Charlotte Smith: Becoming a Thriving Leader

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Charlotte Smith discuss:

  • The evolving job market because of COVID as well as the generational expectations.
  • Three things to becoming a better leader.
  • Listening as a key to leadership.
  • Discovering and embracing your own leadership identity.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be conscious of, and able to define, what your leadership identity is.
  • Irrespective of your job title, we are all leaders, even if it is just a self-leader.
  • Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.
  • You can analyze leaders you admire to see what attributes you want to emulate and who you want to become like.

“As leaders, if we can really hone our listening skills rather than going straight into advice mode – understand their perspective, understand the challenges that they’re experiencing – that is incredibly powerful and it is a real sign of a great leader.” —  Charlotte Smith

Connect with Charlotte Smith:  






Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.



Book: The Ambitious Attorney: Your Guide to Doubling or Even Tripling Your Book of Business 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.




lawyers, leader, individuals, leadership, people, clients, business, challenges, pandemic, coach, charlotte, listening, legal profession, listen, mindset, struggling, firms, legal, important, successful law practice


Narrator, Steve Fretzin, Charlotte Smith


Charlotte Smith  [00:00]

The sign of a really great consultant and coach is that ability to listen. And I believe that as leaders, if we can really hone our listening skills rather than going straight into kind of advice mode, really listen to our people, understand their perspective, understand their the challenges that they’re experiencing, then that is incredibly powerful and is it is a real sign of a great leader.


Narrator  [00:33]

You’re listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for grilling 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.


Steve Fretzin  [00:56]

Hey, everybody, welcome to be that lawyer. I am Steve Fretzin, as the announcer just said, and listen, it’s a beautiful day in Chicago. And hopefully it’s a beautiful day, wherever you are. And it’s all about being that lawyer, right? It’s all about making it rain. It’s about marketing. It’s about business development, it’s about leadership, it’s about efficiencies, there’s more to it than just practicing the law. Okay, so this show is all about helping you do that. If you’ve ever wondered what Fretzin does, I’ll give you this the scoop on that. We only do two things here. One is we do coaching and training for individual lawyers that want to become assassins. They want control, they want independence, they want their own clients, they want to be able to build that book and generate book business the rest of their career. That’s one thing we do. The other thing we do is business development roundtables. And we help lawyers that want to connect with other lawyers in a regular way to talk about best practices, talk about challenges, being held accountable to each other to achieve goals. It’s a lot of fun. And we’ve got a couple of different groups at a couple of different levels. So if that is of any interest, please reach out happy to talk with you about either of those two things. But on to more important things. I have a tremendous guest. I met recently, we had a lovely conversation. She’s out in the Bay Area. And she’s going to talk to you a lot today about leadership and culture and making it and just making it all work. Charlotte Smith, how’s it going?


Charlotte Smith  [02:24]

Hello, Steven, thanks for having me here today.


Steve Fretzin  [02:28]

Well, it’s absolutely my pleasure. I can’t tell you how much I mean, when we got off our call our initial call, I just was kind of that’s kind of like bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, not only for our relationship and how we can possibly work together, help each other refer each other, but also to have you on the show and share your wisdom. So just so happy that you’re here today.


Charlotte Smith  [02:48]

Yeah, right back at you. And I think the roundtable that you just shared the details about it sounds incredible and such value to people and to really have collaborative book partners in their, in their industry. So


Steve Fretzin  [03:06]

it’s nice to have a collaborative relationship with lawyers outside of a firm and people that can share things confidently or not confident confidently, but also more importantly, kept confidentially. That’s where I was going. Yep. But also, but also competently. It so if you would mind giving a little background because you have a very, I mean, your lawyer, sort of turned coach and advisor, mentor. And so give us a little bit of your journey and how you came to be.


Charlotte Smith  [03:36]

Yeah, and I always try not to go on forever. I’m


Steve Fretzin  [03:39]

a tiny


Charlotte Smith  [03:43]

brevity is important. But as you can tell from the accent, I’m from the UK, I have lived in the Bay Area for seven years now. I am mother to a four and a half year old, dare that that


Steve Fretzin  [04:01]

job right there.


Charlotte Smith  [04:03]

Yeah. But I moved out here and practice for seven years in the UK. I was an employment lawyer for travel and aviation businesses, my career was going incredibly well. In fact, I had just been offered partnership two weeks before my husband came home from work with this fantastic job offer to move out to California. And so that was very much this crossroad moment for us. And we had to decide where we kind of committing to this future in the UK and how that that looked or were we ready to embark on an adventure and just see where it took us and we were originally going to be out here for two years and that has expanded into seven and it very much feels like home now so When I moved to the US, I thought about taking the California bar exam and continuing to practice as a lawyer. But really, I did some deep work. And I started to think about where my talents as a lawyer the skills that I had developed and collided with my passion. And so that is how I actually came across coaching. And I immersed myself in one of the most extensive coach training programs out there. And my business limitless lawyers was born. And I work with lawyers all over the globe, and helping them to maximize their time, create greater efficiencies, create more work life balance, and also really hone their leadership skills. And I absolutely love the work that I do is we’ll probably hear today.


Steve Fretzin  [06:01]

Now wait a second. leet lawyers need help with things like leadership and time management, organization and marketing. I thought they management Yeah, I thought they had that all figured out. I’m confused. Yeah, I know. So So alright, so obviously, I’m goofing around. But what you got into this, not only because you knew that you had a passion for coaching and helping others, but you identified something in the legal space that drew you to stay in the legal space. Right. And that is the challenges that they have in developing their not only professional life, but but their leadership and and just in their careers. So what what kinds of things were you seeing, either in yourself and others to understand what your what you were going to do?


Charlotte Smith  [06:53]

Yeah, I think one of the greatest things for me is, I am my own research project. I have that lawyer brain. And even though I were successful, I struggled with the inner critic, I struggled with perfectionism, and some of the other challenges that lawyers experience. And so really working through those challenges that everything needs to be 100% Perfect, that can really limit our ability to make decisions to put content out there, and so on. So being able to overcome and figure out how to overcome some of those challenges has really helped me to support lawyers that perhaps struggle with the perfectionism, the imposter syndrome. They’re constantly going after a certain goal, and then the goalposts change, and it is on to next, next next, and we get stuck in that kind of hamster wheel mindset. And, and we don’t truly own our success and own that joy and fulfillment in our lives.


Steve Fretzin  [08:09]

And how much of that is is, you know, and I hate to use this word, because I know it’s it’s, you may be sound sound a little weird, but fear, just fear of the future fear of success, fear of missing something. What what are some of the things that you’re that you find that lawyers have fears about as it relates to being their best self?


Charlotte Smith  [08:29]

Yeah, fear absolutely comes up. And I think that that old day was relevant to lawyers, it was relevant to all human beings. And I believe that the legal profession attract certain personalities, for a start. It attracts personalities, individuals that are service oriented, they want to go above and beyond and that mindset is perpetuated law school, always striving to get those exam results in the digital structure of law school, and certainly perpetuates that cycle. When we go into private practice it there’s an expectation. It’s almost an implicit expectation that if a partner asks, jump, you say how high and so therefore, our boundaries start to erode. And I often deal with clients that work at a range of different firms from solo practitioners, to lawyers that are working at the big global international law firms that really struggle with setting boundaries. And so that’s something that I commonly see showing up for people.


Steve Fretzin  [09:51]

Sure. And I know that with the with the pandemic and all the changes that have happened in the legal space, are there particular issues that have come Um, that have come in the front and center more so than in the past that you’re seeing and having to deal with on a regular basis. Yeah, so


Charlotte Smith  [10:10]

it’s interesting because the pandemic, in many ways, has accelerated trends, the flexible remote working. And for the most part, I personally believe that that is a wonderful thing. And there are plenty of surveys out there, I think one of the recent ones that I read was like 87% of lawyers do not wanting to go back into the office and would be happy to work, either a hybrid model, or purely remote. That’s very telling


Steve Fretzin  [10:48]

really high percent. But doesn’t that doesn’t that then impact the culture, in particular, for the younger lawyers who need the mentorship and the advisory of their, of their peers?


Charlotte Smith  [11:00]

Yeah, and, and that is absolutely accurate. And I have been having conversations with lawyers, recently, some of their Silicon Valley tech firms, where lawyers who have been predominantly working remotely feel that they are struggling, they, their career is going really well up until the point of the pandemic, but then. So take, for example, a mid level associate, now doesn’t have that ability to walk into the partners office and ask questions that learning by osmosis has gone. And so really, what we need to do as leaders is really identified that there can be a cultural challenge that has been created as a result of remote work, acknowledge, accept that, and then come up with different ways of creating culture, even by doing it remotely. And I believe that there are some firms that are doing a great job of that always having an open door policy, and keeping the lines of communication open with their staff, giving them access to their calendar, and giving them access to their cell phones and, and enabling that individual to really know that they can reach out and they can have those conversations. There, there are also examples where it has been done badly, and people do feel that they are struggling. And when energetically we go into that space where we feel stuck, and we feel struggling, then that’s not a great place to be so


Steve Fretzin  [13:02]

yeah, yeah, that’s why that’s why I asked because I think that’s an important topic to talk to discuss the idea that while there are some benefits to what this pandemic and obviously it’s it’s, it’s a horrifying, you know, terrible thing that’s gone on. And but yet, I’m seeing lawyers never have more business or it love the idea that they’re working remotely and spending more time with their families than they ever had before and reconnecting with nature or their health or their hobbies. So there’s all this wonderful, there’s this wonderful side that’s being pulled away from a tragedy. But I’m wondering about the year two out effects on the culture and in the in the younger individuals even coming out of law school and how they’re going to sort of manage, I mean, the first thing you want to do is be surrounded by lawyers that you can learn from and be a sponge. And that’s off the to some degree.


Charlotte Smith  [13:56]

And I think that is interesting, because I think there are going to be different pools of people. And I have read certain reports about millennials, Gen Gen, while the Z Gen Z is Gen Z, the Gen Z’s they now really acts have different expectations to the older millennials, of which I form part of that group being born in 85. And I guess when when I grew up in the legal profession, it was expected that you would be working in the office, it was expected that you would be in the office at a certain time and I was regularly in the office until past 12 o’clock past one o’clock and beyond sometimes, because that was the nature of the work and the Gen Z is have seen this different way of doing things. And so I think the job market is going to be different. And that’s really interesting. I believe there are advantages and disadvantages to being purely remote, it’s going to work for certain people, but equally as it’s not going to work for everyone and vice versa. So it comes down to what kind of leader are you? How can you really take that 360 view and perspective and really seek to accommodate individuals and nurture them so that they can perform at their best, rather than, you know, just just having that mindset of everyone needs to be in the office, and they’re paid full time, and I want full control of time while they’re there. And so I think that shedding some of those old ways of thinking and really innovating and figuring out how can we make this work is the way forward


Steve Fretzin  [16:06]

and let’s let’s take that a little deeper. So you’re working with with attorneys on on leadership and being better leaders, what are like three tips that you would would just provide that things that you work on with, with with lawyers all the time that are either managing partners, maybe their equity, maybe they’re looking to be their future leader, they’re caught up and coming, okay. They want a leader, what are what are three things that you that you that you say, you look to be a leader, you need to do these, you have to have these three things. And then obviously, you know, it’s not just snap a finger, right? There’s, there’s work that has to be done to accomplish that, you know, to be a leader, it’s not just a wish it wish it and it happens thing, right?


Charlotte Smith  [16:45]

Absolutely. And that’s the way he has been as well. In the legal world,


Steve Fretzin  [16:53]

yeah, I’m thrown into training all and just let’s let’s just figure it out, and, ya know, wrangle the kittens in the room, you know, and then deal with with, with the snowflakes and the and the boulders alike. So, so what so what, what, how do leaders thrive today? And what are you working with them on?


Charlotte Smith  [17:13]

So one of the first things that I take clients through is being really conscious and defining what their leadership identity is, you will not get the number of individuals who have come to me and when I asked them, well, what kind of leader do you want to be? Have you ever thought about what your leadership identity is? It really creates this pause this moment of silence. And the common response that I get is, shall I have never thought thought about that question before,


Steve Fretzin  [17:54]

where they just might say, a good leader? I want to be, yeah, yeah, that’s the kind of leader I want to be.


Charlotte Smith  [18:00]

And so a great exercise for us all to do. Because I will also add, irrespective of your job title, we are all leaders, perhaps it’s self leadership, but really thinking about what kind of leader we want to be. So think about, perhaps it’s in your law firm. Perhaps it is in the legal profession more generally. Or it could be the world as a whole. Who do you admire as a leader? Maybe it’s in the world of sports, you know, it doesn’t matter. Who do you really admire as a leader, and pick three, then start to identify what attributes do you actually admire about those individuals that you would like to emulate in your own style? I love and so, yeah, it’s, it’s a great exercise. And it’s so telling.


Steve Fretzin  [19:03]

I mean, that that really can help put together what, you know, what you what you really appreciate about others and what you’re seeing in them. And do you have that in you or the potential to have that in you if you work on it? Right? Yeah. So I love that exercise. And so I think that’s a great a great, you know, drill to go through what’s what’s another thing that you do with your clients to help them figure out either what kind of leader they are or how to lead.


Charlotte Smith  [19:33]

So another thing that I’ve really observed, from my own experience working in different different law firms, and I also see it in my clients as well here, you know, from their experiences working in different organizations. There are some times some really bad leaders out there. Sure, perhaps they have an authoritarian style do this already. laughs And, unfortunately, it is common in the legal world, and individuals kind of ruling through a reign of terror. And I guess recognizing that that is someone’s leadership style. So really starting to understand what an individual’s leadership style is. And when we have that kind of slightly toxic or authoritarian style, what one of the common issues challenges is that they don’t listen. And I think that as lawyers, and this is one of the biggest things that I learned in my coach training, is, in the first few modules, they really beat the consultant out of you, was trained to give advice. People pay us their thoughts, their thoughts and advice consult called consulting. And the sign of a really great consultant and coach is that ability to listen. And I believe that as leaders, if we can really hone our listening skills, rather than going straight into kind of advice mode, really, listen to our people, understand their perspective, understand their the challenges that they’re experiencing, then that is incredibly powerful. And is it is a real sign of a great leader.


Steve Fretzin  [21:35]

It’s something that I have to beat into my clients like, like breaking a horse, because lawyers are, are trained killers, at solving problems. That’s what they’re that’s what they’re made to do. That’s it. Me too, by the way, I’m not a lawyer. But all I want to do is solve, solve, solve. And by the way, that’s what I do most of the day. But when I’m talking to a new prospective client, or when I’m, I’m listening to my client, tell me, if you have you got to go 8020 9010, listening to talking, and the mantra that I follow, and I teach my clients and they love it. And once they get this, it changes, everything is prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. And that usually takes someone hearing it twice to pick it up. So I’ll say it again, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. So the idea that we’re going to spend our time diagnosing, asking listening, empathy, and not solve, and they’re going to go well, wait a second. Isn’t that what the buyer wants to solve it? Yeah, eventually, but they don’t need a solution right away. And that’s what you want to do. There’s a reason Charlotte that they call it that lawyers call it a pitch meeting, right? What’s the point? We’re going in to pitch our services, and it’s really bass ass backwards. Back passwords, one of those anyway, you get the gist? It’s, it’s so right. So so again, I walk into a doctor’s office and the doctor I say, my arm hurts. He says, Well, no problem, we’ll cut it off. And, and that will take care of it. And I’m not sure I like that prescription. Well, what would I prefer a doctor to do? So we get we get the gist and I’m beating, I’m beating a dead horse and all that stuff. But so so the listening is key. Now there’s something I picked up on your on your website that I find interesting, because I teach it a little bit, but your NLP certified. Okay. So what does that mean? Because most people don’t even know what NLP is. And LP.


Charlotte Smith  [23:27]

Yeah, so it’s neuro linguistic programming, and a lot of the work that I do with my clients, and I always break this down 50% of the work that I do is the strategic thinking is the tangible steps is the doing. And that’s incredibly important. Strategy is important. But mindset is the remaining 50%, if not more, we can write the most amazing business development plan, multi seven figure business development and plan. However, if we do not have the right mindset in place, then is going to be very difficult to execute. Right? How do we deal with rejection? What kind of internal narrative do we have playing? And so really, if we can start to get conscious with the language that we use, the way that we speak to ourself and one thing that I actually do is we when working with clients, and I know this sounds a little bit wacky and weird and out there, but we get that inner voice and name. We give it a name, we


Steve Fretzin  [24:54]

name for your inner voice. What’s what’s we have,


Charlotte Smith  [24:57]

we have a neighbor, what’s the name of Um, so we could call it the Gremlin. We can call it we can give it a name like, okay. Oh, John. Trouble. Yeah, exactly. But you can recognize, yeah, what is Meghan telling me right now? And, and that’s really powerful because we start to be able to differentiate, what is this voice that is coming from a place of fear? That one has self doubt? Yeah, that’s a bit ambitious.


Steve Fretzin  [25:33]



Charlotte Smith  [25:34]

Right. You really think that you can do that? And you know, we all


Steve Fretzin  [25:38]

kidding who? Yeah, exactly.


Charlotte Smith  [25:41]

Exactly. Everyone’s gonna laugh at you right? Now. You’re gonna look so foolish. Yeah. And that comes up, it really comes up. First of all, by the way, all human beings, it comes up for lawyers. And I think that is a big challenge when it comes to business development, and marketing, putting yourself out there on podcasts or on LinkedIn, I’m going to produce some content. What happens if no one likes it? What happens? If I look stupid? How am I going to damage my reputation and so on? And so we listen to that voice. And what happens is it paralyzes us, and we do not take action, because we bought into that narrative versus How about asking what could go right?


Steve Fretzin  [26:29]

Yeah, well, that’s like a cup half full versus cup half empty mentality.


Charlotte Smith  [26:36]

And it’s difficult because as lawyers, by the way, I think there’s the personality factor in there. And then our job is to spot risk. Yeah. The core of being a lawyer is to spot and prevent against risk. So our minds are always searching for what is the worst case scenario? And how do we solve for that. And so that can kind of flow into our personal lives as well in other other areas of our lives because of that neuroplasticity. And our brain is trained to think about worst case scenarios. But we’re not automatically scanning for best case scenarios.


Steve Fretzin  [27:21]

And I’m fascinated by the mind and the way mines work and overcoming challenges through through mental power. It’s probably another whole show right there, Charlotte. But listen, it’s time it is time I prepared you very little for the three best of and you’re in the San Jose slash Bay area. So let’s go through the best stuff. And let’s see how you do with this. Give us the insights. So if we come visit your neighborhood, we can have some fun. So what what’s your favorite restaurant? What restaurants you just just, oh, I wish I could eat there every day or just every time I go there. It’s a pleasure. What what what, where do you go?


Charlotte Smith  [28:00]

Hmm, so one of my favorite restaurants is called Lexington house and that is in Los Gatos. And one of the reasons that I like it is because it has amazing artisan cocktails. Yeah, the great cocktails. So I think that if you were having a business meal, for example, you’ve got great drinks and high quality, lovely food and they have a great menu that starts with smaller plays and goes right through to something more substantial. So I kind of like the variety there.


Steve Fretzin  [28:47]

A little bit of sharing right with the small plates. You can just share get a couple slides here at the table. Okay, yeah, yeah, I’m game on that. I’m getting a little hungry. Let’s move on to coming to visit you. And there’s something I have to see. What is it?


Charlotte Smith  [29:05]

This is a difficult one for me because my favorite thing to do is actually to leave


Steve Fretzin  [29:15]

I’m gonna come visit you. Let’s do this. Let’s leave.


Charlotte Smith  [29:20]

Let’s hop in the car and let’s go over the hill to Santa Cruz to the beach.


Steve Fretzin  [29:25]

Okay, so that so Alright, so what what we eat Santa Cruz go the beach.


Charlotte Smith  [29:30]

I like it. Yeah. And I think the reason that I just love that is because it feels like you’ve gone to a different world. It’s completely different to Silicon Valley. You hear the ocean, it’s relaxing. And it’s more kind of free and Bohemia. Yeah, nice. Town. So I like


Steve Fretzin  [29:53]

let’s, let’s let’s hang loose. All right. Last question is what do people in the Bay Area like to do? Like what what’s been going on lately that you see a lot of people getting into


Charlotte Smith  [30:06]

getting into? Well, this huge kind of cycling population and the mountains nearby. I think people really like that. I always see people kind of going around on those. I don’t even know what they’re called hoverboards.


Steve Fretzin  [30:22]

Okay, yeah.


Charlotte Smith  [30:25]

I think they also explode. So oh, that’s that’s not for me. And it was kind of injury. So


Steve Fretzin  [30:33]

trouble? Yeah. I don’t know. Okay. Cycling, cycling through the mountains. I mean, that sounds pretty exhausting. But for some people, that’s going to be you know, their jam. So, yeah. Nice. Thank you so much. And so people want to reach out to you, they say, Look, I’ve listened to Charlotte, and I want to touch base with her about our services, or to learn more, how do they get in touch with you?


Charlotte Smith  [30:55]

They can go to my website, which is www dot limitless dash And they can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I am pretty active on there. So yeah, Charlotte Smith, and I think you’ll find me. Although I guess I’m not going to be the only one.


Steve Fretzin  [31:21]

Well, you don’t have a great name like Fretzin. There’s only like, 30 of us that I know of. So it’s, it’s it makes things a little easier, except nobody can spell it. Yeah. Fantastic. Well, listen, this was wonderful having you, I think you had, you’ve shared some great insights to the things that are going on right now in the legal space, Leadership, Culture, communication, and all the different things that you do to help lawyers and I just, I appreciate you taking the time and I appreciate you know, getting to know you better, and, and sharing your wisdom with my audience. So just just thank you so much. And let’s definitely keep in the loop. Okay. Yeah, thank you, Steve. Sure. And hey, everybody, thank you for spending some time with Charlotte and myself today. Hopefully, you got a couple of good takeaways. And again, if you’re an aspiring leader, you may want to reach out to her and if you’re not an aspiring leader than maybe you need to, you know, think about your future you maybe leadership is something you want to consider or just build your book of business and then you’re inherently going to be a leader. Both are good so listen, he that lawyer confident organized someone that’s a skilled Rainmaker, hope you enjoyed the show, take care be well be safe. We’ll talk again soon.


Narrator  [32:38]

Thanks for listening to be that lawyer. Life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website 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