Before we get started, I want to encourage you to sign up for the FREE 12 months Lateral Link Rainmaker Client Development Series I will be teaching and coaching starting on May 9. I’ll let you know the time for sure, but right now it is tentatively scheduled for noon EDT,  9AM PDT.

I coached over 1500 lawyers in the United States and Canada. The one thing virtually every one of them shared in common and told me was:

I wish I had started my client development efforts sooner in my career.

Start now! Join me for the next 12 months.

I have written about inner motivation and made the point that no one can motivate you for a significant time. You have to motivate yourself.

Why is motivation important?

Put simply, to become more successful and more fulfilled, you have to continue growing as a lawyer and a person. That involves change and change is incredibly difficult.

A few years ago Fast Company magazine published a fascinating article Change or Die. Please click and read it to better understand why changing is so difficult.

You will learn that fear of dying is not a motivator. Heart patients know exactly what lifestyle changes they need to make to avoid dying, yet they do not make them. On the other hand the joy of living can be a powerful motivator.

Let’s see how the joy of living type of motivation might apply to practicing law.

Years ago I listened to  Daniel Pink’s new  book titled: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. If you search you will find that some have criticized the conclusions Pink reaches. I happen to agree with Pink’s main points. You can find my similar thoughts in my book Prepare to Win: A Lawyer’s Guide to Rainmaking, Career Success and Life Fulfillment.

Pink argues that the carrot-stick (change or die) approach only works in limited situations when the work is so boring or lacking creativity that it is the only tool to motivate the workers. It might work for the lawyer who is stuck in a warehouse reviewing 1000s of emails a day to determine whether they are relevant and whether they are privileged. Almost nothing a lawyer does could be more boring. So, rewarding the lawyer by the number of hours he or she puts in might be an appropriate incentive.

Pink believes intrinsic motivation (joy of living) is what is needed in every other circumstance. He believes that intrinsic motivation comes from autonomy, mastery and purpose. When you have autonomy you feel like you can direct your own life. To have autonomy you must take responsibility for your career success and life fulfillment. Mastery means you are constantly striving to become a better lawyer knowing you will never achieve total mastery. Purpose means you are working on client matters that are meaningful, doing them well and doing your work for a purpose greater than yourself.

Pink tells a story about finding purpose.  In 1962, Clare Booth Luce met with President Kennedy about his diffuse priorities. “A great man,” she advised him, “is one sentence.” President Lincoln’s sentence was obvious: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” So was FDR’s: “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.” What, Luce challenged President Kennedy, was to be his sentence?

So, what is the best way for you to find your intrinsic motivation? Looking back at the ideas I suggested:
  • Take responsibility for your career,
  • Work every day to become a better lawyer and find ways to better serve clients and
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination. In other words, focus on the joy that helping clients achieve their goals bring you rather than focusing on pay, bonuses or promotion,
  • Finally, decide what is your sentence.

Before I get started, I have a major announcement. As you know, I started doing legal recruiting with Lateral Link in 2018. Now, Lateral Link has given me the opportunity to bring my client development teaching and coaching to a national audience.

Over the next 12 months, I will be presenting live webinar programs each month on client development. The webinars will also be recorded and be available to view and download. I want to make this program as interactive as possible so I invite participants to send me questions on the monthly topic and I will do my best to address those questions during the program.

Check out this link to learn more about The Lateral Link Rainmaker Series and sign up.

In the last several posts, I have shared my ideas on career success and life fulfillment.

As you know, after I gave up my law practice, I worked with hundreds of lawyers in the United States and Canada. Some of those lawyers were motivated and energized. Others were trying to find their motivation. So, I want to focus on motivation in this post and another one later.

I have been told I am a motivational speaker. In fact, I was frequently asked to do Bar and Law Firm programs designed to motivate lawyers.

Back in 2007,  I was asked to give a presentation to the ABA Young Lawyers Division at their Spring meeting. The ABA YLD came up with ” Come on Baby Light My Fire – How to Reignite Your Flame with the Law.”  The title they chose intrigued me, so I posted a blog about it in January 2007, Listen to Maya Angelou.

I began my presentation by showing a short video clip of the Doors singing on the Ed Sullivan show in 1967. You likely don’t know that they got in trouble for not changing the “girl we couldn’t get much higher” lyrics, as they had promised. Then I told the young lawyers:

“I have some really good news and some really bad news. The good news is I believe strongly I can light your fire and reignite your flame with the law. The bad news is that unless you are self motivated, the flame I ignited will burn out within a week.”

A few years ago I read The Best Damn Sales Book Ever: 16 Rock-Solid Rules for Achieving Sales Success!  by Warren Greshes. The book title doesn’t do the book justice because the principles in the book are broader than sales.

Early in the book Greshes talks about motivation. You might hear a speaker that motivates you, but that is external motivation and it does not last. What he said reminded me of a Stephen Covey quote:

“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

If you find your inner motivation, it will burn forever. I doubt you will find it by getting your billable hours, getting promoted or making a lot of money. If that is your focus, there will always be someone who gets more hours, gets promoted sooner and  makes more money.

So, what is the best way for you to find your inner motivation?

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Do not compare how you are doing with others, Think about how the work you are doing is helping your clients. Finally, work each and every day to become a better lawyer.

I will share some more specific motivation ideas with you in a future post.

Did you watch it on Sunday? Many golf experts said Tiger Woods would never win another major. Sports Illustrated called it: Golf’s Greatest Comeback Ever.  Even if you don’t care about golf, I urge you to read the article from the beginning to the end.  The New Yorker article: Tiger Woods Makes a Comeback for the Ages is also worth reading.

None of us can compare a comeback in our legal career to what Tiger Woods has accomplished and most of us will never face the physical pain and surgeries Tiger Woods faced when many predicted he would never play in another tournament. But, you will likely face defeat and disappointment in your career. I did several times.

In 1981, I lost a jury case in West Virginia I thought for sure I had won. Several years later I lost my best client when the company hired a new general counsel and he decided to take the work from me and give it to his old firm. Years later after winning the client back, I lost the client a second time after my very best work made the business people happy, but the then general counsel upset with me.

I understand that Tiger Woods worked extremely hard to come back. I heard on television that after last year he was not satisfied with his putting and he spent three hours a day on the putting green to improve it.

We don’t exactly have the same opportunity to practice our craft. That said; when I lost that jury trial in West Virginia, I worked at improving my jury trial skills by studying books written by Gerry Spence. I started winning cases and regained my self-confidence. Now trial lawyers can go to his Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming.

When Tiger made the final putt on 18 my mind went back to Verne Lundquist calling Tiger’s incredible chip shot on 16 the last time he won the Masters.

What do you suppose was the most frequent coaching agenda item I received from lawyers I coached?

It was managing time. Lawyers said to me:

“I do not have time to do my billable work, client development and still have a family life.”

Since the lawyers I coached asked the question time and again, that topic is likely on your mind as well.

Some time ago, I listened to a Harvard Ideacast titled: Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?

I urge you to listen to it. In the podcast Melissa Raffon has many helpful ideas, including making a list of things to do, then estimating how much time each will take and then blocking out time in your calendar to do them. When I practiced law I tried to do that each week.

Melissa also posted a blog Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way? Her ideas in the blog were also helpful. In the blog post, she suggests breaking down your responsibilities into categories and then planning time around those categories.

Based on what I learned from reading Stephen Covey’s books: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First I began to plan my week around my roles: Father, Son, Husband, Brother, Practice Group Leader, Practicing Lawyer, Client Developer, Sunday School Teacher and Youth Group Leader. Based on Covey’s advice, each week I wrote down the most important activity I could do in each role.

Because my work frequently took me out of town, and because I worked on client development on Saturday mornings, Saturday afternoons were “father-daughter” time.

Jill and I ate lunch where she chose (usually an ethnic restaurant that Nancy did not like), Then we were off to do whatever she wanted to do. That time with Jill was usually the most important thing I could do each week as a father. Now, many years later I still treasure our discussions, and even the five hours we spent at the Galleria searching for the perfect prom dress.

Are you writing down the most important activity you can do in each of your roles? If not, you may be missing some important personal activities because you are consumed by your billable work. That is a recipe for frustration and burnout.

Give this approach a try.

Yogi Berra said it well:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

I would say:

“if you don’t know what you want out of your life, you might wind up unfulfilled.”

A few years ago I spoke at a Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) event. I began by asking the lawyers who attended: “How many of you are totally satisfied with your career and life?” Only a few raised their hand. I actually thought that was a good thing. Anyone who is totally satisfied is not growing as a person.

I shared with the group my thoughts on finding your “major definite purpose.” I got the idea originally from Napoleon Hill. Two years ago I posted a blog titled: Definiteness of Purpose with a links to Napoleon Hill materials.

For me major definite purpose is the intersection of your passion, talent and clients’ needs. Years ago I decided that my major definite purpose was to help transportation construction contractors successfully build the nation’s highway, bridge, rail and airport projects. You can see that my purpose was not about me. Instead it was about my clients. Making that change in focus from me to clients gave more meaning to each matter I handled.

Instead of calling it major definite purpose, Stephen Covey talks about finding your voice. He shares a way to find it in The 4 Steps to Finding Your Voice. If you are having any challenges finding what you are meant to do and become, answer these four questions from Covey’s blog post.

  1. What are you good at? That’s your mind.
  2. What do you love doing? That’s your heart.
  3. What need can you serve? That’s the body.
  4. What is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you feel like you should be doing? In short, what is your conscience directing you to do? That is your spirit.

Remember back to that day you decided you wanted to be a lawyer. There had to be something that drove you towards our profession. (Hopefully, it wasn’t because you and your parents couldn’t think of anything else to do with your political science degree.) Rekindle that sense of purpose.


I want to write a few posts that focus on career success and life fulfillment. Over many years I studied and personally experienced my own definition of career success and life fulfillment. While each of you is unique, there are certain principles that apply to all of you. So, let’s get started.

Have you taken responsibility for your career success? You are responsible for creating the career and life you desire. Your firm is not responsible for your success. The partners for whom you work are not responsible for your success. You are.

Let’s discuss what that means. Here are some of the salient points:

  • You are the architect of your career. That means you have the chance to design the career you want.
  • Focus on opportunities and solutions not problems and obstacles. You will tend to get more enjoyment by aiming at something rather than aiming away from something.
  • Develop a plan for your career by focusing on what you want to be in the future. Stephen Covey says: “begin with the end in mind.” I agree with the premise.
  • Execute your plan and stay on track. Do not be one of those lawyers who quits when instant results are not achieved.
  • Discover what you need to do to achieve your goals and have the discipline to do them. Create a system to hold yourself accountable. It might be a journal. It might be working with a colleague who will be like a fitness partner.
  • Define your personal and professional roles (husband/wife, father/mother, productive attorney, developing attorney, etc.). Stephen Covey discusses planning each week around your roles.

More on how to do this in a later post.

Are you interested in setting dynamite goals, but don’t know where to start? Here are a list of questions you can ask yourself.

The Who Questions:
Who is important in my life?
Who do I want to benefit from what I am doing?

The What Questions:
What are my strengths?
What are my challenges?
What do I want to accomplish?
What do I want to learn?
What do I want to experience?
What contribution do I want to make?
What do I want to have?
What do I want to earn?
What am I most passionate about?
What do my clients need the most?
What do I need to do to accomplish my goal?

The When Questions:
When do I want to accomplish each goal?

The Where Questions:
Where do I want to live?
Where do I want to visit?

The Why Questions:
Why is each goal important to me?
And why is that important to me?

The How Questions:
How do I want to accomplish my goals?
How do I want to live?

  1. Learn about their business and their industry at your expense.
  2. Identify needs of client and services that have a high impact on the client’s ability to achieve its goals and become expert in those services.
  3. Ask clients to identify their objectives before beginning work and then offer a plan to achieve those objectives.
  4. Place lawyers in clients’ offices so they can truly know the clients’ needs, wants and desires.
  5. Conduct seminars and workshops for clients. Obtain CLE credit if client has an in-house legal staff.
  6. Seek to use technology to improve efficiency and provide more cost effective services.
  7. Establish scope of work, provide an estimate of time, and prepare a budget at the outset.
  8. Advise clients when scope of work has changed, time required to perform work, or fees may exceed the budget.
  9. Prepare an agenda for each meeting with specific stated objectives and be prepared for the meeting.
  10. Keep client informed of progress.
  11. Exceed client expectation-throw in some extras.
  12. When something goes wrong, apologize.
  13. Let clients know when they, or others, can do the work better, or at a lower cost.
  14. Make sure bills are accurate, reflect value of the work performed, do not have names of billers unfamiliar to the client, and prepared in accordance with the clients needs.
  15. Get to know your client representatives on a personal level.


If you have been a long time reader, you know lawyers I have coached write guest posts. Melissa Lyon has written several guest posts. Here is her latest.

I took many valuable lessons with me from my client development coaching with Cordell – one of those lessons was the importance of sharing *takeaways* from books that truly influence you. This tool allows us insight into what another person finds important in a book, but also gives us a snapshot of a story if we don’t have time to read the whole thing!

Another great lesson from Cordell was the importance of time management…

I have always been an avid reader, but when a recent move added a 45 minute commute (at least) twice a day to my already busy schedule, reading fell by the wayside for me. However, a true time management revelation has been utilizing my commute time effectively. Enter – books on tape. Cordell is also a huge advocate of listening to books and I have to tell you, I am hooked!

My first audiobook, listened to while utilizing my commute, was the #1 New York Times Bestseller, “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama. This book is chock full of wonderful reminders on how important it is to not let where you come from govern where you can go.

The best part of all is that the audio version is read by the former first lady herself! This made the experience of listening to it even more moving and truly made it feel like having a long conversation with her over a glass of wine. Hearing the story of Michelle Obama in her own voice is an absolute must – people keep saying this book is a must read, I say it is actually a must listen to.

Becoming is not about politics – it is about family, perspective, insight and grace.

It is about inviting one another in, just as Michelle Obama does when she tells us these stories. She shows you first hand the value of your story as you listen to hers, and she teaches you how to figure out how to use your voice. She shows you that there is power in your story and value in your voice.

In addition, her story is honest and heartfelt. The book paints a picture of Michelle’s life – from childhood to present – and to say that I found it oddly relatable and inspiring would be a total understatement.

I had no idea how much I have in common with her! For starters, Michelle Obama’s father worked as an operator at a water treatment plant; much like my own father who still works as an operator at a trona mine in Wyoming.

He worked hard to provide her with opportunity, the same that my father did. She tells a story about a school trip to Paris that she did not tell her parents about because she assumed they could not afford it. When they found out, they said those decisions were for them to decide, not for her to shoulder alone – and they scraped up the money and set her to Europe. This is exactly the kind of grit and work ethic that I was raised with. Her story is about family.

I also found her story relatable because she is an attorney. She talks at length about her legal career at Sidley Austin and perfectly describes the challenges innate in the nature of the practice of law – the billable hour implications, the sometimes isolating nature of this career and the feeling of being in an office alone with her documents. In fact, The American Lawyer wrote a fascinating commentary on this portion of her book entitled, Why Michelle Obama Disliked Working at Sidley – and the Lessons that Still Apply. Her story is about hard work and diversity in a challenging environment and also the strength to change jobs and leap into the unknown.

I also related to her story because she juggles multiple roles and wears a number of hats successfully – she was a practicing attorney, wife, mother, volunteer and social advocate all at once before she became the First Lady. She recounts sitting in her car on her lunch break and taking a moment of peace to herself, feeling accomplished after running errands during the noon hour and getting things done for her family during that brief window, before going back to her desk. Needless to say many of us, myself included, have been there! Her story is about versatility.

She also provides us with invaluable insight into her time as First Lady and how she used something as simple as a garden to bring nationwide attention to childhood obesity and the need for access to healthy foods. I also found myself admiring that she scheduled girls weekends with her friends at Camp David to not only keep her friendships thriving, but also to have a workout camp and wine retreat with her closest girls. Her story is about focusing on what is important to you, even when you are busy.

Overall, Michelle Obama’s story is inspirational because it describes transitioning – and using passion, dedication and hope to get you through these periods, and also because it shows her humanity and strength. She is and has been a successful woman and she has accomplished many things – this is truly the story of a role model.

I ask you…how are you using your commute? If you listen to one audiobook this year, I’d recommend Becoming…

I read a scary American Lawyer article the other day. The Next Recession Could Cost 10,000 Lawyers Their Jobs. 

You need to read the entire article, but here is a quote I found interesting:

Over the past five years the average Second 50 firm increased its equity partner leverage from 2.6 to 3.0. It’s noteworthy that the increase came primarily through increasing the number of nonequity partners and “other lawyers,” which captures both staff attorneys and counsel—senior attorneys who are close to partners in capability…When business softens, their position is more circumspect.

Law firms will first cut the lawyers who have not attracted, retained or expanded relationships with clients. It’s not too late to start working on client development. If you don’t want to pay someone to help you, try my Video Client Development Coaching Program which is free this month. Make sure and use this Participant’s Guide as a workbook as you watch the video series.