Think golf is a boring game for old white dudes? Think again! In this episode, Stephanie talks with LJ Finney about why golf is great for networking and business development and so much more!
Golf is about getting outside your comfort zone, mindfulness, self-talk, and being with nature. Use the game to learn more about yourself and how you approach your business problems or use the time to truly get to know a friend or colleague. You’ll also hear Stephanie’s favorite golf story from back when she was a summer associate out on the course with a senior partner, and, boy is it a doozy!
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Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Stephanie Everett (00:35):
Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett.
Jennifer Whigham (00:36):
And I’m Jennifer Whigham. And this is episode 459 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie talks with LJ Finney about using golf as a tool to teach people how to network.
Stephanie Everett (00:48):
Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Postali, & LawPay. We couldn’t do our show without their support, so stay tuned because we’ll tell you more about them later on.
Jennifer Whigham (00:58):
So Stephanie, when I was reading our notes about this episode, I am a little embarrassed to say, but this is probably common. I thought LJ Finney would be a white guy because we’re talking about golf, and that is the image that comes to mind when I think golf, which is not fair, and in this case, not true.
Stephanie Everett (01:19):
Yeah, LJ is actually a really cool black woman also, I think, which is why it’s fun that she’s trying to use golf as a way to talk about her message.
She said to me when we first met, I realized business deals happen on the golf course, so why wouldn’t I put myself in that situation and be part of that experience? Even though, and we talk about this in the episode, the golf course is a place that has quite literally excluded people, many clubs for many years where women weren’t even allowed or yeah, it was a place for white dudes. And so I think it’s interesting to kind of break that stereotype and say, no, we can be on the golf course too, and it really is a place where networking happens, and we talk about that for sure, but the way she approaches the game is really so much more, and she really, you can tell she loves it, and she really gets me excited about it. After I recorded my interview with her, I went up to my husband, I’m like, we need to go play golf this weekend because we haven’t been playing in a while.
And I was like, wow, she makes me want to be on the course.
Jennifer Whigham (02:26):
Wow. Yeah, you told me we were talking about it, that it really was so much more than just golf too, right? There’s some nature bits in there and things like that?
Stephanie Everett (02:36):
For sure. So if you’re thinking of the title and it talks about golf and you’re like, well, I hate golf. Give it a listen and maybe keep an open mind. And if the golf piece doesn’t speak to you, I think there’s still so much more we talk about in this episode about how you show up and how you push yourself and how you talk to yourself and mental game, and there’s so many different things we cover. So I would just challenge that anybody can listen to this one and I think to get some great takeaways from it. And maybe as a plug would love to hear if anybody has any golf stories to share. I’ll tease out that I tell my best golf story in the episode. So make sure you reply on social media and tell us your fun story.
Jennifer Whigham (03:19):
Well can’t wait to hear it. So here’s Stephanie’s interview with LJ Finney.
LJ Finney (03:27):
Hi, my name is LJ Finney. I am from N 18 L L C. It is a company designed to deliver team building through golf leadership and group coaching, and we deliver project management training. Our company is named N 18 because in 18 holes of golf you’ll learn everything you need to know about a person and yourself. And I am excited to be here with you today, Stephanie.
Stephanie Everett (03:50):
Thank you so much for being here. LJ. We’re talking about a topic that in a way is kind of old in lawyer world, right? Golf, I mean, that’s what we all grew up, hearing deals get made on the golf course, but I feel like you’re bringing something, some new energy to it. So tell me about that.
LJ Finney (04:07):
Yeah, I actually look at golf as a way for people to build relationships and build themselves, build their self-awareness. What are the things that make you uncomfortable? What are the things that you can do to build stronger interactions when you go back into the office? So beyond the game, really looking at it as a tool for connecting with others in non-traditional ways. And I think one of the things that we are focused on is how can you be a better leader? How can you build a stronger team and how can you use something that is already being accepted as a way to connect for yourself and how do you make the game yours? So as a woman, how do you make the game yours as an entrepreneur, how do you leverage this game to build yourself? Especially since people are going to play, there are country clubs and events and activities. How do you include yourself so that you could participate? Because you could say, we’re not going to play golf anymore and we’re going to do something else to advance our business, but the reality is it still exists. There are way too many golf courses to just ignore it.
Stephanie Everett (05:06):
Yeah, it feels to some exclusive, like not an open and inviting place to go. And so I’m just curious, has that been your experience or how should we maybe reframe golf in our minds?
LJ Finney (05:22):
You know what? That is a great statement. The answer is yes, that is true. It has not historically been an inclusive space and in some cases it still is not. But some workplaces are not and some corporations are not. So how do we disrupt the thinking around what people are not allowed to do and just do it anyway? I think that it’s also about showing up and showing up in a way that is authentic to you and inserting yourself into places and spaces because you never know what could happen. I’ve had the benefit and the honor of meeting some really amazing people that I definitely wouldn’t have had any engagement with had it not been for golf. We came to a shared space with a shared passion, and now that is the first seed and planting and building a relationship, you’re not going to get that on the subway for those that are in New York City, it would be so weird to just randomly start talking to someone, but at the golf course, you can do that.
Stephanie Everett (06:13):
Yeah. I love when I first met you, you kind of said, Hey, I realized business happens on the golf course, so why wouldn’t I put myself in that situation? And you found a path to be there.
LJ Finney (06:26):
And I also found a path to peace. I found that golf was also a space for me to commune with nature and to really focus on my own mental health and wellness and just being outdoors. How often in New York City at least are we outdoors and enjoying nature? We’re enjoying buildings. We’re probably running from rats. We’re doing a lot of things that are not peaceful, but when you go to the golf course, there are trees, there’s grass, there’s the sky. We don’t often force ourselves to go to parks, so how can you go outside and play as an adult? This is one of the ways to do it. And how happy were we as children when we went outside to play?
Stephanie Everett (07:02):
Yeah, I mean, golf is one of those places where technology isn’t really a part of it. I mean, etiquette is you turn off your phone. I mean, occasionally, I know some people still look at it, but it’s still more of a quiet place or event.
LJ Finney (07:18):
Yeah, I think that’s also, you bring up a very good point around being present. It forces you to be present in the moment and not worry about the things that are happening in the outside. And I don’t think everyone has the luxury of that escape. So another thing I realize and I try to share with people, how often are you able to be alone with your thoughts?
Stephanie Everett (07:38):
Yeah, I love that. Every time I talk to you, it reminds me that I actually enjoy playing golf sometimes and it makes me want to go play. You talk about it in such a thoughtful way that it’s like, oh yeah, then I’ll get out there and I’ll be very frustrated because I suck.
LJ Finney (07:55):
And you know what? There’s beauty in that. There’s beauty in the realization that I’ve not put in the practice. So let me manage my expectations, like go and write. So for you’re not writing a brief without doing some research, you have to put in the work, but at the same time, how can you honor where you are in the journey and just be okay with that? This is good enough because I’ve put in this much time.
Stephanie Everett (08:19):
So somebody might be listening and thinking, I’ve never tried golf, or I tried it once and really didn’t like it, and maybe they should try it again. So what would you say to that person about trying and then also how do you actually get started?
LJ Finney (08:36):
Yeah, I think taking a lesson that’s always the best first step, but finding your community, finding a few other people that want to learn the game with you because that will help you grow together. And then you’ll start to discover what it is you actually enjoy about it. I’m an advocate of getting out onto the sooner than later. A golf pro may tell you not to do that, but I think it’s also about understanding that there’s a greater fear in the unknown, and once you’re out on the course, you’ll feel more comfortable around what it is you want to gain. And I think that for me, my experience has been with beginners, nine holes go out and play nine holes with an experienced golfer. Just understand navigating the game. It’s like once you see it, then it becomes a little less intimidating. Once you find a few people that you want to play with, then it becomes a more enjoyable growth or journey to grow in the game.
And then go to those charity outings, go to those events, sign up, say, yes, let’s remove the barrier or the expectation that you have to be an excellent golfer to go to those events. Most of the people there have only played maybe once in the past year, and they’re not that good either. So the only person that is an excellent golfer is someone that is spending time practicing, and I don’t know if they’re doing as much work. So there’s always a question in the debate, how much work are you really doing? If you’re an excellent golfer question.
Stephanie Everett (10:03):
And some people may not know this, a lot of the charity outings, which is a great way to give back and support a good cause, but the format of those is such that you’re on a team. And the way it works with the strokes is like you take the best stroke. So I’m not a great golfer, but I love playing in that format because maybe I make a putt, everybody hits the ball and whatever’s the best ball, you pick up all the other balls and go to that person’s spot and then everybody hits the ball again. I hope this is novice enough for people who haven’t played this way before. So my point is, at some point, somebody better than me is going to get the ball on the green. Well, everyone’s played putt putt and it’s not too hard. So you might make a putt will probably, there’s a good chance you’re going to contribute some strokes for your team. And as a woman, we also get an advantage. We get to hit from a different set of tees. So we start further up. And sometimes that gives us a huge advantage. And I know a lot of men are like, yeah, I want to have you on my team because we want to maybe get one of your initial strokes. So I think that’s a less intimidating way for me to play.
LJ Finney (11:11):
Yeah, I definitely think that. So that scramble style best ball, it builds teams, it drives collaboration, and it makes everyone feel excited about their contribution. And you’re right, women tend to play from the forward tees, and that means you might actually just land the ball in the middle of the fairway where men will sometimes drive the ball and it goes in the woods. So while it’s further, it’s not the better shot. So I think that there’s power, but then there’s accuracy. And I think we take that back into the office as well. We think about what is the best outcome, the more accurate shot is the better outcome than the further shot sometimes. So there’s so many parallels to golf and life, and I think what I love about speaking to women or speaking to people that are historically not participating in the game, when you start to show up for yourself, you’ll learn that you can create a space that allows you to make the game your own.
Bringing people up to the forward tees. I challenge men to play with me from the forward tees. No, you can’t have the distance, but now you need the accuracy. So it’s equally a challenging game because if they don’t have a strong short game, then they’re going to struggle as well. And it’s also strategic if you think about what you’re trying to accomplish on the golf course selection of your clubs, we’re talking about the game component, but it allows you to interact and engage with people in a way that you normally wouldn’t get to do in the office at a dinner, at a networking event, or over coffee. How can I be with a person and understand their temperament, their sentiment, how they navigate challenges, what’s their integrity with self? Because golf doesn’t have, there’s no referees, there’s no one keeping track. It’s like you the ball, God if you believe in God, and that’s the only way you’re keeping score. So it is a game of integrity and it’s a great way to challenge yourself in this moment. How do I feel? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? That’s what I love about it and that’s what I love sharing with anyone. That’s like getting into the game in the beginning.
Stephanie Everett (13:09):
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. As you were talking, I was thinking of lots of times when I’ve been on a golf course and it’s a game that can get in your head so suddenly it’s easy to get onto yourself. There’s a lot of self talking, is that the right word? There’s that lot of Absolutely. You talk to yourself, I cannot hit the ball without hearing my father in my head. I know every time he’s like, nice and easy, don’t try to kill the ball. Just let the club do the work. And here I am almost 50 years old and I still hear my dad telling me that when I was, because he took me out when I was a kid. He loved playing. He still does love playing. I was fortunate that I did learn at a very early age, and then funny enough, stopped playing until I was in law school. And then I was like, okay, I think this thing you taught me, dad might serve me well. And I said to myself, I need to probably play golf because I’m in law school now and this is a thing that lawyers do, and so I better sharpen my skills a little bit, but I still hear my dad.
LJ Finney (14:10):
I love that. Thank you for sharing that because when we think about the self-talk, think about your self-talk in the office, think about your self-talk when you’re trying to win clients and when you’re trying to win business, the golf course will uncover if you have a lot of negative self-talk or you’re super hard on yourself, it is one of the best ways to raise awareness around the narrative that’s in your head that is subconscious and that you don’t even realize is there. So for all of the positive affirmations that I might say when I wake up, when I stand over to that golf ball, I’m always wondering, so what was my thought? Oh wait, no, you can do this. Don’t think about that negative thing. Think about the positive. So when we play, sometimes I have a friend that always points out all of the obstacles on the course. They’re like, look at that water hazard. Don’t want to go in that bunker. Don’t want to do this. I’m like, oh my gosh, the universe does not understand your negative. It only understands what you’re saying. So can we focus on the fairway? Can we focus on getting on the green? Can we focus on hitting a straight shot? Let’s focus on the positive language. And in that exercise, it’s also taught me to do that in business.
Stephanie Everett (15:12):
Yeah, I love that. We need to take a quick break and hear from our sponsors when we come back. You asked me if I had a favorite or funny golf story to share, and that last statement you just made reminded me of mine. So stay tuned because you’re going to hear the craziest golf story that I can come up with.
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Stephanie Everett (17:51):
I am back with LJ. We’re talking about golf, but it’s really so much more than that, right? It’s a place where you can network and grow and learn and listen and be in nature. You’re really opening our eyes to all the things that happened on the golf course. So I just shared that. I picked it back up in law school and I had my summer associate position at a big firm. I was very excited and one of the senior partners invited me to go out and play on his home course and everybody, well, I didn’t get all the warnings till afterwards. I heard that he could be a challenging person to play golf with. So I knew that going in, but I was doing okay. I was holding my own. I was playing pretty okay for me, and we were on the 10th hole I remember, and I was on my approach shot towards the green, and I remember him saying, Stephanie, just avoid that water over there.
If anything, just hit it way over here and you’ll have a really safe shot. So of course, what does my ball do? Right into the water. But it was right on the edge of the water. And so he walks over to it and was going to fish it out for me. And I was like, it’s totally okay. This is my first ball that I’ve lost today. I’m pretty excited. I came out here with a whole bunch of balls ready for the worst, and the next thing I know, he stepped on a rock on the edge of the water that was slippery because of the moss. Imagine it’s kind of lake, and he slips, and let me just tell you, you have to picture his entire body going up into the air and then into the water. The only thing I could see was his hat on the top of the water. He was fully immersed into the lake.
LJ Finney (19:36):
Oh my God. Oh my goodness. So what happened next?
Stephanie Everett (19:42):
Right? I’m mortified and scared to death at the same time. I run up to him, he’s coming out and he’s just completely drenched in the water. Oh my God, a scene from the movie. Just imagine this. And he is so angry and frustrated, but he knew he couldn’t actually be angry at me. I don’t know. He was probably just embarrassed. He was probably all the things that you could imagine. I was also feeling all the things like I’m a summer associate, I’m trying to get a job. Oh my God, because of me. The senior partner just fell into the water and I’m like, apologizing, are you okay? Are you okay? And he’s like, yes. So he just kind of shakes me off. He goes up, he makes his putt because he wanted to finish out the hole. Then he,
LJ Finney (20:33):
Wow, that’s commitment.
Stephanie Everett (20:34):
And then he was like, I’m going to take you to the clubhouse and I’m going to go home and shower and change, and then we’ll have dinner. And we called the day of golf off. And then he made me promise I was supposed to promise secrecy and not tell anyone the story, but I guess I’ve just told the whole world, but it’s been some number of years and I have not revealed his name. So his secret is somewhat safe.
LJ Finney (20:59):
But I imagine he has to laugh at that because it’s like, I could have just let the ball stay as she asked me to, but no, I’m going to get it anyway. And it’s like there’s so many lessons in that because his lesson might’ve been, I should have just left it. And then yours is like, I should have insisted he left. What do you do? And I love these stories because this is exactly what we’re training on. What do you do as a summer associate? How do you show up in that moment? You’re not going to argue with your senior partner who you’re trying to get a job at their firm with to don’t go get my ball. So how do you move on? And just even navigating that, I think you’re playing your game. You’re decent. What’s this one? Do I know?
Stephanie Everett (21:41):
I survived for those wondering, I did get a job offer, so it worked out okay. He actually invited me to play golf again. That outing I did not play as well, and he definitely got in my head. And there’s probably a lesson there too that it was a whole thing. But yeah, I mean maybe some of the story is just like you put yourself in those situations though. I mean, I forever was a little bit bonded with him. I mean, 10 years later, I actually tried a case, a three week jury trial case with him. We didn’t talk about the golf, but we had that little side story. We had that connection.
LJ Finney (22:16):
Yeah, I mean, I wonder if it’s something he could laugh about Now, if you’re successful in your career, you’ve moved on, your funniest golf story. That has to be the most embarrassing golf story has, that has to be something that is an anchoring memory. And now we’re never taking associates out. I don’t know how did it impact,
Stephanie Everett (22:36):
But I guess if I can survive that, then you guys, you can go try play a round of golf. You can survive anything.
LJ Finney (22:43):
Exactly. But you said something very powerful as well. He got inside your head. I think that we get in our own head and we allow others to get in our head. And that happens at work. So why not leverage the golf course to practice how to drown out the other thoughts? Because it is a game of self-management, and it is a game of just being able to be one with your thoughts and disregard the other things that are coming in and the outside influences that are impacting your ability to execute what your goal is, get the ball on the green or get the ball down the middle of the fairway. And I think that when you stop and listen, you’re like, wow, I’ve allowed that person to impact or influence my decisions and my actions in a way that is not best for me. If you’re doing that in the golf course, you’re definitely doing that in the office.
Stephanie Everett (23:30):
That makes sense. And it’s for sure true. And just even thinking now about what happens on the golf course, I mean, you’ll hear this all the time. It is such a mental game or experience, and it’s a good place to practice. And like you were saying, get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves a little bit. I’m not a great golfer, but I can still go and enjoy my experience, connect with other people and have the benefits, the other benefits that you’re reminding us come along with the experience.
LJ Finney (24:04):
Yeah. I mean, look how many times in life we just have to show up and how much more value that has at conferences, at events, just showing up is half of the challenge in the battle. So once, well, twice I ran a marathon and it was to raise money for Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and it was in San Diego, and I think by mile 17, I was just thinking, yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore, but we’re 17 miles in. And I’m like, okay, you’re past the halfway point. Do you just keep going? It’s only a few more miles. You train for this. You’re ready for this. And so that mental game, it’s in running, it’s in golf, it’s you against your body and being able to kind of persevere and push through, but then also honoring the fact that your body may be telling you or giving you signs to stop and pause. The same is true with golf. Your body or your mind may be telling you, we need to take a step back and look at how are we failing or what are you feeling? Or what are you thinking? Is it really a pain or is your mind telling you that you can’t do this thing? I’ve realized that most of our challenges in the office, most of our challenges with other people, they start in our head.
Stephanie Everett (25:12):
Yeah. What do you wish more people knew that they didn’t?
LJ Finney (25:17):
Wow, that is an excellent question. I wish more people knew that there’s an opportunity to build greater and that makes the work experience, business development and just a lot of things in ways that we navigate life more enjoyable. And I think that we don’t get to practice as often, but I wish more people felt comfortable being curious and asking questions and letting people talk about themselves in a way that creates a deeper relationship. So with golf, I love when people just tell their story. I’m so curious about individuals that I play with. How did you get here? What are you doing? What were you doing before this? So I feel like it allows me to be more curious and the more people, some people are really open and they just share, and I love it. And some people are very closed and very guarded. So I think being curious, I wish more people knew it’s okay to be curious. Self awareness and curiosity, I think are instrumental in business, instrumental in building relationships and instrumental in when you’re playing golf with someone because you can’t talk about the weather for four hours. It’s almost, I mean, if you can, you might be full sociopath, no judgment, but.
Stephanie Everett (26:31):
I agree. And sometimes I’m nervous with taking those first steps. What’s the appropriate question or what’s the right way to learn about someone more and show up authentic? Be that authentic curiosity and for it to come across that way.
LJ Finney (26:51):
That is such a great question because you don’t want it to seem creepy interview. You want it to just kind of be very organic, but most people would, you grow up is a very basic one because New York is, and even no matter where you are, sometimes people have grown up in various places. Like I met someone, I feel like they grew up in Australia. I never would’ve guessed that they didn’t have an accent, but it was just the most arbitrary place. And I think that they were, I don’t know if it was Australia somewhere in the vicinity, but they were a military bratt. But I didn’t know. I never would’ve guessed that just from the experience. I just knew that they were from New York. So where’d you grow up or what’d you study in school? Those are really things that if you are naturally curious about those things, ask the thing that you kind of want to know about a person just generally, that helps you get to know them. I think when we are playing golf or when we’re in any event or place, it’s so easy to ask, what do you do? It’s so easy, and most people don’t even want to talk about their jobs, but for fun could be a good one. Some people like to read or what’s the last book you read? But it’s weird if the person doesn’t read. What’s the last show you watched? Yeah. It’s like there are little weird things that people, and it’s not even weird little quirky things that people will share. I just watched this documentary on the limelight, why? I don’t know. It was, it was so interesting to hear about the old school club scene of New York City,
Small things like that that can really help build a rapport and connection because who knows, maybe that person was a part owner or their family went there, or you just really never know where the thread will lead. And I think it’s important to follow it, but that’s why listening matters because one of the things I share with individuals that are going out to play for business development or going out to play to entertain clients, listen with the intent of potentially delivering value, but someone will complain about one of their pain points throughout four hours, and why not? If it’s something that you can do without, with relative ease, why not deliver on that? Why not offer something and start to build a relationship in that way?
Stephanie Everett (28:58):
Yeah, that is such great reminders, and I love that you brought up stay curious. It’s actually one of our core values here on the team, and so I’m curious, what are you currently learning?
LJ Finney (29:12):
Yeah, it’s a good question. So I’m learning how to sell. I’m listening to a book on sales, it’s not my strength, and I realized that this book is really an audio book, and it ended up being more of a seminar, and I don’t remember the guy’s name, but I’m listening to the book and it’s really a seminar, and he’s talking, he’s like, you’re not a salesperson. You’re a professional problem solver. I’m like, yeah, you’re solving your pain point. If have a solution, you just need to help them find it. I’m like, okay, he sounds like a car salesman, but he’s talking in general about we build these things, we have these products. You’re of a lawyer, you’re doing it to solve a person’s problem. You really are helping them solve something. Whether or not you’re able to close the deal with them, they have to believe that you’re able to solve the problem for them in a way that resonates with them.
And so that’s what I’m learning right now, how to shift my own mindset around the theory and the concept of what sales is makes me always think of creepy people trying to give you something you don’t need and upsell you. But the reality is there’s so many business owners that are here to help people to solve their problem, to get them from point A to point B, and even listening for the first three hours, it shifted my perspective on the art and the concept of what delivering services are, and even just looking at how do we make life better for someone else through the work that we do.
Stephanie Everett (30:44):
Yeah, so great. And all ties in. It is so awesome talking to you, LJ. I feel like we could chat for, well, I’m going to say four hours. Maybe we should play around soon. We have to get in the same place so we can play.
LJ Finney (30:58):
Yes. Well, I understand that you have better weather, so I think there’s, there’s winter coming, so winter is coming, but I used to Game of Thrones too, so that’s a random terrible
Stephanie Everett (31:08):
Same. Got it. Yep, I’m here. Yep.
LJ Finney (31:11):
Okay. Okay, thanks. Thank you. Thank you.
Stephanie Everett (31:13):
Yeah, come on down to the south this winter. We’ll play a game of golf. If anyone’s listening, you want to join us? Come on. We’ll make it. We’ll have fun.
LJ Finney (31:21):
I love it. It’s like the Lawyerist outing. Yep.
Stephanie Everett (31:24):
We can put that together. We can make that happen.
LJ Finney (31:26):
I think so. I think people have fun with it.
Stephanie Everett (31:29):
Yeah. Well, it’s so great talking to you. Thank you so much for being here.
LJ Finney (31:32):
Thank you for having me, and I look forward to what comes next.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.