Jeff Kimmel: Managing a Firm with Consistency and Clarity

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Jeff Kimmel discuss:

  • Understanding the business and the finances of the firm.
  • Referrals, delegation, and trust in your team.
  • Communicating clearly and confidently to your client about transitions in teams.
  • Scaling down to scale up.

Key Takeaways:

  • Everyone has their own way of managing – find the way that works for you and the firm and do that. It can be fun and exciting if you are doing it in a way that is fresh and right for you.
  • You can give clients reassurance that you are part of their case while also assuring them that your team is more than capable and will be handling the day-to-day. You do not have to do it all.
  • Answer internal firm questions not just with an answer, but with perspective as to how it affects the client and the case.
  • You do not need to accept every referral case to maintain relationships – sometimes declining the cases that don’t fit can earn you respect and better future cases.

“Even if you don’t want to be the boss, it is so important for you, as a young lawyer, to understand that the firm you are working at is also a business.” —  Jeff Kimmel

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About Jeff Kimmel: As Managing Partner of Salenger, Sack, Kimmel & Bavaro, a New York trial firm, Jeff Kimmel is a fierce business leader and attorney who has navigated the firm’s rapid growth and elevated its status to one of the leading personal injury and medical malpractice law firms in New York. Jeff has been recognized in the industry as a leader. His business background and innovative thinking have helped him structure the firm for continued growth and success.

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Show notes by Podcastologist Chelsea Taylor-Sturkie

Audio production by Turnkey Podcast Productions. You’re the expert. Your podcast will prove it.


[00:00:00] Steve Fretzin: Hello, everyone. Have you ever wondered how much more business you could be generating each month? Well, you can take the Be That Lawyer challenge to find out. If I’m unable to help you find the money that’s been evading you, I’ll pay your hourly rate for the time invested together. Just go to Fretzin. com to sign up. I’m challenging you now enjoy the show.

[00:00:23] Narrator: You’re listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Each episode, your host, author and lawyer coach, Steve Fretzin, will take a deeper dive, helping you grow your law practice in less time with greater results. Now here’s your host, Steve Fretzin.

[00:00:45] Steve Fretzin: Well hey everybody, welcome to Be That Lawyer. I hope. that you are well and having a wonderful day today, whether you are in your car right now in traffic, just listening and trying to get some tips and ideas on how to be that lawyer, someone who’s confident, organized, and a skilled rainmaker. Maybe you’re walking your dog.

[00:01:01] Steve Fretzin: I’m a big, uh, podcast, walk the dog guy. That’s my jam. I take the dog for a walk. I throw on some headphones and. And do that. And I always try to learn something new, try to figure out what is gonna, you know, help me in my life, help me in my business, educate me on, you know, what’s going on in the world. And this show is all about that.

[00:01:20] Steve Fretzin: Really just helping you to live your best life as a lawyer and, and, uh, you know, just make things a little easier than they may have been yesterday. So I’ve got a great guest today in Jeff, how you doing Jeff? I’m doing well. Steve. How are you doing? Fine. Doing fine. Yeah. We’re having some audio issues and I’m glad we figured them out, but I’m happy to have you on the show.

[00:01:37] Steve Fretzin: I thought we had a really great conversation on a week or two ago and was super excited to get you on the show and, and, uh, get things rolling. And you’ve got the shortest quote of the show in the history of this show. It’s three words other than maybe someone said, uh, Nike’s just do it, but yours is do it now.

[00:01:55] Steve Fretzin: Yes. Yeah. Tell us about that. Why do it

[00:01:57] Jeff Kimmel: now? Well, that actually came from one of my law school professors, Jerome Weidner. I was at Brooklyn Law School. He, he taught trial advocacy. I took him for a couple of courses, but he was a terrific guy. He was a great mentor. And he told me about this saying that he adopt, adopted when, when he first started out in the working world.

[00:02:17] Jeff Kimmel: And it was just do it. It was a little sign that he put above his doorframe. So when he shut the door to his office, that’s what he saw this little sign above the doorframe that said, do it now. And he did that because it’s so easy as a lawyer to procrastinate, you know, there’s no really like over your shoulder telling you what you got to do next.

[00:02:35] Jeff Kimmel: You got to make these decisions yourself. You have a client that you need to call back and you’re like, ah, I’ll do it later. I’ll do it tomorrow. And he just said, he put that above his door and anytime he had something to do and he was thinking about not doing it, he would just look up and it says, do it now.

[00:02:51] Jeff Kimmel: He’d say, I just got to do it now.

[00:02:54] Steve Fretzin: I’m putting together that lawyers and ADHD teenagers are not that different in the sense that my teenager, it’s always, if he does it right away, it’s like the best thing that’s ever happened and that it’s like, yeah, get to it. Or, you know, later, you know, whatever. And then I just know it’s gonna, those clothes are gonna sit on the stairs for, you know, days or whatever it might be too funny.

[00:03:13] Steve Fretzin: So, so, Jeff, you’re Jeff Kimmel. As you know your, your own name. You’re Jeff Kimmel, managing partner of Salinger Sack Kimmel and Brava Bavaro. Um, and I’d love for you guys to share because the topic we’re going to hit today is a really important one. It’s really about how lawyers. Who move into management roles, uh, need to kind of really think about their, you know, their, the hat that they’re going to wear.

[00:03:37] Steve Fretzin: And in many cases they’re wearing 10, 15, 20 different hats. It rarely works out with that. And I want to, we’ll get into the weeds on that, but give us a little background, you know, leading into your current role as the managing partner of your

[00:03:48] Jeff Kimmel: firm. Okay. Yeah. I did not become the managing partner voluntarily or willingly.

[00:03:55] Jeff Kimmel: It was not something I aspired to do when I was in law school and said, I want to, you know, get a job one day and be the managing partner. I did not think that I went to law school to become a trial lawyer. I did become a trial lawyer. I was in the DA’s office first. I tried cases and then I went into the civil world and I became a personal injury medical malpractice lawyer and I tried cases and never did I think that I was going to become the managing partner.

[00:04:25] Jeff Kimmel: I just thought I was going to be a trial lawyer and, you know, the circumstances where you want me to get into that, the circumstances that you can get

[00:04:31] Steve Fretzin: into the circumstance. I’m wondering if that involves a handcuffs or a straight jacket, but okay, we’ll get, we’ll figure it out.

[00:04:38] Jeff Kimmel: Well, uh, the managing partner, when I was, when I was hired, I was a young, I was a young guy and the two partners were Salinger and SAC.

[00:04:47] Jeff Kimmel: And they’re like my dad’s age. So it was like, I want to work for my dad and my uncle. Yeah. And, and they were great guys. They had great reputations in the industry and they’d been stalwarts in the, uh, New York personal injury world. And it was great. Uh, but as time went on, they got older. I got older and I became partner, but they kept getting older.

[00:05:06] Jeff Kimmel: I kept getting older and the managing partner, Bob sack passed away. And at that time it was the four of us, Joe Bavaro, who is my partner now, Marvin. And, and myself and, and Bob and Bob passed away. And so at that point, and, you know, the three of us, uh, Marvin, showing myself, we’re all trial lawyers and, you know, that’s what we did.

[00:05:27] Jeff Kimmel: And so when he passed away, we sort of just, you know, looked at each other and said, Hmm, okay. And we had a bookkeeper, we had an accountant and we just said, you know what? Those people will take care of the finances. They can, you know, manage that stuff. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. And we did that for about a year and then, you know, it, I don’t want to say exactly what happened, but the stuff hit the fan.

[00:05:49] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. Right. I was like, wait, we haven’t paid taxes. What, what do you mean? Yeah. So things happened and you know, I was by default nominated and elected to become the managing partner. I had a bit of a business background, which I hadn’t utilized in 25 years, but the other two, uh, basically were incapable. Um, uh, managing their own finances, let alone the finances of the firm.

[00:06:13] Jeff Kimmel: So by default, it was, it became my job and it, you know, I, I did ultimately embrace it. I’m now very happy that it happened. I’m sure like everything else that happened for a reason. And, you know, I, I’ve embraced the role and I, you know, it’s what I do now, uh, every day and I love it.

[00:06:32] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. And that, that sounds like a be that lawyer tipping point in the sense that, that not all tipping points happen by choice.

[00:06:38] Steve Fretzin: Sometimes they happen, you know, by accident and we have to kind of roll with them and, and that sort of then defines who we become or how we, you know, me being, I was in a plane crash when I was in my twenties, I met a coach when I was in my 40 in my thirties. Things that, that happen that you don’t realize are going to happen.

[00:06:55] Steve Fretzin: And they, they, they changed the course. So really, really cool there. So what, I mean, I know working with tons of managing partners every day, every week, what a lot of their challenges are. What were some of the challenges that you found you were having entering into that role? Well,

[00:07:11] Jeff Kimmel: first understanding the business and, and how it was run, you know, I just took for granted that the managing partner.

[00:07:19] Jeff Kimmel: Dealt with all these financial issues and then made these financial decisions. And I didn’t know what the expenses of the firm really were. I didn’t know what the payroll was. I didn’t even know how I got paid. I just knew that the money ended up in my bank account. I didn’t really care much about everybody else.

[00:07:35] Jeff Kimmel: Uh, so I knew nothing about the business of the firm, you know, insurance that we had, the rent that we paid. You know, all these things, I had no idea, but also, you know, the, the money that gets dispersed, uh, from us, that’s, that’s the biggest part of my job now. We are a personal injury firm. So we get checks from insurance companies on settlements, but then that money has to be dispersed the right way.

[00:07:59] Jeff Kimmel: Yes. Yes. And we have referring attorneys that are entitled to a piece of the legal fee and everybody and has a different arrangement and every case have a, has a different set of characters. And, and plaintiffs have promised certain money and we have to pay back liens and we have expenses and all. So it’s actually, you know, this is a weekly thing I do with the checks that come in one week.

[00:08:22] Jeff Kimmel: When the, when the check’s clear, I have to now disperse them the right way. Uh, so that’s something that I, I just really had to learn how to do. I just, I never did it. I was looking at my, my partners. Um, paperwork and it was, you know, he just had a pen and paper and he’s just doing mathematics, you know?

[00:08:42] Jeff Kimmel: Right. Right. My three. So it was, it was interesting. I’m, I’m a little more advanced now. You know, I have a calculator. He didn’t have to use a calculator. So transition wise, you know, the business aspect of it was the first thing, cause I, I’d never paid attention to it.

[00:08:58] Steve Fretzin: And then, and then were you, prior to taking on that role, were you, you were just the trial attorney.

[00:09:04] Steve Fretzin: Were you also a rainmaker? Were you out trying to develop business and build relationships and all that as

[00:09:09] Jeff Kimmel: well? Yes. So that’s how I became partner. Uh, and the same thing for my, my partner, Joe Bovaro. I was, I think a pretty good trial lawyer and my partner is an excellent trial lawyer, but we both network and we both have an, and had a book of business and we were bringing in business to the firm.

[00:09:26] Jeff Kimmel: And that’s how we became partners, um, you know, because we, we had that income. So, yeah, we both, and my partner is, is a natural net worker. He’s, he’s a great golfer and, you know, he does those kinds of things. And, and yeah, so I was responsible for bringing in a lot of the work as well as doing the trial.

[00:09:46] Steve Fretzin: So you’ve got the, the business side, you’ve got the actual legal work side, you have the rainmaking side.

[00:09:54] Steve Fretzin: And then there’s people, right? Managing people, dealing with culture, dealing with marketing, dealing with technology. So, this is when I, when I think about the managing partners that I work with, and many of them are in my peer, peer advisory roundtable. So what’s nice is that they get to share ideas, best practices, challenges, problems with each other.

[00:10:14] Steve Fretzin: So they’re not feeling like they’re alone on an island trying to figure all this stuff out by themselves. But, but, but the things that come up on a regular basis and most of it revolves around people and people problems.

[00:10:27] Jeff Kimmel: Absolutely. You know, the one thing that was a big transition for me was dealing with the staff.

[00:10:32] Jeff Kimmel: You know, I was like an island unto myself when I was a trial lawyer. I worried about my cases and my clients and getting things done and being ready for trial. And now all of a sudden the staff was my responsibility and having to manage them and deal with them became my, my job. And that, that was, that was a learning experience.

[00:10:53] Jeff Kimmel: So it’s not something I learned in law school and it’s something that I’m going to take over. Yeah.

[00:10:58] Steve Fretzin: And I think one of the most interesting things about you and our conversation leading into kind of what, you know, the topic of the day is many of them, of the managing partners, the majority of the managing partners out there.

[00:11:11] Steve Fretzin: Are wearing, you know, a dozen, half a dozen to a dozen hats and they’re practicing and they’re managing and they’re still out there making rain and trying to build business and you’ve flipped a switch, uh, where you’ve said, essentially, look, I want to run the business side of things and you’ve taken a step back from practicing.

[00:11:32] Steve Fretzin: Is that correct? Yes. Yeah. And that’s something that most lawyers just. I don’t know if it’s in their persona, if it’s in their DNA, if it’s how they perceive themselves as, as, you know, how they’re, you know, they’re valued in society, that they’re the trial lawyer, that’s, that’s their. And to take a step back and say, look, I’m not doing that anymore.

[00:11:53] Steve Fretzin: I’m really going to focus on, on building the business and being the CEO of, or managing partner of the sperm. That’s not only a tough decision, a big decision. So I’m interested in hearing how you ultimately made that decision.

[00:12:05] Jeff Kimmel: Well, I get it was not voluntary. It was. Okay. Um, but yeah, you know, uh, I knew how important it was and it was, it’s my, it was my firm, you know, and, and, and somebody had to run it.

[00:12:18] Jeff Kimmel: And so it became my responsibility to do it. I, I embraced it and I enjoy it because I developed my own systems, my own way of managing my own way of, of handling the finances, my own way of, of dealing with, you know, the managing partner issues. Um, but yeah, I, I, I didn’t plan on doing it and I didn’t go through a training period.

[00:12:41] Jeff Kimmel: I didn’t learn how to do it in law school. It was something that, you know, it was done out of necessity, but I saw an opportunity to run the business in a way that we were going to be more efficient, you know, make more money. And, you know, the, the, having that. Uh, power and discretion and, you know, ability to change things up and, you know, view my whole world differently.

[00:13:03] Jeff Kimmel: I, I, I was always focused on my next trial and helping the next client. And now I was like, okay, now my focus is on the business. How am I going to help the business? How am I going to make the business grow? How am I going to make it more efficient? How am I going to make the people that work for me, you know, happy?

[00:13:21] Jeff Kimmel: How am I going to make a good culture within the firm, those things.

[00:13:24] Steve Fretzin: What was that? Was that, I know you’re saying, I know you’re saying by necessity. However, you know, there’s a lot of, a lot of managing partners that don’t make that move that still, you know, hang on to clients, they hang on to trials and matters and things that they’re doing, but you’ve given that up.

[00:13:42] Steve Fretzin: So I mean, I guess I’m just looking at either an understanding of your mindset or your understanding. Did you have a sense of loss? Do you still have a sense of loss? Are you able to still talk shop with folks in the firm to kind of get your, your, your taste of it or whatever we might call that and, and staying, staying abreast of

[00:13:58] Jeff Kimmel: the law?

[00:14:00] Jeff Kimmel: It’s interesting that you asked that because we’ve, we, we have that discussion often. I’m still very involved in the cases in the sense that I’m involved with trial strategy with just case management. Most of my day is spent answering questions by the attorneys who come into my office about What do I do next?

[00:14:18] Jeff Kimmel: You know, should we take this case? Uh, you know, how do I call this, you know, call this client? What do I, what do I need to do? So I am spending most of my day answering questions about what to do next on cases and how to handle issues on cases. And then for the lawyers that are on trial, you know, we, we have a lot of discussions about trial strategy.

[00:14:38] Jeff Kimmel: And then as the case, I go to court. And sit in the courtroom and watch some of the trials just because I want to help and be part of it. Also, I’ll get involved in negotiating the case as it’s being tried. It’s difficult as a trial lawyer to try a case and also try to settle it at the same time. I mean, I’ve found that.

[00:14:58] Jeff Kimmel: So, you know, for my partner who’s trying our biggest cases. I say, just you try the case. I’ll sit in the courtroom whenever they want to talk money. They can talk to me. You just worry about trying the case. You worry about the next witness you’re going to call. You worry about the evidence that needs to go in.

[00:15:14] Jeff Kimmel: So as much as my responsibility is to the business end of things. I still am very involved in the trial work and the, the personal injury, the medical malpractice stuff that’s going on. I don’t have a caseload. I’m not managing cases. I’m not clients on a daily basis. I’m really not. Um, I delegate all that.

[00:15:35] Jeff Kimmel: That was a skill. Uh, we can talk about that, that I, that I needed to learn.

[00:15:39] Steve Fretzin: Yeah, that’s, that’s a big one, man. That is, that is top of the list that the ability to delegate and, and to disconnect and, you know, people. And then the argument, listen to this argument and you tell me if this affected you, Hey, I want you, Jeff, you’re the lawyer that was referred to me.

[00:15:53] Steve Fretzin: You’re the lawyer that comes highly recommended. I want you, how are you then managing that expectation of the business that was coming in for you and being able to hand it off without losing it, uh,

[00:16:06] Jeff Kimmel: losing that business. Well, that’s a great question. It’s a real issue that came up a lot more in the beginning because I left clients when I became the partner, the managing partner, uh, but still to this day, people are referred, like you say, referred to me, you know, the, the referring attorney say, call the firm, here’s the number, but you have to talk to Jeff, you know, you must talk to Jeff.

[00:16:27] Jeff Kimmel: So how do I handle it? I’m, I’m honest with, with the people. I say, it’s my firm. I’m going to be involved. But what I tell them is that we have a team of lawyers and staff working on your case and they’ll be handling most of the day to day stuff. But any major decision that needs to be made on your case, I will be involved with.

[00:16:46] Jeff Kimmel: And what I personally do is I give every client that I deal with, I give them my cell phone number and I say, you can call me anytime. You can text me anytime. Here’s my number. And they all appreciate that. Yeah. Nobody uses it. It’s a good practice. It’s very comforting when I give them my cell phone number.

[00:17:03] Jeff Kimmel: So I do stay involved, but I am upfront and telling them that there’s a team of lawyers and staff who will be doing the day to day that we’ll be working on your case, but I’m always here and you could always talk to me. Yeah. Here’s everything

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[00:19:01] Steve Fretzin: stand out. And there’s an absolute disconnect for many lawyers on how to do that, right? I know you had to kind of figure it out, but I’m, you know, in the trenches listening to, to this and this, this, the team approach is a very effective way to. You know, let them know, look, I, you know, like a team, I’m the coach, I’m the quarterback.

[00:19:21] Steve Fretzin: I have this great team around me. You don’t want me, you want the team. And I’ll still stay involved as from a strategic standpoint. And again, when you say, you know, they can reach you if they need and giving them that comfort, you’re not going to lose the business to someone else because you’re not trying the case when you have that approach.

[00:19:37] Steve Fretzin: I think that’s really, really wise, Jeff, that you, uh, That you take that approach and I’m glad that you figured that out because some lawyers just, you know, they don’t, they don’t do that and they just stay in the trenches because they haven’t figured out that transition yet.

[00:19:50] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. Yeah. And, and so just to, to add to that point, we, we, we have lawyers who come and go, you know, there’s some turnover and it’s a thing when a lawyer leaves for whatever reason that the caseload for that lawyer gets.

[00:20:04] Jeff Kimmel: Transition to another lawyer. Now for us, the firm and the lawyers and the team, it’s like, okay, the Smith case, that’s not your team is now going to be this team. And you know, we’re done now to the client. That is, um, uh, a monumental, uh, uh, event. Yeah, for sure. This is their case. This is their only case.

[00:20:23] Jeff Kimmel: It’s a catastrophic event. So, you know, making that transition and telling them that now you have a new lawyer, we now have a whole new protocol about managing that and the communication that needs to go into it and the, the verbiage that we use when we inform the client that there’s a, you know, a new team that’s working or someone else is joining the, it’s a very sensitive thing for clients to hear.

[00:20:44] Jeff Kimmel: And you have to treat that with big love.

[00:20:46] Steve Fretzin: Give me a sliver of that language. I’m just curious. I know it’s, I don’t know. I hope it’s not your secret sauce, but I think it’s, it’s important for lawyers to, to know Similarly to how you transition the leads that you get coming in to your team, also when you have to take over for someone else, what’s kind of the one or two sentence language that you use to, to help people understand that they’re going to be okay.

[00:21:08] Steve Fretzin: Yeah.

[00:21:08] Jeff Kimmel: So we, we just had, we hired a new associate and we’re giving her a bunch of cases. So we’re taking them from one lawyer and transitioning to the next. And, and, you know, she’s going to have a caseload. Uh, we’re, we’re shifting 20 cases to her over the next, you know, two months. So how does that, how do we do that?

[00:21:24] Jeff Kimmel: Well, we, we bring the client in or we set up a conference call. Ideally, we do this in person because it’s a big deal. We basically say it’s going from, uh, from Jared’s case to Brooke’s case, right? So, but we tell the client that, you know, and Jared’s you, you, you, you love Jared. He’s been your attorney, you know, for the last two years, we now have someone else joining the team.

[00:21:48] Jeff Kimmel: Brooke is going to be on the team and she’s going to handle more of the day to day stuff, but Jared is still going to be involved. You can always call Jared, but, but, but Brooke and her paralegal are going to be doing more day to day stuff. So you’ll be hearing from them and when you call, you’ll probably be transferred to them.

[00:22:05] Jeff Kimmel: But if at any time you want to speak with Jared, he’s, he’s available. So we, we just, we bridge it in a way that they don’t think it’s that much of a, um, you know, a transition or it’s, it’s not a jarring event for them. And Jared’s still there. It doesn’t work that well when the lawyer has left firm. But this, this actually, it just happened last week.

[00:22:25] Jeff Kimmel: You know, we had a meeting about how we’re going to handle it. And it’s not just the lawyers, by the way, you know, everybody on the team has to know. This is going on, including the receptionist, you know, you think, Oh, the receptionist, she’s not involved or he’s not involved in anything. What’s going to happen is the attorney is going to call, uh, the client’s going to call and the receptionist takes the call and the receptionist doesn’t know much about the cases or whatnot.

[00:22:50] Jeff Kimmel: And the client’s going to say, Oh, it’s Mr. Smith. I’m calling to talk to, uh, Jared. And then the, the, the receptionist is going to look at the computer and say, Oh no, that case is Brooks now. I’ll transfer you to Brooke.

[00:23:01] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. Right. Right. Then problem right there.

[00:23:04] Jeff Kimmel: That’s how the client finds out that her case has been transferred to another lawyer, then you fail.

[00:23:09] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. No doubt. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s that sensitivity to the needs and the mental psyche of your clients that, that needs to be, you know, upfront and dealt with from the beginning. And it’s got to encompass everybody within the firm. Who’s going to be involved in that process.

[00:23:26] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. And I’m assuming if, if the lawyer leaves the firm and is now not in contact with the clients at all, then the language has to shift to maybe again, back to the team where we’re up to speed on this.

[00:23:37] Steve Fretzin: We know every aspect of the case and Brooke’s going to be the one helping you, but let’s meet and talk about it, whatever that might be. And, you know, again, that’s, that’s the hope that they’re, that they follow suit.

[00:23:47] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. It’s a lot harder when we say the attorney’s longer with us that, that for whatever reason, they’re now, you know, pursuing other things.

[00:23:54] Jeff Kimmel: And, you know, the client has to just accept that it’s, it’s a, it’s a hard to sell, but you know, that that’s the reality. Yeah. No. And then

[00:24:02] Steve Fretzin: there’s, again, you got to roll with it and you got, but you got to your point, you have to be prepared with some approach and language and way of handling it so that it’s not just a winging it type of situation where it could go South real fast.

[00:24:13] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. I mean, I, I literally had a, I called everybody into the conference room and said, okay, this is a big deal. Was transferring 20 cases from Jared to Brooke. Everybody’s going to know what’s going on, you know, because if there’s one breakdown, that’s what, that’s, what’s going to get to the client, you know, he got a smooth process with protocols.

[00:24:32] Jeff Kimmel: And that’s what I’m trying to install and still, and that’s what as managed partner, that’s what I’m trying to do is be consistent and give them guidance and guidelines about how to handle situations. So there’s uniformity. It doesn’t ever, does it always work? No. Uh, but, but those, something like that needs, you know, clarity and protocol and uniformity.

[00:24:52] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. You know, going back a few minutes, uh, to something you said about, about not, not really working directly with, with, um, you know, with the, in the, you know, having a caseload, but still mentoring, still being involved in the cases. There’s a quote I came up with not that long ago. Uh, don’t do what you love to do, do what you love to do for others.

[00:25:12] Steve Fretzin: And so what that, you know, what, what I’m saying there is like, you know, you may love being a trial lawyer. However, how much more effective could you be teaching people and your firm? How to be an effective trial lawyer and in getting your juice through that versus being in the courtroom. It doesn’t work for everybody, but I know like I, I love sales.

[00:25:33] Steve Fretzin: I love selling. I love the creativity of it. I love marketing. I love all that. I’ll tell you what I really love. I love working with lawyers on that and watching them perform and watching them excel and build big books and million dollar books and all that. So I think that’s, that’s just something I really want to just share that.

[00:25:49] Steve Fretzin: I appreciate that you’re doing. Thank you. And I think, I don’t know if they have, have you, have you sort of seen it that way or thought about it from

[00:25:54] Jeff Kimmel: that angle? Oh yeah, for sure. And what I try and do when, when anyone comes into my office with a question, uh, especially if it’s a staff person, not a lawyer, I don’t, I try not to just answer the question to get them out of my office.

[00:26:09] Jeff Kimmel: I really try to give them perspective into how this question fits in to the case and where it fits into the case and how it’s relevant to the case. So so they understand the importance. Of it and, and how it affects the client and as stuff like that is, and it’s not just the lawyers, it’s for the staff.

[00:26:31] Jeff Kimmel: Cause I feel like if the staff knows how important, you know, a specific thing is and, and, and why it’s going on and, you know, I’ll give you an example. So if someone comes in and says, oh, there’s a, there’s a, we call them IMEs. It’s a physical, it’s a physical that’s done by the other side, the, the insurance company gets to.

[00:26:50] Jeff Kimmel: Examine the client. Of course they hire doctors that say that the person’s not injured and all that stuff. Um, and they come in and testify at the trial that the injury is not as bad as you think. But when someone comes in just last week, I had apparently come in and say, Oh, you know, we’re just going to adjourn the, uh, the, the exam because of whatever reason I said, you know, we really shouldn’t because we, we, we really should insist on having it go forward because this is important and we want to get it done.

[00:27:15] Jeff Kimmel: We don’t want to delay the case. I said, but do you understand what’s going on? And I explained to her how the defense physical fits into the case and, and why it’s important. And sort of what I just told you. What it means and how it’s used the trial, because I feel like when someone has the perspective of how their tasks, their specific tasks, which if they don’t try cases, they don’t know really how it fits it.

[00:27:37] Jeff Kimmel: But if they have that perspective of what that task means to the big picture, I feel that they’re going to be a better employee and they’re going to be more sympathetic. So the client and what the client’s going. Yeah,

[00:27:49] Steve Fretzin: yeah. Right on. So listen, as we, as we kind of wrap up, we’ve got a few minutes left. Any other tips for building, running, building, scaling a firm, managing partners that are listening that maybe need to take a hat off?

[00:28:01] Steve Fretzin: You know, they’re wearing too many hats still and need to take some off. Any, anything that lessons you’ve learned that, that you’d like to just share?

[00:28:08] Jeff Kimmel: Sure. Well, the, the, the latest for us, when you talk about scaling. We, of course, are always, we’re always looking to make more money and to grow. But the way we’ve decided now to grow in COVID actually affected this a lot is to shrink and not grow in the sense that instead of just taking, and, and, and we’ve, I can go through years ago, we’ve had certain experiences, hiring people, taking over their practice and having them join the firm and merge with our firm and these kinds of things.

[00:28:37] Jeff Kimmel: What we’ve now done since COVID is we’ve hared down and what, and, and, and have half the staff we had before COVID. But we’re making more money because we decided that we’re going to be more selective in the cases that we take so we can make more money from the cases that we take and, and we can focus on those cases and, you know, and maximize those cases.

[00:29:02] Jeff Kimmel: It’s much easier in my world. to take a 500, 000 case and make it a 750, 000 case than it is to take a 5, 000 case and make it a 10, 000 case. It just is because the way the insurance companies and adjusters deal with it, you’re dealing with different levels within the insurance company. And so we’ve just made a very concerted effort and I’m behind, I’m really focusing on rejecting cases now.

[00:29:31] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. And, and, and there was this big fear, the, the older guys that when I, when I first started who were managing the firm, who were the, you know, Marvin and Bob, they would take everything, you know, because they didn’t want to risk, you know, uh, a referring attorney being unhappy that, that we didn’t take their case and maybe, oh, for the next case, they’ll go somewhere else.

[00:29:51] Jeff Kimmel: And I said, and recently, or the last few years, I said, you know, the opposite is true. I think if we say no to the referring attorney, they’re going to respect us for it. And they’re going to say, oh, geez, I got to get a better case. So those guys will take it because they only take the better cases. Yeah.

[00:30:06] Jeff Kimmel: And, you know, that’s just my philosophy. So my partner, my current partner now still has some of those fears. He’s like, oh, the guy refers a lot of cases. We, we really should just take this case too. And I say, no, no, they’re going to respect us more for it. So, as far as scaling, we’ve taken on less cases, but our bottom line has gone

[00:30:25] Steve Fretzin: up.

[00:30:26] Steve Fretzin: That’s really, really smart. I think a lot of people figured out different ways to make more money and scale down staff and technology, whatever it might be in COVID and, um, you know, uh, that, that’s a, that’s a huge, a huge, you know, boost for. You know, and less, less people to manage, so then you can get things under control and then decide how to scale back up if you want.

[00:30:48] Steve Fretzin: Yeah, yeah. Really, really cool. So listen, we’ve got, um, normally when we do a game changing book or a game changing podcast, Jeff, um, it’s something like Think and Grow Rich, which I think is the one you recommended. And then I said, you know what? You know, Jeff, you’re working with your wife, you’re writing books and, uh, let’s talk about your book.

[00:31:06] Steve Fretzin: What lawyers don’t know, uh, starting a business and start, start a business and start loving life. I just destroyed the title. Sorry about that. Uh, but you can, you can then repeat the title and talk a little bit about this book that, okay. You know, I think that’s the, that’s really the goal for attorneys is, you know, how do we run an effective business and not get buried by it, right?

[00:31:28] Steve Fretzin: You continue to enjoy life too. And that’s, that’s a real challenge. So I’m hoping there’s a lot of good stuff in that book, uh, lessons you’ve learned that you’re sharing.

[00:31:36] Jeff Kimmel: Yes. Yes. How, how, what lawyers don’t know how to run a business and start loving life. And a lot of it was, was directed towards law students and.

[00:31:48] Jeff Kimmel: Young lawyers, because I know when I became managing partner and learned all these things, what what kept going through my mind is like, I didn’t learn any of this in law school. Yeah. It was the one course in law school that had to do with business, like real business. I mean, I, I, we, I had accounting or whatever, but it was just the law of accounting.

[00:32:07] Jeff Kimmel: It wasn’t had a, you know, read a profit loss statement or, or, or, or a balance sheet. It had nothing to do with business. So I was like, how could people go to law school? And then a a, a lot of people. Look to leave law school and hang a shingle. Maybe not so much these days as, as in the past, but how do you hang a shingle without knowing anything about business?

[00:32:29] Jeff Kimmel: So the book was written to help people. Cause I’ve learned so much about the business of law. When I, you know, became the managing partner and just saw what was going on and, and how to fix things, you know, one at a time. So I took that knowledge and it was during COVID where we didn’t have much to do, my wife and I, and we were home, you know, for months, whatever, and I, and I had been now the managing partner for say five years.

[00:32:54] Jeff Kimmel: And I said, you know, I’m going to write all this stuff down. This is, this is really good for, for young lawyers to know that if they want to start their own business, they got to have some basic understanding of business networking things you already mentioned. And so I did that and my wife happens to be a life coach.

[00:33:09] Jeff Kimmel: She’s also an author. She wrote a book about her philosophy, which is star loving life. That’s why that’s how we get the title. But I started writing the book and I was going chapter by chapter and I would show her, uh, we would talk about it and she’s like, okay, that’s good. But you also need the mindset.

[00:33:23] Jeff Kimmel: You have to have the mindset about how to network and, and how to love yourself and be confident with yourself and have good self esteem before you can convince anyone else to give you work. And you know, all these things. Yeah. And then I was like, you know, why don’t you write the book, but then what? So we decided that for each chapter, I wrote the chapter and then she wrote her version of the chat.

[00:33:45] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah. Me and her, me and her, me. Okay. Okay. But essentially it just is the basics of what you need to know. To, to run a business, you know, what, what’s important, uh, you know, networking, marketing, I go into, you know, profit loss statement a little bit. I go into balance sheets a little bit. I don’t want to get into that, but you know, you have to know these kinds of things.

[00:34:06] Jeff Kimmel: And yeah, I think it’s very helpful even if you don’t want to be, and I tell this to young lawyers all the time. Even if you don’t want to be the boss, it’s so important for you as a young lawyer to understand that the firm you’re working at is also a business. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate as managing partner when my attorneys come to me and they make it clear that they do understand.

[00:34:31] Jeff Kimmel: This is a business. And they say, Oh, I know this is a very important referring attorney. So I wanted to come and talk to you about this or, you know, I think we should have this reviewed by an expert, but that expert is going to be 10, 000. So I want to make sure it’s okay before I spend that money. Like, so when they, when they know that there are expenses and that, you know, the payroll that they get every week, doesn’t just.

[00:34:54] Jeff Kimmel: Yeah.

[00:34:55] Steve Fretzin: They actually, they actually see a little bit how the sausage is made. Right. Right.

[00:34:58] Jeff Kimmel: Right. I got to put money in that account. And so where’s that money coming from? It’s from these aces that we’re settling, you know, and a lot of people just have no idea that we just don’t have all the money that they’re going to get their paycheck every week.

[00:35:11] Jeff Kimmel: Now, thank God we haven’t missed paycheck and I don’t have to say we will miss the paycheck. But you know, that payroll account, it’s gotta stay funded. And, and the, the, the, the employees that understand this as a business and understand at least a little bit about how that business works, I appreciate them.

[00:35:28] Jeff Kimmel: You know, and I’m the one that makes decisions about raises and bonuses at the end of the year. So, you know, for, for any lawyer in any field, my advice always to them is. You know, it’s great that you won’t get to be lawyers, good stuff, you’re, you’re doing what you want to do, but understand the business and, and, and, and make it clear to your bosses that, you know, a little bit about what they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing, because it’ll help you in the long run for sure.

[00:35:53] Steve Fretzin: And you’re preaching to the choir with me. I mean, everything I’m, I’m working on is stuff that was not taught in law school. So I’m, I’m always about trying to help lawyers to figure all that stuff out and in the business side as well. Hey, Jeff, thanks so much, man. This was great. As we wrap up today, I want to take a moment to thank our sponsors, of course, GetVisible, helping people get their digital and their marketing in line.

[00:36:14] Steve Fretzin: And shout out to Lawmatics, amazing tool there for lawyers to control their pipeline. And of course, GetStaffedUp, which is wonderful. I use them every single day. Had a great meeting with my marketing guy, Sergio, today. Handles all of my marketing full time, about half or less than half of what I would pay for someone.

[00:36:33] Steve Fretzin: Uh, to do that for me, and I don’t have to deal with insurance or any of that stuff. So check out Get Staffed Up, everybody. Thanks again, Jeff. Man, I appreciate this. I appreciate sharing your wisdom. Um, again, this is the kind of information that a lot of lawyers don’t have and need. And I just want to, you know, tell you again how much I, uh, I enjoyed the conversation and, and your ability to share, um, your wisdom.

[00:36:54] Jeff Kimmel: Thanks so much, Steve. I had a great time. It was awesome. Yeah.

[00:36:57] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. And for you guys listening, again, drive it in your car, walk in your dog, whatever you’re doing, you know, this, these are, these are things that, that may not impact you necessarily today, but they may impact you in the future. And so really take heed and, and, and become a student of the game, the game of law, the business of law, and it’ll help you to be that lawyer.

[00:37:15] Steve Fretzin: Someone who’s confident, organized, and a skilled rainmaker. Do you like how I threw that in there, Jeff? Not too bad. Right. I always work my way. Right into it at the end and, uh, listen, everybody take care, be safe, be well, we will talk again soon.

[00:37:31] Narrator: Thanks for listening to Be That Lawyer. Life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website Fretzin. com for additional information and to stay up to date on the latest legal business development and marketing trends. For more information and important links about today’s episode, check out today’s show notes.