I was admitted to the hospital on Monday, December 31, New Year’s Eve. It was an emergency, and all began when my doctor’s professional assistant agreed to see me without an appointment and after everyone else had gone home. She took one look, took a culture and sent me directly to the hospital.

Now, a week later we are still working on taking care of the emergency that sent me to the hospital. It will be a long haul.

I have never been in the hospital for five days. I have never been in the hospital on a holiday. I have never been in the hospital where caregivers were racing against the clock trying to determine exactly what had attacked my body, weeks after surgery, and then figure out how to get rid of it.

The nurses and patient care specialists taught me more than I expected. There is a difference between patient care and caring for patients.

TAKING CARE OF PATIENTS emphasizes objective, professional care, such as the medical and psychological aspects of nursing. CARING FOR PATIENTS, on the other hand, is a humanistic way of interacting with patients that demonstrates sincere care and concern for patients simply because they are human beings.

If any of this interests you, I urge you to read: Nurses’ Compassionate Care Affects Patient Outcomes.I found many quotes: Here is one:

“Patients want to feel cared for and listened to and [whether they feel that way] is based on the actions of the nurses,” said Kelly Hancock, RN, MSN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “It begins with nurses providing compassionate, patient-centered care.”

The nurses and the patient care team took care of me 24/7. More importantly, they each cared for me. I could see it in their eyes.

Are you taking care of your clients, or caring for your clients? Hopefully, you are doing both.

 

It was late fall 2001. The internet bubble had burst. A stock I owned that had traded at a record $130 per share was on it way to single digits where it remains today. I foolishly bought shares all the way down.

I remember a conversation with our law firm’s financial officer. He told me and a member of our board that based on hours the lawyers were producing, we had 38 lawyers more than we had work available for them to do. Each month that fall, our firm leaders found other ways for us to cut expenses, I tried to suggest we focus on increasing revenue, but my suggestion was never considered.

Think about your own firm. Whether it is a very large firm or only 3-4 lawyers, what would happen if you were able to increase revenue by 15%? I thought of this idea again when I read Seth Godin’s blog post several years ago, 15% Changes Everything. In a law firm, a 15% decline in revenue or a 15% increase in revenue really does change everything.

How can your firm increase revenue by 15%?

  1. Get your highest producers together quarterly and come up with an action plan for them to implement.
  2. Create a client development coaching program for your junior partners/senior associates to get them more focused on client development.
  3. Get each of your lawyers to prepare a business plan for their non-billable time. If you would like a template, click here.
  4. Create a Cross-Serving Plan.
  5. Get each of your practice groups to prepare a plan. In my old firm, we created “Targeted Differentiators.”.

I loved practicing law in law firms. Then I loved coaching lawyers. Now I love recruiting lawyers, in large part because I am still coaching in the recruiting process.

As you may remember, I graduated from law school, passed the bar exam and was admitted to practice law in 1971. Plenty has changed since I started practicing law in 1971, but I know one thing that has not.

The key to success in private practice with a law firm is the ability to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Many of you became lawyers, less because of loving”the law” and more because you could use your knowledge and skills to help your clients achieve their goals.

If attracting, retaining and expanding relationships with clients motivates lawyers, why aren’t more lawyers doing what it takes to have that opportunity?

As you know, several years ago I wrote a book titled: “Prepare to Win.”  It is available from us, Amazon and is available for your Kindle, Nook or iPad.

Screenshot 2015-08-02 09.44.27

I picked the title based on a quote I had seen many times attributed to various famous coaches.

The essence of the quote is:

Many have the will to win, but only a few have the will to prepare to win.

I encourage you to read my book. Many lawyers have the will to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, but only a few have the will to do the hard work that leads to getting, retaining and building relationships with clients.

How many lawyers in your firm have a written plan including goals and a method of holding themselves accountable? Do you have one?

How many lawyers in your firm are making a concerted effort to build their profile or build relationships? Are you?

Regardless of your law school, your class rank, your family situation, your age, your firm, your boss, your firm’s clients, you and only you are responsible for your success and only you can define what success is for you.

Over time you will also have to inspire yourself, motivate yourself, hold yourself accountable, stick with it when it is challenging and pick yourself up when things do not go as you had hoped. But, if I have coached you, then you know that encouragement at the right time is also helpful.

I was thinking about my work with lawyers years ago when I read Forbes article: The 3 Most Powerful Ways To Change People Who Don’t Want To Change,

If we worked together you might notice some things in the article that we did in our coaching sessions. I encourage you to read the article and think back to our time together. If anything you read resonates with you, drop me a note.

When I worked with lawyers in my old firm, I learned a very important lesson. I could make an inspiring presentation on career and client development. But, if it was a one-shot program, very few lawyers changed. That was the reason I started coaching.

What will it take for you to win in 2019?

I loved practicing law in a law firm. Why? I wanted to be part of a team striving to get better. Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I want to place highly motivated lawyers in law firms that are striving to be the best the firm can be.

Several years ago, I wrote a The Practical Lawyer column Leadership For the Recession and Beyond focusing on leadership and how the recession changed law firms and the practice of law forever.

Nine years later, the economy is booming, but what I wrote back then still applies.

Is your law firm striving to become the best it can be?

If so, my bet is your firm leader has integrity, articulates a purpose other than profits per partner, clearly has a vision for the firm’s future, makes sure the firm is acting consistently with its values and holds people accountable. These answers are fairly obvious.

But, if they are so obvious why isn’t every leader doing what it takes for the firm to be successful?

1. Integrity

A law firm leader must be honest, ethical and credible. In their book Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, James Kouzes and Barry Posner reported the results of 1500 interviews with managers across the United States. When asked to identify the characteristics and attitudes they believed to be most important for effective leadership, the number one response was: integrity (leaders are truthful, are trustworthy, have character, have convictions).

2.  Purpose Beyond Profits Per Partner (the Why)

A law firm leader must be able to express the firm’s purpose. James Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies Built to Last define purpose as “the set of fundamental reasons for a company’s existence beyond just making money.”

3.  Vision for the Future (the What)

A law firm leader must be able to express his or her vision for the firm in a way that creates excitement in the firm. Almost nothing energizes people more than feeling they are part of building something special. When President Kennedy expressed the vision that the United States would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, people were energized and inspired.

4.  Culture and Core Values (the How)

A law firm leader must be able to both articulately express the firm’s culture and core values and to make sure the firm acts consistently with those core values. In Aligning the Stars, Jay Lorsch and Tom Tierney describe culture as “a system of beliefs that members of an organization share about the goals and values that are important to them and about the behavior that is appropriate to attain those goals and live those values.”

5. Accountability (the What is Expected)

A law firm leader must clearly articulate minimum standards. Actually, “minimum” is not the best word because the standards should actually be very high. Each person should know clearly what is expected of him or her and then must be held accountable with consequences for non-performance.

Several years ago, I presented a program Success: Determining and Achieving Your Purpose, Values and Goals for the ABA YLD fall meeting. 

Before I finished I asked for questions. One lawyer asked:

Cordell, in your experience, what separates the superstar young lawyers from the rest of the pack?

I did not hesitate:

The very best young lawyers I know have a “burning desire” to be the best at something they have chosen, and they work hard achieve it. I call it the “fire in the belly.”

I coached several of those lawyers and I recently helped one connect with a great firm. In each case, the lawyer put more into the coaching program, and his or her other learning, than just about any other lawyer I have ever met. Within minutes of meeting those lawyers for the first time, I knew they had a burning desire to learn and serve her clients.

I receive emails and letters from those lawyers sharing with me their great success-the success I believed they would have right from the beginning.

I learned about burning desire one summer while visiting my grandparents in Chester, Virginia. I didn’t know many teenagers in Chester so I spent more time at my grandparents home than I would have liked. One day I discovered that the sliding doors in their hallway opened to shelves and shelves of historical books.

One of the books I found that summer was “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I included the book in my post: 18 Business and Law Books that Changed My Life.

As a teenager, I had never read a “self-help” book. I doubt I would have read this one if I had anything else I could do. Reading Think and Grow Rich really did change my life, in part, because I learned the concept of having a DEFINITE MAJOR PURPOSE. When I decided to become a lawyer, I asked myself why I wanted to practice law. That was a helpful exercise for me. 

Napoleon Hill was born into poverty in the coal fields of Wise County, Virginia in 1883.  You can learn more about his life by reading: Rich Man, Poor Man. As you will see, Hill accomplished some great things as an attorney and journalist but also had many failures along the way.

His big break came when he interviewed the wealthy steel baron, Andrew Carnegie. As you will see in the article, later Carnegie convinced Hill to write the book:

He issued a challenge to Hill: Commit the next 20 years, without compensation, to documenting and recording such a philosophy of success, and he would introduce him to the wealthiest and most successful men of the time. Hill jumped at the opportunity.

Because the book copyright has expired, there are many places where you can download the book at no charge. Here is one site to download Think and Grow Rich.

I have read the book many times over the last 50 years. I like to read it to re-energize myself. I believe the 13 principles he outlined in the early 1900s still apply today, almost 100 years later.

Consistent with my answer to the young lawyer’s question at the ABA YLD meeting, Hill’s first principle was “Desire.” He believed desire is the starting point of all achievement.

I was inspired by this statement in the chapter:

Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a BURNING DESIRE TO WIN, essential to success.

As you know, I love working with young, motivated lawyers, I focus on career success through taking control, setting energizing goals and planning. Each young lawyer with whom I work has unique talents, opportunities and challenges. 

I know that if the lawyers I coach set goals that will inspire them and energize them, they will be successful (as they choose to define success). Why? Put simply they will succeed because they have the BURNING DESIRE to achieve their own unique goals.

I think you will find this book extremely valuable just as I did, because it will give you a foundation it the 13 principles that can lead you towards achieving what you desire.

If you have 5 minutes, watch this video to get a preview of what you might learn from the book.

Have I convinced you? What do you have a BURNING DESIRE to achieve and become?

I want to share two stories with you about how changing what you think it takes to succeed can make a difference in your client development success.

Years ago I coached a lawyer as part of a dozen lawyers in the coaching program at a well known regional firm. She was struggling with her client development, in part because she was not comfortable doing what the senior lawyers in her firm suggested that she do. She was not particularly optimistic that she could become a rainmaker.

Fast forward: For several years now this lawyer has been one of the top rainmakers in her law firm. This dramatic change was not because I was a great coach, it was because I was able to get her to change her idea of what it takes to succeed.

My second story is about a lawyer I coached a few years ago. She was a young partner in her law firm at the time. She is now in-house with her old law firm’s largest client.

At the end of our coaching program, each participant sent a report to firm leaders.

Here is an excerpt from the lawyer’s report:

 Cordell once told me: “I have to make you believe you can have a seven figure book of business.” He believed in me. It took quite awhile, but now I believe in myself. Not only as a quality lawyer, but also as a business developer. Prior to working with Cordell I secretly enjoyed not having to be responsible for attracting clients. Now it is my goal.

 

I enjoyed reading Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book: Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (a great book I have recommended to lawyers I coach). Near the end of the book Dr. Halvorson writes:

Americans believe in ability. East Asians believe in effort.

I suspect she is right. I know for sure that many lawyers believe client development is about ability and you either have it or you don’t. While a lawyer must be a good lawyer and must have some ability to communicate, client development is more about effort.

Take a look, you might find this short video valuable.

Before the coaching, each of the two women thought that ability was the key to becoming a successful rainmaker. Each looked around her firm and concluded she did not have the same kind of ability she saw in the older lawyers (near my age), who were extroverted, great at networking, played golf with clients and took them to dinner and football games.

During our coaching, a lightbulb went off. I convinced each lawyer that successful rainmaking is based less on ability and based significantly more on the level and quality of her effort, and on using her strengths most effectively.

Lawyers who believe client development success is based primarily on ability typically come to a point when they quit trying to develop business. Lawyers who figure out success can be obtained based on the level and quality of their effort persist until they succeed and constantly strive to get better. The very most successful are able to recognize their strengths and their ability and constantly strive to use them and develop them further.

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?

Recently I posted a blog that made available for the first time my Client Development Video Coaching Program with the Participant’s Guide. Want to get the most out of the experience? I hope this helps.

I am only rarely coaching lawyers in person these days. But, in the hopes you will get the most out of the free video program, I wanted to share with you a summary of an email I received years ago from a lawyer I coached. He sent this email to a group of his colleagues who were just starting to work with me.

Cordell’s Coaching Program is a transformational opportunity for people who buy in completely. The main shortcoming is that people who are cynical/skeptical about the process won’t invest the time and effort to reform their daily lives to make the lessons (and the year-long program) work for them.

Cordell’s like a personal trainer – he’s going to work if I show up at 6 am for our meeting and follow his plans but he’s not much good to me if I still am eating Twinkies every day after the workout.

Cordell’s program provides a solid foundation on identifying the skills a person needs to be personally and professionally happy as their career progresses to more advanced stages.

Cordell has helped me focus on what I want long-term, middle-term and short-term out of life and my experience at an AMLAW 100 firm. I think that’s invaluable and suspect many others have reached the same level of enhanced personal and professional satisfaction through this program.

I’m happier today with myself and the firm than I was before I started this program. Nothing the firm has ever done for my development matches the investment that this program has made in my maturation as a lawyer, leader, and person.

During the past year, I have read books Cordell recommended on marketing, self-improvement, public speaking/persuasive skills, new media, people management, building client trust, etc. Cordell has convinced me that I must look to master a range of business skills that will (1) complement my legal expertise, (2) make me more attractive to clients, (3) a better teammate to others in the firm, and (4) a better leader of those who will work under me in the future.

Without Cordell’s pushing/prodding and recommending specific books (and following up on me to discuss them) I doubt I would have read any of this or found time to focus on self-improvement.

With Cordell, I have updated a personal mission/vision statement with personal values of importance to me and a list of 100 experiences in life I want to have; while I have had these things for 15 years, Cordell helped me to really reshape them to reflect who I have become and what I want in the future. Now I have the list handy and I am focused on living up to the statement and figuring out how to fulfill those life experiences, a few each year.

Cordell helped me focus on the basics of client services, in terms of making sure I have regular contact with all my clients and that the contact is always positive in nature. From little things, like sending them articles of interest, or calling to say happy birthday, or sending Christmas gifts telling them I appreciate the chance to represent them, I think I have seen progress with the clients. I’m much less frustrated with my relationships with clients and feel better prepared to handle the difficulties that inevitably arise.

I hope you will find these ideas helpful as you view the videos and use the Participant’s Guide to create a plan, have a better idea on how to build your profile and repuation and work on developing relationship.

 

 

I am under the impression that law firms are not developing the next generation of law firm leaders. I am also under the impression that leadership isn’t something that most lawyers have in their DNA, meaning it needs to be developed.

I recently read a Forbes Magazine article: Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work. I found the article interesting, in part because it supports my contention that one shot workshops are insufficient to develop the next generation of leaders or rainmakers.

If you are interested in developing your next generation, I urge you to read the article.

Here is a quote:

After two or three weeks, you might remember the concept but not how to implement the idea, and you’ll be lucky if you retain even two of the ten key points from the session. According to a Mckinsey & Company survey, adults typically retain just 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures. Cramming all the key learnings into one lengthy training makes logistical sense, but it greatly restricts learning retention…

Simply learning what to do over the course of one to two days doesn’t lead to acting differently in the long run.

Those of you I coached, or in firms where I coached know we worked together over 12-18 months. In our first group session, I taught you the concepts we would be working on in the future. You likely recall one of our goals was to make client development part of your habits.

You likely know there are well-respected leadership training programs out there.

Harvard and Columbia both have a program. I became online friends with the lawyer responsible for creating the University of Santa Clara leadership for lawyers program. I worked with a lawyer who is now a Global Senior Advisor with The Center for Creative Leadership.

I believe all the programs are truly excellent, but I’m not sure any of them change habits as envisioned in the Forbes article. So, suppose you wanted to develop your own program. Where would you start?

Years ago a well-known law firm asked me to help develop the initial leadership training for new partners. In my work with the firm, I created a Leadership Training Workbook. 

My workbook was in large part based on what I learned from reading many, many books on leadership. If you want to get started in your firm, or if you are a junior partner and want to start learning more on leadership, I hope you will find my workbook helpful.