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If You Build It: Matt Handal

This is the second post on business development for construction and surety lawyers.  Matt Handal does business development for Trauner Consulting.  He’s also very fun to talk to and he tries all sorts of interesting things, like blogging and podcasting.  Make sure you don’t miss his story below about a brilliant piece of proposal writing that won a Corps of Engineers project.   Chris: Matt, thanks for joining me for this interview. I’m excited to talk to you because you have an interesting perspective: you work for a consulting firm that does a lot of work for construction attorneys and law firms.  From an outsider’s perspective, what’s your opinion of law firm business development? Matt: I don’t really have one. I don’t see law firm business development as different from engineering business development or accounting business development. Sure, every business is a unique and special snowflake. But what works in business development is surprisingly universal. Chris: If you were working at a law firm on the business development side, what are three things you would implement on day one? What’s missing from the world of law firm business development? Matt: I can’t speak to what’s missing in law firm business development. But on day one, I would: 1. Identify our best client. 2. Put together a list of other potential clients just like that one. 3. Learn everything I can about what motivates those people, what their problems are, their frustrations, etc. Ultimately, all you really need is: A. The right message. B. An audience that can say, “yes.” Chris: I’m going to push you a bit here. Do you really do this stuff? When have you actually asked your customers what motivates them? Matt: Yes. But how I get there is not as direct as that. I have a list of customer development questions. For example, I might ask: What’s the hardest part of your day? Or I might ask: If you had one complaint about ____ what would it be? I have a list of probably 40+ questions. But its not like I drill them. But that’s about all I’m willing to say about that! 😛 Chris: You are a creative dude. What’s the most creative thing you have ever done to land a client? You better not hold back on me! Matt: Hmmm, that’s a good question. I’m going to disappoint. People have this idea that I’m […]

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If You Build It: Cordell Parvin

Cordell Parvin used to be a big-time rainmaker in the construction legal world.  He now coaches lawyers who want to become rainmakers themselves.  I’ve worked with Cordell, he’s great.  The interview below was a lot of fun to do, I hope you like it.  And check out his blog for more good insights.   Chris:  Cordell, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.  I’m interested in doing almost a retrospective on your legal career up to your current legal coaching business.  You were a successful construction attorney with a big book of business.  But before you were a rainmaker, you started as an associate.  Was there one moment in your legal career when you decided to start developing business?  Or did it just happen? Cordell:  Yes, there was a moment. I had been on active duty in the USAF and litigated government contract cases. When I got out in 1976 and started practice in Roanoke, Virginia, I litigated cases for clients of two corporate lawyers. Some of the clients I liked and a couple I did not like at all. I also knew I would never have control of my destiny if I did not have my own clients. In 1978, I decided to focus on construction law and build my own practice, while continuing to litigate cases for the firm’s clients. Chris:  You and I are similar in that we both focused on construction legal niches.  I focused on green building law; you focused on transportation construction law.  What benefits did you see when you started focusing on the transportation construction niche? Cordell:  First, our country was in the midst of building the interstate system. So, I knew there would be work over the next 20 plus years. Second, at Virginia Tech I met and became friends with guys whose families owned the largest highway contractor in Virginia and the largest highway contractor in West Virginia. Third, and the clincher was when I was asked to speak at the 1981 ABA Annual Meeting. I remember being on a conference call and the moderator asked each of us for our topic. When I said highway construction, he said: “Cordell, no one (lawyers) cares about highway construction.”  That sealed it for me. I knew I could become the best known in that niche. Chris:  Tell me about your first legal client.  How did you land them? Cordell:  I believe my first client […]

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