If you have read my recent posts, you know that I did a workshop for a law firm’s associates to help them prepare their 2014 Development Plan. See: Law Firm Associates: My Thoughts on Preparing Your 2014 Plan. I learned afterward that the workshop had changed the associates planning from just submitting something the firm required to preparing something that energized them.

Several readers asked if I would be doing the planning workshop as a Webinar.  At their request, I will be conducting several worshop Webinars in December and January. I want no more than eight participants so it can be a workshop during which you can ask questions.

To get the idea on what we will cover, here is the workbook: How to Prepare an Effective Business Plan.  To prepare to work with me, I recommend taking the StrengthsFinder 2.0 survey, read Cindy Pladziewicz’s blog: Want to develop a great business plan? Play to your strengths and study the template form you will use.


You will be able to sign up as an individual, or your firm can have the program for eight lawyers. To find out the cost, dates available and have any of your questions answered, contact Joyce at jflo@cordellparvin.com.

I am starting coaching a group of partners today. I will ask them and I will ask you: Do you have goals? That is likely not  the most appropriate question because we all have goals. Perhaps better questions might be:

  • Can you identify your goals?
  • Are your goals written?

Why should you write (type) your goals and commit them to paper? The easy answer is because scientific studies tell us that people who commit their goals to paper are far more likely to persist and stick with it to achieve them.

According to Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at my alma mater, Virginia Tech:

  • 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • 16% do have goals but don’t write them down.
  • Less than 4% write down their goals and fewer than 1% review them on an ongoing basis.

Read: Are you part of the 1%? I have always created written goals. Early in my career I wrote them on legal paper, folded the paper and carried it in my inside suit pocket. I frequently reviewed what I had written. So, I guess I fit into the 1%.

I have been reading Charles Duhigg’s book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In the book he writes about a study done on patients who had hip surgery and their recovery. Since I am getting my hip replaced on December 13, I read with great interest.

Duhigg describes a 1992 British study involving lower-class elderly patients – averaging 68-years-old – who were recovering from recent hip or knee replacement surgery. A psychologist was examining ways to increase the patients’ willpower to keep up with the arduous rehabilitation process. Patients were given a booklet with their rehab schedule. In the back were 13 blank pages one for each week of rehab with instructions and: “My goals for this week are_____.” Those patients who filled in the blanks with detailed plans for each week were back walking twice as fast as those who had not.

You can read more in this blog about the book: Small habit-forming advice, via “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg .

I wanted to find other studies supporting the importance of written goals. I did a Google search and found: Goals Research Summary. Here is a visual depiction from the summary:

As you can see from the visual, those who did best included those with written goals, those who shared their goals with a friend, and those who sent written reports each week to their friend. This undoubtedly sounds very familiar to those of you who have participated in my coaching program. Each time we meet in person, you create written goals, you share those with me and you keep me up to date on your progress.

Have you created a plan for your non-billable time for the second half of 2012? If you haven’t, I want to share some ideas with you.

Each lawyer I coach is unique. Their practice, their opportunities, their challenges, their talents and their experiences are unique. So, it is challenging to come up with what makes a business plan effective for a broad array of lawyers.

You might begin by making a list of all the potential client development activities you could do during the next six months. Then, determine which activities will give you the greatest potential return for the least time invested.

Recently a lawyer I coach sent me his business plan and asked for my review. He had made the list and ranked the activities by the return on his investment of time. I thought it was great. What made it stand out is that it included very specific actions he planned to take, like:

  • Make contact with 4 “loose tie” contacts each month
  • Write 3 articles this year
  • Speak at 2 industry meetings this year
  • Develop internet presence (this one included very specific actions he planned to take on Twitter and LinkedIn).

I could go on, but I hope you get the idea with just the four actions above. Why is this approach effective? Many of us need a plan that enables us to keep score and check off when we have done specific things. This both motivates us and is a tool to hold us accountable.

Does your plan motivate you and provide you with a tool to hold yourself accountable?


I hate January. I hate it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which I hate the cold. But, more important than that, I hate January because the New Years resolution crowd shows up at the workout facility and takes over the machines and weights. Where were they in December? Where will they be in March? It usually takes about two months for that crowd to decide they are content with their fitness without the workouts.

Setting goals without action plans is like making New Years resolutions. Like New Years resolutions, most people start with great intentions and quit before achieving their goals.

Just to prove my point, let me share with you some of my goals. I want to:

  1. Weigh 175
  2. Learn to speak Spanish
  3. Take 5 strokes off of my golf handicap

I didn’t just set those goals in 2012. I have wanted to accomplish them for some time. I haven’t accomplished any of them because I have no detailed plan and I do not hold myself accountable. Interestingly, several years ago, I weighed about what I weigh now and I got my weight down to below 175.

What was different? I had both a plan for eating less and a plan for exercising more aimed at losing one pound a week. I don’t have that specific plan now. Without a detailed plan, I have started to learn Spanish at least 20 times. You would not believe how many times I have gone through the lesson on greetings. I quit as soon as I get busy with other things. Without a detailed plan I schedule time to practice golf and stick with my schedule for about two weeks. Once again I quit as soon as I get busy with other things


I am giving you “my true confessions” because I know many of you have started this year with business development goals or learning goals without action plans. I know from my own experience and watching other lawyers you will likely start strong and quit. You have to do your billable work. But, you can put off starting that blog, or writing that article or taking that referral source to lunch.

What are your goals for 2012? More importantly, what are your action plans to achieve them? If you want me to take a look at your plan, share it with me.

I can’t believe today is December 1. Did you use any time over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to think about a plan and goals for 2012? If not, would you be willing to try something in December just to see if it will work for you? Here are my thoughts to speed up your success in 2012.

In Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want — Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible motivational speaker Brian Tracy said:

Your time and life are precious. The biggest waste of time and life is for you to spend years accomplishing something that you could have achieved in only a few months.

I like Tracy’s quote because I find so many lawyers who are not focused on what they want to achieve. The lawyers I coach tell me when they set  goals, they are able to determine their priorities and focus their time on those priorities.

If it is so very obvious that setting and achieving goals enables lawyers to be more successful and happy, then I always wonder why some of the brightest lawyers often fail to set goals, and so few lawyers I know have a game plan for what they want to do.

Tracy suggests that you write down your top ten or fifteen goals every day for thirty days. Do this without referring back to list you made the previous day. During the course of the month, your goals may change in priority. Some may disappear and reappear. By the end, you will undoubtedly find that you’re writing the same goals every day.

This is how you know you’ve arrived at the goals that are truly important to you, that is, the ones that align with your purpose. I would like for you to try this for the next 30 days. If you think it would be valuable send me an email each day with your list.

If you would like to read more, check out my column: Making 2012 Your Best Year Ever. Finally, I am planning a webinar during the last week of December to help lawyers who are interested in creating an effective 2012 Business Plan. If you are interested in learning more and participating, contact Joyce at jflo@cordellparvin.com.

I recently posted: Do You Need a Kick in the Rear? If you want to avoid needing a kick in the rear, here is a list of things you need to know about your own motivation, planning and accountability

  1. What attributes you share with successful lawyers/people
  2. What you want to achieve
  3. Why you want to achieve it
  4. How to set goals that will motivate you
  5. How to prepare a plan to achieve those motivating goals
  6. What kind of client development activities will best work for you
  7. How to effectively make time for client development
  8. What you are doing that is not effective
  9. How to be best organized for a more productive day
  10. How to get comfortable doing things outside your comfort zone
  11. Ways to be accountable to execute your plan
  12. How to remain patient and persist when you are not seeing results



All I ever needed to know about the importance of setting goals, how to do it and how to achieve them, I learned when I was a teenager. I first learned about the importance of goals listening to a speech given by President Kennedy on May 21, 1961. During the speech he said:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

Kennedy speech.jpgAt the time President Kennedy gave this speech the United States was far behind the Soviet Union in the space race. Some thought there was no way this audacious goal could possibly be accomplished. But, with a passion to accomplish it, detailed planning that included short term goals and execution, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 crew took one step for himself and one giant leap for mankind.

A law firm recently asked me to speak to the firm associates on career planning based on my book Prepare to Win. (Now available for your Kindle or Nook). When I speak to the associates in September, I will suggest they plan their career like a construction project is planned.

During my long career as a construction lawyer, I learned that design and construction of a magnificent project is similar to the approach taken by successful people to build their careers.

Contractor Plan.jpgIn construction, someone has to take responsibility for the project and decide what is wanted and how it will be designed and constructed. Likewise, you must take responsibility for your career. Only you know what you want and what you are willing to commit to achieve your aspirations.
When architects or engineers design a project, they actually start their work with a vision of the completed work. They focus on what purpose it will serve, what it will look like and how it will function. You should approach your career and personal life the same way. Think about what you really want. What are the things most important to you? Write why those things are most important to you. Trying to answer the why question will help you determine if you have identified what is really important to you. You will be able to better understand your life purpose and how your career fits with that purpose.
Once the design of the construction project is completed, the construction contractor takes over. The contractor will establish goals for the project, including profits and schedule milestones. Contractors who do this by the seat of the pants are generally not successful and do not stay in business very long. As the old saying goes: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” The same is true in your life and career. Once you know what you really want, it is time to set goals and work on a plan. Carefully think about it and write down a list of goals. Some may be quantitative and others qualitative.
Once contractors establish their goals and before they begin construction, they develop a plan and schedule. Many begin by listing activities they must do to successfully build the project; then they prepare a schedule and sequence of those activities. When you have established your goals, write down a list of what you must do to achieve each goal. Then prioritize your list of activities and put them in a sequence. This forms the basis of your written plan.
Once construction begins, contractors constantly review where they are or how they can improve. They typically break their schedule down into two to three week look ahead schedules. You should also review your plan, what you have accomplished, get feedback and look for areas where you can improve. As events take place during the year, it is okay to make changes in your plan. You should also break your plan down into smaller components. If you are are a regular reader you know that the lawyers I coach break their plans down into 90 Days Action Plans. You should also.
I loved working for the construction industry. My clients were people who took responsibility for what they wanted, established goals, prepared a plan and were flexible enough to make changes to accommodate unexpected events.
I love working lawyers who approach life and their careers in the same way. I have helped many shape their careers in this way and witnessed their enthusiasm and success. Give this approach a try and I can assure you from experience you will be prepared to win.

Have you watched the USA Network TV show Suits? Among many things, the show gives you ideas about mentoring in a law firm.

When I saw the first episode, it reminded me of my first day in private practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Harvey Specter, the mentor in the show, looks, dresses (wearing three piece suits), and in some cases acts like my first mentor. In that first episode, Harvey advises new associate, Mike Ross, how to dress like a lawyer. I laughed when I saw it because that was my first lesson in private practice.

When I arrived for my first day in July, 1976 I wore the only decent suit I owned. (I had spent four years in the USAF wearing a uniform). I can’t remember if I owned a long sleeve dress shirt. I think I arrived at the office wearing a short sleeve dress shirt, short socks and loafers. My mentor (we never used that term at the time) pulled me aside for my lesson in dressing like a lawyer. He advised me in fairly strong terms:

  1. business suit.jpgLawyers never wear a short sleeve dress shirt, even if it is 100 degrees in the shade.
  2. Lawyers never wear loafers with a suit (he called them bedroom slippers).
  3. Lawyers make sure that their tie shoes worn with the suit are always well shined.
  4. Lawyers wear over the calf socks (he explained no one wanted to see my legs when I sat down).
  5. Lawyers own at least one high end tie (and do not get spots on it when eating).
  6. Lawyers never leave the office without wearing their suit coat (once again even if it is 100 in the shade).
  7. Lawyers only wear natural fabrics (wool and cotton).
  8. Lawyers wear custom made shirts (he explained that most off the rack shirts either fit in the neck or body, but not both).

I went home that first day and shared with Nancy what a true novice I was. I didn’t even know how to dress like a real lawyer, much less actually be one.

Once I was at least dressing like a real lawyer, my first mentor gave me other nuggets of wisdom. I believe he said:

  1. Clients hire lawyers not law firms.
  2. Clients want to hire lawyers who have “a confidence inspiring personality.”
  3. Law firms can hire great technicians. They graduate from law school every year. Law firms struggle to find great technicians who can also attract clients.
  4. Your top priorities are your family, your work and your health. Nothing else matters. If you became the best golfer in all of Roanoke Valley, no one would really care.
  5. Setting realistic goals means you will never achieve excellence.
  6. You, and only you, are responsible for defining your idea of a successful career and then working to achieve it.
  7. Rainmaking is not a “God given talent.” You can become a rainmaker if you work hard at it and do something, no matter how small, each and every day.
  8. The people who say they “tried their best” are the ones who always finish second and below in whatever they are doing.

It has been 35 years now. So, I am not 100% positive he said all eight things above. It is possible I said some of them when I mentored. Yet, I still remember our early morning conversations.  I became a better lawyer and actually dressed like a lawyer, because of the time my first mentor took to both give me tips and encourage me to dream big dreams.

What did your first mentor teach you? Please share what you learned in comments. 

Over the years since I left practicing law, in addition to coaching, I have helped firms, practice groups and offices develop their own strategic plans. That involves the firm/group/office focusing on improving. Here are seven suggestions:
  1. As David Maister suggested years ago in an article, focus on Balance Sheet (long term profitability) as much as Income Statement (current profits).
  2. Be purposeful looking for “First to Market” opportunities by focusing on what is happening in your clients’ industries.
  3. Focus on how services can be delivered more efficiently and effectively
  4. Train your younger lawyers not only on law; but also on client relations, law as a business, client development and career building.
  5. Help each lawyer prepare a written plan and establish goals. Help each Practice Group/Department and Office prepare a strategic plan and establish goals. In each case make the goals both financial statement (short term) goals and balance sheet (long term) goals.
  6. Ask each Practice Group Leader/ Department Chair and Office Managing Partner: What is your Practice Group/Department/Office doing to improve your level of client satisfaction? What are you doing to develop, inspire and energize the lawyers in your Practice Group/Department or Office?”
  7. Measure and reward collaboration, teamwork, client service and satisfaction for partners and career development for associates.

I have shared my Construction Law Practice Group Strategic Plan with you before. If you want to take a look at it to help you with your own Practice Group/Department/Office plan, click here.