Karima Gulick, Esq. is flying high these days with her solo practice in Orange County, CA. She is known as “The Aviation Lawyer” on social media and focuses on aviation, patents and trademarks. She donates 5% of her profits to those who can’t afford legal services.
In addition to being charitable, Karima also has a lot of energy. She went to law school in the evening while working full time as an aeronautical engineer. And in her free time she would like to continue her flight training and learn Mandarin!
In our interview, she shares her tips on starting a solo law practice.
Q. Why did you make the leap to start your own law firm?
A. I have always wanted to have my own business. I started out as an engineer working for a big aerospace company, and while that was fun, it wasn’t challenging enough. While I was working, I went to law school in the evening. I wanted the freedom of choosing my cases and clients, working whenever I wanted from wherever I wanted and I knew that having my own practice would allow me to structure my days as I liked.
After law school, I started working at an IP law firm, and was enjoying the work, but I started missing the aviation and aerospace industry. There were no firms out there combining both aviation and intellectual property law, so I decided to start my own!
Another reason was to enjoy the work I do, and I knew I would be happy if I was in control of the work I did. When I felt comfortable with the day-to-day work I started strategizing to open my own firm. I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts and decided it was time.
Q. What makes your practice unique?
A. With an aviation and engineering background, I wanted to use my expertise in those fields to best serve my clients. My practice focuses primarily on aviation and intellectual property law. For the aviation side of my practice, I help clients with FAA enforcements, injuries resulting on planes and airports, aircraft malfunctions, products defects and transportation of hazardous goods and materials to name a few. For the patent and trademark side, I help startups, small and medium sized business obtain patents and trademarks for their businesses and help them protect and enforce those rights against infringers. I am very sensitive to the needs and budgets of growing companies and love to work with them grow and invest in their IP portfolio.
I love giving back, so 5% of my yearly profits and billable hours go to helping people in the aviation communities who are struggling and cannot afford legal representation and to startups who have great ideas and products but can’t afford to protect those ideas.
Q. How is your practice set up?
AI have a nice and comfortable home office where I do most of my important work. I use a shared office which is walking distance from my house, and I also have access to a conference room that I rent by the hour to meet up with clients when needed.
All my work is on secured cloud storage, allowing me to work on my laptop, desktop, tablet or even iPhone. I was listening to a podcast the other day and this attorney practices mainly on his iPhone! I don’t think I will ever get to that point but it’s admirable to see what other attorneys are doing with the technology we have these days.
Q. How do you market your legal services?
My focus is to build a powerful and trusted network with like-minded people. I love connecting with people and getting involved with groups and causes that I am passionate about. Most of my marketing efforts don’t feel like work at all. One of the main reasons I went out on my own was to have fun with the work I do and enjoy it to the fullest. Life is too short to hate what you do, and that applies to your marketing efforts as well. If you don’t like it or it feels uncomfortable then maybe that’s not the right marketing tool for you. Whether you’re a writer, a speaker, an actor, or a social butterfly, there is something out there for you. Do what feels natural and the rest will follow.
Q. What do you wish you knew before jumping in?
Be strategic about networking and build a contact list.
While in law school and while working at my previous firm, I went to events for IP and patent lawyers. This was great because it allowed me to develop personal relationships with those attorneys who later became great mentors. But I never received any business from that group. I learned to identify my ideal clients and go to the networking events that they would attend.
I always knew that I needed to keep information of all my contacts in one place, but I just never actually gathered a list of names and emails until after I started my practice. People do business with people they know, like and trust, and your first clients will usually come from your direct connections. Work on building a contact list and make sure you let everyone know that you’re open for business.
Q. What do you enjoy most about having your own firm?
A. Getting to choose the people I work with and the kind of cases I want to work on. Feeling like I am making a direct and positive impact on my client’s lives. And I like the freedom of being able to structure my day.
Q. What social media account do you find most effective?
A. Facebook has made it easy for businesses to put the word out and keep your friends and family aware of what you are doing. I also use Instagram because you get to see glimpses of your colleagues, clients and friends. I am still experimenting with other platforms such as google + and alignable.
While being online is great and you can reach so many more people, I love meeting people in person and getting involved in groups that interest me.
Q. What advice would you tell someone who is considering solo practice?
A. If you can, get some experience either clerking for someone or working at another firm or at the very least study everything you can on your chosen field or specialty. Having worked for someone else has made me more confident when it comes to giving advice to new clients, working cases and ultimately going out on my own.
Also, get involved in your local community and help where you live and work. Start cultivating those personal relationships.
And Some Random Questions…
Q. If someone gave you $10,000 to give to charity, which one would it be and why?
A. I would donate it to Let Girls Learn or a similar organization that helps educate women and young girls in remote areas of the world. I was born and raised in Morocco and am lucky to have had great education. However, I have seen a lot of young women in remote areas of Morocco who were not given the same chances. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I wasn’t given the opportunity to get the education I did.
Q. If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere, where would it be and why?
A. Fiji or the Galapagos for a scuba diving trip!
Q. What is the next thing you want to learn?
A. Mandarin and continuing my flight training. I also would love to learn more about digital marketing, which is something I am currently teaching myself.
Q. What cheers you up after a stressful day.
A. A long walk always helps me put things into perspective. I also love cooking and watching cooking shows like Chopped Juniors (those kids are so talented!)
You can connect with Karima at www.theaviationlawyer.com.
Want more tips and advice for your awesome law practice? Check out Law Office on a Laptop, Second Edition: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Law Mobile Law Practice.