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Client Horror Stories

Transcription of Matt Davis’ episode (That time when your client didn’t pay his bill, and you ended up getting a 1000 word text from his new wife instead)

Transcription of Matt Davis’ episode (That time when your client didn’t pay his bill, and you ended up getting a 1000 word text from his new wife instead)

This transcription belongs to Episode #36: Matt Davis’ drama triangle-themed client-horror story that left a great amount of learning not only to us, but also to Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!

Morgan Friedman (Host): Hey, everyone! Welcome to the latest episode of client horror stories. I’m excited to have Matt Davis, the rocker.

We’re not going to be talking about his rock band but his day job instead. Matt, great to have you here.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Hey, I’m excited to be here and yeah, client horror stories. We get that. So…

Morgan Friedman (Host): Definitely! Speaking of you getting it, let’s jump into one. I’m excited to discover what client horror story do you have in store for us today.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Well, you know, the, the thing I like, let’s… if we’re gonna talk about something, I like to have a teachable moment for lack of a better word. And so I run a law firm, and I practiced law, really, in my hometown for about 20 years until I had a midlife crisis and started a law firm. 

And so one thing I really learned about client horror stories is that we try and identify the psychographics of the people that give us trouble, okay? Because then you can avoid it, right? And the thing, one of the ones we always focus on and we teach our attorneys about, because I learned that the hard way, right, several times is called the Drama Triangle.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Tell us of the Drama Triangle.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, okay. So the Drama Triangle is, you know, in my sort of amateur psychologist or psychiatrist world, I call it a social construct, okay? And the idea is that this is the way some people like to build their relationships in the world. 

So, we all know people that love to be the victim, right? That’s that’s the role they take on in life, and sometimes people will, you know, live it as their, their way through life. Sometimes people will just get into feeling sorry for themselves. 

And there was a, what was his name… he wrote about it like back in 1968, and I learned about it the hard way and then went to a seminar about it with David Emerald. So this victim, they have a persecutor, right? Somebody is persecuting them. And that person really may be persecuting them, or they may not be. 

I mean, the victim may just want to feel that way. And what the victim does is goes and looks for a rescuer. So there’s your Drama Triangle of you know, the persecutor, the victim, the victims, the key player in it, and then the victim goes and seeks out a rescuer. 

So, I’m in the law business. Who do you think likes to play the rescuer? 

Morgan Friedman (Host): The lawyer. 

Matt Davis (Interviewee): The lawyer! And by the way, the lawyers get an emotional payoff by helping the victim. In effect, it becomes a really sick and unhealthy relationship. So, I think about this, and I’ve got a great friend. He’s a fantastic lawyer, and one of the best on his feet. You know, you’re fighting with him in court, and he’ll just pull something out of his behind and you’re just like, “Where did he get that? This guy is a genius, right?” 

But he loves to play the rescuer for anybody that walks in his office with $200 down or whatever. I mean, my other friend is his law partner and talks about how many cases he takes and how few cases he gets paid on because he is, you know, giving away his time because he’s getting the emotional payoff of being the rescuer, right?

Morgan Friedman (Host): So this is an interesting point. On the one hand, I think that part of the definition of being a professional is having this boundary, like a professional advisor, almost by definition, is that outsider expert that comes in, will look at it objectively, will help you, but on the other hand, most professionals are not motivated only by money, but you also want to help and want to do good. So it’s natural to segue into that.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): It is natural, but you know, there is a point where the relationship is healthy, and there’s a point where it’s just sick. And then the issue really boils down to, as a professional, can you help this person, right? Or is this person just perpetuating a Drama Triangle? Because guess what happens? If the rescuer does not perform exactly to the specifications of the victim, the rescuer becomes the persecutor.

Morgan Friedman (Host): That’s interesting.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): And because what happens is the victim goes, “Well, this person is not accomplishing what I want to. They are persecuting. They are not taking care of me. They are not fulfilling my needs.” 

Morgan Friedman (Host): Right.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Right? Okay. So…

Morgan Friedman (Host): It’s a fine line to make sure that when you’re trying to save someone or help them that you don’t… I can perceive very easily where the person persecuted was addicted to the persecutor but now becomes addicted to you instead, replacing one addiction for the other, for example.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, and you know on a professional level, again, we teach our lawyers to do this because we have psychographics. I’ve got 13 lawyers that work for me and growing, and we have psychographics of people who are going to be problems for us and, you know, our in payment terms or in long-term relationship terms. Let’s tell a story. 

So I have what we call county seat law, okay? That means I left Washington DC, came back to my hometown of 50,000 people, and just started taking whatever I could to make a living and did really well with it, but I made lots of mistakes. And this is one of the mistakes I made. So I did family law. I did criminal criminal law. Then this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us, just quitting family law. 

I got a case. It was a guy was acquainted with, and he had a problem with his ex wife, okay? She hated his guts. And by the way, she had very good reason to hate his guts because he had run around on her and got another woman pregnant, right? That tends not to make a spouse happy, right? 

Morgan Friedman (Host): Usually that makes someone unhappy. 

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Usually that tends to torque them off a little bit. And he kept coming to me, kept coming to me, kept… I want to do something about… It had to do with relationship with his kids and how he felt like she was interfering with his relationship with his kids. And, you know, she, she legitimately was, but, you know, he wanted to be the victim in the whole deal. And I worked on explaining to him what your case is in front of a judge who handles the deprived children docket or the, you know, the abused children dockets. 

So, you know, this judge is hearing cases about kids whose, you know, abusive parents are putting out cigarettes on their forehead or who are leaving them in hot cars in the middle of an Oklahoma summer or are not feeding them or the DHS workers, that’s human services going into the house and you got dog feces all over the floor. That’s what this judge hears all day. And to my client, he doesn’t care about the fact that you don’t get every bit of visitation you want, right? 

Now, I let myself get caught in this drama triangle because I finally started feeling sorry for him, and maybe that’s the point is when you start to really feel sorry for him, You know, most people aren’t just, at the end of the day, aren’t that big of victims of their circumstances. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it legitimately happens. But there’s usually two sides to every story, right? And when they can’t see it, and are drawing you in, then you need to be aware of that.

Morgan Friedman (Host): So, as you were starting to be drawn in, did you realize you were being drawn in and this was happening, or is this only something you realized post-factum?

Matt Davis (Interviewee): You know, I think… Boy, I cannot tell you. I think he was pretty persistent and given me to help him. And by the way, I’ve made the mistakes many, many times before, over the course of my career, and I don’t practice a lot anymore because I mainly run the firm. So I don’t get into it, but it’s easier in some sorts of law, you know, family and criminal. And we’re a business law firm. That’s that’s all we do. 

So, sometimes, you’ll see it, but I guess back to your question. I don’t know how I got suckered into it. At some point, I just felt sorry for him. And I’m like, “Okay, let’s let’s go take this to the courthouse.” And, of course, we get to the courthouse. He won’t take any responsibility for his role in the deal. And about two hours into the first hearing, this judge is losing his mind on this guy because he won’t answer questions he thinks he doesn’t have to. 

He thinks he just gets to show up and have a tantrum and that he is completely justified, and the judge is just gonna butter his bread because he’s the victim, right? He cannot see anything objectively, and it’s my job to rescue him. 

The judge shut down the hearing, torqued off on this guy, and said, “You’re gonna go get this. You’re gonna go get that. You’re gonna go get these records. You’re gonna go get those records.” And ultimately just read him the riot act and send us packing and said, “We’ll see you back in whatever, two weeks or a month or whatever.” And we get back to the office, and all of a sudden, I’m not the rescuer anymore, and I’m trying to sit here going, “Guy, this is what I was trying to tell you.” 

But when these clients, when these victims, don’t take any responsibility and just expect somebody else to pull them up by their bootstraps, which by the way, one of the lines in our family is, you know, the people you pull up by their bootstraps, turn around and screw you over because they don’t have any skin in the game. They don’t have any responsibility. 

Anyway, with this one, we end up back at court. The judge thumps him as I tried to tell him what’s going to happen, as frankly I tried to tell him what’s going to happen from the start because this was still outside the realm of what this judge is actually concerned about. There you go. Ultimately, I got about 1000-word text from his new wife, telling me what a lousy S-O-B I was, which by the way, they didn’t pay their bill, of course, right? And just excoriating me, and ultimately, I sat down at our firm meeting and I read the entire text to everybody. 

So there’s 10 people sitting around the table, and they’re just all shaking their heads and half cackling. And ultimately, I said, “Guys, this is why…” two points here. “This is why we don’t do family law anymore.” Okay? That’s a broad point or that’s the more tactical point. 

The strategic point, I said, “This is why we learn to watch for people who are playing the Drama Triangle game because when they are, we’re eventually going to be the persecutor because there’s some point that we are not going to be able to perform to their specifications because they are unreasonable, they are not objective, and they won’t take responsibility for their circumstances and they have completely unrealistic expectations because of that.”

Morgan Friedman (Host): I love it. And there is a lot to unpack there. So, a couple of things first which has nothing to do with client horror stories or the theme. I just find it fascinating. I’m not a learned. I know nothing about it, but I never thought about doing a psychographic profile of the judge. Like, it’s really interesting, “Oh yeah the judge sees cases of kids and parents putting cigarette butts out in their head. And so of course, you don’t get enough time. We’re calling his bullshit. So I think understanding everyone including the judge of the court case is very powerful.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, you need to know who you’re going in front of and what they want, what they like and what they don’t and, fortunately, that was here on my home turf, so I knew the judge, but then I had to go to court down in southern Oklahoma, I got dragged into a deal, and I hadn’t put on a suit in a year, and literally in Monday. Yeah, I mean, literally, I had to go, “Dang it.” 

I kind of fattened up this year, and I’m like, “Well, I guess I have a suit.” I have found one anyway. And so yeah, and I didn’t know the judge. You know, I’m calling all my buddies from law school going, “Hey, who’s this judge? Like, give me the skinny on this guy. what does he like me to deliver to him?”

Morgan Friedman (Host): So now, I love the story. One of the main questions that stands out in my mind listening to you is I think your advice is overall fantastic. You need a psychographic profile of your client so that can look out for the signs of a drama of an emerging Drama Triangle so you can stay away. But what would you say are some of the critical or the key factors or signs that you look for in order to identify this sort of psychographic profile so you know who to avoid?

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, absolutely. But, you know, it’s not like every client that comes in, we’re like, “Oh, this person falls into this.” We’re looking for the problem clients, and so that’s the question. The key thing is when they won’t take any responsibility for the situation that they’ve got themselves in. 

And so we have a business client. And by the way, I mean from, from a management perspective, this is really important too, the concept of knowing this, you know, one of my lawyers up in Missoura, or Missouri, depending on which side of the Missouri River you’re on, they literally say it differently.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. I didn’t know this. Where did he say Missoura in Missouri?

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Missoura is south of the Missouri and then Missouri is north. So I think that’s right.

Every every state is weird, you know. Every state has got its own weird stuff, but that would be that as it may. And he is a… and he’ll tell you because I’m on his case, and now he doesn’t do it much anymore. He will take on these people like lost puppies, and and he took on this case and this, our client, just would not take any responsibility in the deal. 

He was in what we call a business divorce from some partners and just would not accept any responsibility for the fact that his partners were mad at him. And they were objectively jerks. and we were fighting with one of the really big law firms, which is what we do all the time. They think they’re big and tough and we’re just like, “Okay, we fight with you all the time, and you don’t scare us.” 

And they were really being obnoxious jerks, and we were just popping them back in the nose, but at the end of the day, you gotta go, “Okay, everybody’s got some responsibility in a deal,” and we knew what this guy did, and we knew that he wouldn’t fuss it up, for lack of a better word. And we knew that his expectations were a little unreasonable. 

Those are the key things you look for is a lack of responsibility and just self-awareness. When that self-awareness of, “Hey that some of this is my fault,” or “I have some contribution to the problem.”

Morgan Friedman (Host): And you, you mentioned one characteristic in passing that I think is useful to emphasize, which is unrealistic expectations. 

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah. 

Morgan Friedman (Host): That is that is a huge red flag from the beginning, in my experience.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, I think so. And, you know, I may be calling those grudge matches. And what I mean by that is, the Grudge Match is when the other person has so grievously wronged you that all gloves are off. The rules don’t apply. We’re gonna do whatever it takes to take them down, kind of like what our friends in Washington are doing right now. Have you noticed that? 

Yeah. I mean, they’re just throwing all the rules of decorum out the window because the Democrats and Republicans are so mad at each other and basically have been for about the last 20 years. I mean, you know, this is not like it was when I was a kid. 

And Ron Reagan and Tip O’Neill would throw punches at each other and then would go sit down and have a scotch, right? That’s not going on in Washington. At least I don’t have the perception that he has. Okay, so the grudge match, when when you’ve got that unrealistic expectations, I’m completely, you know, “Wow.” We see that and we’re like, when we do our case reviews with our lawyers, we’re like, “Hey, watch this one. Don’t do this.”

Morgan Friedman (Host): So this leads me to wonder about when a potential client comes in to your office. Is there a way we can sense like, before you even get involved, you want to be able to smell it out and say, “Okay, are they likely to have realistic expectations? Are they likely to take some sort of responsibility?” I wonder if there’s a way to figure it out, to figure that something. 

Something I’ve done sometimes is early on in a relationship, business and personal, start a fight on something I’m really really low, on purpose, on like the stupidest thing possible in order to see how they respond. Like do they immediately go on attack mode or to go merely like, “Oh, it’s all just a miscommunication” mode today and then…

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Oh, Morgan, man, you’re raw. You are a New Yorker after all. 

Morgan Friedman (Host): I am a New Yorker. 

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, go fish. Yeah.We’re not gonna do that. But, you know, maybe you should have gone to law school. So there you go. That’s, I mean, it’s an interesting tactic, and it probably stands a little bit of reasons. That’s not, it’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s pretty funny. Yeah.

Morgan Friedman (Host): By the way, to run with it, I do that sort of thing in in a lot of different contexts. When I interview people to hire them, often, I will see something that’s completely wrong, like completely false, and I’ll do it just to see if they correct me or not. 

And it’s in this similar little vein of these little tests to see how do people respond when the person in power, when the person is reading you like your boss, says there’s something wrong because I don’t want to hire the people are like, “Yes sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir” and don’t call me in, and I want to hire the people that call me on it, but call me in like an elegant and professional, in a healthy way.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): All right. Yeah. Speaking of, let’s just go off-subject first because we’re big boys. We can do what they want. I’ve got a new interviewee…

Morgan Friedman (Host): You’re especially a big boy because you’re no longer fitting into your suit yet…

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Hey, I’ve lost some weight. I just kind of ate what I wanted to, and I tried some weird diet my wife came up with, and it just didn’t work, so there you go. So, I’m losing weight. My wife just goes just goes and drives me bonkers. 

But no, I’ve got this great question. I don’t know where I picked it up. I was trying to think the other day where we need people who are problem solvers, not problem bringers, right? And that was a really interesting distinction to learn in life because we’ve got to create solutions for people. 

I mean, I had one of the DAs. I had pulled all these stunts one day to get, I think I had to get… Oh, we were trying to get my fourth kid. My second son is adopted from Russia, And we had to get all this documentation to Russia, because you have to do these post reports. And I had to pull all the strings with these doctors to get these reports and I was just calling in favors. 

She was completely horrified about, this DA, about what I’d done. I was sitting there laughing with one of the bailiffs and she’s like, “I can’t believe you did all that,” you know, “Calling in favors and pushing these doctors’ buttons” and so on. I said, “Yeah, I don’t know what don’t get.” My job is to bend the rules as as a defense lawyer or whatever. 

My job is to create a solution for my client out of what we have, right? And so, back to the point, is interview question that we ask is also something like, “You’ve got a brick and a bedsheet. What can you do with it?” 

And I want somebody who’s gonna come up with something kind of wacky. Even, you know, like my COO, who’s a retired Air Force Colonel. He was like, “Well, I’d make a weapon out of it and go beat somebody over the head.” I’m like, “Well, okay.” You’re looking for somebody who’s coming up with something kind of creative and can solve those, just whatever problem or make it… Anyway, so that’s my wacky interview question right now that I’m using to provoke people. So…

Morgan Friedman (Host): This is an interesting, sort of, test to see how they… not just on their creativity but, like, how much can you be provoked, and this is something that I use for detecting clients that might likely be horrible. Something I struggle with and try to do is I think I have a good smell for “Okay, they’re likely to… this client is likely to be a problem-bringer.” 

But even though I think I have a good smell, I always want something stronger than my instinct, like, “Okay, if someone does this, this, and does one of these things, then it’s likely correlated to this sort of narcissism or whatever, which I want to stay away from.”

Matt Davis (Interviewee): That’s really astute… I had never really thought of… I really liked this problem-solver problem-bringer idea because I think a lot of people define themselves by that and in just how they look at the world, and maybe that’s really important for us to think about as professionals is asking, 

“Is this person that wants my…” now we’re using air quotes, “help?” “Is this person in just being a problem-bringer or are they a problem solver that actually needs my help and my expertise to help them” because, you know, the victims are going to be problem-bringers, right?

Morgan Friedman (Host): Exactly. Exactly. So I think it’s interesting to call with your own little methodology in order to say, “Okay, we can ask these sort of questions towards them and in a sort of way, judge them in these certain ways.” Like there are ways beyond our instincts in order to in order to notice notice these red flags.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, wow. I’ve learned something today. I think I’m just gonna go take a nap. So yeah, I’m a little tired still. That’s what I was telling you. My 21-year-old decided to have a pool party last night and so, here I am.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I guess you can invite a dad to a pool party.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Just thrilled. Yeah, I was happy. You know, when they want to talk to you at that age, you’re like, “Okay, yeah, that’s great.” So…

Morgan Friedman (Host): So let’s refund this for 5 minutes. Before we wrap up, I wonder what sort of questions or things we can do in order to see, in a more serious way beyond instinct, whether this potential client is is likely a problem-bringer. And I’m going to just invent the few possibilities off the top of my head, so this is pure, like, guitar riffing to continue the band theme of our conversation right before we started recording. 

Something else I look for is what percentage of the words that someone uses in a conversation is I or me, and that which of course you can… we’re not robots but it’s like how was the conversation, “Me me me me me me me” and although it may be it’s the Congressman or it may be like in like for lawyers, it’s like, “They did this, they did this, they did this, they did this” Because people that just talk “Me me me me me me me” wll be likely high on egotism scale of things.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yes, yeah. The narcissistic scale which, again, I’m sort of a… I’m such an amateur. I’ve failed to learn the difference between psychology and psychiatry.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs too, which psychologists can

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, I think I knew that. But, you know, I stayed away from medicine because my mother was an OBGYN, but she was a surgeon. She did a lot of surgery, and she used to come home and say things like, “You know…,” she always wore glasses like this. She said, “I took a tumor out of a woman about the size of that roast beef,” you know, right at the dinner table. Oh god, Mom! 

And so anyway, so yeah, forgive my self-imposed ignorance as such things. But yeah, I mean, you know, I know that you’ve got these sliding scales and the narcissistic personality disorder is one of them, and when you’re getting people with stronger narcissistic tendencies, they’re gonna play those games, right?

Morgan Friedman (Host): Exactly. The Drama Triangle is made for narcissists.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, absolutely. And there’s a selection bias for those people showing up in the law business, by the way, on both sides because there’s a real bias for narcissists going to law school.

Morgan Friedman (Host): That’s a good point because going to your point about the triangle in the beginning is some people will become lawyers because they have this savior complex to be able to save all these other people.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, you know, wow. We’re gonna show up, you know, I think we’re gonna get an invite to the American Psychological Association Conference over this. 

Morgan Friedman (Host): Where I think we’re hinting at is that there might be some sort of, perhaps, new formal narcissism detection algorithm, and the psychologist and psychologists and doctors will say, “No, you need a formal diagnosis. It’s harder.” 

And for our purposes, you have a half hour or hour with a potential client, and before you decide to decide, you basically have 60 minutes in order to come up with an estimate that you think is good enough to say if they are likely a problem-bringer or likely a problem-solver.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, yeah. And you know, some of it you just get from street smarts, building it up over the top over time. I mean,I can size it up pretty quick with people. I mean, I don’t take any new clients. 

But hey, by the way, one of the things, too, that we watch for, and this is maybe a lagging indicator, rather than a leading indicator, is who are the people giving you problems paying their bill? We give estimates on what things are going to cost, but we’re a solely hourly billing firm because that’s just what works for us.

I mean, I had a guy up in Kansas City yesterday, offered to throw $100,000 down on the table and said, “Hey, this is a flat fee. Will you take my case to trial?” And we were like, “No,” because I know how that works out and we lose at the end of the day, because, you know, it just doesn’t work. It’s a bad deal for us. 

But we we keep really tight leash on our receivables and much more so than any law firm I know of and I speak that I’m in a lot of mastermind groups with other law business owners. And man, when we see people will not take the financial responsibility, that’s obviously a red flag to us on several levels and can be an indicator of getting into a Drama Triangle. 

And by the way, guess what, I know which one of my lawyers… not which one, which of because there are several of them, are more prone to bringing home lost puppies, to bringing home victims, and you know, it’s like, Kristen would just the same kick your ass as take care of you. And. you know, and she’s a great lawyer, so I don’t worry about her. So, sorry about my language, but there you go. 

Morgan Friedman (Host): We’re adults and I don’t care about the rating soit’s fine. Two points. One, I think it’s an interesting point on Kristen like, as a manager, it’s not just looking out for the signs. It’s looking out for the people under you who will be more or less prone to be sucked into these horror stories. 

So there’s like a middle level here which I like. Also, there’s another interesting point, which is on detecting narcissists and problem-bringers. What I realized listen to you on the lagging indicator of the of the invoice, it’s that small things often revealed the big things about your personality. 

I grew up in New York in the Giuliani area. And one of the ways Giuliani massively brought on crime in New York was the broken windows policy. They arrested people who did super tiny violations, dumping turnstiles in the subway, and guess what? Very consistently, those are the really big criminals as well, and what’s powerful about that is judging people who break the little things or the people who break the little things are very likely the people who break the big things. 

So when you have an hour to size up a potential client, that’s a great moment to look forfor these little things. Here’s, here’s another possibility, like I’m finding what things you could do in that first hour meeting in your office. Like here’s something tiny, tiny, tiny. People come in for a meeting, just give them coffee, and like when you’re done with a coffee, do they offer to take the coffee cup or do they just leave a mess? 

Like, I found more often than not, more than 50% of the time, the willingness to clean up after yourself on these little things is correlated with you just wanting everything neat and tidy and nice in your life and you want to pay your invoices and so on.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, that’s pretty funny. I’m kind of interested in that idea. By the way, I need to mention this because as you kind of picked up I’m an aficionado of the Drama Triangle deal, of the broad concept, and I forgot to talk about the other side of the deal. 

So David Emerald is an author and a speaker and he and his wife, Donna, it’s difficult to pronounce… she’s really sweet and she’s brilliant, too. But he wrote about what he calls the empowerment dynamic. It’s in the same triangle, so to speak, except you’re working with the creator Instead of the victim. 

You’re working with somebody who wants to create something. And that’s that’s maybe an important distinction. And then as a professional, your job is either as the coach or, gosh, it’s counselor or whatever. 

I always felt like the distinction between those two was was a little vague, or maybe I’m just too stupid to understand it. But that’s important. And we talked about that too With the same distinction of problem-solvers and problem-bringers, right? 

Because when you have somebody that wants to be a creator, that wants to make something happen, instead of being served and catered to, like maybe somebody who will clean up their coffee cup, somebody who will take responsibility, who wants to create something, who wants to create a new and better circumstance, then that’s somebody who you can really help. 

And again, you know, we’re a business law firm. And when we have firm retreats, which we do every six months, I will constantly teach this stuff, usually about once a year. I roll it out, and I’m like, “Guys, we want to work with the creators, because they’re so much more fun to work for.” 

I mean, I’m working with these guys right now who discovered that one of the old oil fields over in south Arkansas is full of lithium, right? And, you know, these guys… I asked him the other day I said, “Hey, man, how much… what of America’s demand for lithium can you produce out of there?” and they go, “everything.” 

These are guys I want to work with, okay? And by the way, you know, from a professional standpoint of what we do, these are guys I want to work with on a lot of different levels because, hey, this is exciting, and it’s fun and it’s rewarding to see them going places. And so you’re really getting your jollies, you’re getting your emotional payoff, right? 

Instead of just rescuing some dipstick, dingbat, victim, you’re getting your emotional payoff of building something with them, right? And, you know, by the way, the dirty little secret is they’re more profitable at the end of the day because they’re always doing something and they’re always building something. 

And, you know, if you can make yourself valuable in their world, they’re so much more fun to work with and so much more profitable because you’re adding value when you’ve hitched yourself to people that are problem-solvers and that need your help in problem solving problems and building.

Morgan Friedman (Host): My way of thinking about the Combo Point is everyone has two different ways of seeing the world either. Either you argue over pie slices or you try to figure out how to make the pie bigger. And something that I like about the Bay Area like Silicon Valley is fundamentally every question there turns into how do you make the pie bigger? While I’m from New York, in New York, attitude is much more, “Okay, there is this pie. How do we make sure we get the biggest slice?”

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Hey, here’s a great parenting deal that I did to my kids raising them. We’d have a cake or a pie or whatever, or you know, I’d make a pizza and I cut the slices in different sizes. And then like give one of them the small piece and just listen to him squawk, and I finally learned I’m not listening to you because, “I got a bigger piece… got a bigger piece,” and I’m like, shut up. 

You know, the the most the biggest injustice you’re facing in the world is the fact that you’re breathing American air in the 21st century. And that’s better than 99.95% of the people that ever live. so shut up. And I’m kind of that and, and so sorry, I got off on that. I was you know, I’ve got…

Morgan Friedman (Host): By the way, I think I got something out of this. What’s interesting about that is usually it’s interesting when when I sometimes purposely say things that are mistaken or start arguments. This isn’t that far from that. It’s creating small problems, just so that they can realize what happens. The biggest problem you have in your life is that your dad’s giving you the smallest piece of pie. You have a freaking awesome life.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, I’ll call you in. I am a provocateur too. So… 

Morgan Friedman (Host): Let’s just apply your parenting strategies to the client narcissistic detection strategies as well.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Okay, you know, I’m getting lots to think about too. So…

Morgan Friedman (Host): I want to add one point and then and then we’ll wrap up. A lot of this conversation has revolved around a question of how do you avoid clients that are likely to draw you into the Drama Triangle? 

There’s another question that, unfortunately, we have to wrap up so we won’t have time to dive into today. But I think I want to mention it for three minutes. And also, because it’s important for the viewers to think about also is there’s this parallel question of sometimes no matter how good your detection algorithm is, you’re gonna detect badly and take on these clients. 

And then I think you need a separate detection algorithm, which is, as you’re being drawn in, I think there’s a human flaw that as you start getting emotional and connected, you don’t realize it. So as you become drawn in, it becomes harder and harder to realize that you’re going down this emotionally unhealthy path and it’s going to blow. 

So there’s this other question of how do you realize that when once you’re in the thick of it, because you want to realize when you’re earlier, not later, when you’re drawn in that makes it easier to to extricate yourself?

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah, well, I’ve got it easy in this regard. The easy thing from our situation is the money because when, you know, the there’s also a selection bias that these cases tend to get expensive when they’re working with us. And we just keep such a short leash on our receivables that that’s good. 

And so, there you go. Now, that’s Plan A. That’s not always going to be the case. And I’m thinking back about other cases when… look, I made this mistake many times in my practice. And that’s one reason I’m good at it. It’s kind of like… my dentist when I was a kid used to have a sign on his wall that says the best dentist has the most cavities, right? 

So, you know, they’ve learned a lot of hard lessons, and, you know, when you are really feeling drawn in when you are feeling starting to lose your independent professional judgment, because you’re, you know, you know that, “Okay, I’m throwing too much emotion at this and too little profession,” if that makes sense.

Morgan Friedman (Host): What I would add… I agree about you trying to be on top of it. I’m trying to think of strategies, of hands, to help minimize that and the best one it can be, isn’t that good? 

But I find it interesting in your life story that you’re telling us in the beginning about how you made this transition from from being this local small-town lawyer to starting your own firm, and I think this is only as powerful about having business partners, because when you have a business partner, let’s say like other lawyers in your firm, as you’re getting drawn in, your other partners, they’re the ones who know you well and watching but they’re not involved in that case. 

So something powerful that a partner, I think, one of those powerful roles of having partners in the firm is they can be this early warning detection. “Dude, you’re getting too emotional, too attached there.” Meaning you need to calm it down.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah. Exactly. And we we do that for our legal team. I don’t have partners. I own the firm. But we work as a team. My point is, “Look, I’ll manage the company and and I’ll do a better job managing the company than having uh, you know…” 

Most law firms are run like fraternities, okay. And management by committee is not very effective. It used to be a partner in a law firm, and I’m not a fan of the business model. The attorneys that work for us make the same amount of money. It’s just better run and that’s my percentage in the game. 

But anyway, yes, having partners or having management going, “Hey, this is not working.” And yeah, completely. Absolutely. Good point, Morgan.

Morgan Friedman (Host): And with that, it’s, it’s time to wrap up. This has been super interesting. I learned a whole bunch including. To me, the best episodes are the ones like this where both of us learn and we call in some some ideas and practical tips. I kinda want to develop my own startup of a narcissism detection algorithm.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Sounds good. Yeah. Well, hey, I really appreciate being on here. This was fun. I learned some stuff. I’m gonna go have another sissy water as we like to call these Lacroix things. They’re called sissy waters.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I’ve also learned some slang like Missoura if you’re settled in the Missouri River.

Matt Davis (Interviewee): Yeah. Amen. Well, thanks.

Morgan Friedman (Host): And everyone who made it to the end, thank you, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.


This transcription belongs to Episode #36, please watch the complete episode here!