As I concluded a program on planning for New York associates a few years ago I asked for questions. One lawyer asked:

How do you define success?

I thought the question was outstanding. I told her I could not define success for her. She, and only she, can define what success means to her and that requires looking inward. I can only define what success means to me.

Some dictionaries define success as the attainment of wealth, power, favor, or eminence. I have watched young lawyers seeking those things become disillusioned, even when they are doing well. When they earn more money, someone else is earning even more. When they become more powerful in their firm, someone else has even greater power. When they are recognized as a great lawyer, someone else gets even greater recognition.

Long ago, I decided that success was continual learning to become the best lawyer I was capable of becoming. I have to confess, I also defined success as being recognized by the industry as the most knowledgeable transportation construction lawyer in the United States.

I also decided that career success means nothing without life fulfillment. For that I wanted to follow my passions. Several years ago, after working with young lawyers in my firm, my passion evolved into coaching, mentoring and teaching highly motivated lawyers. So, in January 2005, I left my successful law practice to work full time with lawyers in the United States and Canada.

Nancy frequently tells me that I cannot retire because I have no real hobbies, and I have very few friends outside of my work. (Spoiler alert: If you have read this far, my spoiler is that unless more law firms ask me to coach lawyers in 2018, I’ll retire at the end of this year.)

In a way she is right. My “hobbies” are not the normal ones. As you may know, I want to learn to speak Spanish, and I want to write novels about lawyers. So, I’ve studied Spanish at home and in Mexico and I’ve taken creative writing courses at one of our local colleges.

I recently finished the novel I’ve been working on since 2014. It is the 10th version and is so different than earlier versions that I am going back to edit those versions for a second novel. My story is about a young lawyer called upon to defend a billionaire Texan who discovers how difficult it is for a rich man to get a fair trial in 2017.

I admit I haven’t really taken time to make many friends outside of my work. Where we play golf, there are several opportunities to play with the other guys during each week. I’ve only played once.

When I practiced law, my clients were my friends and my friends were my clients. They still are my best friends. Over the weekend, Nancy and I visited one of my first clients and his wife and went to the Virginia Tech v. Duke football game.

Now, my friends also include many of the lawyers with whom I have worked over these last few years. Whenever we are in their city, we make a point of visiting them.

I hope the lawyer who asked the question has looked inward to define what success means to her. How about you? Have you thought about how you define success? What are you doing to find fulfillment in your career and life?


Earlier this year a law firm marketing director asked me:
Cordell, what should be included in our client development training program?
Almost 10 years ago, I wrote a Practical Lawyer article Unlocking The Secrets To Developing Your Future Rainmakers. It has some ideas for the marketing directors.
I practiced law and learned about client development from the seat of my pants. I probably learned more from my mistakes than I ever learned from my successes.
In 2017, you don’t have time to learn from your mistakes. That was one reason I left my law practice to coach lawyers.
In my firm I found many lawyers were motivated to develop business and client relationships, but gave up when their efforts weren’t productive.
Since 2005, (seems like a long time ago now), I have worked with young associates, junior partners and senior partners, just like you.
Based on my own client development efforts and the work I have done with lawyers, I have a good idea what you need to learn to be successful.  Here is my list of Planning and Motivation activities to incorporate now:
Planning and Motivation
  1. Discover the attributes of successful lawyers/people and incorporate them into your own career
  2. Decide what you want to achieve
  3. Set motivating stretch goals
  4. Prepare a yearly plan to achieve those goals
  5. Break down your plan into shorter time frames (90 Days, or 60 Days and weekly)
  6. Take StrengthsFinder and determine what kind of client development will best work for you (See this blog post with my strengths.
  7. Make time for client development (you will never find it)
  8. Get organized for a more productive day (See this blog post for discussion of David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done)
  9. Stay motivated and accountable…even when you are not seeing results
  10. Patience and persistence (It took two years before I received the first call from my client development efforts)

The beauty of coaching is you can get feedback when you are working on each of the 10 activities above.

P. S. I have finally finished a complete draft of my novel. I’ve worked on it since 2014, and I have written 10 different versions. This one is the last version. But, some of my earlier versions tell a story so different from this one that I may go back and create a second novel with different characters.

This novel is about a young Hispanic lawyer who is best known for her beauty and defending refugee children who is called upon to defend the richest man in Texas against Department of Justice Prosecutors who know no bounds when it comes to their desire to convict the defendant and destroy the defendant’s lawyer’s reputation.

If you are interested in reading the draft, send me an email.

Wow, this is my last post from San Miguel de Allende. Tomorrow I will meet with Martha from 11:00 to 1:00. Then a car will pick me up and take me to a Leon Airport hotel. On Saturday, I will catch a 6:00 AM flight and I’ll be home before 9:00.

Have I learned Spanish in four weeks? No, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about anything I did in the past or anything I will do in the future, as I only know the present tense of verbs. Also, my son-in-law (yerno en español) will tell me I still speak Spanish like a gringo. It’s going to take a lot of listening and speaking out loud to hopefully one-day pronounce words and sentences correctly.

But, there is hope. While here, I decided to research why Selena was so popular. I found a website, 20 Reasons Selena Quintanilla Will Never Be Forgotten. There, I discovered that when she died. thousands of her fans remember what they were doing, like those of us who were alive when President Kennedy was assassinated.

More importantly, I learned: Selena didn’t actually speak Spanish at the beginning of her career. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla taught her to sing in Spanish — learning lyrics phonetically — so she could resonate with the Latino community.

I have the video of her last concert from the Houston Astrodome on my iPad. Her Spanish, including, pronunciation es excelente. So,…maybe there’s hope for me.

Ok, enough about me. let’s focus on you. While here learning, I’ve been thinking about your learning.

Have you learned how to:

  1. Create a Business Plan?
  2. Determine goals that will challenge and stretch you?
  3. Determine what activities to undertake to meet your goals?
  4. Find articles and other materials about your clients’ industries and their company?
  5. To write articles, blog posts and guides and give presentations and webinars that will enhance your reputation and increase your chances of getting hired?
  6. Develop a Focused Contacts Plan so you focus on your best contacts?
  7. Determine what your clients want and expect?
  8. Get business without appearing to be needy or greedy?
  9. Build trust and rapport?
  10. Become more client focused?
  11. Hold yourself accountable?
  12. Develop the young lawyers on your team, so they can be trusted by your clients?

Here is a short clip from the video coaching program I created for lawyers.

Ok, I’ve completed three days of Spanish classes with my five other classmates. We love our teachers and we’ve bonded together like many coaching groups with whom I have worked.

So, I can answer my title question in one sentence:

Start your own coaching group because it is more likely you will make client development efforts you are not making now and it is more likely the efforts you make will over time produce results.

I contend:

Client development coaching is about getting lawyers to make changes and create new habits. Making changes is more likely to occur when the lawyers are part of a group. Plus, it is more fun to make those changes with a group.

A couple of years ago I studied why making changes is so difficult. I found a very interesting article by David Rock titled: A Brain-Based Approach to Coaching. If you are interested in the science and research, you will find it in this article. Rock talks about why coaching is needed:

In the last few years, neuroscientists have been confirming what many of us know all too well: change is much harder than we think. You can take this statement literally: change requires more than just scant thought; it requires ongoing attention and a significant effort of the will.


A few years ago I worked with a group of 5 highly motivated lawyers.  I knew they were motivated because they were paying for the group coaching out of their own pocket.

They were from different firms and different practices and did not know each other before we started. Each month I conducted a one hour group telephone coaching session. I purposely limited the number in the group so there was a distinct individual coaching component and a group coaching component. During our sessions I asked each lawyer what they had worked on the last month.

Each month we also focused on a topic and I did short presentation. One month I focused on Motivation and Accountability. One lawyer described my role as similar to a fitness trainer because I helped each member in the group take action and be accountable.

When I worked with fitness trainers, I always did more than when I was by myself. If you have a client development coach you will do more and  do what is more valuable.

If your firm is not willing to have me come and help you do more and do what is more valuable, create your  own group, meet regularly and hold each other accountable.

While I favor creating your own coaching group, having sat through three days of classes I can say the teachers (coaches) drive us to push ourselves further than we would on our own.

San Miguel

I took this photo on Monday, near the Jardin. I believe the young boy’s parents were taking his photo at the same time.

For my lunch Monday and yesterday I went to the mercado. On Monday, I ate steak in a salsa rice, beans and homemade tortillas for 40 pesos. Yesterday I ate corn in a cup (street corn) and a large glass filled with fruit for 30 pesos. I’ve learned that when the vendor tells me cuánto cuesta (how much) in Spanish, I have to rack my brain to remember the numbers.

I came back to my room to do my homework. One assignment was to write what we like or dislike about each of the four seasons in our home state. The other was to write sentences that included a fruit or vegetable and a number.

Last night a group of five of us ate dinner nearby. All five ordered a meal. Two of us ordered beer and a third ordered Sangria. The other two ordered coke. Out total bill was 316 pesos. I’ll let you find the exchange rate and do the math.

P.S. We each needed a tablet of paper for notes. I found a place, and took a  classmate. The gentleman who owns the little store offered to have each of us tutor the other in our new languages. I’ll talk to him in Spanish and he’ll talk to me in English and we’ll help each other. His English puts my Spanish to shame so…I may be getting the better end of our bargain.

Does your firm have anyone helping to develop the next generation of rainmakers?

Our firm didn’t have anyone, so I started coaching our new partners. I loved that work so much that I gave up my big partnership draw, left my law firm and started coaching lawyers full-time.


Over more than 12 years, I’ve figured out what I’ve done to  help the lawyers with whom I have worked:

  1. Identifying what is the lawyer’s definition of success
  2. Planning and goal setting to achieve the success
  3. Figuring out each lawyer’s major strengths and offering ideas and best practices on how to use those strengths
  4. Answering questions and providing feedback and suggestions
  5. Accountability: Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  6. Overcoming challenges.
  7. Role playing and experiential learning
  8. Presentation/communication/writing articles and blogs skills
  9. Understanding how clients select lawyers and how to be considered and selected
  10. Networking, developing relationships and converting those relationships into business
  11. Understanding what clients want and how to give it to them.
  12. Referral to outside sources on career and client development
  13. Opportunities for team building and cross-selling

Do you remember I recently wrote about the difference between teaching and coaching?

As you will see, the first six actions are in the coaching portion of the program and the last seven actions are in the training and teaching portion of the program.

I loved my law practice. I loved my clients. I appreciated what I was being paid, which was more than I ever dreamed possible.  But, there’s nothing better than receiving a hand-written note from a lawyer I coached several years ago, describing how the lawyer has become a top rainmaker, or leader in their firm.

If you know me, you know why that is so valuable to me.

A few years ago I gave a presentation to the Legal Marketing Association Southwest Chapter meeting in Phoenix. My topic was: Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers: Create Your Own Client Development Coaching Program.

I shared my ideas on these topics with the audience:

  • How to convince skeptical partners to train and develop the next generation
  • Why client development coaching
  • How to structure a successful program

I coach many different lawyers. Each lawyer is unique with different talents, passions and challenges. One of the most important things I can do as a coach is help each lawyer find what will work most effectively for him or her.

Many lawyers I coach come into the coaching with pre-conceived stereotypes of rainmakers and fear they cannot be successful because they are not like that stereotype. My job is to help those lawyers see their own path to success. Taking StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great help.

Andrea Anderson, a Holland & Hart partner shared that her greatest take away from coaching was developing self confidence that she could be successful using her own unique strengths, Take a listen in this short podcast excerpt.

Anderson Andrea.jpgAndrea Anderson Podcast

Andrea made clear that you can become successful discovering and then focusing on your strengths. She did it and so can you.

I contend that many young lawyers do not reach their business development potential because they don’t know where to start, or they are not focused and strategic.

I have a special offer for your law firm. I want to offer myself to help your lawyers be more successful in 2016.

So, here’s my special offer for the first three law firms that respond.

If your firm is willing to pay my travel expenses (first class airfare-max $500, hotel and any meals), I will come to your office before January 1, and spend a day helping your lawyers.

At lunch I will do a presentation for your lawyers on How to Prepare Their Plan for 2016, or Client Development for 2016 and Beyond.

During the rest of the day,  I’ll meet one-on-one or in small groups and go over whatever topic your lawyers want to discuss.

You pick the topic. Have your lawyers create a coaching agenda. I won’t charge for my day in your office.

I bet you will see some more strategic client development efforts in 2016 from some of your lawyers.

I have coached several hundred junior partners on client development. I am amazed at how their needs are similar regardless of firm, practice area, gender or any other distinction.

I am also amazed at what they can accomplish with coaching from someone who understands how to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients and takes the time to get to know them.

Coaching SS 104979254

Here are some thoughts for law firms searching for ways to help junior partners develop, maintain and expand relationships with clients.

When I begin coaching a junior partner, I typically ask what I can do in coaching them that will provide the greatest benefit.

Almost every one responds by asking me to help on where to focus. I then ask what they consider to be their “niche” and explain their niche could be an industry, a type of work or something that makes them unique.

I explain that it is important to focus on something that energizes them, that utilizes their unique talents and background and that clients and potential clients need. With that prodding, almost every junior partner has some idea of where to focus his or her attention.

I then talk about goals. Many junior partners have never set goals. Others have set goals that are either very ambiguous or are not energizing them.

Experts have found that the highest or most difficult goals produced the highest levels of effort and performance, until the limits of ability are reached. I have found very few lawyers set goals that are beyond the limits of their ability. So, coaches should encourage junior partners to set goals that “stretch” them.

What does that mean if you are coaching junior partners? It means we first must determine what each person wants. I ask questions like:

  • What specifically do you want?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What will achieving this do for you?
  • What level of commitment do you have towards meeting this goal?

To determine their level of belief they can achieve their goals, I ask:

  • Where are you now?
  • How will you know when you have achieved what you want?
  • What will you need to do to achieve it?
  • What firm resources will you need?
  • What can you do now to start?

Most senior lawyers want to tell younger lawyers what they need to do. It is far more effective to let them figure that out for themselves by asking the kind of questions I have outlined above. If your firm wants to start a client development coaching program, take a look at my eBook that I use as part of “Coaching the Coaches.”

If you don’t have much time and want to just get the 5 things, scroll quickly to the bottom. This is a long one.

I was recently asked why I am back posting blogs Monday-Friday. In a sentence it is because my coaching business has essentially dried up and unless a firm, or two asks me to go office to office to help with client development in their firm 5 days or more a month, I will be closing it down soon.

I hate the word retirement. I have always said I would never retire. If I was still practicing construction law, I know business would be good and that would be true.

But, I gave that up because I loved being around young lawyers striving to become the kind of lawyer and person they wanted to be. I could give you many examples, but let me share just one from this week.

On Facebook I saw a post about a Vancouver Business interview of an awesome Vancouver, BC lawyer I had the chance to coach. Life Lessons: Miranda Lam, McCarthy Tetrault.

If you have a moment, read the article. Miranda has some great advice for young lawyers and I am confident you will understand what I am missing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 4.16.34 PM

Here is one great thought

In law, a lot of value is placed on past experience and judgment. But when it comes to leading teams, everyone – even the newest law school grads – has something to contribute, Lam said.

So, what am I doing with my time? I spend my days working on my novel, learning to be a better writer, and I play golf once or twice a week with the golfer in our family.


During my life, whatever I tried, I went “all-in.” I worked, and worked to get better, and never thought:

I just don’t have the talent to be very good at this.

But, I confess some things are getting more challenging now.

When I was young growing up in a Chicago suburb, I shot baskets in the winter outside when there was snow on the ground making it impossible to dribble the basketball. I became my favorite players Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. (I learned to shoot a jump shot watching Jerry West.)

In the summer, I painted a strike zone on my next door neighbor’s chicken house and pitched a rubber baseball. I became my favorite pitchers like Don Drysdale and Billy Pierce. (I can still show you a pretty good imitation of Drysdale on the mound, and his sweeping sidearm fastball.)

As a lawyer I studied and researched trial techniques, construction and design and other subjects that I thought would make myself better. I created cross-examinations based on examples I had seen. I practiced final arguments in front of a mirror and later in front of a Sony Betamax camera.

Nancy and Jill roll their eyes when they see me buy and read every book that had been written on whatever I want to learn. (Any of you who received a box or boxes of my books can attest to that.)

When I started writing fiction, I approached it the same way (and they rolled their eyes again). I took courses at a local college. I took on-line courses. I read and continue to read books on “how to.”

Nineteen Months ago I began writing a novel about a young ambitious women.  I was  a “panser.” I just winged it.  It was natural to me because, I could have easily been a “panser” in my career. See: Museful Monday- A Reformed Panser?- by Stephanie Haefner to get the idea.

A few weeks ago, I finally finished a draft. I finally got to the end. It was the 7th version on Scrivener. For my friends who have read previous versions, the 7th is better. I was excited, but still not satisfied. Maybe some of you would have read the book if I priced it right, or you could get it for free on Amazon Prime. But,…

Recently, I listened to the “Creative Penn”  podcast interview of Shawn Coyne. I learned that he created something called the Story Grid. After many years, he wrote a book about it: The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know.

I read Shawn’s book on my Kindle app and highlighted more than I had for any other book. I read every post on his website. I read my highlights. I began reading Silence of the Lambs, the book he uses as an example of how to create a story grid.

Then I went back and began the 8th version of my novel. I better understood my genre. I knew what conventions are required for that genre and what the readers’ expectations will be.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.42.04 AM

All of a sudden my writing is flowing and I know I am telling a better and more interesting story. I am confident readers who never practiced law will like my character, want her to succeed and feel her pain along the way.

So, what does all of this have to do with you? I think there are some takeaways from my creative writing experience. Here are a few.

  1. You can be working hard at client development with no success, when all of a sudden something clicks.
  2. There is always some luck involved in finding what will work for you.
  3. Learn from other lawyers. See what they have done and figure out what might work for you.
  4. Be insatiable to become a better lawyer each and every day.
  5. When it comes to your career don’t be a “pantser.”

Ok, those are my thoughts and an update on what’s going on with me. Back to my writing the 8th and hopefully final first draft of my novel.

As you may know I began coaching lawyers on client development long ago when I was still practicing law. I have coached, mentored and taught younger lawyers my entire career. I have even coached lawyers who are older than I am.

Some lawyers have gotten a lot out of the coaching and others not so much. I simply cannot motivate the unmotivated. Based on my experience working with many, many lawyers, I have come up with these leading indicators for you to determine whether client development coaching is not for you:

  1. Busman thinking.jpgYou prefer to work on matters for other lawyers’ clients
  2. You are content with where you are in your career and life
  3. You believe there is nothing left for you to learn
  4. When you go home at night you frequently ask yourself why you let dad talk you into going to law school
  5. You hate writing, speaking and getting out and meeting new people
  6. You do not want to spend more than your billable time on your career
  7. You spend more time planning your vacation than you do your career
  8. A senior lawyer in your firm told you that you “need” client development coaching
  9. You do not care to learn about your clients’ industry or company
  10. You are not really interested in building personal relationships with your clients