Parvin Dad.pngMy dad’s birthday is tomorrow, March  31. If he was alive he would have been 106 today. He passed away in 1980.

My dad was an artist, a photographer, a musician, and an entrepreneur. He loved fishing and hunting. He also loved fixing sports cars.

I never gave him the chance to teach me to draw, paint or carve. I was too busy playing baseball, basketball and football. He tried to teach me to play the piano, but I wouldn’t practice so he gave up.

When I was a teenager, my dad frequently towed home sports cars that he repaired in our garage and resold. I remember the first car was a green Jaguar XK 120. He frequently tried to get me to work on the cars with him. I tried, but I got bored quickly and went back to playing baseball.

Looking back now, I can say that while I was passionate about playing baseball, hunting, fishing and working on cars together are father-son experiences we could have shared for a lifetime. I missed an opportunity.

Even though I never gave him the chance to teach me to be an artist, I believe he unknowingly taught me about art and drawing in a way that made me a better lawyer and that is the point I want for you to get from this post.

Seth Godin talks about making art. He says it has three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, describes taking a week long drawing class and being taught that drawing is about seeing relationships between positive space and negative space, light and shadow, angles and proportions.

In a  blog posted a few years ago, Pencil as a Power Tool Daniel Pink talked about drawing again. He said drawing:

is a terrific way to develop the aptitude of Symphony, the ability to put together seemingly unrelated pieces to create something new.

I believe my dad taught me to see things others did not see. I had a unique interest in anticipating what might impact my clients. I believe I had the aptitude of Symphony. Lawyers I coach have heard me suggest many times to:

  1. Identify a client problem, opportunity or change before the client does
  2. Create a remarkable solution
  3. Give it away

That is what making art as a lawyer is all about. If you are not making art, consider taking a drawing class or a photography class and focus on relationships of things to other things. Then, diligently read business news and industry publications.

Are you making art as a lawyer? If your father is still alive, what experiences are you sharing?

If you are a regular reader, you likely know that I organize book groups for lawyers across North America where the group picks a book from a set of my recommendations that is relevant to professional, business and personal development.

The lawyers in the club exchange their thoughts on each chapter of the chosen book every second Friday with ideas on how they may implement what they have read.

One group recently finished Daniel Pink’s book: To Sell is Human. McCarthy Tetrault Toronto partner Leila Rafi volunteered to share her top takeaways from each chapter.

RAFI_leila_060620135_055 copy

Chapter 1: 

I found this quote to be right on target: “One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not now they have. (I can practically hear Cordell saying this.).”

Chapter 2:

The best way to make change is to motivate individuals to develop their best potential – this can only only happens when an individual is passionate about what’s at hand (recognizing that everyone is motivated differently). It’s important to connect individual goals to the larger picture in evaluating one’s potential.

Chapter 3:

I think that the changing role of sellers to having to clarify information as compared (pre-Internet age) as the sole source of information puts the onus on the seller (in our case, the lawyer) to know their product. Knowledge and passion are what distinguishes sellers nowadays. Typically those who know their product (industry and their clients’ businesses) and are passionate about the outcome, deliver the best results

Chapter 4:

I agree that getting into people’s heads is what fosters the ability to move people and in order to do that, one must be open to understanding other’s perspectives. As a lawyer who actively listens can accomplish this.

I have seen humility win the day at work – the most successful partners are those that lead the clients to the answer without telling them (or making them feel) that they have been led, allowing the client to ‘sit in the big chair’ of recognition.

Chapter 5:

I truly believe that emotions can be contagious as I have seen the effect positivity has on people, regardless of their initial state of being (being positive opens doors, and removes dread). Being authentic and genuine can only occur when you embrace the negative things that happen in your life and try to learn from them (instead of not self-aware and/or artificial).

I believe that one of the most effective traits of a negotiator is understanding what is important to the other side and being able to negotiate a deal whereby each side leaves the table satisfied (and doesn’t feel ripped off). This helps pave the road for a long-lasting relationship that is not fraught with resentment.

I believe in the power of asking and receiving. This includes asking management in one’s own law firm or asking a potential client for his/her business.

Chapter 6: 

I found the reference to ‘clarity’ eye opening (no pun intended) – the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways leading to the identification of  problems they didn’t realize they had

I found it interesting that most people who create breakthroughs in art, science or life tend to be problem finders and take more time with their work than others.

I liked reading about the VP of sales at the Italian company that makes Mentos mints and how he thinks of his best salespeople as those that think of their jobs not so much as selling candy but as selling insights about the confectionary business. We aren’t selling legal services and much as selling our ability to help clients achieve their goals in specific industry areas.

I agree with the author’s thought about it being important to “step out of our bubble” to better understand what we value in it. Traveling outside of North America (or at the very least, off Wall Street or Bay Street) is a good way to do that.


Chapter 7: 

I learned about three key abilities in this chapter: 1) to pitch, 2) to improvise and 3) to serve. A successful pitch does is not necessarily to move others to immediately adopt your idea but rather, is one that engages the audience for the purposes of collaboration – Be Compelling!

I believe the following three items Pink describes are crucial questions the pitch delivery person must answer before a successful pitch can be delivered:

  • What do you want the audience to know;
  • What do you want the audience to feel; and,
  • What do you want the audience to do?

Most lawyers fail on the last question one as they don’t follow-up after a pitch or provide the audience with links to additional information. Also, many lawyers make (potential) clients feel ‘less smart’ as opposed to feeling engaged or brighter as a result of the pitch.


Chapter 8:

Was surprised to learn that little to no effort is made in the educational process (including law school) to teach people how to listen more effectively. It is a client development skill that could differentiate one talented lawyer from another.

Believe the following statement is is true for a law firm: Making your partner look good, does not make you look worse – iIt actually makes you look better.

Word of mouth marketing has increased 10 fold by social media. Are law firms, and lawyers taking advantage of this? Generally, I think the answer across North American firms, is no.


Chapter 9:

I learned that sales and non-sales selling are ultimately about service and improving others’ lives, and in turn, improving the world. So I want to remember to make my selling activities it ‘personal and purposeful.’

I think that many times, people just need a bit of encouragement. An encouraged individual feels relevant and as though what they think actually matters in achieving the larger goal – this also helps strengthen the relationship between team members.

I liked the quote: “Really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers. They want to be part of something larger than themselves.” I think that is true of great lawyers I have known. They take joy in helping their clients and their law firm succeed.


Your Thoughts:

Have you read the book? If so please send a comment if you have anything you want to add.

This week most of my recommended reading is focused on becoming more successful.

Are You Trapped In A Fixed Mindset? Fix It! Stanford professor Carol Dweck through 20 plus years of research shows how having a fixed mindset or growth mindset influences your life. I have read her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It is really quite enlightening.

The Art of Shameless Self Promotion This is the art of sharing ideas, concepts and a greater vision rather than sharing your accomplishments. No one wants to be around the second type of self promoter.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us – in conversation with author Dan Pink and Drive by Dan Pink I listened to Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us so I enjoyed reading these two reviews of it.

Linchpin by Seth Godin – Video Book Review I read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? so I enjoyed Chris Brogan’s video book review.

The First Chapter of Switch the book by the Heath Brothers, authors of Made to Stick. In the first chapter the authors tell us that Switch is about helping us change things and dealing with the challenges that make change difficult. I think you will enjoy reading the first chapter as it explains why change is difficult. I found it valuable because coaching includes helping others make changes.

Finally, as you may know, I created an e-book Client Development in a Nutshell. if you get a chance over the weekend, take a look. I have filled it with things I did as a lawyer and things the lawyers I am coaching are doing now.

I confess, I enjoy reading books written by Daniel Pink, the Yale law school graduate who never practiced law.

If you are a regular reader you know I have written about A Whole New Mind. See, for example: Are you a “good” lawyer or a “great” lawyer? And, I have written about Drive. See, for example: Motivation: Why your firm may be failing to motivate your young lawyers.

Those are both excellent and informative books and always on my recommended reading list.

More recently I read his book titled: To Sell is Human. I think you will find it valuable because many points he makes apply to how you can better attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

For those of you who are introverted, you might find this statement from the book gratifying:

The notion that extraverts are the finest salespeople is so obvious that we’ve overlooked one teensy flaw. There’s almost no evidence that it’s actually true…

For example, two recent Harvard Business Review studies of sales professionals found that top performers are less gregarious than below-average ones and that the most sociable salespeople are often the poorest performers of all.

Daniel Pink lists three traits of successful sellers. I believe the same traits apply to successful client developers. Here they are. What do you think?

  1. Attunement. Understanding the perspective of the buyer (client.) In other words to be in tune with your clients, which explains why extroverts may not be the best at selling.
  2. Buoyancy. The combination of “a gritty spirit and a sunny outlook.”I  frequently describe this as getting through what Seth Godin calls ‘The Dip” when you are not getting great results.
  3. Clarity. The ability to identify problems or opportunities before your clients or enabling them to see something in a new way. I have shared with you that I strongly believe I owe my career to my efforts to figure these things out and then write and speak about them.

I am confident you and your colleagues will find the book valuable. If you can get one or more colleagues to read it with you, use Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human Discussion Guide. 

Do you want to recommend a book and write a guest post about it? If so, share the book and your ideas and maybe your book recommendation will make our Friday blog posts.

How many articles, reports and predictions does it take before law firm leaders start making needed changes?

Yesterday, I read Steven J. Harper’s piece in The American Lawyer: Leaders of Large Law Firms ‘Get It’? Says Who?  I learned that law firms:

  1. Continue to hire laterals that most often produce mediocre results,
  2. Grow for growth’s sake, without any concern on the side effects, and
  3. Permit senior lawyers to hoard their clients and block transition to younger lawyers:

Unfortunately, that approach can be damaging in ways that go far beyond financial losses. The negative impact on a firm’s culture, morale and long-term institutional stability can be devastating.

Who wants to be part of a law firm whose culture, morale and long-term institutional stability is being negatively impacted?

Law firms, their leaders and their lawyers have good reason to be worried. Clients are not happy with their law firms, they are bringing more work in-house and demanding more of the law firms with whom they are doing business. But, even though they are worried, law firms are not making changes.


Many law firms continue to focus on the scoreboard (profits per partner) and not the basket (exceeding client expectations and creating an environment for lawyers to succeed.) If you want support for that premise, read this list of priorities from Steven J. Harper’s article:

When asked to prioritize goals for their firms, they placed “client value” number eight—behind (1) increasing revenue, (2), generating new business, (3) growth, (4) profitability, (5) management change, (6) cost management, and (7) attracting talent.

No wonder there is a problem: The top goals are focused on what is in it for the law firm, not what is in it for the law firm clients.

Current Thinking: Add Laterals, Decrease Number of Partners, Cut Costs

Those law firms are searching for ways to keep those profits per partner from slipping. Two popular approaches are decreasing the number of partners (the denominator in the profits per partner formula) and cutting costs (what is subtracted from revenue to get to profits.)

Some large and medium sized law firms are also cutting their budgets for career development and client development (marketing.) I know because, I coached lawyers in some of those firms and they are not currently making that investment with me, or anyone else. They can’t cut very much. (I suspect at best the cuts mean a few extra Starbucks coffees for the partners.)

Change Focus to What Produces Revenue and Ultimately Profits per Partner

Focusing on the basket means focusing on what produces profits per partner-more revenue. Specifically it means, recruiting and hiring lawyers who have a burning desire to become the best lawyers they can be. Then, it means providing those lawyers with the training and opportunities to develop their skills. Finally it means providing extraordinary service to clients, with a specific focus on responsiveness, efficiency, certainty and cost effectiveness.

In January, Dimitra Kessenides wrote for Business Week: Why It’s Time for Big Law to ‘Adapt or Die’. I thought this statement in the article was particularly relevant:

The key to a firm’s long-term success will depend on strong and flexible leaders whose strategy reflects the realities of the legal market and a will to change the status quo.

Law Firm Leadership Focuses on the Future, Law Firm Management Focuses on this Quarter or Year

Managing partners, management committees, department chairs and practice group leaders need to actually lead rather than manage partners and associates. What’s the difference? Leadership focuses on the future. Management focuses on the present including profits per partner, billable hours, hourly rates and costs.

I believe Daniel Pink’s book: A Whole New Mind applies to managing and leading law firms. Managing is a left brain function while leadership is at least as much, a right brain function.

I have written previously about Symphony. Most recently, I wrote about it in: What Skills Can You Work on in 2014? But, that was not in the context of law firm leadership.

Daniel Pink says:

Symphony is largely about relationships. People who hope to thrive in the Conceptual Age must understand the connections between diverse, and seemingly separate disciplines. They must know how to link apparently unconnected elements to create something new. And they must become adept at analogy-at seeing one thing in terms of another.

Law Firm Leaders: Motivate, Inspire and Train Your Lawyers

Symphony for law firm leaders in 2014 is taking the element of what clients want: Responsiveness, Efficiency, Certainty and Cost Effectiveness and connecting the dots by motivating, inspiring and training firm lawyers and professional staff to provide it.

What should your firm teach your young, and not so young, lawyers? Take a look at this: Ten Competencies Law Schools Should Teach – But Don’t for some pretty good ideas. As you will see, all 10 of the suggested competencies are “soft skills.”

In 2014, keep this idea in mind:

 The people you pay are more important over time than the people who pay you.

Jay William Lorsch and Tom Tierney made this point to professional firm leaders their book: Aligning the Stars: Organizing Professionals to Win. The reasoning behind the statement is simple: Without high quality, motivated lawyers performing at the top of their game, the firm will not attract, retain or expand relationships with clients.

Will you be one of the first law firm leaders to get the firm lawyers and staff to focus on the basket in a way that will improve what shows up on the scoreboard?


What is your game plan for becoming a better and more successful lawyer in 2014? A group of lawyers I coached asked me for some ideas of what they might read and discuss over the next two months.

I suggested they spend the first two months this year striving to become more creative by reading two books. First, I recommended a book by Josh Waitzkin titled: The Art of Learning.

Most of you probably do not recognize his name. He was portrayed in the movie: Searching for Bobby Fisher. Here is a video clip from ABC News.

Have you played chess? I actually was a serious player during law school, playing almost every weekend.

Like many others, I bought books and memorized every possible opening. Unlike me and most other students of the game, when he was first learning chess, Waitzkin’s coach had him focusing on endings, not openings. Waitzkin says:

Children who begin their chess education by memorizing openings tend to internalize an entity theory of intelligence. Their dialogues with teachers, parents and other children are all about results, not effort. They consider themselves winners because so far they have won. In school they focus on what comes easy to them and ignore the subjects that are harder. On the playground, they use the famous: ‘I wasn’t trying’ after missing a shot or striking out.’

These children grow up and go to law school. In law school they learn what is necessary to do well on the exams. Then they learn what is necessary to pass the bar. They are great at left brain thinking, but have not exercised the right side of their brain. As young associates in law firms they play it safe and focus on what comes easy to them.

I like this quote from the book:

The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Two lawyers I coach are reading Daniel Pink’s book:  A Whole New Mind. When the Outstanding Women Lawyers’ Roundtable meets in Fort Worth in June, we will have a session about the chapter titled: “Symphony.”  He describes symphony as:

Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.

If you want a good discussion of symphony, read: More Than Our Minds, or you might enjoy spending a few minutes watching this video clip.

This is the skill I find most young lawyers need to develop.

Daniel Pink suggests that one of the best ways to develop this skill is to learn how to draw. Pink went to a class based on Betty Edwards book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” It turns out that drawing classes are not about learning to draw, but rather about learning to see relationships. I hope to include a drawing session during our Outstanding Women Lawyers’ Roundtable.

So, if you want to become a more successful lawyer in 2014, think about what you can do you to see relationships you have been missing. Get a group together to read these two great books and brainstorm ideas from each of them.

P.S. Did you receive two blog posts from me yesterday? No, I am not planning on posting two a day. When I finish drafting a post there is a button to Save it and a button to Publish it. I guess I was not paying close enough attention to what button I was clicking on. Oh, well…

When I meet with senior lawyers in firms, some share with me that the junior lawyers in their firm are not as motivated as they should be. I tell those senior lawyers that their firm is likely causing, or at least contributing, to the problem.

Do you have 11 minutes, actually 10:48 to be more precise? If you have that time, watch this animation of a Daniel Pink presentation on points from his book: Drive.

When I am coaching lawyers, I find that most of them are not motivated by money.  In the video you will find that the science supports that point.

In the presentation, Daniel Pink suggests that employers (law firms) should pay their employees (lawyers and professional staff) enough money so that is not an issue. I agree and I believe most law firms do pay young lawyers and professional staff reasonably well.

I believe law firms make a mistake when, after setting a reasonable salary, they continue to try and motivate their young lawyers and professional staff with more money. It really doesn’t motivate them, or at least only motivates a small minority of young lawyers.

As you will see in the video, and in Daniel Pink’s book, after you have set a decent salary, these three things will motivate your young lawyers and professional staff.

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

If you want some scientific research to support this conclusion, read: Two-factor theory, discussing well documented research done by Frederick Herzberg. As you will see, money is not a motivator, but the lack of it can be a de-motivator.

Unfortunately, many law firms spend more time, and more money, focused on financial rewards as a motivator. In comparison to financial rewards, what is your firm doing to help your young lawyers become more autonomous? What is your firm doing to help your young lawyers become the best they can become? What is your firm doing to provide a meaningful purpose for your young lawyers and professional staff?


Good lawyers analyze. Great lawyers both analyze and synthesize.

What is the difference? When you analyze a problem you take something big and break it down into pieces. When you  synthesize you look at pieces and figure out the big picture. Great lawyers are able to do both.

Daniel Pink wrote about it in his book: A Whole New Mind. You can get an overview in this Wired article: Revenge of the Right Brain. In the article, and the book, Pink writes:

To flourish in this age, we’ll need to supplement our well-developed high tech abilities with aptitudes that are “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn’t know it was missing. High touch involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

Daniel Pink talks about the concept in this short video clip:

Good lawyers analyze problems. Great lawyers both analyze and synthesize using their high concept” and “high touch.” As you are beginning to plan for 2013, include how you can further develop your “high concept” and “high touch” skills.


This month I am focusing on Business Planning for 2012, including approaches taken by lawyers I have coached. Craig Martin is a construction lawyer with Lamson, Dugan & Murray in Omaha. Here is how he is approaching his planning for 2012.

My Business Plan for 2012 has one overriding focus: get in front of current and potential clients. While my plan contains goals for hours, client development and continued education, I think these later goals will easily be achieved if I succeed in getting in my name “out there.” My goals for “getting out there” fall into three categories: blogging, presentations, and socializing.

  • Blogging. At Cordell’s strong urging, my firm started four blogs this year. My goal is to draft two posts on the Construction Contractor Advisor blog each week for 2012. Having blogged for 5 months, I know this will be a challenge.
  • Presentations. My 2012 goal is to hold six Lunch and Learn meetings for Associated Builders and Contractors members. Ideally industry members, such as insurers and bonding companies, will co-present with me.
  • Socializing. My goal is to meet with industry members three times a month, during a lunch or dinner meeting, in order to broaden my base of referral sources.

I am also putting in place a few accountability measures. Our firm blogging group will meet the last Friday of the month. Whoever did not reach their posting goal has to buy drinks.

I’m already discussing Lunch and Learn presentation topics with industry members. My goal is to calendar the year’s presentations by the end of January. And, my 2012 Business Plan also specifically lists those industry members that I have targeted to meet, so I just need to get through the list. Finally, I’ve started using an e-tracking method for my marketing efforts on iDoneThis; . Daniel Pink mentioned this in his blog: A cool new (free!) productivity tool. Every day I get an e-mail asking me what I did. I just have to reply with my marketing effort for the day. It’s a great reminder tool and it’s a great way to see what you’ve done during the month.





Last Friday I spoke for the second time this year at an Irving ISD elementary school career day. Each time I speak I feel rewarded for the opportunity I have been given to interact with kids in those fourth and fifth grade classes. I speak just for the joy of reaching out to young students.

If you haven’t read or heard about Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, you likely have not heard of "Fed Ex" Days. In the book, Pink talks about Atlassian, an Australian company that once a quarter allows their developers to work on anything they want, any way they want and with whomever they want. Atlassian calls them "Fed Ex" days because the developers have to deliver something overnight.

I urge you to read the book. If you want an introduction, read this CNN article Big bonuses don’t mean big results. You will see in the article that if you want to implement "Fed Ex" days in your office, there is only one rule: "The group must deliver something."

How can you implement the program in your firm? Give your associates the chance to do a project for a client or for an organization in your community. Let them select the project and who will be on their team. I believe your associates will come up with many creative ideas that will be a public relations coup for your firm.