When was the last time you skipped lunch to line dance to Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”? Did I mention it was with a group of 50 lawyers at a CLE in Nashville? For me, it was two weeks ago! Very few things are as satisfying as getting the grapevine right to three heel toes to a quarter turn down pat.
Attending the 2022 Clio Cloud Conference reminded me of the importance of friendships as an entrepreneurial lawyer. I connected with lawyer friends from all over the world (yes, even some from the U.K. and Down Under!) I get so excited whenever I have the opportunity to meet with attorneys I’ve met in various phases of my career. These lawyers are awe-inspiring tech founders, law firm owners, professors, and inventors. Fun fact: I met most of the lawyers through social media!
I felt isolated and unsure when I started running my legal practice as a solo attorney. I “found” myself hanging a shingle after a series of unfortunate events — one of which had me questioning whether I should leave the law. The early days were friendless and full of personal doubts. It also didn’t help that some friends and family members questioned my choice to start my practice. Instead of giving up, I kept showing up. I joined state and local Facebook groups, signed up to attend bar happy hours and lunches, and shamelessly reached out to various lawyers to find a sense of belonging. Then the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All my outreach efforts seemed more complicated in the era of social distancing.
I had to adapt, so I put myself out there as part of my marketing efforts. I challenged myself to appear on 30 podcasts, collaborate with other lawyers on content that intersected with estate planning, and apply for virtual speaking engagements. These interactions required me to reach out to other attorneys and professionals throughout the country, and eventually, my network and new friendships grew. (I love how so many virtual connections blossomed due to the pandemic.) These outreach moments proved to be beneficial in so many aspects of my life, even outside of legal. I’ve received some of the best tax help, app recommendations, and must-try restaurants in a new city! You name it; my friends are the best.
So much of what we hear is about the importance of networking in business. Standing around a bar and passing out business cards is cringey and so early 2000s. That’s what I experienced as a young lawyer over 15 years ago. Yes, many of my “legal colleagues” are in my network, but many have become friends. You know, the people you try to visit if you are near them — even for a quick coffee, a hug, or lunch.
Making new connections can benefit your practice. Sometimes all tactics for getting new business, building brands, and setting up systems and processes get in the way of fundamentally connecting with like-minded people or even those who challenge your viewpoints. Today, I challenge you to reach out to a colleague you’ve been meaning to connect with and set up a time to meet virtually, over drinks, or on a walk. Please share with me at [email protected] when you do!
Iffy Ibekwe is an estate planning attorney and evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is a prolific speaker and she is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2024 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 16 years. Iffy can be reached by email at [email protected], on her website, and on Instagram at @iffyibekweesq.