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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Last week I read an article in the Dallas Morning News Business Section: Learn the fascinating traits that billionaires have in common. As I read my first thought was that the billionaire traits were the very same that I looked for when hiring young lawyers.

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If you develop these traits and make them part of your habits, I predict you will see a dramatic rise in your client development numbers.

  • THEY INVEST IN THEMSELVES: Lawyers who invest in themselves are more successful. Those lawyers may take classes to learn more about their client’s industry. Those lawyers may learn a second language to better serve their clients. Those lawyers develop their client development skills.
  • THEY ARE CONSTANTLY CURIOUS: I was once asked what was the number one trait I looked for in a young lawyer. I responded I want lawyers who are intellectually curious and have the fire in the belly to learn.
  • THEY SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH SMART PEOPLE: I have a friend who yearly brought to his firm millions of dollars of business. He was one of the smartest lawyers I have ever met. But, he routinely told me that the lawyers who were on his team were smarter than him and willing to work as hard as him.
  • THEY RARELY EAT ALONE: The same lawyer mentioned above, never ate alone. Many times he even ate breakfast or lunch twice with different people. In those breakfast or lunch meetings, he asked great questions and actively listened.
  • THEY OWN UP TO MISTAKES: In the competitive world of law firms, this one is a difficult one. But, the top rainmakers take responsibility when things go wrong.
  • THEY KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO USE LEVERAGE: This one again is about building the team, giving the team members credit and doing so to create loyalty and to make the pie bigger. Lawyers who hog credit typically do not retain the super stars with whom they work and rarely make the pie bigger.
  • THEY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSSESSIONS AND GROWTH: I agree with what was said in the article that many billionaires live frugally. If you are a top rainmaker, how are you investing to develop your team?
  • THEY DON’T ALWAYS PLAY IT SAFE: I like to say that the top lawyers I have coached have worked, as part of the coaching, to do things that are outside their comfort zone. If you want to learn more on this subject, take a look at this Huffington Post piece: 6 Reasons To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.

If this post resonated with you and you want to do something about it, drop me a note or make a comment on how you plan to make these ideas part of your habits.

By the way, going back to the first attribute: They Invest in Themselves, I invite you to join our next 7 weeks client development class.

The May group just finished the first of seven modules, sent their assignments to me and received my feedback. Here is a link to the first module the class completed, and here is a SRE Participant’s Guide Intro Mod 1 with the assignment they completed and sent to me.

Contact Joyce jflo@cordellparvin. com to sign up for the June class. The cost is only $95. I have spent more than that in a month on Starbucks Lattes.

I appreciate the great interest in the blog I posted yesterday 25 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was a First Year Lawyer. Several lawyers I coach, sent me emails reminding me of things they have heard me say. I wanted to share with you what they told me, I had shared with them.

  1. Get and stay healthy. Your career is a marathon not a sprint.
  2. Figure out your priorities, plan your time and live your life based on those priorities. There is no such thing as balance, but you can focus on your priorities
  3. Think BIG and act small. Believe you can achieve great things and work on the small things to get there.
  4. Think long-term, act short-term. Figure out where you want to be in five years. Then plan what you will do next month to begin your journey to get there.
  5. Plan purposely and think optimistically.
  6. Develop your strengths instead of obsessing about your weaknesses.
  7. Patience, Persistence and Perseverance. The three P’s.
  8. If you market to everyone you market to no one. Narrow your target market.
  9. When you know the what and the why, the how comes easy. When you know what you want to accomplish and why it is important, you will creatively think of how to do it.
  10. Client development is a contact sport. You have to stay in touch with clients, potential clients and referral sources.
  11. Having elevator questions planned is at least, if not more, important than having an elevator speech planned.
  12. Dress for success. You get only one chance to make a good first impression.
  13. Clients want to hire lawyers with “confidence inspiring” personalities. They want to feel confident you will handle their matter.
  14. “Cross-serving” is far more effective than “cross-selling” because it focuses on what is in it for the client rather than what is in it for you.
  15. How well you plan and spend your non-billable time will determine the quality of your career and how well you plan and spend your personal time will determine the quality of your life.

One more thing: Find a way to do an act of kindness each and every day with no expectation of getting anything in return. I think you would be surprised by how energized you will feel.

If you found this and my post yesterday helpful, take a look at my eBook Strategy for Your Career and Your Life and let me know what you wish someone had told you.

John M. Richardson has an expression I like:

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen; those who make it happen and those who wonder what happened?

Some young lawyers seem reluctant to make it happen by taking responsibility for their career success and happiness. In many cases they know how to please others including their supervising attorneys, but they have given little thought to what they want.

Tony Robbins, the incredibly successful motivational speaker and author suggests beginning with filling in the blanks to the following statements:

  • What is most important to me in my life is _______________?
  • What is most important to me in my career is _____________?

He then suggests asking the question:

  • What has to happen for me to feel _____________?

This is a good way to start setting goals and developing a plan.

I saw a blog post 7 Amazing Lessons from Peak Performance Coach Tony Robbins. I think you will find all 7 of the lessons both amazing and applicable to your career as a lawyer. I want to leave you with the first of the 7. It is Focus. Robbins says:

One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.

It seems to me that lawyers who dabble are either letting it happen or worse yet-wondering what happened.