Let’s face it: 2020 hasn’t been the year we dreamed and talked about when 2019 came to an end.

All that has happened to us in the last few months means July 4th 2020 will be different in so many ways than any July 4th in my lifetime. Even in February, who could have predicted what we would be experiencing this July 4th?

It won’t be the same this year. For example. Addison, Texas known throughout DFW for its fireworks called “Kaboom Town” will be live-streamed. See: Addison Kaboom Town! Fireworks Will Be Livestreamed Only This Year Due To COVID-19. That means you can watch it from your home in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. Just go to the Addison YouTube channel at 9:30 CDT July 3, and watch.

If you are like me you may wonder why the fireworks are on July 3. Here in Dallas, at the very least this year, but also before, you could go to a different fireworks show on many different nights.

I have loved July 4th from the time I was a kid growing up in Lombard, Illinois. Fireworks were always fun, but more recently, I loved the music even more.

I recently watched A Capitol Fourth 2019 – Full Broadcast on YouTube. I looked at the faces in the crowd, smiling, waving flags, celebrating. If you watch, you will see a wide variety of performers.

If you want to learn a little about the history of the July 4 concert, take a look at A Capitol 4th. The Beach Boys played several years in the 80s. In 2017, they called themselves The Beach Boys, but some suggested that absent the Wilson brothers and Al Jardine, it might have been more appropriate to call them Mike Love and his band.

When Nancy was pregnant in 1978, she and I and another partner and his wife attended the Nashville Music Festival, a three day gala in Columbia, Tennessee.

It was described as the Greatest Country Music Show on Earth. It is probably too challenging to read, but among the many performers we watched in a farmer’s field in the hot sun were Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, Tammy Wynette, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Hank Williams, Jr. and many other top performers.

I understood that the idea of the concert was to compete with Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic. and The Statler Brothers Happy Birthday USA  in Virginia.

Willie started his 4th of July picnic in 1973.

You may be aware that Macy’s sponsored a July 4th concert. In 2011, Beyonce performed at a Macy’s concert on July 4th in New York.

More recently, Jennifer Lopez performed at a Macy’s concert on July 4th in New York.

I don’t know that she sang it on the 4th of July, but I enjoy watching Whitney Houston sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic while waving an American flag.

I pray for happier times, kids able to go to school in the fall and maybe even being able to watch college football.

God Bless America.

A young lawyer once asked me to share what I thought was the most important client development skill I learned during my legal career. I quickly answered:

Public Speaking

I have written about the first time I gave a presentation to a group of potential clients. I owe my career success to that one opportunity. I prepared and prepared. I wrote and my secretary typed each word I planned to say. I had it memorized by the time I made the presentation. I virtually got no sleep the night before the presentation. I can’t remember ever being that nervous.

I still have the typed memorized presentation.

My presentation was well received and it kicked-off my career and the rest is history.

I believe that in 2020 becoming an effective public speaker in person or on camera may be more important than ever before.

Many of you are very authentic and comfortable when meeting one-on-one and with a small group. Yet, put you on a stage and you change. Put you on a camera and you feel very uncomfortable. As a result, your  facial expressions change, your gestures change and your breathing changes. You know why all of this happens. It is because you are nervous. Believe me you are not alone. Some of the most outstanding lawyers I have ever coached are nervous speaking in public.

If you are nervous, there is one sure way to get over it. Practice, practice, practice. Speaking in front of a group will build your self confidence and allow you to be more natural.

I became a better speaker by teaching Senior High Sunday School in my church for over 20 years. Each week I had to connect with a very skeptical audience who likely showed up for Sunday School because their parents made them. Practicing speaking in the Sunday School class made speaking to a group of skeptical contractors less intimidating.
Two lawyers with whom I worked years ago found Toastmasters to be a great opportunity to both practice speaking and to learn from speakers who are more experienced. Here is what one of those lawyers shared with other lawyers I coach:
Yes, Toastmaster’s has improved my public speaking skills.  When you sign up, you’ll receive a packet with suggested speaking topics, but at our club, folks rarely use those suggestions.  Most people want to talk about something unique to their life/career and want to test it out on a safe audience before making a presentation to a “real” audience.
Depending on the number of club members, you’ll get a chance to make a speech every four to six weeks.  If you want to speak more often, just offer to serve as a substitute speaker.  At every club meeting, members are assigned different roles (meeting host, speech evaluator, table topics, etc.).  Every member with a designated role also has the opportunity to speak.  The entire meeting is designed to have every member stand up and speak, if only for a minute or two.
I was fortunate to find a club that has three really good, trial lawyers.  (They’ve been Toastmasters for 10+ years.)  I learn a lot about public speaking by watching them, plus they often provide great feedback in their critiques of my speeches.
There are other opportunities to practice your public speaking. Take advantage of them.

I recently scanned: Pay Cuts, Layoffs, and More: How Law Firms Are Managing the Pandemic I confess I did not study what each firm mentioned had done, but of the firms I did review, none of them had been adding lawyers to its payroll since the pandemic.

I also reviewed: Law Firm Updates: COVID-19’s Impact on the Business of Law.  In that piece I saw:

May 15 — Layoffs are top of mind for many associates, as law firms announce cost-cutting measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the results of a survey from legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.

Head count is down in firms throughout the United States. It should be no secret that in the down economy it is more important than ever, even for associates, to have a book of business. When you do, you are in high demand and when you don’t, you may be part of the next lay-off at your firm.

If you are an associate, do you need any more incentive than this to start developing your own book of business? It’s your future. It’s your family’s security.

Most of you who read my blog will never have me coaching you on how to develop business. Even so, if you want to learn from me, you can get a lot of information here.

I give away my Video Coaching Program. If you can’t figure out how to get the workbook that goes with the program, send me an email. l have some free ebooks you can access here. If you want my thoughts on blogging and social media, you can watch this free YouTube video.

What’s the point. No one I know predicted we would experience the downturn in the legal profession in 2020. The best way to be prepared for the future is to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients. Start learning now even if you are a first year lawyer.


I recently watched all ten episodes of The Last Dance  on ESPN. While watching I wondered if the Chicago Bulls won all those championships because they were a great team or because the individual players, especially Michael Jordan, were great.

I don’t know. What do you think? Can you answer the same question about your law firm?

A young partner seeking to change law firms came to me. He said he hated being in an “eat what you kill” law firm where the partners are competing with each other. He asked if I knew of any collaborative law firms. I know of some, but I fear those firms may be the exception not the rule.

A few years ago I read an HBR Blog:Why a Great Individual is Better than a Good Team. This appeared a week after Bill Taylor posted Great People Are Overrated Parts 1 and 2 and the day before Turn Your Group into a True Team.

By the time I finished reading these HBR blog posts I wondered if a collaborative law firm is best, or whether a firm, like my old firm, that had some great individuals who rarely collaborated on anything is best? What do you think?

Team Working 5.jpgWhen I ran for the board of my old firm and made presentations to our lawyers, I included a quote by former IBM CEO Thomas Watson. He said:

I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can very often be traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people. What does it do to help these people find common cause with each other?

I think that quote helps answer the question. Law firms must hire and develop the most talented lawyers they can find. (Without talented lawyers who are well trained, all the teamwork in the world will not matter.) Then the firm must bring out the great energies of their lawyers and help them find a common cause with each other.

Think about the companies that really do this well. I immediately think about Apple, Zappos, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton. Those companies have great clarity on their company culture and hire the best talent they can find who clearly fit that company culture.

Having clarity in their culture and having gotten it right in the hiring process, it is easier to bring out great energies and talents and help their people find a common cause with each other.

In most law firms, new lawyers are hired based on their class rank, and more senior lawyers are hired based on their book of business. Law firm interviews are short and sweet. In many cases the lawyer interviewer spends more time talking about the firm than learning about the candidate.

Even law firms that get to know law students over a portion of a summer, do not spend enough time determining if the students have a burning desire to become an outstanding lawyer.

I find that for most law firms helping lawyers and staff find a common cause with each other is considered too “touchy-feely.” Law firms claim to have what they describe as “the firm culture,” but rarely do the lawyers even agree on what it is.  I think that is a shame, and frankly a big waste of money recruiting and training law students who will ultimately be gone in just a few years.

So what do you think? Can a law firm hire lawyers that are so talented that they are worth more than 100 average lawyers and still build a collaborative team? I believe it can only happen if the firm culture includes collaboration and the firm compensates its lawyers in part on their teamwork.

Does your firm do that?




Have you ever ended a letter with:

If I can help further, please do not hesitate to call me.

I would be surprised if you get a call.

How many times have you replied this way when someone thanks you?

No problem

Several years ago I read: How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman. It has many great ideas for lawyers and I recommend each of you read it.

He has a couple of chapters on language and recommends we use positive language. How about ending your next letter with:

If I can help further, please call me.

How about replying this way when someone thanks you.

It was my pleasure.

Or, simply:

You are welcome.

Want to read more on this subject?

I recently read an Entrepreneur article 11 Things Smart People Don’t Say. Before you read the article, write down things you should never say to a client and then check to see how many are on the Entrepreneur list.

I loved coaching senior associates. Why? Most of the associates I coached were eager to learn and open to coaching. Most of them are now rainmakers or firm leaders.

Some of you reading this today are among the most successful associates I coached. You stood out from the crowd and I could tell you were destined for success the first time we met.

I was recently asked what attributes the most successful associates I coached possessed. Here are attributes I shared.

  1. They were optimistic about their future
  2. They were patient, persistent and persevere
  3. They had a plan for their non-billable time and written goals
  4. They had started making client development a priority
  5. They sought to become more visible to their target market
  6. They sought feedback on their ideas and how they are doing
  7. They held themselves accountable
  8. They were happy with their personal lives because they focused on their priorities
  9. They ate healthy and regularly exercised
  10. Each and every day they worked hard to become a better lawyer


It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed our lives and our profession. Take a look at How Coronavirus and a Bear Market Could Upend Law Firm Hiring, and The Impact Of COVID-19 On Law Firm Practices.  Both articles were posted in March.

I hope things are improving now, but now more than ever you must stand out from the crowd. You have to be persuasive to get hired by a law firm or to get hired by a new client.

I’ve written about persuasion several times over the last 15 years. When I practiced law I studied persuasion I read many books including the one I thought was best- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion . 

Well know professor and expert Robert B. Cialdini outlines the six principles of persuasion. I tried to use each of the following principles:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment/Consistency
  3. Authority
  4. Social Validation
  5. Scarcity
  6. Liking/Friendship

All of these principles should be applied to successful client development. The principle of reciprocation is that people are more likely to respond to people who have given them something of value. Find something valuable you can do for no fee or give to your clients, potential clients and referral sources.

The principle of commitment and consistency is extremely important in the client development. Studies show that when a person makes a commitment they are far more likely to follow through. If a potential client tells you he is searching for an opportunity to work with you, he is more likely to find one.

The principle of authority is that people are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations from someone they perceive to be an expert. So, your goal should be to become the “go to lawyer” to your target market or in your niche practice.

The principle social validation means your potential clients are more likely to hire you if they know you represent an important client in their industry.

The principle of scarcity means your potential clients would rather have a lawyer who is busy than a lawyer who needs the work.

The liking and friendship principle means that clients want to do business with lawyers they like and trust. Your clients should also be your friends and your friends should also be your clients.

I recommend this book.  In the meantime, I recommend watching this video.

Can you honestly say you are getting the most out of your day?

I ask the question because working from home in 2020 is far more difficult than working in an office in 2005 when I gave up my law practice to coach lawyers. It is significantly more difficult than when I started a long time ago with no computer, no cell phone, no email and very few other distractions.

I spent my law career with work done at the office and family time and enjoyment at home. I can count on one hand the number of times in 38 years that I brought work home.

Now, I must share that approach could create a challenge. On Saturday, Nancy and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary. It is really hard to imagine.

One year I was busy at work at 7:00 PM when I received a phone call from our next door neighbor. He asked:

Cordell, do you know what day it is?

I think I answered,

June 6

He then said,

Nancy is home (he may have said crying, but she rarely cries), because you forgot your anniversary.

I told him I had actually remembered and I had ordered a fancy dinner to bring home. As soon as we hung up I ordered the dinner.

I haven’t forgotten the last 43 anniversaries. This year to celebrate our 50th, we ordered a bottle of Jos Heitz 2006 Martha’s Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville.


Enough of my anniversary tales. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Start early. When I practiced law I was up at 4:30, coffee in hand at 4:45, arrived at Cooper Aerobics to work out when it opened at 5:00 and finished in time to be at my desk at 7:00 before most people arrived at work. I should add that the energy boost from working out gave me a good start to my day.
  2. Have a plan for your day. Create a plan on what you want to accomplish that day. I wrote mine on a legal pad and later in my career typed it on my computer.
  3. Stay on Task. I always found it easy to get diverted from what I was doing. The way I solved that problem was to focus on one task for 30 minutes. I didn’t look at email during that 30 minutes.
  4. Get up from your computer. Take a few minutes every couple of hours to get up. You might even go outside and walk around the block breathing fresh air.
  5. Grade yourself at the end of the day. At the end of the day ask yourself how you did and give yourself a grade. Did you make the best use of your time that day?

Why are some lawyers more successful and more happy about their careers and family lives than others? Put simply, they understand both their career and life priorities, they develop a plan based on these priorities, and they use their time wisely.

Most lawyers start their law careers with great enthusiasm, and then, to borrow a phrase from a Seth Godin book, “they hit the dip”. For successful lawyer, having clarity on career and life priorities helps them get through the dips.

So, how can you position yourself for success starting now in March of 2020? (I had originally planned to publish this in March, but then we were all ordered to stay at home.) So how can you start now in June? What should you think about?


You must have the right attitude to succeed. We all talk to ourselves. What are you telling yourself? What are you telling others? What you say to yourself and others often conveys your attitude, the way you think about things.

I listen to what young lawyers are saying so I can learn what they are likely saying to themselves. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, less successful lawyers see the problem in every opportunity, and successful lawyers see the opportunity in every problem. I have found that less successful lawyers frequently say: “Yes, but … ” Successful lawyers say: “Sure, how?”


Second, successful lawyers have vision: They know what they want to accomplish this year. They know where they want to be five years from now. Many successful lawyers even have lifetime goals. I found I became far more focused after I created my own lifetime goals, so I recommend you do it.

Having a clear vision and a definite purpose for where you want to go in your career enables you to accomplish your career goals; it’s also how you find more time for your family and those other areas of your life that are important to you.


Do you want to feel in control of your career and focus on your priorities? Would you like 2020 to be your best year ever, inspire of all the challenges this year? If your answer is “Sure, how?” then you will want to review, and even implement, the following tips. I created these tips from reflecting on what I have done over the years that helped me in my career, and by examining the lives of lawyers and others who found success in both their career and personal life.


  1.  Define your own vision of success and write down where you want to be five years from now. (How old are your kids, where are you living, what kind of work are you doing, what kind of clients are you helping, who is on your team).
  2. What are the important things you want to accomplish in this next year that will enable you to be on track to be where you want to be in five years.
  3. Prepare a plan so you use your non-billable time wisely.
  4. Decide on one area to learn that will enable you to be a more effective lawyer in your field. (One year, I decided to focus on communication to juries. I bought every book I could find, listened to every tape, and read every article on the subject.)
  5. Read or listen to one book a month on business, success, client development or other topics that will inspire you to take action and/or make you more effective.
  6. When reading or listening to the books, create action steps from what you are learning.
  7. Use your time more effectively. Time is your most valuable resource. Whether you care to admit it or not, your challenge is not that you do not have enough time. Instead, your challenge is that you do not use the time you have most effectively. You can discover how to use your time more effectively by using the matrix below.
  8. Figure out ways to bolster your energy. It is our second most valuable resource. Someone once said to me that a law career is a marathon. I replied that to be successful, it is better if it is a series of sprints with time to recapture our energy in between.
  9. Think of ways to apply the 80-20 rule. Let me give you examples so you can think about it. Twenty percent of the things you do create or cause eighty percent of your success. What is that twenty percent for you? Eighty percent of a typical lawyers business comes from twenty percent of his or her clients. Which of your clients generate eighty percent of your business?
  10. Decide how much non-billable time you plan to spend developing your career and client base in 2020 and divide by 50. Each week, give yourself a report card on whether you spent the number of planned hours and how well you spent them.
  11. Get more face time with clients, potential clients and referral sources. One of the lawyers I coached discovered that each and every time he meets with a client in person he comes away with a new matter either right then or shortly thereafter.
  12. Write down a description of you that would tell me (and anyone else you know) all I need to know about you to recommend that a potential client hire you. Why am I suggesting this? First, if you do not know why a client should hire you, the clients clearly won’t know either. Second, this will cause you to think about your elevator speech. How many times have you met people who ask what you do? Telling them you are a litigator, or a corporate lawyer, or a tax lawyer may be absolutely accurate, but it will not likely get you very far. You need to be remarkable.


There is something else I urge you to do. Spend more time with your family without feeling guilty. When you are with your family, be in the moment with them. Turn your portable devices off, focus on your spouse and children, and do not let your mind wander.

For all the 38 years I practiced law, I got up in the morning and went to an office. I rarely brought work home. I was focused on work at the office and focused on family at home.

Many of you have likely found that COVID-19  has changed how you work, perhaps forever.

Are you still working from home? If so, are you in the zone when you are working or are you easily distracted?  I, for one, would be challenged to stay focused.

Being in the zone is when you are so involved in what you are doing and the experience is so enjoyable that nothing else seems to matter. You love doing it for the sheer joy of doing it.

Sounds a lot easier than it is in these trying times. I’m not sure I can help you get focused, especially if you have young kids that aren’t attending virtual classes all day.

Think back when you were a child. When you were playing, you were likely in the zone because you were absorbed in what you were doing at the time. You were intrinsically motivated. As you grew up you likely began to focus on extrinsic motivation, including rewards from doing something and the approval of parents, teachers and others.

As a young lawyer, you may still be driven by extrinsic motivations, salary, bonus, promotion and approval of senior lawyers. If so, think about how you can get back in the zone.

Set some goals that challenge you and keep track of how you are doing. Focus on what you are working on and try to eliminate distractions. Identify 1-3 things you can do to gain control of your career, your life and your future, even in these difficult times.