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.

What would you do when the phone is not ringing and it seems the well is dry?

A lawyer I coach recently asked me that question.  He was concerned that he might sound desperate if he called clients and asked if they had any work for him or called referral sources and asked if they had any referrals they could make for him.

I told him he would indeed sound desperate. Clients do not want their lawyers to be  “needy” or “greedy.” What client would hire a lawyer with the look of the guy in this photo?


During my career when the phone wasn’t ringing  I did these three things.

  1. I talked to my closest friends-the ones I knew would not consider me desperate talking to them. I asked if they had any ideas for me or could think of any potential clients that could use my help. I used these words: “If you were in my shoes, what would you do to attract business from clients in this tough economy?”
  2. I wrote down 25 actions I could take that would produce business in the short term. I did not stop thinking of actions until I reached 25. I tried to be as creative as I could possibly be. Once I got to 25 I listed them in order of importance.
  3. I found a reason to visit clients, potential clients and referral sources. You have to get out from behind your computer to build relationships.

If the phone is not ringing, it is important not to lose confidence. You have to believe in yourself at those times more than ever.

When the phone isn’t ringing, it is less likely a reflection on you as it is your clients simply have no work for you. Figure out ways you can add value. Identify other potential clients and figure out how you can become visible and credible to them.


Have you ever been on a roll, everything going your way, and then all of a sudden, you make a mistake? How do you “come back?” How do you get your self confidence back?

I had this happen more than one time while practicing law. I was reminded about the issue recently.

As you know, Nancy and I spent 10 days in Cabo San Lucas before Christmas. We played golf 7 times, a whole lot of golf for me.

Cordell cart revised

On our last day, I was warming up on the driving range. All of a sudden I felt “it.” Every time I was hitting the sweet spot on the club. The ball was going the distance and direction I wanted. I just stood there and hit ball after ball and watched the ball flight with glee.

I didn’t dare tell Nancy how I was feeling. I didn’t want to ruin my luck. I remained “in the zone” on the front nine. I shot 39 on the front from the number IV (old men’s tees.)

You know where this is going, right? I somehow lost my great tempo on the back. I tried, but I never got it back. In fact, the harder I tried, the more erratic I became.

I wanted to get it back, but unfortunately we were heading for home. When I got home, I looked on line. I found: HOW DO I REGAIN MY CONFIDENCE WHEN I AM PLAYING GOLF POORLY?

I also found an article by noted author, Bob Rotella: Inside the Golfer’s Mind. He says:

There is no such thing as “muscle memory.” Your muscles have no capacity to remember anything. Memory resides in your head.

I want to get that memory back in my head as soon as possible.

What does this have to do with practicing law?

Some time ago, I wrote about losing a jury trial: Being Number 1, Career Dips and Quitting. If you read the post, you know I was seriously in the tank. I thought maybe I was just not cut out to try cases to a jury.

How did I get my mojo back? I read books and articles and listened to audio tapes on communicating to juries. I wanted to learn from the masters. Then, I practiced. I practiced opening statements. I practiced closing arguments. I practiced cross-examining witnesses.

Over the next several years, I won several cases in a row, all in federal court. I got to the point where I could feel “it” again.

If you practice law long enough, you are going to have a setback. The real key to your success is how you respond, how you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and prepare to do it again.

I wrote this blog five years ago and it was one of my most read of all time. Since some of you may not have read my blog back then, I thought it was worth re-publishing.

I recently read “Top Women Rainmakers Absent at Half of Large Law Firms”  and was surprised to learn that 46% of the large law firms in the United States have no women in their Top 10 Rainmakers. Another third of the law firms only have one woman among their Top 10 Rainmakers.

The data in the report did not explain why women are underrepresented. I know from experience that most of the reasons have nothing to do with rainmaking ability. I coach many women who have the skills to become a top rainmaker in their firm if that is what they choose as a goal.

EQ (emotional intelligence) plays a key role in becoming a rainmaker. I have intuitively believed that women generally have greater EQ (emotional intelligence) than men. I recently read in a 2001 Report  that I was wrong.

According to the report, women do not have greater EQ than men, they just have different EQ skills. Women are more aware, more empathetic and have better people skills. As Daniel Pink has written, these “right brain” skills are more important now than ever before. Men are more self-confident, optimistic and adaptable and handle stress better.

In my coaching I have found self confidence to be more based on age and experience than gender.

Regardless, having self-confidence is incredibly important because your potential clients will make a snap decision on whether they are confident you can handle their matter. If you do not pass the “confidence inspiring” test, you will never get the chance to show you are aware, empathetic and have people skills.

So, what can you do to become more self- confidant? Here is the advice I give to the lawyers I coach:

  • “You gotta believe” you are the right lawyer for your potential clients. Tug McGraw coined the phrase about the 1973 underdog New York Mets and it applies to you as well. You will only be as successful as you believe you can be. When you believe you are successful and the right lawyer for your potential client, you have more energy, you exude confidence and your body language reflects that confidence.
  • Dress for Success and be aware of your body language. Whether you like it or not, part of the first impression you make will be based on how you are dressed and how you appear.
  • You don’t have to be an extrovert and life of the party to exude confidence. It is far better to be “interested” than it is to be “interesting.”
  • Decide what you really want and focus your time and energy on it. One size does not fit all. Do not compare yourself to others. You have your own unique talents, dreams and challenges. Focus your time and energy on your highest priorities.
  • Find someone who encourages you and whom you trust so that you can be brutally honest about who you are and how you are doing and get feedback. The better I know the lawyers I am coaching, the better I can identify their skills and enable them to use those skills.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk. Instead of saying to yourself “my problem is…” say “my opportunity is…” Instead of saying “I need to…” say “I want to…” Instead of saying “I’ll try to…” say “I will…”
  • Stay hungry, keep learning and always seek to become a better lawyer.
  • Become the “go to” lawyer for your clients. If you feel you are the “go to” lawyer, your confidence will show.
  • Focus on the journey (actions) and the destination (bringing in business) will take care of itself.
  • Work on small steps that get you outside your comfort zone. Each time you make a step outside your comfort zone, you gain confidence.
  • Practice, practice, practice speaking in public and one-on-one. Have someone video tape you and get feedback on your body language.
  • Be patient and persistent. Making rain takes time.
  • Avoid distractions.

One final thought: Self-doubt is natural and it can be actually be healthy. I have had it my entire career. I used it to motivate me to be a better lawyer. You should also.

Tuesday I gave a presentation to the Middle Tennessee Association of Legal Administrators at the annual Law Firm Leaders Breakfast. Here are slides from my presentation: Developing the Next Generation of Law Firm Rainmakers and Leaders.

Near the end of the presentation I was asked:

What is the one most important thing young lawyers need to have to become law firm leaders and rainmakers?

My simple answer:

Self-confidence: They have to believe they can lead or they can make rain.

All lawyers have some self-confidence. They could not have made it through law school without it. But, many lawyers don’t believe they can become a law firm leader or rainmaker. They might have bought into the misconception that they have to approach it the same way a senior lawyer did.

I love the opportunity to persuade those young lawyers to see themselves differently. You might recall a blog: Client Development: Change What You Think it Takes to Succeed.  If you have a minute, go back and read it again.

Early in my career, I arrived at work every day at 6AM so I could spend time listening to the lawyer for whom I did the most work. I made the coffee, grabbed my first cup, went to his office and sat across his desk with my coffee cup in-hand. During our 10-15 minute sessions each day, he shared ideas, really gems, the kind you and I never learned in law school.

I wish I had recorded all of them, because I remember only a few today. I have shared many times one gem he passed on to me. He said:

Clients want to hire lawyers who have confidence inspiring personalities.

He was right. But,  he did not share how to develop a confidence inspiring personality. I have some ideas.

I recently watched a short TED video presentation by Dr. Ivan Joseph. Who is he you ask? He is the former soccer coach and current athletic director at Ryerson University in Toronto.

How do you develop your self-confidence skills? Dr. Joseph’s answer is very consistent with my blog posts and coaching I have done:

  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition, or practice, practice practice. (See my recent blog: Are You “Practicing” to Become a Better Lawyer?)
  2. Self talk- eliminate the negative, reaffirm the positive. (See my recent blog: Client Development Success: Begin With This Attitude Check)

Now you have it. Can you eliminate any negative self-talk and reaffirm the positive? What can you practice this week, this month, this year? What are you really doing well?

Many of you who know me, know that I loved practicing law and helping construction contractors. I can’t think of anything I would change about that experience.

But, I left an exciting law practice because I enjoy the opportunity to work with young lawyers even more. When I see the light in their eyes signaling they believe they can accomplish great goals, I know magic is about to happen. Would I see that light in your eyes?


One of the most popular blog posts I have ever written was If You Want to be a Rainmaker, “You Gotta Believe”, I wrote it a couple of years ago and even if you read it then, I urge you to go back and read it again.

I have personally witnessed the importance of believing in the lawyers I coach. One great example is Holland and Hart partner Andrea Anderson. I wrote about her and included an excerpt from a podcast interview in Client Development Coaching: You will learn what will work for you. Her practice has taken off like a rocket ship after she gained confidence from our work together that she could be successful using her own unique strengths.

I frequently find research supporting how important it is to believe in yourself and have self confidence. Just last week I read: Confidence Matters Just as Much as Ability. The article discusses perceived differences between men and women in math and based on studies done reach the conclusion that for both men and women:

What we believe is true matters.

This finding reminded me of something Napoleon Hill wrote 80 years ago. He said:

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

How can you become more confident? How did Andrea become more confident? The researchers referenced in the article say that positive encouragement is the key.

I know it is true. I was able to conceive and believe in part because senior lawyers encouraged me and believed in me. Almost every lawyer I have coached who became more successful began with conceiving and believing they could successfully attract clients.

Find a senior lawyer who believes in you and sees your potential. That lawyer will help you become more confident.


If you do not live in Dallas, you may not know that the parade for the NBA champion Mavericks is in just a few hours. After the Mavericks miraculous comeback in the second game of the series, there was a segment about Dirk Nowitzki and his coach, Holger Geschwindner. If you watched it, you got a sense of why Nowitzki has confidence in himself when the game is on the line. He practices, perhaps harder and more deliberate than any player in the NBA, and he constantly gets feedback from his coach.

To me it is interesting that the same way a pro basketball player gains confidence applies to lawyers. I have written many times that to be successful at client development you have to believe in yourself and project self confidence. In January of 2010 I wrote what turned out to be one of my most read posts: If You Want to be a Rainmaker, “You Gotta Believe”. If you have a moment go back and read that post again.

I have worked with lawyers throughout my career that lacked self-confidence, not in their legal skills, but rather in their ability to generate business. For many lawyers I coach when they realize they can actually be successful, their business generation takes off.

Too many lawyers believe you either have self-confidence or you don’t. I believe self-confidence can be developed. I believe I developed it. 

How do you develop it? Take a look at this Harvard Business Review article: How to Build Confidence. I believe that it is important to practice, practice, practice. I also believe it is important to get feedback. I owe my own development of self confidence to those two efforts.

I am a confident public speaker today, in part because I practiced in front of a mirror, and videotaped myself speaking and got feedback from friends, including my wife Nancy. What are the things you can practice and get feedback? How about:

  • Public Speaking
  • Writing articles
  • Writing blog posts
  • Client interviews
  • Client pitches
  • Networking

Does your firm provide opportunities for lawyers to practice these kind of things and get feedbacK? I know the firms for whom I am doing coaching provide it because it is part of the client development coaching program. Your firm can provide these opportunities internally if you actually create practice opportunities and have senior lawyers willing to provide the feedback.

If by chance you missed the segment about Dirk and Coach Holger Geschwindner, you can watch it here.