Larry Smith: Becoming an Empathetic Lawyer

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Larry Smith discuss:

  • Why lawyers are challenged to deal with stressors in an empathetic way.
  • Listening and diagnosing the problem before trying to solve the client’s problem.
  • Building trust and relationships with clients.
  • How to handle a client on the ledge and setting expectations.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be kind, you never know what other people are going through.
  • Don’t just let clients walk out the door. Set up another appointment and get the last word. Set up the next step and make it easy.
  • Make certain promises that you know you can fulfill. Don’t promise things that are uncertain or outright false. It will destroy trust within the relationship.
  • You have to get your mind right before you can empathetically communicate with a client or team member. Everyone has bad conversations and bad days, but you need to get your mind right.

“What I like to do is make certain promises that I absolutely know I can fulfill. You’ve got to know what you’re going to be able to do for sure, don’t shoot over.” —  Larry Smith

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Episode References: 

About Larry Smith: Larry Smith has been practicing law for 30 years, spending the last 25 focused on consumer rights, and primarily in consumer financial issues. SmithMarco, P.C. represents consumers who have been victims of cybercrimes and identity theft. With offices in the Chicago area and in Sarasota, Florida, Larry Smith has represented consumers all throughout the country on both the trial and appellate level and in both state and federal courts. Mr. Smith has provided lectures to members of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center on issues pertaining to fraudulent electronic transactions and consumer credit reporting issues.

Connect with Larry Smith:  



Phone: 888-822-1777


Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Instagram: @fretzinsteve

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.


Email: [email protected]

Book: Legal Business Development Isn’t Rocket Science and more!

YouTube: Steve Fretzin

Call Steve directly at 847-602-6911

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: Hey everybody, before we get to the show, I wanted to share another amazing event we have coming up called Bootstrap Your Marketing to Build Your Personal Brand with me and my friend Ashley Robinson. We’re going to be talking about cost effective ways to grow your personal brand. It’s on March 22nd.

[00:00:13] Steve Fretzin: You can sign up by going to Fretzin. com slash events. See you there and 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 am Steve Fretzin. I’m just so happy that you’re with us again today. Two times a week. We’re doing this show helping you to be that lawyer. Someone who’s confident, organized and a skilled rainmaker. You guys, uh, that know the show pretty well, uh, know that, you know, I’m just working diligently to find, you know, interesting attorneys and experts that can give you things that are going to improve your life and just make you a better lawyer, better person, better father, better husband, whatever it might be.

[00:01:11] Steve Fretzin: Uh, better, you know, client developer and today’s no different. I’ve got Larry waiting in the wings. How you doing, Larry? Great. How are you? Good. Good. A North Shore friend here. Thanks for having me. Yeah. Yeah. And you’ve been hanging out with one of my oldest friends, Dave Spiewak for a while and playing some golf and I played a lot of golf with him, you know from teenagers up and uh, he’s got an interesting swing.

[00:01:31] Larry Smith: Yeah. I’m sorry you couldn’t help him anymore. He’s been my, he’s been my long time partner, you know, and, uh, he always will be as long as we can both play the game. Uh, I just have a lot of fun with him out there. That’s the most important

[00:01:44] Steve Fretzin: thing to me. He got mad at me one time. I said, I think I figured out why, you know, what’s going on with your golf game.

[00:01:49] Steve Fretzin: He goes, yeah, I’m curious to hear what that is. I go, you’re terrible.

[00:01:54] Larry Smith: And every year he starts with a new mentality of how he’s going to handle this year. He’s going to be just fine and I’m not going to get mad. And then it’s like the third round and he’s just like, yeah,

[00:02:07] Steve Fretzin: just, just, you know, play, play within yourself.

[00:02:09] Steve Fretzin: And that’s kind of the best advice I think. Um, well, very cool, man. Well, thanks for being on the show. Let’s start off as we do with the quote of the show. And again, we’ve talked a little bit about where this came from, and there’s a number of places it may have materialized, but it’s be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

[00:02:26] Steve Fretzin: So you mentioned that you either say that or hear that a lot and give us a little bit about that quote.

[00:02:31] Larry Smith: I, yeah, I mean, something that comes along a lot, but I think there was one story that started me, uh, that really got me. Becoming the empathetic attorney I try to be. Years ago, when I was first starting my own firm, it’s like 2004, 2005, I go to this conference on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

[00:02:50] Larry Smith: And the speaker at the conference is this guy who was a former Marine and former debt collection manager. And he came to speak to the crowd. And I had some friends that talked me into going to this thing. I’m going to it because I’m going to learn a little bit about this law. I get these phone calls from people that are complaining about collectors, but I’m not buying into it.

[00:03:09] Larry Smith: So I go to listen to this guy and go to this conference, and this guy gets up and he talks about the story that made him become what he is, and that is somebody who goes around and speaks to us, to lawyers who handle these cases. He was a Marine when he left, when he, when he came back from being overseas, uh, in the nineties, he became a debt collector.

[00:03:30] Larry Smith: He worked his way up to being a manager. And then one day it’s, you know, 2002 and he’s a manager and one of his callers call somebody and is getting on them, you know, starting up you hammer. Why don’t you come up with my money? Why can’t you? How about next week? How about if I call you next week? I’ll call you tomorrow.

[00:03:48] Larry Smith: I’ll call you every day until I get my money. And so that person elevated it and went and said, I need to talk to your manager and manager, this guy who’s speaking to us, picks up the phone and he says to us, I picked up the phone and I said, ma’am, what is your problem? Why can’t you pay me? And her answer was, my husband was in the twin towers and died and I’m trying to deal with it and I’m trying to deal with my children and I don’t have any money and I’m just not paying your debt.

[00:04:14] Larry Smith: The guy was a Marine that just came back, you know, he said, he said, I dropped the phone. Drop. Stopped working that day, left, went home, never went back. And he’s like, you just don’t know what you are facing on the other side. You just don’t know who that person is. You just don’t know what happened to them this morning.

[00:04:38] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. You know. I, I get that too, Larry, when people get mad about something and you’re like, why did they get so mad? Like why are they getting so crazy? And you just don’t know what’s happening in their life or what happened that morning where they’re not themselves or they’re not behaving in a rational way.

[00:04:54] Steve Fretzin: And it’s, it’s

[00:04:55] Larry Smith: very similar. Customer service. And you’re wondering why was that person such a jerk? You know, they’re trying to serve me and you go, you know, hold on. Maybe that person, that woman, last night her husband came home drunk, whacked her in the head, pushed her onto the couch. She didn’t get any sleep.

[00:05:12] Larry Smith: Yeah. And she’s lucky she didn’t get a beating. And that’s who you’re dealing with. And that’s not, that’s not far fetched. These things happen in people’s lives every day. You know, you don’t know that that person’s kid has got a drug problem and they had to, they have to figure out how to deal with that.

[00:05:29] Larry Smith: And so every day, every moment is they’re occupied. You don’t know, but these are really real, you know? And that guy’s story was one that I always was like, wow, you’re like, wow, I could you imagine like being in that position? And so. I’ve always kind of remembered that and every time. But does that then leak it, but does that

[00:05:48] Steve Fretzin: then, Larry, leak into your story and how you have become such an empathetic attorney in the way that you’re dealing with people daily?

[00:05:55] Larry Smith: Absolutely. I mean, I’ve always been reminded that, you know, be kind and I’ve always kind of been like that to begin with. I mean, honestly. I don’t like to pat myself in the back or brag about it, but talk to people who know me and they’ll say, Larry, he’s such a nice guy. He’s everybody’s friend. He’s a nice guy.

[00:06:11] Larry Smith: I’m, I’m naturally like that. So it helps, you know, put myself through a metamorphosis of any sort, but I did, I do have to get reminded. And, uh, and I’ve taken that and I use it every single day. You guys are listening

[00:06:26] Steve Fretzin: to, uh, Larry Smith. He’s the managing partner of Smith Marco and. You know, the, the idea of when you and I met to specifically talk about this podcast, you know, I’m obviously all marketing business development, blah, blah, blah.

[00:06:40] Steve Fretzin: And you brought up an idea to me and I was like, you know, God bless it. That is a great that is a great topic. And there’s and then just in the last week, I’ve got lawyer client, you know, clients coming to me with. You know, with clients that have been really difficult or prospects they’re dealing with that have been so difficult or riddled with fear or riddled with just anger, anxiety, whatever that they’re difficult, difficult to manage with.

[00:07:00] Steve Fretzin: And I think that might be like your superpower. So I wanted to first off, you know, why are lawyers challenged to being empathetic or challenged to deal with stress in clients and in prospective clients and things like that?

[00:07:14] Larry Smith: I think that as a lawyer, as a litigator, as somebody who’s representing somebody, I think that we have a tendency and a habit to, when you’re talking to this client, process their Their message to you as part of the case and you start thinking devil’s advocate.

[00:07:32] Larry Smith: One thing that I try to do when i’m talking to them Is I try to take that devil’s advocate person and say hold on just just we’ll do that in the next conversation. Let’s Let’s let this person get a few things out here. Let before we start thinking about their case out loud to them. And I think that’s one thing that lawyers tend to do is not consider that this person’s in a position, this person’s talking to you and hoping to get something from you.

[00:07:58] Larry Smith: I like to like in our work with doctor sometimes. I love that. You know, you go visit the doctor and you want to walk out knowing something about what just happened and feeling good about what just happened. And he was nice about it. It was good. So You know, I, I kind of try to think about that. Like I’m dealing with a patient, they come to me with some, and they want to feel like what they came to me with is on the road to getting better.

[00:08:21] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. The, the analogy that I use on a regular basis and is, um, I go in to see a doctor, my arm is hurting and the doctor says, takes one look at me, what’s going on? My arm is hurting. All right, let’s just cut that off. And then you don’t have to worry about that anymore. And that’s what a lot of lawyers are doing when they rush into meetings, And start answering questions, start solving problems, start sharing rates before they’ve diagnosed what’s going on, before they’ve actually taken a deep dive and let the person talk and let the person, you know, share their pain, their fear, their concerns or whatever they just want to solve.

[00:08:52] Steve Fretzin: And so I find myself like half of my day is helping break lawyers like horses to get them to stop solving so fast and spend more time listening and demonstrating empathy, which it sounds like is kind of your jam.

[00:09:05] Larry Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And here’s another thing, and I love that, I mean, again, I’m the doctor thing.

[00:09:09] Larry Smith: When you go to a doctor, if, you know, and they say, and you tell them your problem and he goes, I’m going to prescribe this medicine to you, goodbye. Right. You walk out and you’re like, so I’m just going to take this? Like, what’s it going to do? Just take the pill. You want the doctor to go, here’s what’s wrong.

[00:09:26] Larry Smith: You got this, this, and that. I’m going to give you this medicine. What this medicine does. Is it makes this, this and that happen, which allows that to get better. And so you walk out understanding a little bit. So one of my things I say is, you know, as you know, when you’re in my position, don’t always be selling, sometimes be teaching, you know?

[00:09:47] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. I love that. And, and that, you know, the thing that I’m, again, you know, there’s, there’s levels of what I call discovery where number one is like, let’s get all the problems out on the table. Like, let’s like, what are you afraid of with this lawsuit? What are your biggest challenges, frustrations, concerns that people think that’s the end of the story?

[00:10:04] Steve Fretzin: Like, they think that’s the peeling of the onion down to the middle. I go, no, no, no, no. That’s the beginning. That’s where we start is getting problems. It’s then taking them and working them down. Tell me more about that. What’s going on? What, you know, what, what’s keeping you up at night on that subject, or how is this going to impact you?

[00:10:22] Steve Fretzin: Or what happens if nothing changes? There’s all these questions I work with clients on, and it makes a huge difference, not only in their ability to diagnose what’s going on, but also to demonstrate listening and empathy and the things that are critical to success and sort of a sales free selling approach.

[00:10:38] Larry Smith: Yeah, I mean, I’ve, I’ve spent so many years, you know, you, when you’re trying to sign up a client, you have a questionnaire list and you’re going through it and you’re asking these questions and you’re thinking you’re getting all the answers and when you’re done, you’re then going to try to get them to sign your contract.

[00:10:52] Larry Smith: And then, I don’t know how many times it’s happened to me that I find out something really important about my client, like, months into the representation that I didn’t know from the outset. And it’s because I just was spending too much time just going through my questionnaire and not just kind of focusing and listening and thinking, like you said, that I’m just going to unpeel this onion down to the center right here and now, sign this up and be done.

[00:11:16] Larry Smith: And one thing, one change I’ve made in the last like year or two is to stop making the sign up a sign up interview. Make it a couple. Make this thing keep coming back. We’re not done. We’re not done. I’m not done with you I want to know more about you I just got enough to get this thing going and at some point when they feel comfortable signing the contract they can but we’re not Done talk you want to sign that after the first meeting the second the third I don’t care But I’m going to keep coming back and let you talk more.

[00:11:46] Larry Smith: And the more we talk, the more meetings we have, the more you’re going to open up and tell me things, you know, it took, it took for me, here’s a quick one that happened yesterday. It took the conversation for my client to reveal to me that her son’s in federal prison and part of her stress is that she needs to take care of his kids.

[00:12:09] Larry Smith: Five conversations until I got to the real thing. She didn’t want to give me that, you know? And so, you really have to take your time, and not think that you’re gonna discover everything about everybody right away. You’ve gotta let them, you know. Open up their, unpeel their own onion a little bit, right?

[00:12:28] Steve Fretzin: You know, another name for what you’re doing, Larry, is you’re walking a buyer through a buying decision. You’re not selling, you’re not pitching, you’re not convincing. So your methodology of what you’re doing is the way that lawyers should be doing business development and meeting with prospective clients.

[00:12:44] Steve Fretzin: I’m not saying it has to be five meetings. I mean, some people, you know, they, they’re going to be able to knock it out in one or two. And again, every situation is different. You know, an estate planning attorney. You know, with a husband and wife probably should knock that out and in one, maybe two. And then there’s litigators that are meeting with GCs that it might take a year of meeting and caressing it to get the right outcome.

[00:13:04] Larry Smith: Right. Right. And if you’re like me and you represent the population at large, whether it’s injury, whether it’s consumer rights, you’re dealing with every walk of life and every kind of person that there is. And so you just have to take your time and feel it out. You really do.

[00:13:22] Steve Fretzin: You know, I had one other question for you because I think when you build trust and you build relationship in a system like of questioning and listening and understanding, there’s less of a chance that they’re going to, you know, leave and go talk with another attorney or go, but if somebody is committed to like meeting with three attorneys or something like that, and you’re the first or the second or whatever it might be, How do you, what do you say, or how do you help them maybe stop from searching others?

[00:13:48] Steve Fretzin: Like figure out like this is a fit and talking with others may not be the best, but like what’s, that’s, that’s a very tricky or sticky thing for lawyers to manage or come up with the language.

[00:13:58] Larry Smith: Yeah, that, that is because in this day and age, it is much more of that because again, if you’re like me, a plaintiff’s lawyer, Uh, representing people on consumer rights claims or your clients aren’t necessarily here.

[00:14:12] Larry Smith: You’re doing a lot of these face meetings. You’re doing a lot of phone call meetings. So they are going, I mean, I’ve gotten used to the figuring it out. They’re going to somebody else. They’re stupid if they’re not, you know, so they are. And so I’m just a couple things I like to do. Number one, I like to try to like now I’m on a competition.

[00:14:32] Larry Smith: With who’s going to be the most empathetic person to them. I know I’m in a competition. So I’m really, I mean, super focused on, on, you know, just listening to that person and not looking at my clock, you know, not considering what other things I have to do. So that’s, that’s one thing. And then the other thing I like to do is I like to reassure them that they made the right call.

[00:14:53] Larry Smith: Like of all that, you’ve done some good things out there. You’ve done some smart things out there and one of the great things you do is you call me because. This is exactly what I do, and I’ve done this so many times, and I like to tell them, I’ve done this so many times, I’ve done this exact thing, you know, I’m doing it another one right now.

[00:15:09] Larry Smith: Reassure, reassure, reassure. Know that they’re gonna go there, and still welcome them back, and even say, look, I know you’re gonna talk to somebody else, it’s fine, give me another chance to talk to me though, okay? Just promise me one thing. That we’re going to have another conversation on Friday, you know, set up an appointment.

[00:15:26] Larry Smith: No matter what, don’t just let them go. If you know they’re going to be going to someone else, then like a lawyer is allowed to get the last word. Like if you’re arguing in court, you always want the last word. Yeah. Get the last word, set up another appointment and say, okay, well, look, if you’re going to talk to me, it’s great.

[00:15:43] Larry Smith: I’d like to still talk to you on Friday or on whatever it is and set up a time for that. Yeah, I always do that.

[00:15:48] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. I love that. The other thing I like is that you’re setting up like multiple, like moving from 1 meeting to the next meeting. Like, you’re not letting a gap or not letting someone say, you know, give me a couple of weeks to think about it.

[00:15:58] Steve Fretzin: Like, you’re not going to put up with that. You’re going to, you’re going to dictate. You know, here’s what we need to do next. We need to meet again, and here’s what we need to cover. And so there’s, there’s never a gap in, in the next step that you’re establishing with that prospective client.

[00:16:12] Larry Smith: Exactly. We’re set up.

[00:16:13] Larry Smith: There’s steps here. Yeah. I’ve got the next step. Yeah. You’ll be there for the next step, won’t you? Yeah.

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[00:18:12] Steve Fretzin: Something I like to do that no other, and I shouldn’t say no other, but I would say not many lawyer coaches that I’m friends with, that I’m friends with a lot of them. And if they hear this, then they should start doing this because it works is I try to set up next steps where, where people that want to work with me.

[00:18:27] Steve Fretzin: I let them talk with other clients, like you should probably, you’re a litigator at a mid market firm, you should probably talk to a couple of litigators at mid market firms that I’ve worked with, you should probably ask them questions that you’re not going to ask me, get some inside information, and what kind of return on investment, you know, try to give them as much information after we understand there’s a good fit, so that the validation is there, because I’ve got the emotional side, what I need is the logical side covered.

[00:18:52] Steve Fretzin: That my fee is going to get paid for a hundred times over. And here, here’s some other lawyers that are just like you that can validate that that will occur if you do the right things.

[00:19:02] Larry Smith: Absolutely. Here’s another one I like to do, and that is the easy promise. Okay. You know, a lot, a lot of, you know, uh, A lot of clients, what’s my case worth?

[00:19:11] Larry Smith: What am I going to get? And some lawyers like to answer that question. I do not. You know, some lawyers like to say, I’m going to get you all this money, so you sign up with me and I’ll just deal with your disappointment later. Bad move. What I like to do is make certain promises that I absolutely know I can fulfill.

[00:19:26] Larry Smith: It helps that I do statutory stuff. So if I have A credit reporting situation case. I can tell that if I feel comfortable, I can say, look, I’m not promising you anything. I’m not going to tell you if your case is worth, I’m not going to do anything like that. What I can tell you is I can promise you this.

[00:19:41] Larry Smith: I can promise you, I will get this thing off your credit report. And I promise you, it won’t cost you a penny. How about that? I’ll give you that. Or if it’s somebody who got their money stolen out of their bank account, and I feel really good about it, I’ll say, I promise you, I don’t know what I’m going to get you, but I promise you, I’ll get you your money back.

[00:19:57] Larry Smith: And I promise you. You won’t have to give me any of it. I promise you that. Yeah, because you know, you know what’s real, what’s realistic. You got to know what you’re going to be able to do for sure. Don’t, don’t shoot over, but there’s certain things. And I guess it’s one of my advantages that I kind of know certain things about the cases I handle, but there’s, if you’re an injury lawyer, I promise you, I can get you the treatment that you not, if you’re not, you don’t like the doctor, he’s blowing you off.

[00:20:25] Larry Smith: Promise you that I can get you right now. Yeah, okay And so if there’s something that is an easy promise that they just kind of want, you know Hey, he gave me something. He already gave it to me. I love this guy He already gave it didn’t charge me a penny. Yeah, you know, I love that. I love that

[00:20:42] Steve Fretzin: Yeah, and so so all right, so then we’ve got these clients that sign on with us and We’re working through everything and then there’s some times where they come to use distress.

[00:20:53] Steve Fretzin: They come to you with the Problems, or maybe we would call them difficult clients, whatever we want to call them. Lawyers are dealing with fires, what they call fires. You call fires all the time because litigation blows up or clients are crazy, or I always say stay away from crazy. That isn’t always possible.

[00:21:09] Steve Fretzin: Uh, you never know, right? I’m able to stay away from crazy, but lawyers, it’s a, it’s a tougher, it’s a tougher thing for them to do sometimes. Uh, how do you deal with that? Because that, that can really, for a day, for a week, it could, it could change your whole, you know, mood of the day.

[00:21:25] Larry Smith: And if you lose the client, it could change, it could change the direction of your practice a little, right?

[00:21:30] Larry Smith: So it’s a big deal, right? So here’s, here’s what I’ve got to say about it. We had this quote, everyone has their bad, right? That includes you, the lawyer. Okay, I have them, you have them, everybody listening has them too. We have our bad. You have to get your mind right first before you start doing this, okay?

[00:21:54] Larry Smith: You can’t go having this conversation with this person if you just had your own bad conversation with a family member, with your spouse, if, if you haven’t, if you’re still dealing with something with a child. Whatever it is, something else in the business blew up, something going on in your mind, bothering you right now.

[00:22:12] Larry Smith: Look, meditate. Do something. Okay. I always try my very best to have every conversation like this in the morning hours when I’m still fresh and things haven’t happened throughout the day that have gotten me impatient because you can’t have that. If this is that important of a thing, where you’re going to lose the person, then the first thing you have to do is get your own mind.

[00:22:36] Larry Smith: And you can’t, I can’t say that enough. I actually go to my, I have a couch in my office. I actually have to sit down sometimes, close the shades and go, just let everything go because you got to spend, this could be 45 minutes of just listening. And that’s what, that’s the first, you know, then you got to come on and in my world, it’s usually that my partner had a bad conversation with them and they don’t like the numbers and stuff.

[00:23:04] Larry Smith: And so I had, I come out there and what I like to do is kind of put the two of us on an island. And say, I did hear a little bit about it, but the fact is, I told him that I just wanted to talk to you instead. And I figured that, you know what, maybe this is a better conversation for you and I, because when we started this case together, we first spoke, it was you and I, right?

[00:23:22] Larry Smith: So let’s go back to that. Yeah. And you’re, you’re starting to start managing. And then I just. I get whatever somebody else in my firm did. I kind of say, look, I heard a little bit about it, but I’d rather hear it from you. You know, he told me, but I don’t want to listen to his side. I want to hear what you say happened and I want to hear what your thoughts are on this first.

[00:23:43] Larry Smith: Go, you know, and let it go and let it go. And then you just have to slowly take your time and bring them back to the reality of it. You know, like I said before, slow down on the devil’s advocate. And this is a good time to remind them of promises that you’ve made and kept. Remember I said at the beginning, You might have made, and there’s a, there’s a strategy.

[00:24:06] Larry Smith: You might have made those many promises, and you might have achieved them already. You know? Hey, isn’t the credit report clear? I told you I’d do that. Have you given me a penny yet? You know? No, you haven’t. You want to know how much time is in your file? Just so you know, we’re not blowing you off. You want to know, I’ll show you the hours.

[00:24:23] Larry Smith: We got 53 hours in your case, 53 hours on you. So, you know, you know, we think about you, you know, we’re thinking about you and you, and again, if you’re a plaintiff’s lawyer, there’s that, you know, we don’t get paid unless we do right by, you know, so obviously we’re not going to invest that kind of time and put that kind of effort into you.

[00:24:45] Larry Smith: And not finish the job. So we’re all on the same team here. You know, it might be 40 minutes until I get to say that. That’s what I think you have to do is when you have somebody on the ledge is number one, get yourself in the right position. Number two, be ready. This is going to take some time. Tell them, tell home you’re going to be late for dinner and then, and then wait for the right time to start reminding them what, what the basis of your relationship was and where you are

[00:25:14] Steve Fretzin: at.

[00:25:14] Steve Fretzin: But it sounds like bedside manner. For doctors, for therapists, for lawyers is becoming a more critical skill than maybe ever before. And I don’t know that lawyers are learning it or have it naturally like you do. What are some things that they could do to try to just get started to be a more empathetic lawyer, to be someone who’s a better listener instead of just a solver, arguer, you know, confrontational.

[00:25:41] Larry Smith: I think that one of the big things is one is what I had just said is like preparation for the conversation again I I’m a person that likes to try to do stuff like that in the morning because I haven’t been irritated yet And that matters a lot. I can’t emphasize enough That where you are mentally when you’re starting to take on these challenges matters, so put it at the right time of day for you, you know, um, that’s first, you’ll be, if you are prepared for a tough conversation, you will be successful in a tough conversation.

[00:26:14] Larry Smith: If you’re not prepared for a tough conversation, you won’t be successful in it. Nobody’s that good on the fly, you know? So I think that’s a lot of it is, you know, preparation. Uh, spend some time thinking about your client. Being empathetic is, I hate to say it, it is something that you are or aren’t, you know?

[00:26:33] Larry Smith: And it’s really easy to tell you to look at life through somebody else’s eyes. It’s a lot harder to do. And I got to say, to a certain extent. I’m both blessed and cursed with

[00:26:46] Steve Fretzin: you spent a lot of time listening to people and never get a word. You ever go to dinner, like you dinner with your wife and another couple and like you spent an hour and a half and maybe you said two words that happened.

[00:26:57] Steve Fretzin: My wife and I, my wife and I leave and leave a dinner like that. And we’re like, what the hell? Just what was it? What was that? Yeah, it happens that people get excited about their lives and what they’re doing. But I think the other thing I was going to say, I’m sorry, I went off on a tangent there, but. Uh, maybe don’t pick up the phone, like maybe if, if your phone rings and it’s going to be a client that has a problem, maybe let them leave a voicemail, right?

[00:27:19] Steve Fretzin: And then maybe get prep, because if you pick up that phone and now you’re in the middle of it, that may not be, then you’re lacking that preparation you mentioned.

[00:27:27] Larry Smith: See, that’s such a great point because that’s a, that’s a thing that I turned on to recently over the last couple of years. I used to have this philosophy and I think I read it like in a book, you know, some great lawyer book story that was, Hey, they’re calling you now, take it now, handle it now.

[00:27:44] Larry Smith: You never know what it is. You never know what they need. Maybe it’s a new case. Take it now. They’re calling you now. You save yourself something down the road. No, you might recognize that phone number and. I think you’re right. I, I’ve started to change that a little bit and looking at that number and going, I’m not ready.

[00:28:02] Larry Smith: I’m not ready. Okay. I’m not. And, and I think that’s a mature move.

[00:28:07] Steve Fretzin: You know, and I don’t think anybody expects to talk to anybody anyway, these days or have, I mean, lawyers are picking up their phones all the time. People have their cell phones and all that and, and, and I get it. I get, you know, that, that, that shows your responsiveness.

[00:28:19] Steve Fretzin: It shows your availability. And for certain types of lawyers and certain types of law, maybe that’s fine. But in other, in other cases in your space, maybe not a great idea because you don’t know what you’re, you don’t know what you’re picking up and what’s going to happen. And, and that lack of preparation could, could really affect, you know, that relationship.

[00:28:37] Larry Smith: That’s something I battled with. I really do. I battle with making myself as available as possible. Because I’m trying to sell for my firm. Hey, I’m always here. You could always find me. And at the same time balancing that with, you know, you shouldn’t always be doing this. Maybe you shouldn’t always be available.

[00:28:55] Larry Smith: Maybe you should make yourself available when you’re ready to be available. And that’s something that I have, I still kind of, it’s a little bit of a,

[00:29:03] Steve Fretzin: an issue for me. I mean, some of the top back, the doctors, you know, some of the top delegation and time management experts say that, No one, you know, that, that responsiveness is, is important, but it doesn’t mean you have to pick up the phone all the time, because if you’re trying to focus on your day, And that day gets derailed by a call where you lose that focus in something that you’re doing that’s important.

[00:29:27] Steve Fretzin: And if you’re being disrupted all day, how, how effective are you at running that day? So I always say, did you have the day or the day have you? So I get that you need to be responsive and you, but maybe responsive is two hours, you know, or calling someone back that same day. And that’s going to be totally appropriate.

[00:29:44] Steve Fretzin: And I’ll mention one other thing, Larry. And that is if you set expectations. And the reason I went to doctors is nobody is really talking to their doctor straight up, right? You, there’s voice, there are people you have to get through to get to a doctor. You’re not going to pick doctor picks up all the time, unless you do one of those deals where right.

[00:30:00] Steve Fretzin: You never get to talk to your doctor when you, but, but the, but the idea that, you know, you’re, you set the expectations of, look, I, I, I will always get back to, you know, the same day I’m, I’m in meetings, I’m in court, I’m in this, I’m in that might guarantee, or my promise to you is I’ll get back or I’ll get back to you by the next day.

[00:30:18] Steve Fretzin: So if you set those kinds of expectations, then they, and they don’t expect to get you, but they know that they’re going to hear from you that later that day, that might be fine with them. That’s, that might be the best that anyone’s going to do. I agree.

[00:30:29] Larry Smith: Yeah. It’s, I mean, it’s really well stated. I mean, it’s, it’s, uh, yeah, I mean, that’s, uh, what I like to do that somebody once gave me ideas about, like he said, he always spends a day, one hour on offense is what he calls it.

[00:30:42] Larry Smith: And for me, it’s, I always like say that I am nine to 1130 every morning, pretty much every morning. That is my new client intake time. These are all the people that are not my clients yet. And that’s what I am. I’m at my best. Okay. You know, I’m in my freshest. I went for my power walk or my little workout and whatever it was, and I’m feeling good.

[00:31:04] Larry Smith: And so from nine to 1130, right before lunch, and I’m getting angry, I’m wide open. I’m, you know, I’m open for you. I’m susceptible to what you got. I could, I could take it in. And so I try to do that. Like I make my morning, like that time is about that. And then after that, like you say, then I like to let the day get, let’s see what happens.

[00:31:27] Larry Smith: But at least, you know,

[00:31:28] Steve Fretzin: that you had that, that upfront few hours to, to knock out the stuff that was critical. And then the rest of the day, you know, you’re getting other things done, but most people don’t time block like that. Yeah. And I think it’s a huge misstep. And I’ve got these auto schedulers where certain links lead to certain times on my calendar.

[00:31:46] Steve Fretzin: So, like I was networking too much. And so what I said, I need to push people out. So I now have a link that if they get it, they’re still going to meet with me, but it may not be this week. It may be next week or the week after because I need to spread out how much networking I’m doing in a week when people want to meet with me.

[00:32:01] Steve Fretzin: And I, I want to meet with them. I love meeting with new people, but it was too much. I was doing like five meetings. Six meeting networking runs in a day and I’ve got clients and other priorities that I need to get to Larry Listen, we’ve got to wrap up. This has been phenomenal Your game changing podcast has been mentioned on the show a few times But a lot of people love it this American life.

[00:32:20] Steve Fretzin: Talk to us about that

[00:32:21] Larry Smith: You know, the truth is I’m not a big podcast listener, you know, I’m not so I take trips my wife and I with kids in Indiana So, we take road trips to see them every so often, so a good two and a three hour ride gives you a good And that’s the one we keep going to, and it’s it’s because it’s the really different story.

[00:32:40] Larry Smith: Okay. About little nooks and crannies of life. Like, the things that I talked about earlier the things that you just don’t know about that person. You don’t know this. You don’t know that. And what I like about that podcast is there’s always some feature, some fascinating story about just something compelling that happened to someone that’s just.

[00:33:01] Larry Smith: Yeah.

[00:33:02] Steve Fretzin: You know, another, you know, another good podcast Larry is, is called be that lawyer and it’s great on road trips. I hear. Um, so I heard about that.

[00:33:11] Larry Smith: A lot of talk. A lot of talk. A

[00:33:13] Steve Fretzin: lot, a lot of, this is like a Trump thing. A lot of people are saying it’s the greatest, the greatest lawyer show around. Yeah.

[00:33:19] Steve Fretzin: Everybody’s saying, everybody’s saying, I don’t know anyone that isn’t saying they said to me, sir, all right, we’re not going to do that. Um, but yeah. Uh, listen, man, thank you so much. This has been a blast. So many great takeaways on a subject that really hasn’t been covered very much on this show about not only being empathetic, but dealing with difficult clients.

[00:33:38] Steve Fretzin: The idea that, you know, we’ve got to make these easy promises, things that, that lawyers maybe are doing, but you’re not. Kind of teaching them what to do. So I appreciate that. If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you, maybe to network or maybe to send business your way?

[00:33:51] Larry Smith: You know, the best way to get in touch with us, even though we’re, you know, we got an 888 number 888 822 1777, or just a few people here. I’m easy to get in touch with. It’s an easy number to call. Okay. Uh, we also have smithmarco. com. That’s who we are, Smith Marco. Uh, you know, again, we’re, we’re small. I get every single solitary intake, every single client contact and call, I get notice of.

[00:34:17] Larry Smith: I’m very, I am accessible.

[00:34:19] Steve Fretzin: Yeah. Awesome, man. Um, hey, as we wrap up, I want to thank our wonderful sponsors, of course, Green Cardigan Marketing, uh, helping to blow out your website and your digital and get you those leads in the door. So you have more intake for Larry. Uh, we’ve got Get Staffed Up, so you can delegate away, you know, everything that you don’t want to do, like marketing and intake and admin and such.

[00:34:39] Steve Fretzin: And of course, Lawmatics, which helps automate a lot of the client, uh, needs. Follow up and follow through and pipeline management. And they’re just the, the bees knees as it relates to, uh, software to help you continue to, you know, market and grow your business, Larry. Thanks so much, man. This was great. I, um, I enjoyed, you know, the chat and, uh, I’m hoping that we can, you know, play golf together sometime.

[00:34:58] Larry Smith: Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed myself here.

[00:35:02] Steve Fretzin: Good stuff, man. Good stuff. And hey, thank you everybody for spending time with Larry and I today. Uh, another opportunity to build your skills as a lawyer to just, you know, be the best version that you can be. And it’s all about you being that lawyer, someone who’s confident, organized, and a skilled rainmaker.

[00:35:17] Steve Fretzin: Take care everybody. Be safe. Be well. We will talk again soon.

[00:35:24] 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.