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.

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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?

This week we finish the first half of 2016. It’s gone by really quickly. What have you been doing with your non-billable time in the first three months?

In 2008, I posted a blog The Will to Prepare To Win. I noted that most lawyers I know enjoy the opportunities to serve clients and help those clients achieve their goals. I certainly enjoyed that part of my practice. Yet, many lawyers do not have the will to prepare to get those opportunities they enjoy.

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Recently I gave a presentation to about 50 young lawyers. I began as I frequently do by asking:

How many of you have a business plan or development plan and written goals for this year?

Five lawyers raised their hands. How about you? Do you have a written plan for this year?

I am always searching for ways to convince young lawyers to prepare a business plan. Several years ago, I conducted a Planning for Success in 2010 webinar. I think about 500 lawyers participated.

I talked about how I did my plan from the time I was a young lawyer.

My plan included my own development and client development. I did it from the top (goals) to the bottom (non-billable hours) and bottom (non-billable hours) to the top (goals). I had to do it both ways because I had to choose among activities I wanted to do to achieve my goals.

For each goal I asked why it was important to achieve it and if I did not have a good answer, I reconsidered the goal.

For the goals that survived the why question, I prepared detail actions. Then, each 90 days I would list the actions for that quarter. Finally, I planned the activities I would do each week.

My 2016 planning presentation slides are available on SlideShare here.

One more thing: Preparing a plan is part of my career workbook shown above- Prepare to Win. Click on the title and you will have a sample of the book. You can get the Kindle version on Amazon here for only $2.99.

Nancy and I are flying east today. On Monday, will drive to Blacksburg, Virginia to watch my alma mater, Virginia Tech play the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Just in case you missed it, my Hokies shocked the world last September when we beat the Buckeyes in Columbus.

Unfortunately for us, that was the highlight of our season. For, Ohio State it was there only loss. I have several Ohio State friends who have vowed things will be far different this year.

There is one thing I know for sure: When Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is played and Lane Stadium is rocking, I will be excited to be back again.

If you have never seen it, and even if you don’t like football or Virginia Tech, you’ve got to watch the Virginia Tech players enter the stadium at least once. Here is ESPN’s Chris Fowler describing it from a game I attended a few years ago.


After having said in the video that “this is an entrance unlike any other in college football, I read recently that last year Chris Fowler suggested that Virginia Tech no longer play Enter Sandman until “home field dominance is restored.” See:  ESPN’S CHRIS FOWLER SUGGESTS SHELVING ENTER SANDMAN.

Fowler is right about one thing. Virginia Tech has struggled the last three years. Every Virginia Tech grad would love to see home field dominance restored and would love to restore the 10 win seasons that became a regular expectation. But, doing away with something that unites the school, brings joy and energy to the fans, and inspires the team, makes no sense.

At Virginia Tech Enter Sandman has even been played to bring the fans to their feet at the end of an important game.


A few years ago I came to Virginia to watch Virginia Tech and I gave a presentation to the Washington and Lee Law students. I told them that in 2010 it is more important than ever for law students and beginning lawyers to stand out from the crowd.

While it is a few months old at the time, the National Law Journal article: Tough Times for Law Firm Associate Market Not Over accurately describes the current market. It is even more true in 2015.

I agree with Kevin Donovan, head of the University of Virginia School of Law’s career services office, who suggests that students consider judicial clerkships, government agencies, nonprofits and smaller firms as ways to pick up experience on the longer road to securing a position at a larger firm.

I stood out from the crowd and was recruited as a partner to join a large firm in just the way Kevin Donovan describes. I believe the best thing that ever happened to me was being required to serve in the United States Air Force and starting my law firm career in a small Roanoke firm.

I gained experience trying government contract cases while in the Air Force that I would have never gotten in private practice. Starting in a small firm made it necessary for me to learn how to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients at an early stage of my career.

I will suggest that when students, or first year lawyers  have time, they read my book Prepare to WIn. If you would like to read a sample click here.

P.S. If you want to know what kind of mood I will be in next week, all you have to do is watch the game on ESPN on Monday, or check your sports page Tuesday morning.

Sorry for inundating you, but I wanted to share just one more ESPN Enter Sandman Thursday night entrance from Lane Stadium. This one is from another game I attended.