Steve Smith remembers it as the best legal compliment he ever received from a colleague: “You’ll have success and a long career because you’re not impressed that you’re a lawyer.”
Steve grew up in Ft. Mitchell, playing a lot of soccer, ice hockey, and tennis. He enjoys gardening, cooking and traveling with Vicki Prichard. The two live in Ft. Mitchell. Vicki is an Emmy award-winning writer, mother, and in charge of relationship development for Disabled American Veterans in Cold Springs, Kentucky.
Steve’s grandfather was a Covington doctor who, unfortunately bought a car dealership long ago. The dealership eventually closed, but Steve’s father, Jim, learned what dealerships needed. In the 1960’s, Jim developed the first computerized accounting system for auto dealerships and sold it nationwide. “Dad played everything straight and it worked out. He is a smart, conservative, long-term-think kind of guy. He used to say that there’s no such thing as easy money, and anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.”
Steve’s mother, Gay, taught English at Lloyd High until the first of her three children were born – Steve is the youngest. She was a member of the Beechwood School Board in Ft. Mitchell and the Vestry at Trinity Episcopal in Covington for years. She volunteers for everything: the annual flower sale, maintaining the church gardens, the rummage sale, tutoring, and on and on. She also is a member of the poetry club at the Mercantile Library. “Mom’s the nurturer of all nurturers, a gardener extraordinaire, and better in the kitchen than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Out of college, Steve painted houses and sold insurance and investments long enough to know he didn’t want to make either one a career. He knew he wanted to work for himself, and saw the law as his best option.
“I opened my first law office in East Walnut Hills and had the incredibly good luck of renting office space from an attorney who became unable to practice basically the same day I became a lawyer. The guy had hundreds of clients who needed representation, so another brand new lawyer and I went to work. I had all the clients I could handle my first week in practice. As my clients grew, I grew.”
He says the worst stress in his work happens when a client wants to take action that Steve sees as throwing good money after bad. “There are times to litigate, but you have to go into it knowing there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t do it just for the exercise because litigation always causes wear and tear.”
Steve is a litigator – in his words, a low-pressure litigator. “You get more bees with honey than hitting someone with a baseball bat. There’s a time for both, but it’s better for the blood pressure to keep things in perspective. Some attorneys take on their clients’ emotions. My job is not to be my client – my job is to represent my client.”
The best client-lawyer relationships have high comfort levels, Steve says. “My clients are my friends. My biggest clients are people I vacation with and have dinner with. That is most of my business. When clients hire me, I am as interested in their success as they are.”
Steve Smith lives in Ft. Mitchell, KY with Emmy award winning writer Vicki Prichard, dog Bruno and cat Gibby, and a bunch of fish in a pond with enough bullfrogs to start a choir. His parents, Jim and Gay, live two streets away in the same house where he and his sisters Caryn (Aspen, CO) and Elisabeth (Mt. Lookout, OH) grew up. His family tree falls from journalists in Iowa, corn and pig farmers in Indiana, and workers and inventors in West Virginia.
As a kid, Steve played soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, and ice-hockey, enjoyed snow and water skiing, and even tried football for one excruciating season. Soccer, tennis, and ice-hockey lasted the longest, resulting in a newly reconstructed shoulder in 2014. The denial of weekend warriors is real.
Even though it wasn’t a strong suit, Steve once played basketball in the International Student Games in Istanbul, Turkey, via the Edinburgh University team in Scotland (where, logically enough, he studied Chinese). The Edinburgh team won the U.K. league, and hence the invitation to Turkey. What wasn’t known was that Edinburgh was supposed to send a variety of teams, but only sent basketball. “So we played basketball, swam, ran track, and other sports, with no equipment and no training. “Waxed” is putting it lightly. It was a multi-sport beat down.”
Steve’s long-term clients are long-term friends. “It has to be that way. With friends there is room to disagree and have tough conversations without jeopardizing the relationship. The lack of true friendship makes tough conversations unnecessarily stressful and leads to miscommunication.” Because his clients are friends with businesses, he tends to wear many hats. “Sure, there are plenty of times when I need a true specialist, and we have those, but I need to be able to see the entire business. Whether it is tax, business and personal planning, employment, internal investigations, or litigation and risk analysis, I have to be able to see it. Then I solve the problem with the people and pieces that I need. I suppose in a world of ever increasing specialization, I specialize in being a well-rounded generalist.”
In 2016, Steve began taking his laptop to a client’s office just to be there, no charge. “I work on whatever I have in my briefcase while I am there, but am really there to answer questions free of charge for a while, and understand more and more about my client’s business; so far, so good.”