Beyond the Docket: Karima Gulick
Alt Legal Team | September 17, 2020
Welcome back to Beyond the Docket! We had the opportunity to interview Karima Gulick, founder of Gulick Law. Karima is a patent and trademark attorney, a former aerospace engineer, the host of the Gen Why Lawyer podcast, and a polyglot fluent in French, English, Arabic, Spanish some Italian. We talk to Karima about her practice, her transition from engineering to law, how she uses technology, and more.
Tell us a bit about your legal practice. What type of work do you focus on?
I started my practice in 2017 after working at an IP law firm and after a career as an engineer. I work exclusively with inventors and business owners who are looking to protect their intellectual property. My ideal clients are aerospace inventors and inventors in the aeronautical field. One of the latest patents that we got issued is for a new rocket engine system. The client was a classmate from undergrad, and I love seeing old classmates follow their dreams. A few started aerospace and other tech startups. The advances in technology have leveled up the playing field in rocketry, so it’s really cool to see my old classmates launching nano satellites and pursuing their rocketry dreams. For some, the sky is the limit, but It’s really invigorating to work with people for whom the sky is just the beginning.
You spent the early part of your career as an aerospace engineer. How does your day-to-day as a patent and trademark lawyer differ from your day to day as an aerospace engineer? Is there any experience you gained as an engineer that is invaluable to your work?
My days are completely different now as an attorney! As an engineer, I spent most of my days developing aeronautical systems, testing those systems and writing up reports. My days at the testing labs were fun but I was mostly working on the same systems or programs for months, if not years. Most of my interactions were with other engineers. The repetitiveness of the work was part of the reason I wanted to switch careers.
As an attorney now, I get to deal with so many different people from so many different industries. That’s one of my favorite parts about my work. I can brainstorm with a client on a new app in the morning, and shift gears to a completely different technology or industry in the same day or even half day.
As an engineer, you learn to solve problems and look at the same problem from various angles. Those skills are invaluable to my day to day job. And my clients love that I can bring a set of fresh eyes to their inventions and help them get the broadest protection possible on their work.
As host of the Gen Why Lawyer podcast, you come across a lot of innovative lawyers in the legal industry. What is the most exciting thing you discovered while interviewing for the podcast?
I learned so much about law firm management, marketing and work life balance! But I also learned so much about myself as well, and I learned to be a better listener. I learned to be comfortable with a little pause and silence. In our overly articulated lives as attorneys, we often forget to just listen and let clients speak. You can learn so much about your clients’ wants and needs if you just give them the opportunity to express themselves. Sure they’re coming to you for guidance, but they also want to be reassured that their needs and wants are met, and that they’re being heard.
I also learned that you can make money doing pretty much anything, so follow what you’re curious about and see where that leads you.
Outside of practicing law, you have a wide array of interests (cooking, scuba diving, traveling, biking, the list goes on!)- do you have any tips for lawyers looking to gain a better work/life balance?
I think it comes down to time management, and setting proper work boundaries. There will always be more work to be done, and you can’t wait until everything is done to take a break. Take that break and that vacation and I promise you’ll come back more energized and with more enthusiasm for your work.
A few weeks ago, I hit a wall and was feeling burned out. So I called a colleague who does it all! Her advice was a little counterintuitive but it worked: she said to dive into the business. And I did. I was working in the business rather than on the business and while I was getting client work done, I was not advancing my own business. I delegated more, reassessed a few systems and took a little trip. Don’t wait until you’re tired to take a break, by the time you’re tired, the break won’t help much. Make sure to build in breaks and make time for the things that bring you joy.
You are a self-proclaimed polyglot, fluent in French, English, Arabic, Spanish and a touch of Italian. What do you think are the most tangible impacts on the patent and trademark industry from our increasingly global economy?
On the patent side, it has become easier to find prior art from around the world. A simple Google search will reveal relevant information and machine-translate it from any language. In that sense, technology and the global economy have raised the bar for inventions.
On the trademark side, it is now easier than ever to expand your market to other countries, and protect your brands in those markets. Global domination is easier but might come at a cost.
What is your law firm’s technology stack? Do you use Slack? Practice management software? Trademark management software?
As an engineer, I definitely have “shiny tech and shiny object” syndrome. But I try to force myself to learn more about the technology I am already using and paying for. A lot of times, we are not using a fraction of the capabilities of the tech solutions we are paying for. While I use Slack for other groups, I do not use it for my firm. Our team is relatively small and I don’t want to spread ourselves too thin across various platforms.
I love Alt Legal as my trademark management software. It has really given me back the brain space to know that all my deadlines are captured and I know I can trust and rely on the software and daily emails to make sure that nothing ever slips through the cracks. My practice would not have continued to grow without it.
I use PracticePanther as my practice management tool, and my favorite features are the tags and reports. Every new lead and every new client gets tagged, and they make it really easy to run periodical reports to see where your leads and clients are coming from, what side of your practice is growing the most and helps us focus our energy on what works.
If you could create any legal practice-focused technology, what would it be and why?
A bot that could do all my work for me. HA! I would love to see a tool that automatically captures all my time spent on calls and on the computer without me having to tell it what I’m doing and categorize that time for me. I think the technology is here already, but it will take some time to be implemented properly.