On this week’s Wealthy Woman Lawyer® Podcast, we speak with Iffy Ibekwe, an Estate Planning Attorney and Founder of Ibekwe Law. Ibekwe Law is dedicated to giving women and families that don’t fall under the “traditional” wealth umbrella a chance at building wealth and setting their families up for success. She also runs the We Read Her book club, a book club committed to reading works written by women of color. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Iffy’s journey winded from art to pre-med to law, and now she’s dedicated to social justice and helping women establish their own legacies. She has been featured on Austin’s NPR affiliate and as an Austin Monthly Magazine’s Top Attorney.
We chat with Iffy about the ways women can empower themselves and build agency over financial decisions, as well as:
- Recontextualizing the “doom and gloom” of estate planning
- The values of establishing intergenerational wealth
- Building cultural competency to broaden your audience
- Giving a spotlight to people of color and women in financial and written spaces
- Juggling maternity leave and a family while building a successful business
- And more!
Mentioned in this episode:
- Ibekwe Law’s Website
- Iffy’s Personal Website
- Iffy’s Instagram
- Iffy’s Facebook
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Adichie
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m so excited for you to meet our guest today, so let’s get started. Estate planning attorney Iffy Ibekwe, and Founder of Iffy Ibekwe Law believes that every woman deserves the opportunity to make good informed decisions about issues that affect your financial future and well being. Emboldening women and helping them plan to create generational wealth is Iffy’s calling. She’s also passionate about social justice and entrepreneurship. When she’s not spending time with her remarkable husband and four spirited children, Iffy runs We Read Her book club, which focuses on the discussion of literature authored by women of color. We’re excited to have Iffy here today on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast and looking forward to hearing her story and the message that she has for women. So Iffy welcome. And so I’m so excited to have you here.
Iffy Ibekwe: Thank you so much for having me on your podcast, Davina, I’m so excited to be here.
Davina: Yeah. So it took us a little while to get it together, because we had to reschedule a couple times. But I’m, I’m so glad that you were accommodating. And we’re here today. I have been a fan of yours. We were just talking about your social media. And anybody who is not following you on Instagram needs to because you’re so fun. YouTube channel and Instagram and Facebook. Are you everywhere?
Davina: So tell us a little bit so people can get to know you. But tell us your story and your journey to becoming an attorney and starting your own law firm. Was it kind of a straight line to that? Did you always envision you would grow up to be the mogul that you are today?
Iffy: Not at all, I am not a linear path taker by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when I was growing up, I, I loved doing art, and drawing and painting and that sort of thing. That’s what I really excelled in. In high school, I found school pretty easy. And I enjoyed learning. And I thought that I would go to school to become a studio art major, but I threw in pre med to make my parents happy. My dad was a pediatric radiologist. And I thought, well, if I don’t want to be a doctor, I know that there’ll be excited about that. But I really love art. So I thought I could do both. And it turns out that that was not welcome for my Nigerian immigrant parents funding my college education. Because I think they thought that I would love art too much and drop the doctor part.
So I ended up going to school, pre med. And the pivotal point in my shift came after 9-11. I remember, I had gotten into all of the classes at the University of Texas. That’s where I went to undergrad and law school. And I was in organic chemistry with Dr. Iverson and I was taking genetics. And I was you know about to take the MCAT and do all the things to become a doctor. And I remember 9-11 happened and I’m sitting in class and I had a seat. But there were people who are trying to get into the class and it was a 500 person class. And it was all these people taking notes and really into organic chemistry. And I was like, oh, I hate this. I don’t care anything about what’s being taught. And this was literally week one. So as you can probably imagine.
Davina: There’s a clue right there.
Iffy: This is not working for me. And I remember telling my parents, I don’t want to be pre med anymore. I don’t want to be a doctor. I actually don’t even like hospitals. I just kind of said that, because I knew you would like that. Yeah. And so I ended up having this soul searching period of college where I changed my major a couple of times, but I knew I had to get out in four years because, you know, fortunately, my parents did pay for college, but I wasn’t going to be a professional student. And I ended up going through Creative Advertising, which really suffered after the economy took a downturn after 2011 excuse me, 2001 I’m really dating myself now. And so I ended up having a conversation I remember clearly with my older brother trying to figure out what am I gonna do? What will I major in what can I do now that I don’t have this stock answer that makes people happy.
Iffy: And he told me he’s like, look, you love to argue. Why don’t you become a judge? And I’ve told this story so many times because that literally is it. I remember looking up what it took to become a judge, because I wasn’t even sure that I knew that you have to be a lawyer before a judge. That’s how much I was not pursuing law. And that’s silly now, but truthfully, it was not my path. I didn’t have role models who were lawyers. I never wanted to be on the bench or a justice on the Supreme Court. You know, I never had a pivotal legal moment in my career. And I looked it up and it was just the LSAT with no prerequisites. And I thought, wow, medical school, you have to take a lot of classes before you can take the exam. But this LSAT thing? Sure, I’ll take it. And that’s it. And I became a lawyer. It was just, it’s so unremarkable.
Davina: I know actually, I think that’s really I think that’s interesting, because I I do you know, having had this conversation with many women lawyers, and within law firm owners, it is always fascinating to see how people wind up where they are. Because oftentimes, we don’t wind up in the direction we thought we were going to go. I mean, I had a prior career before I became an attorney. And I had an opportunity to change my career because what I was in, I had sort of gotten into by default, right?
And I was debating about different options. And I remember I have a cousin who’s an attorney, and he absolutely loves it. And so he had a conversation with me, and by the time we were done, I was sold. Alright, great, right. Of course, I didn’t realize you know, he’s a professional persuader. I wound up going to law school for that reason. So you know, sometimes it that’s just the way it works out. And I do not regret the education and experience at all. I mean, wow, how all that I’ve learned. It’s been incredible and skill that you develop, going to law school and then becoming a lawyer. Right?
Iffy: Absolutely. And the credibility you get automatically when you say you’re a lawyer, it opens a lot of doors. And I always think there’s so many ways to skin a cat. I feel like people have their stories about how they ended up becoming a lawyer. And it really doesn’t follow any one path. It doesn’t follow any one model. There are so many people who have come into the law various ways.
Davina: Right, exactly. So tell us what made you decide to start your own practice. Did you work someplace else first?
Iffy: Yes. So I ended up going to law school, I wrote my essay on wanting to do education law. My mom was a teacher in high school science teacher before she retired, my dad taught Medicine at the University of Houston medical school, University of Texas, in Houston, I believe. And in addition to other schools, and so I knew I didn’t want to teach because I don’t really want to be in a classroom of any sort. But I did feel like I had an affinity towards educating. And so for the first 11 years of my life, I worked for a school Union for a year. And then for 10 years, I worked for a large education nonprofit and did school law. I used to help train the school board members and superintendents and school business people on various changes in the law. And I really liked it.
And then I also got to be in house in in the same organization for a few years. And towards the end of it, I had just had my third child, I had just hit my 10 year, milestone, and I got fired. That was like a really big blow to my ego, just having to go through that I was just so embarrassed. And I was ready to leave the law truly, I just I had never felt so exposed. And I had all these young kids and the loss of income. And it was just it was a lot. And so I just ended up taking a break because I actually had a pretty nice severance, which did not require me to start working immediately. And in that time, I did a lot of soul searching. And one of the things I was going to do, I was going to start doing HR consulting and helping women, you know, come up with a business plan something not fully away from legal but not law, right. And I would do all these little test studies, case studies because I was like, I need to build a website and I have to have case studies I need to do the SHRM.
I’m going to go into HR I would meet with people and ask them about their experiences. And my husband one day he told me he’s like, why don’t you just try and get a client on your own? And I just thought no, I’m not doing law anymore. I’ve already told you I’m and people would ask me all the time my case studies are like this is so great. Can you help with the contract as well? And I’m and I had done contracts for years and I said no, no, I don’t do contracts. I do the business consulting with, like, the credibility that being a lawyer affords you, right. And I ended up just trying to prove my husband wrong. And I got a client, I got paid, I hit that dopamine hit. And I thought I want to do that, again. Probably been chasing that high for a while. And it was just so thrilling.
Davina: That that’s fantastic. Yeah, I totally relate to what you’re saying. Because, you know, it was confusing. When I first started trying to figure out what I wanted to do. After I’d split up with my partner, and I started my firm, again, created a virtual firm, and then I was like, still, it’s just not soul satisfying for me and what I want to do and, and for me, I found, you know, being a law firm, brand strategist, combining that marketing experience, and being a business coach, for other guys, it was a great fit for me, but it took a walk, that journey takes a while. And you really have to, like go through a lot of, you know, a thought process.
You know, what do I want to do, and then you sort of realize, you know, what, this is a skill set, I have in my bag of tricks. I could be more than that I can be, you know, many as many different things that I want to be right. When you take the off yourself, you can do whatever. So I want to talk with you specifically what I find what I what I love about your message, is you’re really focused on helping women be intentional, have agency over their financial decisions, and really create that generational wealth. And so talk to me about how you saw clear on that message.
Iffy: Right. And I think some so much of this is in that dream phase of building a business, I don’t think a lot of lawyers spend enough time ideating and envisioning what the foundation of their business will be. And so I remember, there’s a book, it was written by Ali Lozano. And I remember buying it on Amazon. And it’s called something like be the CEO of your law firm. And I love any kind of work that involves answering questions and, you know, filling out a workbook and her her book did that. And so what I ended up doing was going through this book and thinking about, okay, who’s my ideal client? What are her struggles? What is she wanting to achieve with estate planning, and really trying to put myself into that avatar, mind you, I didn’t have clients just out the door, right? Fairly foundational. I’m like, whenever I decide what this is going to be, I’m going to do this.
And I also have a dear friend. And she helped me. She’s a marketing professional. She, one Saturday, I went over to her apartment in Austin, and she said, Look, we’re gonna map out your mission, your vision, your values, we’re gonna start this process. And so we spent this entire half day just going through and starting the foundational process. And then we would meet and refine and refine, refine, and the whole time, I just love exercises like that. But what ended up what ended up happening is that I was able to distill who I wanted to serve. And then I looked around and I realized, like, okay, am I the only one saying that I specifically work with women, not to the exclusion of other genders, but because I just want to be bold about it. And I called Texas ethics for lawyers. And I didn’t even know if you could do that.
And I’ve seen some divorce lawyers do that, you know, and I thought, and I’ve never seen an estate plan, they’re always talking about families, right, or just the generic person. And I thought, well, let me ask, I asked, there is absolutely no prohibition on it. And honestly, just being clear about who I serve, has attracted that type of person to me. And I just had to take that bold step and say, okay, I am a law firm, and I want to empower women, you know, that’s very rah rah, but I want them to have their agency not only for financial decisions, but for their physical bodies, you know, and they need to be able to make decisions if they don’t have capacity. How can I rebrand this message of doom and gloom and turn it into an emboldening, empowering, activating message and that’s just what I decided to do and it has worked.
Davina: Yeah. Now so I, I love that you say, this message of doom and gloom and turn it into a embolding you know, how empowering message right? Because that is what so many people think that the general public sort of thinks about estate planning, estate planning. We’re talking about, you know, planning for your death and probate, we’re talking about dealing with the death of a loved one. And so that’s the challenge for estate planning attorneys to position themselves and market because they’re like, gosh, nobody wants to face this or deal with it when it happens, right? And you really were looking for a way to say, let’s make this something that people get excited about, because they’re seeing it as a piece of their wealth building.
Iffy: Yes, people get so excited about starting a business or getting their financial portfolio together at a brokerage. And it’s very empowering to be a woman who owns a business and who works and is taking care of children and all the sorts of variations of of that. But when it comes to taking that charge, with estate planning, I just think estate planners have done such a horrible job of branding. First of all, it’s been very exclusive. Right? Here I am, I’m a unicorn in estate planning, I’m a black woman in Texas estate planner, I know of a couple more, and I do mean a couple who solely do estate planning, right. And we are very few. We are the unicorns of the practice area. And then when you stretch it out, a lot of old white people working with old white money being passed down from generations, that’s truly the system as we inherited it from the British. You know, it’s been around for a long time. It wasn’t built for people who look like me.
It certainly was not built for women, especially when you think about women not being able to have their own credit card until a couple of decades ago, and having in the 70s, right, and without having a man to help sign for them or buy a home and all these things. So when you think about estate planning was not designed for so many groups of people, women, people of color, right. And so there isn’t a legacy of doing it. And the ones who have they are truly anomalies. And, and that’s just one of those things that I think that estate planning as a field of law has really missed the ball and the opportunity to educate the entire population, it’s good for business, I’ll tell you that. Even if you don’t feel morally, you know, convicted, it is good for business to be more inclusive. And so that’s just been one of the things that really resonated with me, when I entered this practice area. I was like, oh, I really I don’t have mentors. And you know, I’m gonna have to go find this stuff. And so it’s been a journey for sure. It’s been a journey.
Davina: And Iffy’s there’s a lot of discussion now about general generational wealth, you know, usually a mom, people of color, you’ll see a lot of this discussion happening, like, how can we create generational wealth? Because we’ve seen and heard so many stories about how land has been lost? Yes, you know, a generation or more, you know, more accurately stolen? Yes, generation to generation because people of color, black people not having access or right, with the legal system. And so it’s a huge issue in creating generational wealth, that now is the time that that change can begin and start happening for people.
Iffy: Absolutely, I mean, if you think about it, black people were the wealth that was passed on intergenerationally for many, hundreds of years in this country, you know, a lot of the wealth in this country is built on the backs of enslaved people who were free laborers, right? And there was value in that. So they pass that on to their sons, and then they pass that on, you know, generational and they could sell people and use them as value building. Right. So we have a lot of families that are around us right now. They shouldn’t really just rest on their laurels thinking they just worked so hard. They built so much on the backs of, of black people who were captured and brought here and enslaved. And so I always say that part. It’s not that for some reason, we just can’t, you know, get right.
We did not have access to courts, we did not have access to justice. I mean, you can still argue that that’s not the case. But when you start talking about all of the barriers that have been structurally put in place, to remove land from black people, I mean, even the percentage of land that black people owned, has severely diminished over the last 100 years, which is insane. Just practically you should think, oh, shouldn’t it be growing because more people have access now? Well, no. And there’s so many reasons for that a lot of that has to do with systemic racism and policies, redlining, all kinds of property tax hikes. And so I could go into all of that. But you can, you can read so many books that talk about it like Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, or the Color of Law where he talks about redlining and how housing has caused so much of our divide too. Multi layered problem.
But when I think about that, I always tell people don’t feel ashamed if you don’t have a legacy of doing it. It wasn’t built for you. So that’s the starting point. And a lot of people I think, though, the percentage of Americans who do not have even a will is about 70%, I think there was a caring.com study or an AARP study that showed it’s a high number. When it comes to African Americans and Latin x community, it’s even higher. And so we don’t have a tradition of doing this, because for multiple reasons, but another thing people have really bought on to all I need is a will write, I write a well, and you’ll be good. And that’s really not sufficient. For a lot of people who own land, or even if it’s a couple of acres in the middle of East Texas that nobody cares about, that’s an asset, right? And land is how you grow wealth and throughout the world ownership, having a home things like that. And so part of what I do, and part of what a lot of my colleagues who look like me do, we have to educate and let people know, you know, we always have this room I’m in clubhouse, I started a club called the Black Trust Fund Kids where we’re trying to normalize black people having trust funds, with my friend, Portia Wood. And we always talk about don’t sell big momma’s house, right? Sometimes you have one asset in the family and that matriarch or patriarch is going to die.
And but it’s going to be split up between, you know, six heirs or more, or however many, even if it’s just two heirs, and how do you how do you separate that? Right? And there are other ways that you can, you can plan for those things, if you have a cultural competency and know, you know, this person has special needs. And if they inherit, that could knock them out of getting their Medicaid or SSI benefits and having these conversations and say, yes, maybe balance sheet, they don’t look wealthy, but we need to preserve this asset for this family in a more radical way. And that’s the kind of approach that I like to, to take in that and also encourage other lawyers to enter the field of estate planning. It can’t just be black people helping black people, or, you know, white people helping white people only right, it’s more of like a call to action, in order to use the education to further certain communities who have negatively been affected historically.
Davina: Right, right. So how are you? What are we doing to sort of get your message out, especially to people who, you know, have never really felt that they had access to our legal system? And, you know, whether that’s property ownership, or being along assets or whatever? What are you doing to what, how do you feel like you’re approaching that to not only just plant the seed, but then also improve that comfort level? What can you say and do?
Iffy: So I have a multi layered approach, like a good bean dip. I, I talked to people, just regular people about the importance of estate planning. And I look at it as just planting a seed, right? Where I’m just getting the message out there, sometimes I’m watering, because they’ve gotten that message elsewhere. Sometimes I’m the harvest if they hire me as their lawyer, which is going to be a very small percentage, compared to all the people I get the message out, too. And so I do that in various ways. You know, my social media, I speak often on estate planning, whether it’s at a church or whether it’s on a webinar, or if someone invites me, I go, because I know someone needs to hear the message, right? And not only black people, but people need to hear this message.
And then when it comes to the legal community, I really, I just I love being on podcasts and things like this so that I can share that message with other attorneys and kind of say, Hey, guys, you got to wake up. There’s a whole demographic of people that we’re not serving in this area. So either if you’re a law student and looking for an area, this is a great one, and here are some of the issues. And then the third thing I’ve been doing of late I am writing a book on wealth. I’m writing a book on estate planning for anyone who, you know, basically isn’t an old rich white guy, right? That’s the stereotype, you’ve got to be very rich, it’s not for people who look like us, it’s not for women, I need to have kids before I do that, all these excuses. And so I really want to address those and get a resource out that I can stand behind that I feel like would spread the message even further, by really writing about it in a layman’s terms so that people can use that and go use it to hire an attorney, or use it to ask good questions about protecting their wealth.
Davina: Yeah, I think that’s excellent. I love the idea of a book, I have a book that, that I’m rolling out in the next couple of weeks. So hey, I’m excited to just read yours when it comes out.
Davina: Iffy, when you were, you were talking about women. And you know, that’s the name of my business, being wealthy woman lawyer, you know, that my focus is on women too and help to develop wealth well, and when it comes to estate planning, I think in particular, you know, we think about single women, and if you are a single woman, and you’re developing, you’re becoming the boss, you know, and you’re growing this business, and you’re developing a business, you need a plan, because that’s not going to be something that you like, automatically, it’s going to go to my kids or whatever, you need to have children, I for me, I’m married, we don’t have children.
And so we need to plan for what happens, I don’t know that our bull dog is going to know exactly what to do with the money if we leave it to her. So you know, so there are a lot of women out there that are really becoming the breadwinners, and taking care of their families. And families are looking different. I mean, we’re getting right, we’re not getting the traditional family, which I think is wonderful. We’re seeing families of all shapes and sizes. And, you know, same sex couples, and, you know, all kinds of different looks to a family, right. And oftentimes, we need to really, we’re the ones who really need to be thinking about are, how we’re going to pass on our legacy and our property and our well so to others, because it might be a little more complicated if your family look doesn’t look like the traditional family.
Iffy: Absolutely. And honestly, that’s why having some sort of cultural competency really matters. You know, I was talking to someone and they were talking about how their CPA asked them why they send a certain sum of money out every month, right? And how if they cut that out, they would be able to grow their portfolio in this other way. Just looking at the numbers, what is this expense? And why are you sending it out? And honestly, it was because this person was sending it out to take care of her mother. That’s mom’s on the payroll. You know, that’s how she supplements her her care.
And it doesn’t make sense financially, you know, obviously, like, if everything was just about money, yeah, you just cut that out and put it here. And you can make this much and but there’s got to be a cultural competency where someone says, That’s from my mom, and you’re like, got it. Right. Not. Why. Right. Yeah. And so and that’s one of those things when you talk about non traditional, whatever traditional ever was, right? Right family that and how estate planning has to change and not be so caught up on? Oh, well, this is how you talk to the woman mostly cuz she’s emotional and all the stuff that I’ve heard you would not be I mean, you would not be shocked, but it’s appalling.
Davina: I was in estate planning, so I know. I know, you know?
Iffy: Appalling. And so all these archaic ways that it was practiced in the past, and you’re like, that’s not relevant today. What do you mean, I can’t make a decision. And so when I think about women, and how we live longer, and we are going to have inherit the finances, a lot of us have people who pass away, and some may never get married, or have, you may have a different family structure, whatever. It’s even more important to not only take care of your finances, but make sure that you have your health care decisions taken care of that’s just a part of estate planning, a lot of people overlook. And so it’s one of those things where it’s like, do you have any medical directives?
Right? Like, how are you preserving your agency and things like that, and just having those conversations and normalizing them? Not only okay, what’s your business succession plan? Okay, what do you want? Do you want to set up a trust? Who do you want your beneficiary to be? Well, let’s talk about your health. What kind of health outcomes are you for? Right? How what medical interventions would you want? Have you prepaid You paid for your funeral? Do you want to be cremated? Are you donating your body to science? What about your organs? These are conversations that I have weekly with clients. You know.
Davina: Those are tough conversations to have. Because you know what, as we started out this conversation, you know, nobody, nobody likes to think about those things. But I think there’s such a sense of satisfaction. I agree, once you have dealt with these issues, it feels like a big thing to mark off your checklist to go, you know, I, I’ve made some very important decisions. And I’ve informed the people that, you know, need to know, and it matters most. And then of course, as time goes along, we need to revisit that because it shifts in our life that people can move in and out of our lives for you know, whatever reason, and we always need to be looking back and addressing addressing that as well. I want to before the hour gets away from us, I want to talk about your book club, because I find We Read Her book club. So tell me what that is about. And what caused you to start this book club?
Iffy: Yes, I love talking about my book club. I was wondering if I should take that off my bio if people are like,
Davina: As a reader myself, I think it’s fabulous.
Iffy: So I didn’t know if I should put that or talk about how I am obsessed with plants. So I thought, let me do the book this time around. I started the book club, I believe it was June or July of 2019. And I posted it on Facebook, and asked if anybody would be interested in joining a book club because I’m, I would always ask people, what are you reading and try and build my list and put my books on hold at the Austin Public Library. Because it’s a very active library system, you can’t just get a book, you got to get in line. And I don’t tend to buy a lot of books because I don’t, I don’t keep books, you know, I just read them and move on. And so I had so many people who were interested. And I wrote out what type of book club it was it this is not a wine club. This is not a social club, we will discuss the book. And so if you are not up to discussing, please do not join the book club. And so I had all these parameters in place to discourage people.
Davina: Rules people, rules.
Iffy: These are rule followers, and so involved all these finally, when we set up the group and involved all these women in Austin, from different walks of life, some people who had gone to church with me, and then a lot of lawyers, of course, and friends from different parts of my life. So I was the glue that knew everybody pretty much in the group because they were all a friend of mine on Facebook, right. And so we met in person, of course, back in the before times, we would go to la Madeleine at 7pm. And everybody would get dinner and a couple of drinks. And we would just talk about the book, we’d assign it to someone, and we’d pick the books for the year.
And that went on, you know, without a problem until COVID hit right and then kind of see it was getting harder to figure out what’s going on. How are we meeting? Where’s our childcare, we’re always at home, this is so awful. Well, at the beginning of this year, I decided, okay, we’re gonna be back on it book club is opening up new spots, if you will have tired of this, and please leave. I’m picking. I’m picking all the books. And so we’re going to have them spelled out for the calendar, I’m sending out a zoom invite for the entire year, you can, you know, there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s coming up and, and then just keeping our Facebook group going. And so that’s what we did.
And I solicited titles, the only requirements are that has to be written by a woman, preferably a woman of color. And so I think this year, we’re reading one book by a white woman. And then I think it’s Hamnett. And then the rest of the books are by Asian American women, African American women, Latin American women, any kind of other writer who would not necessarily get that spotlight. And we get really good discussions and meet once a month and just talk about it. And it’s all on zoom. So we made the book club, pretty much International, although I don’t think we have any members outside of the US but we have them all over the country now. And that has just been we’ve had two meetings this year already. And it’s just so awesome. Just to sit
Davina: It sounds so fun.
Iffy: It’s so good and just to have rich conversations about literature. I mean, come on. It doesn’t really get much better.
Davina: Well, and I that really, like I’m surrounded by books. I grew up going to the library, but now I’m the kind of person who’s buying them and you know, then they’re all in my audible in my Kindle and then physically all around me if you oh my gosh, look, I’ve got bookshelves full of books there. They had, of course, you know, very little time to I’m squeezing in reading, which is my audible gets that much use. But, so there would be this sounds like a really great way to motivate yourself to really read something for pleasure and enjoyment and for the intellectual stimulation of it. Because because then you’re on a deadline, and you know, you’re going to be called upon to discuss it. And we already know there are rules.
Iffy: There are rules that I set, right.
Davina: How fabulous. That sounds great. And what is your criteria? You talk about the author being the criteria? Or is there any other criteria or anything that you’re looking for when you’re picking the books, the other topics or whatever?
Iffy: I mean, I think that the first year and a half, we definitely did fiction. But now we are delving into some nonfiction, which is fascinating. And just just for example, I’ll tell you the three books we’ve read this year. The first one is more of an essay because we started late and I just wanted people to feel like they would get a win. And it’s We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And it’s a book, the tiny little cute book that makes the argument that we all must be feminists. It’s so good.
Davina: Just the title alone. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never read it. So that sounds good.
Iffy: I think that’s where Rachael Rogers got her title for, We Should All Be Millionaires, and it’s a nod to that. And then the last book we read last month was actually young adult fiction. So just to show you the variety, and that was the the House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. Oh, is that a judge? I don’t know what. Yeah, I think her name is Sandra Cisneros. Forgive me if that is the wrong name, but I do know last name is Cisneros. And that was just a coming of age story about basically a tween to early teen girl growing up in this fictional on this fictional street in Chicago. Fabulous. Now we are reading Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. And for those who are listening, if you only read one book this year, it has to be Caste. It is a revelation.
I mean, truly, I don’t know the last time I’ve been thinking, when can I get a quiet moment away from these kids to continue? You know, it’s so engrossing. It’s so good. It really talks about America’s caste system, and then compares it to Nazi Germany as well as South Africa. And in some respects, the Indian caste system, which is one of the oldest caste system, it’s, it’s just, I mean, we talk about race, and we talk about class, but we really need to talk about caste. And I don’t know why I’ve never realized that that’s what’s going on here. But it actually explains a lot, and also helps understand the perspective of so many of the disparate groups, which are categorized by race now, which is a social construct a man made construct, it makes no sense. And there’s so many, well researched, well researched, just, it’s just so good. I think she took about a decade to write it. It’s that kind of writing.
Davina: That I’m definitely gonna get that as soon as we get off this call. Yeah. And, you know, that’s, that’s so interesting, because I, you know, we talked about the caste system in India, a lot of people are familiar with that. I think the difference between a culture like this, and a culture like that is that everybody’s aware. Everybody knows it. Yeah, everybody’s aware of it there. And here, people don’t have the realization that that’s what it is. That’s what’s happening. And I think that’s, you know, we look at that society and go, oh, wow. Now, we don’t have that here. And that’s not the lived experience of many people who live here, right?
Iffy: Yes. And ours, dare I say is one of the worst. Historically, I mean in the world. And Nazi Germany learned from the US caste system, it’s just so much. But that’s just an example of just the variety. We read anything and everything. And I think the next book is the ham that book, which I don’t even know what it’s about. But somebody recommended it in the group and I’m like, yay, that’s next. And so some of it is really fun, because when other people suggest books, we just put it in the rotation. And then you get to read a book that somebody really has on their list that if they could put one book on their list on our list, that’s the book, you know? Oh, this is gonna be a good one. So.
Davina: Yeah, yeah. Have you read Snow Flower and the Fan?
Iffy: Yes I have. Is it by Lisa See?
Davina: Yes, yes. Yeah, I’ve read some of her other books. But that was my favorite by her. And it was that of course, you know, you know about foot binding. Or heard about foot binding.
Iffy: Yes. Oh. The image.
Davina: But, she’s so. So it’s very graphic. And she did. Yeah, I did. But what’s so fascinating to me is, like, we are in this country, we just think we’ve been around forever, right? And then you look at culture like that. And you’re like, these people would were doing this for, you know, 5 million years. How long? These women have been binding their feet. It wasn’t until like it 1949 or something the last of it sort of died out. And right. And it just, it’s stunning. Like to think as a woman. What that would be like.
Davina: So, I I love your book club idea. That’s, that’s just awesome. So I’ll have to have you another podcast just talking about the book club.
Iffy: Well, I personally would love to talk to you about Caste when you’re done because I feel like you will have to debrief with somebody. So I am offering myself.
Davina: Awesome. It’s the date that we will definitely yes. And and let’s talk about I know this is I’m not doing this because you’re a woman necessarily. But you when you say that four spirited children. As someone who does not have children, I admire women who have a lot of children and really wonderful successful careers and how they juggle how they wind up sort of juggling. I know this sounds so sexist. Your husband and you how you wind up juggling four kids, right? And careers, you know what I mean? Because what are the ages of your kids?
Iffy: Currently, they, as of this recording are 7, 5, 3 and 1.
Davina: Wow. So you’ve got young and yeah, little very, so and then, because I know this is a big issue, or unfortunately, so many women have left the workplace in this last year, or push their careers on hold because they had to, you know, find a way to deal with children being at home, especially when they have little ones because of COVID. And of course, that’s as a feminist like I am that’s distressing that. So many women have left the workplace with some, you know, number like 85%, or something like that, and how so I’m always asking for our listeners, so many of whom are also parents of young children. What kinds of tips or suggestions or how have you sort of navigated this with your kids?
Iffy: Yeah, navigated all of it. Right. So I’ll give you a story. My youngest is one, but she just turned one. She actually was born a week before Austin had its lock down. And so at that point, I had a kindergartener and two littles who were in preschool, and everything was shut down. And everybody was home indefinitely because that’s when they ended school was mid March. Spring Break last year. No more school.
Davina: The eternal Spring Break.
Iffy: The the longest Spring Break ever, right our our more than five months spring break. And so that was not something I had planned for, you know, this time last year, it was all coming together, I had a one week or so old, to a four year old and a six year old with nothing to do no parks to go to thankfully, we have great weather in Austin. And we had a little playscape in our backyard. And we finally got a trampoline, which was very hard to come by.
Davina: Very important.
Iffy: So imperative to have one and we didn’t know what this disease was right? What this virus could do this pandemic, what does it even mean? And you’re seeing all the people in Italy and I thought, wow, this is not what I thought I would be doing this year, I had spent so much time replacing myself by hiring an attorney to be me for estate planning purposes because I wanted to have a maternity leave with this baby. I just wanted to have three months off. And so I had spent so much of the beginning of the year interviewing hiring, finding someone to help me hire an attorney so that I could teach her enough that she could do the legal work in the the way that I did know so proud of myself because I was like yes, all I have to do two weeks after this is some consulates let’s just keep this low overhead.
I don’t really you know, want to do much more than keep my firm open because a lot of people told me We’ll just close it for three months. Right? And I was just like, what the heck is that? I’ve been working hard on Whoa, sit and think about all the ways women leave the workforce, the pregnancy, you could leave pandemic, no childcare, you could leave your unavailability due to no childcare, you could be fired, or you could be under employed. It’s just an uphill battle from people who are working in, you know, just gigs, and people who are working, you know, retail all the way up to, quote unquote, professionals, right? doctors, lawyers, how do you go to work when the burden of childcare is on women, or even taking care of elderly parents, right?
It’s already almost impossible. In my situation, because I had done things like that I was able to continue and re just figure out how we wanted to do our thing differently, right in our house, my husband works for himself. And then we set up a plan after my maternity leave, he works as an academic coach. So he does SAT, ACT tutoring and also helps kids with all kinds of smart people stuff. And so his day starts later. And my day I take advantage of up till 2pm, because that’s when we kind of do our parents switch.
And we started doing that, because we didn’t have a nanny, because at that point, honestly, you didn’t even know how this virus spread. I don’t know if you remember how frantic people were and panicked about who could come in their home, whether to go to grocery stores, or have it delivered to spray it with Lysol, and I have all these kids and a newborn. And I’m like, we’re not going anywhere. And we started doing that. And it really worked. And it’s really a partnership. In that regard. My husband is amazing. My kids, for the most part, 75% of them are extroverted, maybe have one ambivert, but she’s kind of introverted, but it’s a it’s a very spirited house.
Davina: It’s a party all the time.
Iffy: It’s a party all the time. And the only reason it’s quiet for this recording is I told my first grader who’s in virtual school, you are not allowed to speak, you cannot turn on the TV, you have to be quiet. And then we just put the little three, the three little ones back in preschool last week at the beginning of March of 2021. And that has been after a year of being at home.
Davina: Oh, wow. Yeah, that I can’t even imagine I so feel for all of the parents out there of you know, especially the young children who can’t kind of, you know, you can’t just say entertain yourself for a few minutes while I do this or do that. I mean, yes, little little kids are following you to the bathroom.
Iffy: Oh, sure. They definitely are.
Davina: My heart has really gone out you guys this year, and all that so and I’ve been amazed and inspired by the way people have powered through. And so many women attorneys of women law firm owners have kept their businesses going and and usually it’s because it’s teamwork with the other parent, you know, so I appreciate you sharing that I just had when I saw their poor kids, I’m like, oh, gosh, I wonder how they are? Absolutely. Yeah. So tell us how we can connect with you on social media. How we can find out more information about you. And your website.
Iffy: Yes, well, I am probably the most active social media wise on Instagram. And my handle is thejustincaselawyer. You can also find me on my website, willsintexas.com. And I also have a personal website, which is just my name, iffy ibekwe and then I’m everywhere else Facebook. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m not on tik tok. But I just among all if you google me, I will come up. So I will give you all that information so that you can put it in your show notes.
Davina: Absolutely Fabulous. Wonderful. I would love to be able to share it. And we also might want to share a link of some of the books you’ve recommended.
Iffy: Oh absolutely.
Davina: And we’ll include that in the show notes too. For those people that want to read it. Yeah, recommendations because they all feel like really great books. So thanks so much for being here Iffy, I have enjoyed it, like 1,000%. So I appreciate you being here.
Iffy: Thank you so much for having me.
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