I rarely, and maybe never, have written about anything religious, but I wanted to share some thoughts with you after listening to our pastor’s message (aka sermon) titled: Explore God: Does Life Have a Purpose?

It was a message that resonated with me, in part because it was only late in my career that I began thinking about my life purpose. For many years, I was more simply focused on becoming a better lawyer, generating more revenue, and making my clients “Raving Fans.”

Some of you know I have written on this subject several times. Here is a link to a blog post from 2013-Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Finding Your Purpose, Vision and Values.

You may also be aware that I addressed these subjects in a presentation to the Texas Young Lawyers Association.


I haven’t recently looked at the videos above, even when drafting this post, but I bet I didn’t mention God during my presentation.

In his message, our pastor said:

You know, if you look up the word “purpose” in the dictionary, you’ll find it speaks to intentionality, and I wonder if that’s any clarity for the question today…is there any intention to life? Any meaning?

Later, he put the message in the context of those of us living in the United States in 2019

The United States is perhaps the most advanced, affluent, and comfortable culture in all of human history, but at the same time it is arguably the most depressed, medicated, and directionless culture in all of human history.

Sitting in church, listening to our pastor, I knew God would be mentioned at some point. Sure enough, our minister finally put the concept of purpose in our relationship with God. He said:

God is love, and by definition, needs something to love that is capable of loving Him back And we are made in that image, requiring to give love and be loved …otherwise we’re miserable and we start asking, “why are we here? What’s the point?”

As some of you know, I recently spent several days in a hospital with doctors and nurses fighting an infectious bacteria that came up all of a sudden several weeks after surgery. I felt really, really lousy and I was too tired to work, write or even read books.

I will end by first saying I saw three doctors yesterday and I am making great progress. Second, I will say how thankful I am I did not have this problem when I was a busy lawyer.

Finally, I will simply confess that while I had reflected a great deal on my purpose, vision, and core values as a lawyer, I was not seeking God in those things or in the day to day mundane work I was doing. If I had it to do over, I believe I would have found even greater joy in my career and life had I sought to seek God.

I love the song Wind Beneath My Wings. If you click on the link of the title you’ll see it was written in 1982 and was recorded that year by Roger Whittaker, as well as by Sheena Easton and Lee Greenwood. Many others recorded it, including Judy Collins, which is the recording I like best.

But, for most of us, Wind Beneath My Wings will always be Bette Midler’s song. Her version sold millions of copies and received numerous awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1990.


The melody is beautiful, but have you ever paid close attention to the lyrics? Who is the hero described in the song?

Here is how it starts:

Ohhhh, oh, oh, oh, ohhh.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

When I was at the top of my career, and news that ultimately led to the demise of Jenkens & Gilchrist was becoming public, I received many, many calls from legal recruiters and calls from partners in some well-known law firms.

I was bringing in a bucket full of business and that was what made me an attractive candidate for other firms. In all the calls, in all the meetings, I don’t recall any recruiter, or law firm partner asking:

Who are the lawyers who enable you to bring in all this business to your firm?

Let’s put the question in the terms of Wind Beneath My Wings:

Who are the lawyers who give you the opportunity to fly higher than an eagle, for they are the wind beneath your wings?

Now, after leaving my law practice 12 plus years ago, I can candidly admit I never gave some of those lawyers the credit they deserved.

So, if you are a rainmaker in 2018:

  1. Who are your heroes?
  2. Are you letting them know they allow you to fly higher than an eagle?

I am happy that for the most part when I practiced law the only ratings were Martindale-Hubbell and the raters were peers or judges.

With the internet, have the ratings become as meaningless as they are for other businesses.

In the last two months, I have been told by my doctor, my pharmacist and my car dealer repair service that I would likely be called on to give a review either by phone or writing.

My doctor said she was embarrassed to say that she needed for me to give her a 10 rating, or something bad would happen. I understood. She also told me that not completing the form and returning it was tantamount to not giving a 10 rating.

My pharmacist was more blunt. Somehow, the pharmacy would lose standing in the chain-store if I didn’t give a 10.

My car dealer service department was even more blunt. They gave me a sheet with my invoice that had drawings by each number rating. The only one with a smile was a 10. The young man who helped me that day said if I was going to give a rating of anything lower than a 10, I needed to call the dealership and talk first.

My doctor is outstanding. She deserves a high rating. But, if every doctor has to get 10s, what is the value of the survey?

My pharmacist is also great. But, I’m not sure I would know the difference between a pharmacist who is worth a 10 rating and one that is only worth a 9.

Same is true of my car dealer repair service. They take care of my car, and always wash it.  The price is fair and their coffee isn’t bad. But, do they deserve a 9 rating because some other dealership serves Starbucks Lattes just the way I like them?

I’m not sure I ever deserved a 10 rating. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have wanted it. I suspect I may have quit striving to learn and get better.

I always perceived 10s to be perfection. In other words, the performance or the service was so outstanding that nothing can be done to make it any better. That sense of perfection  goes back to Mary Lou Retton in 1984. I watched live that night and saw perfection. I had goose bumps watching, especially knowing she was injured just six weeks before.

If you weren’t around in those days to watch, take a couple of minutes and watch the video below.

A month ago I met with a group of lawyers I coach and we discussed “closing the sale.” If you are like me, you are uncomfortable asking for business.

It’s understandable because you and I fear how we will be perceived. We do not want to come across like the guy in the visual below. We also do not like being rejected. For those and other reasons,  you don’t ask for the business. You aren’t alone, I went through an entire career and never asked for business.

As you may know, I subscribed to Success Magazine. I found a very interesting article a few years ago: Let’s Make a Deal: Sales SuccessIf you are stuck on asking for business, I  think you will find it valuable.


So how do you ask for business?

First, change your mindset. Instead of thinking about what having the business will do for you and your firm, think about how you can help your potential client succeed or successfully deal with a problem. Try this: Next time you are at the point where you are thinking about asking for business, say:

I would love the opportunity to work with you and help you on this.

Before you are at that point consider saying:

What can I do to help you?

Over my life, I have frequently been inspired by music, and simply quotes from successful people. A week or so ago, I saw a Success.com list: 17 Motivational Quotes to Inspire Successful Habits.

I shared it with a few lawyers I have coached and asked them to write a guest blog if they found a quote that resonated with them. Melissa Lyon, a Denver lawyer who has written several guest posts here found one that hit especially close to home for her.

The best way to stop a bad habit is to never begin it – by J.C. Penny

First, J.C. Penny’s real name was James Cash Penny and he was obviously the founder of The JC Penny Company that ended up expanding its stores nationwide – but what you likely do not know is that is that the chain traces its roots to my home state of Wyoming.

That’s right, he started the store in the late 1890s in a small town called Kemmerer, Wyoming, not far from my hometown.  Everyone where I am from knows the story and knows that is where J.C. Penny’s stores have their roots.

He may no longer be a local hero, but he is definitely still noteworthy as a self-made man who truly accomplished something for which we in Wyoming are proud.  If you don’t believe me, here is an article featured on wyohistory.org entitled James Cash Penny: From Clerk to Chain-store Tycoon.

Since coal fueled the opening of J.C. Penny’s and Wyoming is where it was born, obviously I was drawn to a quote from an entrepreneur who started his department store chain in the Cowboy state!

Second, I have one bad habit that I have been trying to kick for ages and I can never seem to truly stop it.  My friends all know I am not a morning person and I don’t wake up on my first alarm.  To be totally honest, I don’t even wake up on the second.

Heck, you could call me at 6 am and I could have a full blown conversation with you and be sweet as pie, and roll over and fall back asleep in one second like it never happened.  I love to sleep until the last possible second.  I love to push it until I will barely have enough time to get showered and ready for the day before I have to leave for work.

Interestingly, I really do not like to have to rush. Yet, I force myself to do it every morning – running around like a chicken with my head cut off because I have 23 minutes to be at the office.

You see, J.C. Penny was right.  I should have never began hitting the snooze button to start with.

Now that I have, I am in a deep love affair with my sleep from about 5:45 am to at least 7:24 am. But, like other people who strive to be better than they are, I am constantly working on it.

I have tried everything in the book to break this habit and so far, nothing has stuck.  Last weekend, I purchased one of those light alarm clocks (for an astronomical price) that simulates the sun rising and has birds chirping.  Here’s hoping it does the trick!

I’m a living example proving J.C. Penny was right on the money when he said, “The best way to stop a bad habit is to never begin it.”

P.S. Next time I post here for Cordell, I’ll let you know if the expensive alarm clock is working.

Thank you Melissa. Readers: If you read the Success quotes and find one you want to write about let me know.


I’ve coached well over 1000 lawyers since I left my law firm and started coaching in other firms in 2005. I believe most, if not all the lawyers I have coached would like to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Why are some of the lawyers I’ve coached successful and others are not? Many who do not succeed are really only saying they wish they could attract more clients.

Those who succeed do it a variety of ways. In some cases there’s luck of being in right place at the right time. In some cases there is luck of being born in the right family, marrying into the right family or having a friend who created a billion dollar company.

But, for most of lawyers I have coached who attracted major clients, they did it the old fashioned way.

They were motivated and worked hard, like an athlete training each and every day, and not seeing immediate results.

Fitness woman


I read an interesting Psychology Today article titled: Don’t Let Your Thinking Sabotage Your Goals, written by David Ludden, Ph.D. Please take a look because the writer treats the motivation to lose weight as I just explained above about the motivation to attract clients. Then, Ludden writes:

According to University of Chicago psychologist Oleg Urminsky, a sense of connectedness to the future self is essential for achieving long-term goals. (My emphasis)…

Urminsky considers his idea of connectedness to the future within the larger context of a well-documented phenomenon in behavioral economics known as time discounting. This occurs when people discount the value of a resource when there’s a delay in receiving it. For instance, if I offer you $120 now or $180 a year from now, you’ll most likely take the smaller-but-sooner option over the larger-but-later one.

Therein lies the problem, client development and attracting clients is a long term process. It requires lots of hard work for which there is no pay, and no immediate benefit. I know it took me two years of work, work, work before the first construction client called me.

I’ll leave you with one final example. I coached a lawyer 10 years ago. When I began coaching her, she had a very small amount of business in her column.

Recently she wrote to me and told me that a few years ago, she had set a goal of originating $3 million by the time she was a certain age. She told me she had reached and even exceeded her goal in 2016.

How did she achieve this awesome goal? Just as the motivation article suggests, she saw herself as a $3 million originator by a certain age, then she broke it down into smaller chunks and worked each year to get closer and closer to her long term goal.


If you have been a long time reader, you likely remember that a lawyer I coached a few years ago has gone in-house. Starting in 2015, he has shared tips for me to pass on to those of you still practicing in law firms.

You might recall reading:

2016 Tips from My In-House Lawyer Friend

Client Development: Even More Tips from a Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Client Development: More Tips from a Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Client Development Tips: From Law Firm Lawyer Who is Now In-House

Business PeopleCordell, I’ve got some new ones. These focus on communication which seems to be lacking by firms. It is so frustrating.

  1. It shouldn’t take longer than a day to respond to my e-mail or that of someone at my company. If you can’t check your e-mails each day (such as you being on vacation), have someone do that for you.
  2.  A congratulatory e-mail to me when we announce a new product or have a significant development tells me you are paying attention to my company.
  3. When I send you an email inquiry asking for assistance, acknowledge the email so that I am aware you received it. If you can’t respond substantively immediately (which is fine), let me know when you can get to it so I can assess if I need to call someone else.
  4. If you get a call or email from someone other than me and I am your usual contact, you should inquire if I am aware of the inquiry. If one the departments I support reaches out to you, I would like you to tell me before you get started.

At the end of each year I post the Top 10 Blog Posts based on views. As in some previous years, posts done earlier than 2016 made the list.

10. Law Firms: 21 Ideas to Improve Client Service

9. Work Like You Don’t Need the Money

8. About Me

7. Are You Pursuing Excellence or Success

6. 12 Tips to Make Your law Firm One of the Few Your Clients Will Recommend

5. 2015 Planning: Organize into Categories of Your Life

4. Selling Legal Services Do’s and Don’ts

3. Career Success: Why You Should Relentlessly Chase Perfection

2. 50 Topics for Client Development Discussions in Your Firm

1. Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan?

In case you are wondering, the reason Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan is Number 1 is that I recommend each lawyer I coach use it as a starting point for preparing his or her business plan. You could do the same for your 2017 business plan.

Seth Godin recently posted: Not enough ‘if’ or not enough ‘then’? Take a look at it.

How does it apply to you? Lawyers rarely have an ‘if” problem, because when clients need a lawyers help, they need the help.

But, lawyers frequently have a ‘then’ problem. You must demonstrate to your potential clients that ‘you’ are the lawyer they should hire. How can you do that?

I have written many times that you should understand your clients’ business and industry. Your potential clients rarely know whether you are a top notch lawyer, but they always know if you understand their business and industry.


I hope each of you had the chance to read Mette Kurth’s guest post: Your Sales Pitch: Better to be like Pistachio.

I believe that authenticity can be Pistachio. So, speaking of debates, I believe the Vice Presidential debate showed an interesting contrast.

I believe the public likes both Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. I suspect if you do a Google search today, you’d likely find someone suggesting he or she would prefer if they were running against each other for President.

But, Tim Kaine was not the Tim Kaine most people know and like at the Vice Presidential debate. See this Washington Post article: Tim Kaine seemed like he was trying too hard at the VP debate. The writer questioned Kaine’s authenticity.

At the vice-presidential debate here Tuesday, however, Kaine turned in a performance that threatened to undermine the image of authenticity that has been one of his greatest strengths.

If you are a regular reader, you may recall that I lost a jury trial in 1981 and was devastated by the loss.

pablo (9)

After I finally picked myself off the mat and dusted myself off, I read a book authored by famed trial lawyer, Gerry Spence. If nothing else, I learned I had to be my authentic self in the courtroom.

Thereafter, in rapid succession, I won a white collar criminal case, a patent infringement case and a construction contract case, all in federal court, all with the same judge.

There are many articles you can read about Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College. Here are links to a couple with quotes about authenticity:

JR Clary, Faculty Co-Leader at the upcoming February 2016 Georgia Regional Seminar on Closing Argument, discusses the value of TLC methods in his practice. Clary says:

What I’ve learned time and again at the College is that to unleash the power of your client’s case, you have to be willing and courageous enough, and have the fortitude, to release yourself to tell your truth. You have to impart the truth about yourself first or you’ll never know the truth that exists within the hearts of the jurors with whom you are interacting.

Authenticity, Honesty, and Humanity: Lessons From the Trial Lawyers’ College. Attorney Andrew Mishlove says:

I can summarize the entire experience down to three words: authenticity, honesty, and humanity.

I believe clients are like jurors. They can tell when the lawyer sitting across from them is authentic, or when he or she is not.

When I was a young lawyer I had the opportunity to see many senior lawyers interact with clients. At first I tried to emulate what one of them was doing. It didn’t work. When I found my own voice, I was more comfortable and more successful.