Caitlin Byczko’s entire work day is broken up into six-minute increments. The Indianapolis-based intellectual property attorney for Barnes & Thornburg does this because her firm works off a billable hour system. Plus, she finds it incredibly efficient.
It’s important for Byczko to stay organized and manage her time well because of all the figurative hats she wears. She’s a wife and mom, a proud downtown Indianapolis dweller, and also finds time to sit on a number of boards for various nonprofits around the city, including the Center for Wellness of Urban Women.
“I think I have just inherently learned how to do things in the most efficient way outside of my work life,” she says. “I think anyone that knows me will tell you that I strive for efficiency. Like, if a meeting should be an email, I will tell you that this should be an email.”
Byczko lays down the law on what to look for when you’re choosing a lawyer, how the Nap Dress founder has impacted her life, and what three items she’d bring with her to a deserted island.
Maven superpower: Telling you the thing that you need to know, but don’t want to hear.
What inspired you to go into law?
It’s a hard question for me because I was not someone who grew up knowing I wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, I always kind of thought I wanted to be a doctor. It wasn’t until I got into high school that I really started to sit down and say, “Okay, what does my life plan look like? What are my strengths?” It was pretty clear that my strengths were reading, writing, and public speaking. Law was kind of a natural path for me.
Do you have any tips for surviving law school?
Make sure that you really want to go to law school. That sounds terrible, but I think people sometimes don’t fully think through the decision. Law school can be very difficult. And, you know, I didn’t like it. I love being a lawyer, but I didn’t actually like the law school portion. I’m more of a common-sense type person, and so the whole super academic side of law school, it wasn’t great. Make sure you’re looking for a good support system, whether that be your family or friends. And then, also within law school, people who are going to support you, people who really understand what you’re going through on a day-to-day basis.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a lawyer?
That we’re all men running around in suits and sprinting into courtrooms and yelling at each other. None of that is true. I think sometimes people view the legal profession as super adversarial. And that’s not always the case. The bar is actually pretty large and diverse. And everyone’s practice is really different. I think that the biggest misconception is that all lawyers do the same thing, which is absolutely not the case.
What’s your philosophy when representing each case?
So, I primarily work with startups from all around the country, a lot from Silicon Valley and New York. Those people are asking me to have very candid conversations with them from the outset. I ask them, “What does success look like for you?” And that’s different in all instances and it doesn’t always mean winning the case. I think that that’s a hard concept for some, especially young lawyers, to understand. Sometimes success for the client looks like settling the case and compromising on a certain point.
What should people consider when looking for a lawyer?
The most important thing that I tell people is to do your research. For example, I’m a trademark attorney. If you have a trademark issue, you don’t want to hire someone who specializes in criminal defense. Every area of law is very different. I think it’s important for people you know you’re interviewing for lawyers, you have options, and don’t be afraid to ask the lawyer more about their specific experience with cases or issues that are like yours. Then the other question that I tell people is, what is the vibe that you get from this person? Your gut instinct is almost always right. Do you feel like they’re listening to you? Is it someone that you inherently want to trust? And is it someone who you think is going to keep your best interest in mind when representing you?
What does your day-to-day typically look like?
It’s a lot of emails. I probably wake up each morning with 75 new emails. A lot of my practice is foreign, so it’s working with foreign agents and attorneys in countries around the world. On any given day, I will probably work on 15 to 20 different projects, or client matters, as we call them. So, this could include filing a trademark in 10 countries, writing a response to a cease and desist letter or providing an opinion for a brand name. If I have a case that’s getting ready to go to trial or something at the trademark trial and appeal board, I would spend my entire day working on that. Truly, none of my days are alike.
How do you manage your time?
My entire day of work is broken up into six-minute increments, and it’s on the billable hour system. I think the biggest thing is just being aware of your time. From a practical perspective, my husband and I put everything on our calendar. My motto for 2021 has been ‘protecting my peace.’ And that is starting to say ‘no’ to things. When I had my daughter, I made it pretty clear to the people that I work with, and to all my clients and colleagues, it is important to me to have family time every single day.
You live downtown, what do you love about it?
I just really like all the access it has to basically everything. It’s very close to my job, it has good food, and it’s very close to my husband’s place of business. (He owns Myriad Health and Fitness.) I think downtown has a lot of diversity—and I love that we can kind of walk to and do anything.
What are some of your favorite downtown businesses?
My favorite place that I go basically every day is Myriad Health and Fitness, which is over at 10th and Capitol. I try to go at 5:30 in the morning, which is the first class that we have. I like so many restaurants. I love Bluebeard. I love Livery. I love going into Penn & Beech for no other reason than just to buy 20 candles that I don’t need.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Her name is Nell Diamond and she’s the founder of a company called Hill House & Home. They trademarked the Nap Dress and I have many, like almost 10. She’s just this brilliant businesswoman and mother. Her presence on social media and in print is just super authentic. It’s really refreshing. There was a recent Vogue article about her and it showed this parallel of vulnerability and strength. I just thought that is basically womanhood in a nutshell.
If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three items with you, what would they be?
Number one would be sunscreen. I am a huge skin care freak. And probably a dumbbell because I love to work out. That seems really dumb that I would take that, but I truly probably would. And coffee. I need coffee to survive.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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