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.

Someone recently asked what kind of lawyers I hoped to recruit. I believe the person wanted to know what practice areas, what locations, whether I wanted to recruit associates or partners.

I answered that I want to recruit lawyers who are hungry and dreaming big dreams about what they can become.

A few years ago Sherman Smith posted a blog: You Got To Be Hungry!!!. He began the post with three great questions:

  1. How HUNGRY are you in order for you to have longevity in your business?
  2. What are you willing to give up in order to achieve success?
  3. Are you unsatisfied with how things are and want to make a change for the better?

How hungry are you to become a successful lawyer with clients who appreciate your help?

If you are really hungry to learn, I can assure you from experience that nothing is more fun professionally than figuring out how you can be a more valuable lawyer and better serve your clients.

You are looking to make a change. Your law firm has a brand. Maybe the senior lawyer you work for has a brand, but do you have a brand? I wouldn’t ask the question that way. Instead, I might ask:

What makes you different (and better) than the dozens or hundreds of lawyer in your practice area?

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi is a book I have recommended to lawyers for many years.

In chapter 23, Ferrazzi talks about building your brand. He argues that perception drives reality. He further suggests that good personal brands do three highly significant things for your network of contacts:

They provide a credible, distinctive, and trustworthy identity. They project a compelling message. They attract more and more people to you and your cause, as you’ll stand out in an increasing cluttered world.” Then, Ferrazzi says: “in terms of branding, then the bottom line for everyone comes down to a choice: to be distinct or extinct.

You might also find some great ideas in The Personal Branding Blog. In this post, the writer focused on building your brand by giving using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and off-line networking. Take a look at it and write how you might apply the ideas to build your brand as a lawyer.

How can you be distinct and build a brand? If you are a long time reader you know that I believe a powerful way you can build a brand and approach a potential client without an invitation is to be intently focused on finding a way to understand your client’s industry and business, identify their problems and give away a solution.

In my day, I gave away solutions in books, articles, presentations, and workshops. Fortunately for you, today you can brand yourself using blogs, podcasts, webinars, and posting your ideas and solutions on social media websites.

What can I tell a law firm about you?

When I was at the top of my legal career and the word was spreading that Jenkens & Gilchrist was in trouble, I received more than one call a week from legal recruiters. I’m sad to say that I was pretty turned off by those calls.


  1. They were cold calls
  2. The recruiter didn’t know me.
  3. The recruiter didn’t ask me questions to get to know me.

The legal recruiters may have looked at my website bio, and someone must have told them I had lots of business, but they didn’t know anything else about me,…and they didn’t ask to learn more about me.

So, you might ask, why did I decide to become a recruiter? I would ask that same question, so I get it.

To me recruiting is an extension of the work I did coaching lawyers. When I coached lawyers before our first meeting I sent out questions as a starting point to get to know the lawyer. When we met for the first time, I started by asking questions about the lawyer’s family, his or her interests outside of practicing law and what the lawyer hoped to achieve in our work together.

I loved practicing law. I enjoyed my clients and my work. But, I only worked for a few clients. I coached over 1500 lawyers. While my compensation was a fraction of what I made practicing law, my joy in personally witnessing the lawyers succeeding made up for it.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a lawyer I coached over 10 years ago. When we first started working together she was generating $200,000 in originations. In her email, she shared with me that in her firm’s last fiscal year she had generated over $4 million in originations.

She gave me too much of the credit in her email. She was a superstar before I ever met her. I think I just helped her realize that.

So, what does this have to do with my current work recruiting lawyers for law firms?

I am working for a great, well-known firm, Lateral Link. I’m surrounded by talented people who genuinely care about the lawyers who are candidates and the law firms with whom they work. They take the time the recruiters who recruited me did not take.

When I coached lawyers in the US and Canada I worked with some really great firms. I know the culture of those firms. I worked with some really outstanding lawyers. I got to know what they wanted in their career. Recruiting for me is putting together law firms with lawyers who will succeed and help the firm succeed.

Some time ago I read an article titled: “The Big Secret to Success in Anything You Do.” The secret: the ability to concentrate.

In other words, the ability to focus all of your mental powers on one important task until that task is completed and completed well.

When I was a younger lawyer it was really easy to stay focused on the work I was doing for a client. That was before I had a computer at my desk, received 200 plus emails a day and had a Blackberry to make sure I could stay connected 24/7.

I was on a team at our firm trying out the first Blackberries. My first one was quite small about the size of a pager. I remember thinking how incredibly cool it was when I received an email from a client while eating dinner with our daughter. My client was amazed I was at work so late. Little did he know.

When I first docked my new Blackberry to my computer,  I remember working at my desk and hearing a buzz from my docked Blackberry signaling the arrival of a new email. I frequently turned my head to the computer screen, read the summary and then frequently read the entire email and responded. Does that sound familiar?

You likely experience being in the zone occasionally. I certainly experienced it when in court trying a case. The most successful lawyers experience it every day and you should strive to achieve it every day.

How can you experience the lawyer equivalent of being in the zone? I love a quote from Peter Drucker:

What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.

How to be focused is relatively simple. First, get your mind focused on your clients. When you put yourself in their world, you will be better able to anticipate your clients’ needs before they have expressed them. You can really differentiate yourself from other lawyers when you are looking ahead in that way.

Second, stay focused on the work you are doing for the client. To be focused on your work, you have to stop doing several things at the same time, like opening emails and responding, or chatting with someone who interrupts you.

If staying focused is a challenge for you, come up with a system that will work for you.

To get more ideas, read the US News and World Report article about David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” and if you haven’t read the book do so.

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.



Now that I am a recruiter, I can make judgments on candidates for law firms that might be more persuasive than my judgments were when I practiced law.

One summer I was given the task of getting to know our Dallas summer associates and recommending which ones to hire. Although I was busy, I took my task seriously and I took each one to lunch, hosted a summer associate in-home dinner, and I looked over some of their work. When it came time to offer associate jobs, firm leaders ignored my recommendations and offered jobs almost exclusively based on class-rank and the prestige of their law school.

While those criteria were important, I didn’t believe they gave us as good an indicator of the students’ future success. How was I looking at it differently and why?

Psychologists have found that in the workplace, emotional intelligence is an 85 percent predictor of employee success, as opposed to only 15 percent for IQ.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence, made popular by Daniel Goleman, who wrote a bestselling book by the same name, was conceived in the mid-1990’s as the ability to perceive, access, generate, and reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is essentially the measure of someone’s skills, which Goleman says can be more critical to success than IQ.

A person’s level of emotional intelligence is not dependent on his or her innate personality. In other words, a person who is introverted could have a high emotional intelligence.

Mitch Anthony, author of Selling With Emotional Intelligence tells the story of a best-in-nation mutual fund salesman who almost didn’t get hired because he failed a personality assessment. The company wanted results-driven, high-energy go-getters.

“But, he was soft-spoken, more of an analyzer and togetherness personality,” Anthony says. The man convinced managers he could be successful, telling them, “I may not have that rah-rah personality, but I build relationships and am good at servicing clients.” Within three or four years, he was the number one producer in the country.

So, if personality alone is not an indicator of selling success, what characteristics of emotional intelligence do rainmakers share? Anthony says there are five traits that are common to the top salespeople in any profession.

1. Optimism
Optimistic people are generally more pleasant to be around than their gloomy counterparts, so clients are attracted to lawyers who are upbeat. Lawyers may be trained to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, but the ones who exude confidence will retain and attract more business.

2. Resilience
Anthony calls resilience the “spinal column” of emotional intelligence in sales. It’s the ability to hear 15 “no’s” before you get a “yes.” In law practice, winning a client can be a matter of timing. Some relationships take awhile to develop, and the needs of clients change. The business owner who didn’t need your services in January might feel differently in June or October, and you will be remembered favorably if you’ve kept in touch during the intervening months.

3. Self-Motivation
Some experts say self-motivation is difficult to teach, and this may be true when it comes to reaching external goals like a sales quota or billable hours. But everyone has a desire to meet personally devised goals that really matter to them. If you take responsibility for your future, designing an action plan with your goals in mind, your internal motivation will propel you to meet those goals. You will also attract the clients whose needs are aligned with yours.

4. Personability
Clients gravitate to lawyers they like. A friendly, sociable associate will attract more clients than a surly lawyer who finds meeting people an unpleasant chore. Although some people may be naturally more outgoing than others, anyone can improve their social skills through coaching or simply observing

5. Empathy
This is the underpinning of all emotional intelligence skills. Using emotional radar to discern what makes a person “tick” is essential. If you’re a good listener, if you study body language, and if you communicate well, you’re an empathic person. In Myers Briggs tests, the vast majority of lawyers are thinkers rather than feelers. For this group, listening and trying to see the world from the client’s perspective is even more important.

So, is your firm like my old firm and focused only on class rank and quality of a candidate’s law school. or are you thinking more long term and seeking to determine the EQ of your candidates?

In this post, I try to answer the question, what is possibly the best firm for you if you are looking for a change. If you are busy and want my idea right away skip to the bottom. Otherwise, here is some background information from my experience.

In 1976, when I left the United States Air Force after spending four years and eight months on active duty, I had many options.

  • I was offered two positions on the west coast in-house with government contractors (One of my best friends took one of the two offers and spent the rest of his career as an in-house lawyer.)
  • I was offered a position as an associate with a government contracts practice group in a large DC firm. (I turned it down, having spent the last few years litigating against lawyers in that firm and discovering the role of the junior associates.)
  • An associate position with what was then considered a mid-sized law firm in Roanoke, Virginia. (I took this one even though it paid far less than the other two opportunities and even paid less than I was making as a Captain in the Air Force.)

I took the opportunity in Roanoke, in part because I graduated from Virginia Tech, just 37 miles away. That was only a small part of my decision. I took the opportunity in Roanoke because I believed it offered me the greatest opportunity to control my own destiny.

For 20 years I proclaimed I would never be part of a large law firm because I didn’t want to be told what to do. Then, I joined one. In my first year, I doubled my collections because the firm had lawyers who could help my clients with work I could not do myself. By my third year, I had tripled my collections.

Our firm leaders were super conscious about where we stood in the AM Law 100. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I could say that the higher we rose, the more each of us was making. I guess that part was nice, but the so-called prestige of our ranking was something that did not resonate with me.

Fast forward to my coaching career. In my 12 years coaching lawyers in US and Canada firms, I discovered there are many firms out there that have the resources I would have needed to serve my clients but have far lower overhead. I discovered I could have made almost double what I was paid in the big Am Law 100 law firm.

I know many of those firms and many of the managing partners of those firms. If you are a partner in an Am Law 100 firm, looking to make a change, take a look at firms half your size. Look at the bios of lawyers who would help serve your clients, or bring your current colleagues with you.