LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2020: Nicole Makris

IL photo/Eric Learned

As one of Indiana’s leading young family law attorneys, Nicole Makris advocates both for systemic change and on behalf of vulnerable young victims. When she’s not handling client matters, she may be pushing for reforms at the Statehouse or volunteering to represent the best interests of a child in need as a guardian ad litem. She also makes time for numerous bar and community activities, as well as an annual trip to visit with family members in their homeland of Greece.

How did you become interested in family law?

I was drawn to family law because of the opportunities to help individuals facing difficult family transitions and issues. I enjoy frequent client interaction and the variety of types of cases. Practicing family law allows me to have time in the courtroom but also to spend time working on appeals and prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Every day is different and each case is unique.

If you could change one law in Indiana, what would that be?

Brian Zoeller and I recently wrote an article for Indiana Lawyer about the need for a statutory safeguard to be enacted to help shield children from being called to testify in their parents’ family law matters. While you don’t see this happen in every case, there is a void in the Legislature that allows children to be called as witnesses under the Rules of Evidence. Trial courts have discretion regarding in-camera interviews. By requiring that less intrusive options be pursued first, the extension of this discretion would prevent children from being placed in the middle of litigation or in the judge’s chambers if the requesting party fails to first demonstrate the need for the information and that they have exhausted other efforts to obtain it. There are other ways for a child’s wishes to be presented in a family law case, and those are the options we should be expanding upon and adding resources to.

You visit family in Greece every summer. What do you most look forward to on those visits?

I most look forward to the traditional dinner with family and friends. I love spending time in my dad’s hometown and hearing his stories about growing up there. I especially treasure that time being reunited with my sisters now that we live farther apart from one another. My Greek heritage is a huge part of who I am. I love the people, the food, the mountains, the music, the language — all of it. This year I’ve promised myself I’ll only speak Greek for a week — except for work emails!

What do you most like to do when you have free time?

Art is one of my passions. Right now, my favorite is painting large abstract canvases. Whenever I am in a new city, the art museum is on my to-do list. I also enjoy hot yoga and planning weekend trips with friends.

You are highly active in many charitable efforts. Why is community service important for young lawyers?

Community service offers young lawyers the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life just by volunteering their time. That is particularly true when volunteering for pro bono legal services. In addition to helping people who are unable to afford legal representation, volunteering for pro bono programs like IndyBar’s Legal Line allows young lawyers to gain perspective into their community, to expand their legal knowledge and to hone their communication skills. Community service is also a great way for young lawyers to expand their professional networks and build leadership skills by serving on nonprofit boards and committees.

Who is someone who mentored you, and what did you learn from them?

I have learned so much from Brian Zoeller, from how to develop an effective trial strategy to how to maneuver complicated high-asset cases. He treats everyone with respect, and I have seen how much that respect is reciprocated in the legal community. Having the opportunity to work with him and Julie Andrews has been a dream come true. My trial and deposition skills have improved from following their lead.

What do you get from your involvement with bar associations?

Being part of bar association committees is rewarding because it allows me to get to know attorneys in other practice areas that I wouldn’t otherwise interact with. These committees are also a chance to build relationships with attorneys that I do have cases with by working together outside of those cases. I like being involved in event planning because it requires creativity, problem solving and teamwork.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a break. The quality of your work improves when you feel your best, and being on call 24/7 isn’t sustainable.

Where do you see yourself professionally in another 10 years?

I plan to add mediation to my practice. I also have a dream of one day teaching a family law course at IU McKinney as an adjunct professor.

What do you think you might be doing if you weren’t a lawyer?

I would probably have become a therapist because I’m interested in psychology and helping others. I know that I’m right where I’m supposed to be, though. I love what I do.•
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