A friend of mine reminded me of a riddle:

When was the last time a lawyer could be successful in a law firm without having clients?

His response was:

When Houston had a football team called the Houston Oilers.

Having watched the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Houston team that moved to Tennessee, I could have said: The last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. That was actually the year before the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

I recently discovered that several of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on recruiting associates. I am reposting this blog with some edits to update for those recruiters and the associates with whom they work. But, if you are a law firm associate this is also for you, and if you work with associates, I hope you will share it with them.

If you read the entire post, you will find that it includes slides from a presentation I did for senior associates and slides from a presentation I did for junior associates. I hope to also include handouts I gave for those presentations.

In a podcast interview with Dallas lawyer Tricia DeLeon, I asked: What is One Piece of Advice for Young Lawyers? When you listen you will hear her say “start your client development efforts now”. 

Are you an associate in your firm? Have you begun learning about client development and implementing what you are learning? Does your firm have a program on client development for associates?

Every partner I coach tells me they wish I had coached them earlier in their career. The time to learn, to practice and to ramp up client development activities is significant. By the time you are eligible to be promoted to partner, your firm leaders expect you to have the skills to attain, retain and expand relationships with clients.

I gave presentations for Junior Associates and Senior Associates on client development. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Junior Associates for the Junior Associate slides. Click on Client Development in a Nutshell: Senior Associates for the Senior Associate slides. Here is the handout for Junior Associates.  Here is the handout for Senior Associates.

I am frequently asked for ideas for these two groups. Here are a few.

Junior Associates:

  • Focus on learning your legal skills
  • Treat your supervising partner like a client
  • Make a list of 50 people you know who you think will be successful in the future and stay in contact with them
  • Each time you work on a project do research on the client’s industry
  • Get to know client’s business by reviewing the company website and setting up Google Alerts on the client
  • Develop a system to remember names
  • Develop a plan with written goals
  • Send hand written notes to contacts
  • Dress for success

Senior Associates:

  • Find a client development mentor
  • If the firm has blogs, contribute posts
  • Practice public speaking in front of groups
  • Become visible in the firm
  • Visit other offices if your firm has more than one
  • Start to think about a niche
  • Find a sub niche within the niche
  • Consider working toward leadership positions in bar associations
  • Be a mentor for a junior lawyer
  • Join industry organizations your clients belong to and go to the meetings
  • Read industry publications your clients read
  • Create a business plan with goals
  • If it is appropriate to help develop your practice, be active in your community
  • Get outside your comfort zone

Law Firms: When was the last time your law firm did any kind of program to help associates get started on learning and practicing good client development habits?

Associates: Take my word, if you start learning client development skills now, you will enjoy your career more in the future. I did it and had a blast practicing law.

Tricia DeLeon is a commercial litigation and bankruptcy partner at Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP in Dallas, Texas.

I’ve worked with Tricia for over 7 years and always applauded her efforts to mentor young lawyers.

She was recently recognized by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers as the 2016 “Mentor of the Year.” Tricia has written many guest posts here, so when she received the award,  I asked her to share why young lawyers respond well to her style of mentoring.

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How to be a Holistic Mentor

Have you ever played that word association game where someone says a word and you say what immediately comes to mind? When I hear the word “mentor,”

I immediately think of a person, rather than a word–Justice James A. Baker, a former Texas Supreme Court justice. I was privileged to be one of his briefing attorneys from 1999-2000. He was one of the most influential mentors I ever had. He taught me that an effective supervisor cares about your development as an entire person.

For example, he treated his chambers staff like family. We regularly shared meals with him and his equally-gracious wife. He supported my crazy idea to run my first marathon while working at the Court. He showed me how to serve my community. He constantly smiled, made you laugh and encouraged everyone he encountered. Although my legal skills flourished because of his teaching, I think I learned more about how I wanted to live my life.

Now, 17 years later, I still try to honor Justice Baker’s legacy by being a holistic mentor. I humbly accepted the DAYL “Mentor of the Year” award on April 29, 2016. I admire, respect and am inspired by the talented lawyers who nominated me. Here are a few examples of what they said mattered to them most in our mentoring relationship:

Be committed. Calendar time on at least a monthly basis to meet for an hour over a meal or coffee, outside of the office. You may already receive regular “windshield time” while driving together to client events, the airport or the courthouse. This time doesn’t count if you are only talking about work. Share what is going on in your life outside of work and invite the mentee to do the same.

Be a team. Look for ways to incorporate your mentee into client development activities. Invite her to join you at a non-profit luncheon. Lead a bar committee together. Co-author an article and tag-team at a speaking engagement.

Serve together. Take on a pro bono case together. This is my favorite way to work with young lawyers who may not specialize in the same area of law. If you do not work at the same firm, serve in your community together.

Exercise. Almost every Friday afternoon, I send an e-mail out to dozens of friends, many of whom are young lawyers. I invite them to join me for a Saturday morning run, yoga or just breakfast. If you are going to be successful in business, you also need to value mental and physical fitness.

Set goals together. Cordell Parvin taught me how to draft a business plan with measurable goals to hold myself accountable. I ask all mentees to do the same. Mine incorporates holistic goals for these categories:

  • Faith,
  • Family,
  • Firm,
  • Fitness,
  • Finances,
  • Friends and
  • Fun.

Instill confidence. None of us comes out of the womb knowing how to practice law. It’s challenging. Take time to encourage your mentees. Praise their strengths, especially to other lawyers and clients. It’s not always about you.

Tricia, congratulations on an honor well deserved. The lawyers you have mentored will remember you through the rest of their careers. You have made a difference in their lives.

Do you by chance remember which was my most read blog in 2013? On December 31, that year I posted my Top 10 most read blog posts. Number 1 on the list was Want a great example of a 30 days and 90 days plan?  Tricia DeLeon shared her 30 days and 90 days plan.

A couple of weeks ago, Tricia shared her 30 days and 50 days plan with me and gave me permission to share it with you.

Cordell, I would appreciate your thoughts on these planning actions. Your post today inspired me to finalize them! Talk to you this afternoon.

By March 1, 2015:

  1. Confirm 6 other members for women’s networking group.
  2. Start Linked In Group for networking group.
  3. Set up individual lunches with 4 of the women group.
  4. Revise law review article on Daubert challenges for financial experts.
  5. Meet with client to have him insert portion to law review article.
  6. Meet with communications director to find best place to publish article (will do on 2/9).
  7. Revise firm’s webpage material on financial institutions litigation (due 2/13).
  8. Update PowerPoint on Avoiding Lender Liability for American Bankers Association (due 2/20).
  9. Invite Leadership Dallas committee to celebration dinner after Feb. 6th class day.

By April 1, 2015:

  1. Schedule second women’s networking group and formulate substantive agenda.
  2. Schedule 2 other individual lunches with network members.
  3. Schedule 4 meals with existing clients.
  4. Get Daubert article published.
  5. Finalize financial institutions litigation materials for firm.
  6. Practice ABA speech in front of colleagues.
  7. Update LinkedIn page with new picture and recent speeches, articles.
  8. Schedule at least 1-3 other meetings with new bank clients for lender liability talk.

What do you suppose I told her about her plan? I said it looked really good and I had one suggestion I thought would make it more powerful. I suggested that after each action item, Tricia add: “If I accomplish this action, I will…” I wanted her to caption why accomplishing the action was important for her.

During December I am focusing on Planning for 2015 and including ideas from lawyers I coach. In Tricia’s blog post below, I have updated her photo and her ideas for 2015.

Tricia DeLeon is a partner in the Dallas Bracewell Giuliani office and is an attorney whom I have coached and mentored. As you will see below, her business plan for 2015 focuses on her life priorities.

I am preparing my 2012 business plan by listing my big goals and then thinking about what small steps I can do each quarter to achieve my goals. I like Cordell’s approach of organizing and dividing my business plan into several categories. My plan will include 7 categories:

  1. Spiritual;
  2. Family;
  3. Mental/Personal Growth;
  4. Firm/Professional Development;
  5. Physical;
  6. Fun; and,
  7. Financial.

I will have a few big goals listed under each category that I hope to accomplish in 2015. Some of the categories I’ve selected may not seem relevant to a “business” plan, but for me to succeed in my profession, I also have to try to achieve balance and growth in other areas of my life.

This year I’m also thinking about who can help me and keep me accountable for achieving my goals. For instance, My 2015 fitness goals include,  completing 150 hot yoga classes in the year and continue to run at least 5-10 miles a week with my girlfriends. If I have a friend or group working with me to achieve a goal, the more likely I am to do it. And, similar to the training schedule for the marathon, I hope to take small, consistent steps toward accomplishing my big goals in all 7 categories for 2015.