“Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.”

I loved this quote when I first read  Seth Godin’s at book: The Dip.

What does it mean to be “the best in the world?”

First, it is being perceived as the best by your clients and potential clients. You can not become the best until you clearly understand their perceptions, and they know you understand them.

It is their world, not yours. Being the best also means clients have compared you to other lawyers they have used or met. I’ve found that comparison very interesting.

I have told this story here several times. When I was a young lawyer, I was on a plane with Mr. Burrows, the CEO of my largest client. We were on our way to Florida to try and settle a big contract dispute.

Mr. Burrows was my father’s age and since my father had passed away, I looked at him as a father figure. Mr Burrows passed away a couple of years ago and I still think about how he influenced my career.

We were in aisle seats across from each other.


During the flight, Mr. Burrows reached over and grabbed my arm and said:

“Cordell, there is something I need for you to know. I hate every lawyer I have ever met.”

I could not think of a response. Then, Mr. Burrows grabbed my arm a second time and said:

“But, of all the lawyers I hate, I hate you the least.”

So, on that day I learned that being hated the least by a contractor was “being the best in the world.”

Later, after we had settled the case, I paused to think about what Mr. Burrows was really telling me.

I think he hated me the least because I didn’t talk like a lawyer. I talked more like a contractor who also had a legal degree.

He appreciated that he did not have to pay me to learn about the highway construction contract clauses. I had learned about them long before I did any work for his company.

I also learned that clients expect us to do the highest quality work. If we don’t, we have a far bigger problem.

Where you can differentiate yourself is through being the best in your client’s world at understanding them, their company, and their business (industry).

What are you doing to become “the best in the world” in the eyes of your clients?