I’ve written a lot of posts that start with, “What lawyers (or law firms) can learn from …” Search by that phrase on my blog and you’ll find posts about fabulous and lousy expensive restaurants, unexpectedly terrific hotel experiences, travel, dentistry, vacuum cleaners, brand launches and more. It’s always grounded and practical advice – and the common theme is, to be a better lawyer, pay attention to the world around you.
You can learn something about how to better serve clients (and ultimately how to better serve yourself) in the most unlikely places. I have linked several of the most popular “What lawyers can learn…” posts at the bottom of this one.
But, today’s post is about CBS Sports legend, Verne Lundquist, and why lawyers of all ages should not just revere his storied and stellar 53-year career, but why you should understand who he is – a passionate, hard-working man who loves his job. Nicknamed “the Golden Throat,” Verne is the envy of sports fanatics the world over, because he knows all the current and past luminaries in virtually every sport – and he knows them well.
Glen, my husband and I met Verne and Nancy Lundquist on a Baltic cruise in August. Verne was on board as the “celebrity speaker,” a gig he has done more than a dozen times on luxury cruises – much to the joy of those on board these ships. I have to be honest, I didn’t know who Verne was (I am really embarrassed to admit this) – in fact, Glen went to hear Verne, and I enrolled in a Black Jack tournament. 15 minutes in, Glen texts me and says, “Verne’s great – you must come.” I wrote back, “I’m winning,” and stayed at Table 3 in the Casino.
When I met Glen later over our customary afternoon champagne (I love vacation), he was giddy in his animated retelling – almost verbatim – of nearly an hour of Verne’s stories. Well, I didn’t win the Black Jack tournament and I felt completely cheated having not heard him. I had to get to know this Verne guy.
The next day our ship was forced to skip docking in Skagen, Denmark because of huge swells, so we had another unexpected day at sea. Verne was invited to do another program, and Glen and I sat in the front row. He entertained the standing-room-only crowd with new stories, sharing tales about many of the 20 sports that he has broadcast over the last 50-plus years.
I was rapt – as was the mostly male crowd in the room. Verne approached even the most controversial topics (with professional sports figures, there is plenty of gossip and controversy to go around) with delicacy, humor, no vitriol or snark – he was ever the professional. Whatever ego Verne has was checked at the door – actually, having shared several meals with him after this speech, he always has his ego checked. He is as interested in you as you are in him.
Everyone reading this who loves college football (especially Southeastern Conference football) knows and loves him, as Verne has been the play-by-play broadcaster for SEC football since 1999. (He has covered college football since 1974.) Rabid SEC fans admit to being deeply emotional at the thought that this is Verne’s last season. Every SEC team has honored Nancy and Verne with more his-and-her swag than they could possibly ever use or wear. But what a touching treat and an honor for him – for them both.
He and I have a lot in common: born in Minnesota (check), lived in Dallas, Texas (check), loves to sing in the choir (check), is Lutheran (well, I am Methodist and Episcopalian, but I went to a Lutheran college in MN), he adores his spouse (check), he loves food and wine (check check). Of course, I am drawn to him.
So – what can lawyers of all ages learn from Verne?
- Love what you do so much that you discover stories in your work that are universally appealing. I am not an avid sports fan, but Verne made me want to be one. I want to belong to whatever club he is in.
- Once you find your stories, tell them with such passion and enthusiasm that you set yourself apart. But don’t over-shadow others around you. This isn’t about bragging – that’s the antithesis of Verne. He is often self-effacing, and his stories combine both historical facts and his color commentary about the people and places he has encountered. Too many people frame their stories with themselves at the center – don’t do that. Instead, be the observer, the play-by-play person who never forgets an interesting detail. Humor. Grace. Class. That’s how he’s always described.
- Use fewer words and use the right words. Play-by-play commentary is riddled with high emotion moments – people win and lose. Over his entire career, Verne has famously said exactly the right thing – with just the right amount of words. A favorite Dallas example is in Super Bowl XIII after Cowboys tight-end Jackie Smith dropped a touchdown pass in a painful 35-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers . . . Verne spontaneously blurted, “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America!” He has always been known for his genuine compassion and he showed it that day.
- Learn something new every day that makes you a better lawyer. I said that Verne has covered 20 different sports – all in public arenas, on stage, on air and on television (i.e., there was no concealing what he didn’t know). He modestly says that whether calling figure skating at the Olympics with Scott Hamilton, PGA golf at the Masters or NFL football with Terry Bradshaw, he was not the domain expert in the room. But, he cared enough to make sure he knew exactly enough to make CBS Sports look good – and to show respect to both the sports and athletes he was covering.
- Don’t be a fake. Have the highest integrity, truest warmth and stay grounded in the values that you learned from your parents, favorite teachers and gifted mentors. He is always described as “What you see is what you get.”
- It’s never too early – or late – to start building your legacy. Verne has been inducted into several Halls of Fame and he won a Sports Emmy for Lifetime Achievement this past May. Treat yourself and take 30 minutes to watch this video of his introduction and remarks at the Emmy ceremony. You’ll learn a lot about how to build a memorable and successful career. www.bing.com/videos/search?q=verne+lundquist+emmy+youtube&view=detail&mid=61E3B4E44B9E5A869FC061E3B4E44B9E5A869FC0&FORM=VIRE
- Surround yourself with people who can help you look and feel good – thank them often. And be a great spouse, friend, colleague and volunteer in return.
- Finally, find joy in your work and exhibit it every day. Your clients and colleagues will notice and be drawn to you. Joy makes everyone more interesting and stimulating. Have you ever heard Verne’s’ famous laugh?! Let your laugh be infectious and legendary.
Our last evening with Verne and Nancy was at a terrific restaurant in Stockholm. I felt sad when we walked away from them after dinner. But I think of them often and know we will see each other again. Certainly, I’ll see and hear him the next few weeks of college football – then we’ll just have to get their cruising schedule and make sure we’re on board.
Below are the other “What lawyers and law firms can learn” posts.
lawfirm4-0.typepad.com/law_firm_40_blog/2013/08/what-lawyers-can-learn-about-messaging-from-an-unlikely-source-dentistry.html (which includes one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written here: Everyone is one tooth away from ugly.)