Alright ladies, welcome to this episode of The joyful scaling Podcast. I’m here with Stephanie Brinkley. She’s the founder of Brinkley law firm here in Charleston. And I love her focus keeping families first. But interestingly, her expertise goes well beyond conventional family law. She is an expert in the area of fertility law, and she remains on the cutting edge of this emerging area. She’s a frequent guest speaker on the complexities of third party reproduction, having lectured at law schools as well as local and State Bar Association’s she’s been featured on television news programs, and she’s the co author of a book called Developing a successful assisted reproduction technology law practice. And I’m so excited to have her here. And it’s a little bit different than what I usually have on the podcast, but she’s a lover of the Lord Jesus. And her expertise is so intriguing. I had to feature her. So welcome, welcome.
Thank you. Thanks, Judy. It’s an honor to do this with you. I’m excited to be your guest and to speak to your audience and just share a little bit about my background and what I’m doing now and how I’m trying to use my powers for good.
Yes. And, you know, ladies, as you’re building your businesses, as I always say, there is nothing better to do that than to connect. And it’s not always just connecting with prospective clients, it is also connecting with, you know, local and regional business owners as Stephanie is. So when we chatted, I was like, I’m falling in love with you, I need to have you on. So why don’t you tell our listeners, how did you get involved in this area, this fertility law area of the Family Law arena?
Well, honestly, it was purely by accident. Um, I look back now I you know, at the time, I thought it was kind of random, but I can see now, you know, 1012 years later that there was definitely a bit of divine intervention going on there. Before I went to law school, I was a paralegal for a big mass tort litigation firm. And, you know, I just got to the point, I was ready for the next step. So I told my husband that I wanted to go to law school. And I thought for sure that after law school that I would continue to do mass tort or personal injury of some kind. But in the middle of school, I read an article about snowflake babies. And the focus of the article was about the growing number of unused embryos in storage, and what people are doing with them what kind of decisions they’re making, you know, donating to other couples that are struggling, etc. But there are a portion of that article focused on the the lack of clear legal framework across the country, when it comes to third party reproduction. It’s all over the map, literally, and how a family law and adoption attorneys are just kind of cobbling together agreements and trying to help create a blueprint for success with their state legislatures and whatnot. And I didn’t even know this was an area of law. I had no and I thought that’s fascinating, and how exciting to be on the cutting edge of something that’s building and developing. And, you know, I love learning about the law. And I love my family. And I would love for to help other people have that experience. I understand what it’s like to struggle, you know, I have a lot of clients that have struggled, you know, way more than I ever have. But I did have two ectopic pregnancies, which, before each of my children, it was horrific. And so I don’t, I don’t take it for granted that I’m a parent. And so when my clients come to me, you know, I’m the last person they want to see when it comes to, you know, fertility law, and they’re building their family. But that’s why I have to be their biggest cheerleader, because I’m going to get them to the finish line. I know the desire on their heart is strong to be a parent. And if that desire is strong, we will make it happen. It’s you they feel that way for a reason. It’s part of their purpose. Right, right.
And I love that and, and I can hear your passion for your work. You know, I worked for several large firms, both in the corporate and more than the corporate, the trial side. And the passion was a lot of times to win, but not necessarily to really care about the client. So I just feel that for you. So as a lawyer, I especially appreciate Yeah,
I love and I’m, as you know, my practice is 10 years old, 10 and a half, and I am just as excited to come to work every day now is when I started the practice, you know, every case is different. My clients are wonderful. You know, they’re in South Carolina, they’re in other states. They’re coming to me from other countries, even I have clients from Asia in Europe, and the common denominator is that they’re using a surrogate in South Carolina, but they’re rely coming to me because they need my help with the legal work. So I get to meet people from all different cultures and backgrounds and it’s really wonderful and fulfilling.
Wow, it sounds it so what drives your motivation like you And in the notes about God, Your God influence and how that’s impacted your work. And I can see it. But I love you to talk more about
that. No, sure. It’s pretty funny because I told you, I read that article about the snowflake babies. And so kind of like, literally, the seed was planted in my brain, I want to do that. But it was intimidating. The idea of graduating from law school, and opening my own practice, because that’s the only way it was going to happen. At that time, there was only one other attorney in South Carolina that practice fertility law. And so it’s not like I could join a firm and be assigned a mentor and learn everything I know about fertility law is self taught, right? So that kind of discouraged me, but I continue to pray about it. I said, You know what, God, I’m, I am a creature of comfort. And I will stay mildly uncomfortable for a paycheck every two weeks. But if this is not the path you want, for me to stay in this practice, and to do personal injury, you will have to make it abundantly clear because I am stubborn, and you know that you made me this way. So I, you know, I was just kind of like, you know, give me a sign. And so after I passed the bar, the hiring manager, I went to meet with him at the personal injury firm. And he said, you know, Stephanie, we’re so proud of you. We never worried about you passing the bar, you know, you’re such a hard worker, and we admire your dedication. And we, at the time, this is 2010. So they said, We’re in a hiring freeze, but we will lift that in the spring, and we’re going to move you to the securities fraud division. Oh, my gosh, there is nothing worse for me securities fraud. And you know what, though, I just had this big smile on my face. And I said, Thank you, sir. That sounds amazing. Thank you. I’m thing I’m honored that you considered me for that position. And I walked out with a big smile on my face. Because I said to myself, alright, God, I got it. I got it loud and clear. That’s my sign. And I was at peace with it. So I went home and told my husband about it. He was like, Oh, my gosh, what are you going to do? And I said, I’m out of there. I was looking for a sign and I got it. And I didn’t leave right away. You know, I was very methodical about it. And very considerate of my my employer at the time, they were very good to me, they allowed me to stay there when I was in law school and everything. So I did it over time, I kind of phased out if you will. But that that was my sign. And it was very clear.
So you know, I’m laughing too. I’m smiling not only at what you just described, but in my first couple of years as a lawyer when I worked down in Delaware. I worked with a guy, gosh, what was his name, Dan Franceschi, or something like that. Anyway, I loved him. And he did securities law, like I love that kind of law. I love the mental gymnastics of that. And I remember some cases fondly with that, but anywho. So let’s talk about that start of your law practice, you know, what kind of planning take us back there when you’re working in the poi firm. And now you’re realizing I’ve got to get my own firm off the ground.
Well, thankfully, my years of experience as a paralegal really equipped me, you know, a lot of my friends who were graduating at that time and did not have jobs lined up, because again, there was a recession, were very intimidated with the idea of opening up their own practice, because they did not understand the practical aspects of running a firm. They didn’t even know how to, you know, open a physical file and organize it or anything like that. I know the basics, right. And so I was not intimidated by that. At least I was armed with that practical skill set. It was really just about coming up with a plan for success for my business. My husband has an MBA from the Citadel, and he sat down with me and helped me write a business plan, which was a labor of love. I did not like it. It was not fun, but he bribed me with dinner in a movie, so we did it.
JD so supportive. I love it.
Yes, yes. Um, so I just kind of put the plan into action, but I will say the big stumbling, stumbling block in the beginning was capital, where am I going to get capital to start a practice? Um, you know, the SBA, they don’t typically lend money to, you know, budding young attorneys. They’re kind of like, oh, you’re a lawyer, you’re going to be just fine figured out. So we did apply for some loans at banks. And maybe because it was the recession, it didn’t matter what kind of collateral we offered up, they just were not lending. So I had to get real creative, you know, and I had to kind of leverage against my retirement account a little bit in the beginning, but I paid it all back within a year, but I just had to get creative because once I make a decision, I’m following through with it. You know, the path may be difficult. It may be, you know, bumpy, it may take time. That’s okay. I can be patient, but I’m going to do it. So that’s how I that’s how I got it up and running.
I love that. And that statement is the success statement of every woman who’s made it. Right. Once I make a decision, I’m following through with it. So ladies, if anyone’s listening, and you’re and you’re struggling, and you’re like, wait a minute, I seem to be repeating year one in year four, or five, six, and you’re not moving forward. Or at least not as quickly, as you know you’d like to maybe the issue is your own mind. And I really firmly believe the older I get, I mean, mindset and determination and commitment, really, to me the foundation of faith. So because you’re a woman of faith, I’d love to talk about how your faith has helped you in standing firm as you are building your law firm.
Well, I’m funny, you should say. So I was talking about starting the practice during the recession. So this is spring of 2011. And I went to church one Sunday, and I ran into another member of the church, who’s also a lawyer in the community long standing. And he said, you know, Stephanie, you know, how’s it going? Are you? Are you happy over there with your firm? Are you staying there? And I said, Actually, I’m going to start my own practice. I’m opening up in about 30 days. And he said, Why in the world would you do that? That is financial suicide? Do you not know that there’s a recession? I said, I know there’s a recession. And I figure that if I’m successful in a recession, I’m going to kill it when we come out of it.
Okay, yep. So you can do attitude. I love this.
I know, I’m like, a, you know, of all people another meme, another attorney who’s a member of the same church, making that statement, I was kind of like, um, but you know what, that’s the other thing. God knows that I love to prove people wrong. I can’t stand to be told no, I can’t stand for people to say you can’t do it. That is I hate that word. Can’t cannot. I absolutely can. And I absolutely will. And so I have, and that person is a good friend. And he refers a lot of business to me. So it all worked out. But he he really questioned my sanity when I started out.
Yeah, yeah, I could see that. Was he the owner of his own firm? Or was he you know?
Yeah, well, it’s a partnership. There’s three partners to a firm, and he’s involved in politics. So He’s, um, he comes from pretty prominent family. And so um, you know, it’s kind of like, why struggle? If you don’t have to, you know, stay? Why struggle? You’ve got a nice cushy job with that big firm. Why don’t you stay there? Well, I could stay there. But what I’d be happy, no, I wouldn’t be happy. And I never, in everything I do. I try to make sure I have no regret. Okay, I can make mistakes and learn from them. But I never want to look back and say I should have I could have and I didn’t, because I’ll kick myself for that. So I would rather try and fail or just, you know, try maybe not fail, but you know, learn what does work well, and what doesn’t work well than to not try at all?
Yeah, I love it. And you know, this this conversation, it sounds basic, but I’m telling you from talking and working with hundreds and hundreds of women through the years, these are basic, like gut, heart beliefs. Absolutely. I mean, you have to be in it to win it, you know, so So I know there are times with financial situations where some women that I’ve worked with in the past and that I you know, that I’ve seen come up into their business, that there are times when they had to stay at their corporate job, for example, of course, as as they build their business, or maybe a side hustle or two. But it always kind of concerns me because when we’re spread too thin, plus, we’re moms. And, you know, it’s hard to keep it all together. But if God has told us our purpose, and here’s the beautiful thing about being a Christian, this is why I say we should be the most joy filled piece filled, most, you know, profitable and impactful, because he promised to equip us there’s nothing to worry about, you know, and I know I sometimes get in that worry mode, but I try to stop it because that’s the enemy’s lie. And the truth is, God, I got this because God’s got me so right. No, that’s just I love I love everything you’re saying here. Let’s talk about the Juggle. As a mom, you know, and as this sought after expert on this, you know, I think it’s feels to me anyway, like it’s still kind of emerging. I mean, it’s such a complex area of the law. How do you juggle it off?
I feel like i i for a long period of time, I was just an autopilot. You know, when I so backtrack to when I started law school. I stayed with the same firm I was still working 30 hours a week going to law school part time. And when I started my children were two and five And my husband was working and also going and getting his MBA at the Citadel. So the way so for those first couple of years, we structured our classes so that, you know, if I went to class, Monday, Wednesday, he would go Tuesday, Thursday so that our kids were still with us, or, you know, in the evenings, you know, they might have been in daycare or whatever, during the day, but at night, they were always with one of us. And that we only had to do that crossover for about two years. And then he graduated, and I was like, Yay, now it’s just me. But, um, when I hesitated, when I got my acceptance letter to the law school, I hesitated. And my mom said, Why are you hesitating? And I said, because I didn’t realize I would actually get accepted. I mean, I, I mean, I wanted it, don’t get me wrong. But you know, I put up because I was I had a family that I could not uproot and move. I knew I was putting all my eggs in one basket. But again, if you’re fulfilling God’s purpose, it will happen, the door open. So now it’s like, oh, what do I do? Do I actually go. And she said, You know what you need to go while your children are young, because they won’t remember those telling you, they will not remember it. If you wait, they’re going to be teenagers, and they need you around. And by the time they’re graduating and going on to college, you’re not going to be thinking about starting a new career a second career. So do it now. And she said, if you go for a semester, and it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. But at least you tried. Right? So going back to that just try and don’t have regret. So I’ve had a lot of help along the way, I won’t deny that. I mean, I haven’t had nannies or anything like that. But you know, my husband’s been very good about sharing responsibilities. When the children were in grade school, I had some really good sitters. Often they were people from the church, teenagers from the church, I taught. I taught Sunday school to middle school girls for a couple of years. And someone said, Why are you doing that? I mean, you could be in the adult class. And I’m like, Well, I love the girls, number one. Number two, I want to learn what they’re going through before my daughter’s that age, so that I can practice my poker face. Oh, that was hard. Um, and then also, you know, I trust these girls, and I trust them enough to take care of my kids. So my Sunday school girls were a great pool of babysitters wanting to make money. So I mean, it’s all coming back to that church family, you know, and God providing, you know, and, and giving me peace of mind to find people who could help me raise my kids. And now I have a daughter who’s a junior at Anderson University in South Carolina, and my son is a senior in high school, considering his college options. And I think, I think they’re, they’re doing well. I asked them, I said, you remember your time when mom was in law school? And you all were doing this or that? And they say, No, I don’t remember. Oh, my mother was right. Another was right.
Isn’t it neat? Gosh, I don’t know. I, my mom was always spot on to you know, they give this great advice. And my mom was a stay at home. And my dad was a factory worker. And even though I knew they were smart, there was a part of me that thought they weren’t wise. And over the years, the older I got, the more I saw how wise they are. You know, it’s just amazing. You know, so Anywho. That’s cool. And the fact that you asked for help, that tends to be I find an area that women tend to hesitate on, you know, in your case, you you couldn’t take the kids with you to law school, so you had to find help. But for anyone out there that is feeling like ooh, you know, I need help, but I don’t know where to reach out to, I don’t know who to reach out to, or I feel kind of funny doing that. Do it. Because nobody got to any level of success on their own. And I have this podcast, that’s why I have the joyful scaling Facebook group. That’s why I’m all about community. It is so important. So do not do it alone. Let me ask you this. You have built a successful law practice. What advice do you have for women out there? Who let’s start with the law firm? anybody listening? Who has that, you know, JD, and they’re working for a firm, they’re really not wild about it. What do they need to know?
So if let’s look at it from let’s hypothetical, so they took a job out of law school because the student loan debts were starting to roll in and you got to make your payments and it’s not their ideal area of law that they want to practice in, but it is a job and they have benefits and they’re getting paid every two weeks. That’s fine. You know what build your reputation within your firm as being a solid attorney, someone that can be relied on who cares about their clients, you know, do your best it may not be your passion, but do your best, but don’t give up on your dream. I mean, you know, you can earn the respect of the partners and maybe if your area of of law that you really want to practice will complement the existing existing areas of the practice, they might just give you the opportunity to bring that on board, obviously, it has to be a moneymaker for them. We all know that. But they might allow you to branch out and bring that other practice area into the group. If not, that’s okay. You know, as a member of that firm, you have the opportunity to network with people in the community and across the state, who are in the area of law that you want to practice in. So as you’re building your reputation up within your own firm, and those partners are speaking well of you to other attorneys, your reputation will get out there. And when you approach someone who is practicing in the area that you want, they already know you’re a solid and a solid attorney. Okay, and that you do good work. And so there’ll be more inclined to consider hiring you if you want to make a lateral move or something like that, you know, don’t give up on your dream, where there’s a will there’s a way, you know, when I first started my practice, so fertility law, I mean, it’s hard to get into, you know, I would even now I wish I did it 100%. But you know, not, fertility treatments are expensive. So it’s not like everyone can do it. Okay, that’s just a hard reality. So 60% of my practice is fertility law and family building. 40% is traditional family law. But when I started my practice, as I was building up that fertility law part of it, do you know, what I what area of law I practiced in know what? Foreclosure Defense? Oh, wow, yes. I was still keeping families first I was keeping them in their home. And that kind of fell in my lap. Because my last semester of law school, I interned with a master of equity here in Charleston, and I just kind of, I learned what the programs were that were out there to help people and how to buy them time and get them qualified for certain programs. I just kind of learned it through osmosis. So when I graduated, and I started my practice, that Judge put me in touch with someone who gave me a local nonprofit group that gave me contract work as a contract attorney to help homeowners. And, you know, that was, you know, keeping the lights on money for the first couple of years.
Yeah. And I was just gonna say, see, that is the amazingness of God, that he, you know, happen to put you in that place. Right. So that, you know, as as, as the things would work out that that would be how you get that from Oh, wow, that’s just love to hear about that. And the importance again, of networking, and networking. That’s something that I don’t know, it was hard for me to understand the importance of that. And now I see that networking, I used to be honest, I was in sales since out of college, some aspect of it before I went to law school. And you know, certainly as a trial lawyer, I’m selling my case all the time. But I used to think that networking was like a drudgery. Like, I used to be the one to be the wallflower at these events. And I just didn’t understand the importance of just talking to people. There’s no really agenda. So if you’re listening, you know, has that mindset understand? It’s, it’s a joy now to network. I just love talking with people. Do you have any comments on that? Stephanie,
I try to make networking fun. I you know, I agree, it can be boring. I had an associate. One year, I had a female associate. And I said, we’re going to do a fashion show. And she said what I said it’s a networking opportunity. She said, What are you talking about? I said, they’re doing a fashion show at this private club downtown. And it’s I think it was with Talbots or something like that. And they asked for members of the club, to volunteer to be models for the show. I said, it’s a great opportunity, because we’re going to walk into a room with all these, you know, disgruntled women who are thinking about divorce, and they’re going to introduce us and who we are what we do, and you know, we’ll walk around the room, wear some nice clothes, and then we’ll have a nice lunch afterwards. She said, I think you’re crazy. And I said, I’m serious. I mean, make it fun. It doesn’t always have to be a boring bar conference with everybody standing around in suits, you know, just have some fun with it, even if you take the initiative to bring people together on your own. And I have done that before, you know, just reaching out to a group of female attorneys or male attorneys or both, that I find interesting, and that I want to get to know better and hat and saying, Hey, do you want to meet for happy hour here? And this sometimes smaller is better because, you know, you get that chance to really have a conversation with people and get to know them. Because when you’re in a situation where you’ve got a room full of 50 to 100 people it’s like speed dating you down, you just want to. Okay, what do you do? How long have you been busy? Okay, how can I help you? Okay, boom, move on to the next person. And I like to get to know people never. I do tell young attorneys. I’m like, never underestimate the power of a personal relationship. Okay? Emails are not sufficient letters not so great either. If you are interested in, you know, someone as a future employer, or a referral source, get to know them, take them out for coffee, even if you just stop by their office make that personal connection. It’s so important.
Absolutely. That is awesome advice. Beautiful, beautiful. All right. So this is the joyful scaling podcast. So I love to ask this question. What about your work brings you the most joy? The baby pictures. I know, who knows? Babies. When I’m having
a hard day, you know, with my family law cases, you know, the divorces and the bickering and the fighting, and I’m just about to snap. And then I opened the mail and there’s a baby picture, you know, and a thank you note. I mean, that just makes my day because that’s not unusual when you’re doing family law, you know, to get a thank you. Um, but you don’t often get a thank you in a divorce case. That the thank you is paying the bill. So yeah, I love the baby pictures.
Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. It reminds me of, you know, the the baby doctors, the GYN psychologist. They have the baby pictures like up Yeah. In their offices and things. That’s so awesome. All right. Well, you are speaking coming up in December. And I don’t know how lawyer specifically will be listening. But this is such an honor. I’d love you to talk about that briefly.
Yes. So on December 3, I’ll be speaking in Columbia, South Carolina, which before the A M L, which is the American Academy of matrimonial lawyers. They are a fellowship, they are the cream of the crop, they are the best at what they do. They handle high, high asset divorce cases, complex divorce cases, maybe it’s, you know, international child kidnapping, I don’t know there’s a very unique element to the divorces. And these individuals are the best at what they do. So they’ve asked me to come and speak to them to the crowd, their South Carolina chapter about the crossover between fertility law and family law. You know, what, what do we do when there’s a divorce and there’s 10 embryos and storage? Who gets them? Has, how do you think the court will decide that that is an issue that’s not been litigated in South Carolina yet, but it’s getting there. I’m getting more and more calls of from attorneys who are in mediation with their divorce clients, and they’re fighting over the embryos, and trying to decide how to resolve that issue. And if they don’t, what’s, you know, how will the court handle that? So I’m giving advice on that. But I’m excited. You know, there. I’m, I’m one of many speakers that day, but I’m, that’s my unique aspect that I’m bringing to the table and they’ll help educate them and hopefully garner some referrals out of that.
Yeah, I No doubt, no doubt and what a beautiful opportunity for you. That’s great. Congrats on that. Alright, so last thing, how can our audience get in touch with you? What’s the best place to find you?
So I have, you can go to the firm website and Brinkley law firm llc.com. My bio is there. You know, I encourage anyone who’s curious may have a question for me, whether it’s legal or just business, go ahead, check out my bio, and learn a little more about me before you reach out if you’d like. I’ve got several blog articles that I’ve written that are on that website. They can also reach me by email, which is just s Brinkley at Brinkley law firm llc.com. We do have a Brinkley law firm Facebook page. That’s more for fun. I love the funny divorce memes that we put up and yeah, my my social media person, she i She has my same sense of humor. So she finds some really good ones. I mean, you gotta laugh. Yeah, no, divorce is not fun. So let’s just have a good laugh here and there. But yes, they can reach out through the website or to me directly or even call the office at 843-277-9009.
Awesome. And I will make sure to have all of that inside the show notes. Stephanie. Thank you so much. This has been such a great episode. You’re welcome. Thank
you for having me. Appreciate it.
Absolutely. My pleasure. Ladies, as you’re listening, if you have loved this episode, would you please take a moment and leave a rating and a review that helps us to move up in the ranks so that more amazing women like you can find the show. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.