I am into my 11th month as a legal recruiter. So, I can’t say I have lots of experience.

However, I may have even more valuable experience. I was heavily recruited for many years and my experience with legal recruiters was not very positive. Most, if not all legal recruiters did not do their homework, and none of them asked great questions. They asked what I was being paid, what my portable book of business was, what my working attorney numbers were, and what my billing rate was.

But, here is a list of questions I can’t remember ever being asked:

  1. What do you want to accomplish during the rest of your career?
  2. When do you want to retire?
  3. Other than compensation what are you looking for from a law firm?
  4. What core values in a law firm are important to you?
  5. How did and how do your clients find you?
  6. What would you like to see a firm do to help you expand your practice?
  7. How many young lawyers are working for you, and do you want them to come with you?
  8. Do you have a written business plan with goals?
  9. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
  10. Other than your book of business, your hard work, and your great personality, is there anything else you have to offer a new firm?

Before I get to the point of this post I want to share a couple of things with you.

First, I had two surgeries in November. The first was an eye muscle surgery, to correct my left eye seeing below the right eye. I now realize why fly balls in the outfield kept bouncing up and down when I played baseball. The eye surgery was a walk in the park compared to the second surgery.

On November 8, my right foot was fused under my big toe because arthritis was so bad there was no joint and I could barely walk. I was humbled by the experience. After the surgery, I felt pain like never before and I have a new appreciation for people who are unable to walk or drive.

Yesterday was my first stand up with a walker shower and today, I will be able for the first time to put 20% weight on my right leg while using a walker. Believe it or not, it’s a little scary.

Ok, my second bit of news is that I have spent the last month in a chair, foot raised with a laptop working on my second novel. It has been an interesting experience. I have been working on this story for four years and have made incredible changes over time. Most recently during my month in the chair, I went back to the first person.

Why am I sharing my novel writing with you? As a favor, I would like for three or four of you to read my draft before I publish it. I still have line editing to do, but I am looking for people who can share if they enjoy reading the story, or suggestions on how I could make it even More interesting. Let me know if you are interested.

Are You an A, B or C Player?

In my career, I worked with dozens of young lawyers, I coached well over 1500 lawyers and I am now helping place lawyers. Interestingly, I am most enjoying placing A Players who have the potential to achieve great things in their career.

Over time, I put lawyers into three main categories: A Players, B Players, and C Players. Let me describe each type because I am willing to bet you fall into one of the three classifications.

C Players

C Players are competent and bright lawyers. They show up about the same time each day and do quality legal work to the best of their ability and they leave at about the same time each day.

For them, being a lawyer is a job and a means to something else in their life. Because they view their work as a job, they do not take responsibility for their careers, they spend very little non-billable time on their career development or on client development.

B Players

B Players are somewhat similar to C Players, except they bill more hours. They work very hard and in some cases burn out prematurely. They focus on what they do rather than what their clients need. They rarely build a team of lawyers working for them because they don’t take time to develop the junior lawyers working with them.

A Players

I was thrilled to have A players in my practice group. I was even more thrilled to coach A players and now help them find the right firm.

A Players have high energy and are extremely motivated. I could tell from their first year that they were future stars. When coaching, I could tell from our first session together they were future stars.

A Players know what they want, take responsibility for their own success and have a plan to achieve their goals. They know when there is a crisis and they pitch in to help without being asked. They have a passion for their work and their clients. Finally, they strive each and every day to become a better lawyer and be more responsive to their clients’ needs

So, which description best fits you?

It was 2003, and I was having a record year. Near the end of the year, two large international law firms with Dallas offices offered me far greater compensation than I was making at my firm.

The difference was significant enough that many lawyers would have jumped to one of the firms just based on the increased compensation. I didn’t. I stayed with my firm one more year and then left to coach lawyers full-time.

I read recently that in a study of lateral partners barely more than half (52.8 %) responded they were “very satisfied” with their new firm. Based on my experience, I believe the laterals who were not “very satisfied” did not know enough about their new firm before making the change.

Lateral partner recruits: How much do you know about the firm that is about to make you an offer? What should you know?

Having been heavily recruited when I practiced law, I came up with questions I wanted to be answered from firms that wanted to make me an offer.  Here are some of those questions:

  1. May I review the firm’s partnership (shareholder) agreement?
  2. How would you describe the firm’s core values?
  3. Does the firm have a strategic plan?
  4. What are your expectations for partners? Associates?
  5. How do you hold your lawyers accountable for what is in the plan?
  6. Does the firm have a marketing plan and a marketing budget?
  7. How does the firm encourage lawyers to engage in client development efforts?
  8. Are associates encouraged to help with client development?
  9. Do your partners have a written business plan with goals?
  10. Do your associates have a development plan or some kind of plan for their non-billable time?
  11. Do you have a plan for cross-selling and expanding relationships with existing clients?
  12. How do you encourage partners to help develop your next generation of successful lawyers?
  13. What is the retention rate for partners?
  14. What is the retention rate for associates?
  15. Does the firm have any debt?
  16. May I see the firm’s financial statements for the last three years?
  17. What is your plan to successfully integrate me into the firm?
  18. How many total number of clients does the firm have, and what percentage of the firm’s business is coming from the top ten clients?

When I was busy practicing law, there came a time when I had an Ah Ha Moment. It was the day I discovered that some of the lawyers who were working for me were pessimists who were not very motivated to succeed. It seems obvious now, but at the time I was surprised.

If you have read my recent posts, you know that when I coached lawyers, I frequently told firm leaders I could not help pessimists or unmotivated lawyers.

Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I have been asked how I can tell if a lawyer I am helping is optimistic and motivated. It’s really pretty simple. I listen to the lawyer.

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “Yes, but…                     Motivated Optimists Say: “Sure how…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “My problem is…          Motivated Optimists Say: “My opportunity is…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I need to…”                  Motivated Optimists Say: “I want to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I will try my best…”      Motivated Optimists Say: “I will achieve…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: “I can’t find time to…”   Motivated Optimists Say: “I will make time to…”

Less Motivated Pessimists Say: ” I want realistic goals” Motivated Optimists Say: “I want goals that challenge me”

I’m sure you know that I gave many presentations about career success and life fulfillment. If you are interested in taking a look at one of them, check out: Secrets to Career Success and Fulfillment. 

 

A friend of mine recently asked me what has been my biggest surprise since starting my legal recruiting efforts in January.

I thought about it for a very short time. Then I said:

My biggest surprise is how much more money I would have made at some well known regional or mid-sized firms.

Why? I guess there are two reasons.

  1. Lower overhead
  2. Fewer senior lawyers on cruise control making lots of money, but not really working very hard.

I was never motivated by money, (if I had been I would have never left my law firm), but looking back now making more money at the pinnacle of my career would have certainly made Nancy and me more secure at this point.

When I was coaching lawyers, I got to know a great deal about each law firm where I coached. I was extremely impressed with many firms that I doubt I would have considered during my rising career. I really didn’t know much about those firms and now I do.

Suppose you came to me seeking to join a new law firm. And, suppose during our discussion I asked:

What can you tell me about your career and life habits?

Years ago I read Jack Canfield’s book: “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”

In the book he reports that psychologists tell us that 90% of our behavior is habitual. I absolutely agree based on my own experience. If that is true, what are your habits? Are they contributing to your success?

If you are interested in Canfield’s list of principles you can find it here.

Canfield begins Principle 35 with a quote from Ken Blanchard.

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

That’s a powerful stuff.

For years I was committed to my personal fitness. I woke up the same time every morning and went to the fitness club.

Lately, I have only been interested, but not committed, in my physical fitness. I can find many excuses for not working out. Needless to say, working out is no longer part of my daily habits and I am not feeling as well as when it was.

What are your commitments? Are you committed to becoming a better lawyer? Are you committed to providing extraordinary service to your clients? Are you committed to making client development efforts part of your every day habits?

I have been thinking about what the most important habits lawyers should have if 90% of our behavior is habitual. I am considering writing a book describing these habits and why they are important. Here are the habits I believe are important:

  1. Healthy eating and regular exercise
  2. Positive self-talk and attitude
  3. Focus on learning and becoming a better lawyer
  4. Goal setting
  5. Planning non-billable time and using it wisely
  6. Focus on relationships
  7. Understanding client needs
  8. Extraordinary client service
  9. Leading, supervising, delegating and motivating lawyers and staff
  10. Making and keeping commitments

I plan to blog further on habits. Stay tuned if you are interested.

In my new role as a legal recruiter, the first question law firms ask when considering partner candidates is:

Does he/she have clients? (Code for what is the amount of his/her portable business?)

In my role as a recruiter, more often than not I am not placing the lawyers who have $1 million or more in portable business. More often I am placing lawyers who have the potential to have $1 million in business.

So this post is aimed at those lawyers and at the firms that might consider them.

I recently read Jim Connelly’s Marketing blog post: You have no clients. Seriously. Not even one!

Connelly wrote:

Once you’ve earned someone’s custom, trust or attention, it’s just the beginning. If you want to retain their custom, trust and attention, you then need to keep on re-earning it. The moment you begin to think otherwise, you risk becoming complacent.

To put it in lawyer-client terms, Connelly is suggesting that you not focus on obtaining the client, but instead focus on developing the relationship.

I suspect that a natural question may be how do you develop relationships with potential clients and referral sources.

I have always suggested that it was about building trust and rapport. I believe that building trust means demonstrating you are the right lawyer for the legal matter. I believe building rapport means you demonstrate you genuinely care about the person and become interested in him or her beyond the work.

With my own ideas in mind, I went searching for a how-to article/blog post. I found a 2017 Forbes article titled: How To Build Strong Business Relationships. The first thing that struck me was the results of a study:

An essential part of business success is having a strong network. In fact, a Harvard study found that 85% of professional success comes from people skills.

I’m just curious:

  1. What is your firm doing to improve the people skills of your lawyers?
  2. If your firm is doing nothing, what are you doing?

I coached Shawn Tuma in 2011. Back then I thought Shawn was the most innovative lawyer I had coached.

Shawn recently joined Spencer Fane where he is co-chair of the firm’s data privacy group. I spoke with him recently and discovered that over the last several months he had done many interviews and over next month he had several additional TV and radio interviews scheduled.

Here is a link to one of his interviews.

How did Shawn get these opportunities?

Put simply, he has built his practice using the social media tools available to all of you. I checked the morning I wrote this and he had 9998 followers on Twitter, just two short of 10,000. I’m betting he has over 10,000 as you are reading this.

If I was hiring lawyers for my law firm, I would prefer to hire lawyers who are on the cutting edge of reaching clients and potential clients. But, how many of those lawyers are there?

Lawyers and law firms are so slow to change. Some time ago I was doing research on change and I found these statistics:

Five  kinds of attitudes about change:

  1. Early innovators (2.6%), run with new ideas
  2. Early adaptors (13.4%), influenced by (1) but not initiators
  3. Slow Majority (34%), the herd-followers
  4. Reluctant Majority (34%)
  5. Antagonistic (16%), they will never change

You might think these statistics were collected in 2018. In fact, these statistics came from the clerk of Abbington Presbytery, outside of Philadelphia, over 100 years ago.

There have been more changes in the way you practice law and do client development in the last 18 years than in the 29 years I practiced law before that. Think about these changes that just cover connecting and staying in touch:

 

  • Smartphones and other mobile devices to stay in touch
  • Email alerts
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Skype

Which category of attitude about change describes the lawyers your firm is hiring?

 

 

Have you ever received an offer you thought was just too good to be true? If you have there’s probably a good chance it is.

Now that I am putting together lawyers who want to change firms with firms I know and trust, I am reminded of the time when I was the leader of a group of lawyers ready to leave Jenkens & Gilchrist at the end of 2003. I won’t bore you with the history other than to tell you the firm closed its doors March 31, 2007.

Our group was heavily recruited by two mega international law firms seeking to create a greater presence in Dallas. (Now it seems every big firm wants a Dallas office.) I was offered $250,000 more than I was making by one of the firms and I was offered $150,000 more than I was making by the other firm. These offers were too good to be true…

I can’t remember if I thought the offers were based on my legal talent and the clients I would bring with me. Looking back now, I realize the offers took into account that neither firm would have to pay a consultant or recruiter for putting together the deal. I was the recruiter/consultant and my value to either firm was that I was bringing with me so many rainmakers.

If you ever receive an offer that seems really great, before accepting it figure out what’s behind the offer. Oh, also make sure to find out how long you will receive that compensation before any “adjustments.”

 

If you called me and told me you were thinking about changing law firms and wanted my help, after learning more about you, what do you suppose I might ask?

“Do you have a written plan with goals?”

Why do you suppose I think you should have a plan?

Any law firm that might consider you will want to have some sense of your past performance and even a greater sense of how you see your future.

But, even if you are happy at your current firm, I strongly suggest you prepare a written plan with goals. If you do, you will take control of your future. In addition, if your plan and written goals are focused on something you truly value, you will feel energized, committed and disciplined to achieve it. Finally, having a plan enables you to best use your two most important resources-your time and your energy.

To not plan is to risk what Yogi Berra once said:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end up somewhere else.”

I learned early in my career that without a focus, I could easily get distracted So, it was important to me, to not only know where I was going but also to have a map to show me if I was on course for my destination. If I had not identified what I wanted in my future and charted a written course, I would not have had the discipline to take the actions necessary to get there.

When I speak to lawyers on planning, I share ideas from the first three habits in Dr. Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Dr. Covey’s first three habits are:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First

What do these habits mean to your law career? First, being proactive means that each of you is responsible for your own career. Where you are now in your career is a product of the cards you were dealt and the decisions you have made to date. Where you go from here is up to you. Your firm can help, but you are the one who is ultimately responsible.

Beginning with the end in mind means you must have some idea of what you want to accomplish and what you to become as a lawyer in the future. In planning your career you must have a vision of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish.

Putting first things first means establishing priorities. You can’t do it all. You have to make choices.

Your plan will be of little value if it is not implemented. So how can you hold yourself accountable?

  1. I suggest you break down your plan into 90 Days Goals. Make a list of what you want to do the next 90 days.
  2. Get a colleague in your firm or a friend and share your plans and 90 Days Goals with each other.
  3. Plan each week by listing what you plan to do, estimating how much time it will take and put it on your calendar.

If you take my suggestions to heart, you will be a better candidate for any law firm, and I promise you will make your career more rewarding.