will to win, but only a few have the will to prepare to win.

I encourage you to read my book. Many lawyers have the will to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, but only a few have the will to do the hard work that leads to getting, retaining and building relationships with clients.

How many lawyers in your firm have a written plan including goals and a method of holding themselves accountable? Do you have one?

How many lawyers in your firm are making a concerted effort to build their profile or build relationships? Are you?

Regardless of your law school, your class rank, your family situation, your age, your firm, your boss, your firm’s clients, you and only you are responsible for your success and only you can define what success is for you.

Over time you will also have to inspire yourself, motivate yourself, hold yourself accountable, stick with it when it is challenging and pick yourself up when things do not go as you had hoped. But, if I have coached you, then you know that encouragement at the right time is also helpful.

I was thinking about my work with lawyers years ago when I read Forbes article: The 3 Most Powerful Ways To Change People Who Don’t Want To Change,

If we worked together you might notice some things in the article that we did in our coaching sessions. I encourage you to read the article and think back to our time together. If anything you read resonates with you, drop me a note.

When I worked with lawyers in my old firm, I learned a very important lesson. I could make an inspiring presentation on career and client development. But, if it was a one-shot program, very few lawyers changed. That was the reason I started coaching.

What will it take for you to win in 2019?

A friend of mine reminded me of a riddle:

When was the last time a lawyer could be successful in a law firm without having clients?

His response was:

When Houston had a football team called the Houston Oilers.

Having watched the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Houston team that moved to Tennessee, I could have said: The last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. That was actually the year before the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

I recently discovered that several of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on recruiting associates. I am reposting this blog with some edits to update for those recruiters and the associates with whom they work. But, if you are a law firm associate this is also for you, and if you work with associates, I hope you will share it with them.

If you read the entire post, you will find that it includes slides from a presentation I did for senior associates and slides from a presentation I did for junior associates. I hope to also include handouts I gave for those presentations.

In a podcast interview with Dallas lawyer Tricia DeLeon, I asked: What is One Piece of Advice for Young Lawyers? When you listen you will hear her say “start your client development efforts now”. 

Are you an associate in your firm? Have you begun learning about client development and implementing what you are learning? Does your firm have a program on client development for associates?

Every partner I coach tells me they wish I had coached them earlier in their career. The time to learn, to practice and to ramp up client development activities is significant. By the time you are eligible to be promoted to partner, your firm leaders expect you to have the skills to attain, retain and expand relationships with clients.

I gave presentations for Junior Associates and Senior Associates on client development. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Junior Associates for the Junior Associate slides. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Senior Associates for the Senior Associate slides. Here is the handout for Junior Associates.  Here is the handout for Senior Associates.

I am frequently asked for ideas for these two groups. Here are a few.

Junior Associates:

  • Focus on learning your legal skills
  • Treat your supervising partner like a client
  • Make a list of 50 people you know who you think will be successful in the future and stay in contact with them
  • Each time you work on a project do research on the client’s industry
  • Get to know client’s business by reviewing the company website and setting up Google Alerts on the client
  • Develop a system to remember names
  • Develop a plan with written goals
  • Send hand written notes to contacts
  • Dress for success

Senior Associates:

  • Find a client development mentor
  • If the firm has blogs, contribute posts
  • Practice public speaking in front of groups
  • Become visible in the firm
  • Visit other offices if your firm has more than one
  • Start to think about a niche
  • Find a sub niche within the niche
  • Consider working toward leadership positions in bar associations
  • Be a mentor for a junior lawyer
  • Join industry organizations your clients belong to and go to the meetings
  • Read industry publications your clients read
  • Create a business plan with goals
  • If it is appropriate to help develop your practice, be active in your community
  • Get outside your comfort zone

Law Firms: When was the last time your law firm did any kind of program to help associates get started on learning and practicing good client development habits?

Associates: Take my word, if you start learning client development skills now, you will enjoy your career more in the future. I did it and had a blast practicing law.

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.


I am making my Video Coaching Series available for free for the first time. If you want to learn about client development and get off to a great start in 2019, I urge you to watch the series and before you start, download the Client Development Participants Guide that you will want to use to get the most out of the program or contact me at and I will send you a copy.

When I was a young lawyer, I learned about client development by the seat of my pants and trial and error. It all worked out for me in the end, but looking back now I think about how much time I could have saved if I had some coaching at the beginning.

As you likely know, I coached close to 1800 lawyers in the United States and Canada, in big firms, medium-sized firms, and small firms. In my 13 years, I learned that I could not coach the unmotivated lawyers. I told two law firms that they were wasting their money on the lawyers they had selected for me to coach.

I worked with one law firm and the first group of lawyers I coached set a goal of doubling the fees the group originated in two years. They doubled originations in one year and tripled originations in two years.

Their success led to the second group of lawyers who started with double the amount of fees originated of the first group. They doubled their originations in two years. For the third group, firm leaders asked office managing partners and practice group leaders to select lawyers who “needed coaching.” It was a disaster. I can’t coach lawyers who “need coaching.”

When I was being considered by one large law firm, I met with the firm’s management committee members who were located in the home office. One member asked me to describe the type of lawyer I wanted to coach. I said I wanted to coach lawyers who were like Tiger Woods.

The member who asked the question laughed and said: Tiger Woods doesn’t need a coach. I replied, leave aside the fact he has several coaches, I wasn’t describing ability, I was describing his burning desire to constantly get better and his work each and every day to that end.

So, if you are not motivated, or you really “need coaching” you won’t likely gain much from the videos and workbook.

On the other hand, if you have that burning desire to get better and are willing to work at it each and every day, download the Participant’s Guide with the link in the first paragraph and here is the link to the videos.

A lawyer I coached recently reached out to me and asked that I help her make a change. One of the first questions I asked her took her by surprise. My question:

Why are you practicing law?

Have you ever heard of Simon Sinek? He created a simple model of the Golden Circles and the idea to: Start with Why. If you get a chance watch the Ted video on his page.

He actually mentions lawyers and law firms in his presentation and shares that successful enterprises, like Apple start with why. He says:

Most computer companies start by telling you they make great products. Apple does the opposite. It starts by telling you why it makes computers.

Substitute law firms for computer companies and provide outstanding legal services to make great products and you have what most law firms are selling.  His idea is consistent with what I have taught for lawyers, except he adds one more point, which I paraphrase:

Clients don’t buy what you do. Clients buy why you do it.

When I practiced construction law, there came a time I changed my focus from what I was doing to how what I was doing benefitted my contractor clients. My purpose practicing law was to enable my clients to build magnificent projects safely and profitably.

Later, when I worked with associates in my firm, I suggested they answer these questions:

  • Why did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer?
  • Why do you want to be a lawyer now?
  • Who is the lawyer you admire most and why do you admire that lawyer?
  • How would you define your own career success and when will you know you have achieved it?
  • What values are most important to you?
  • What do you want to be working on and for whom five years from now?

In a presentation I gave to the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) members, I talked about finding your purpose. Take a look at this video clip.

If you know what your purpose is being a lawyer, you will be a greater value to your clients. Like Apple, you will also do a better job marketing yourself.