Feature interview with Stanislav Roth, published in Australasian Lawyer Nov 23
Stanislav Roth thinks that while technology has the power to disrupt the law and many other industries, a more fundamental challenge actually threatens the business of law more.
This law firm founder is also increasingly wary of the term “NewLaw,” which has often been associated with his firm Source Legal because it operates a unique business model and offers clients a different service than traditional law firms.
In this interview, Roth also talks about his challenging start in Australia, why he established his own law firm, and what he prefers to change with his job.
What made you choose a career in law?
I always had an inclination towards a language-based profession. This became a challenge when I moved from the Ukraine to Australia at the age of 19 with little English. Nevertheless, after a few years of hesitation – and improving my English – I decided to take the plunge.
I also felt that law would provide opportunities to be closely involved in business at a relatively senior level straight away. This is why I decided to go in-house quite early in my career. I wanted to be part of a business and be involved in strategy and important decisions.
Why did you choose to put up your own firm?
I have always been a bit restless and entrepreneurial. When I worked as a corporate lawyer, although I worked in a senior role, I felt I could do more. I wanted to do more than just legal work – I wanted to create and run my own business.
Also, I saw there was a real opportunity to create a new way of providing legal services, especially to SMEs. I found that many businesses could not get access to high-quality and right-sized legal support at an affordable and fixed (rather than open-ended) price. This is what Source Legal does.
What do you love the most about your job?
I enjoy the variety every day brings – legal work, client management, marketing, or meeting new people. This challenges me and keeps me interested every day.
But if you ask what gives me most satisfaction the answer is simple; it is a happy client who has just experienced our unique service and discovered, often to their surprise, that it can be enjoyable and rewarding to work with lawyers.
If you could change anything about your job right now, what would it be?
In order to grow my business I need to do less legal work and more business development. I am working on this.
What do you love doing outside of work and why?
My passion (or to be frank, obsession) is swimming. I try to swim every day (actually maybe this is really why I started my own business – to have the flexibility to swim every day). It is my sport and my therapy. I find that good ideas often spring to mind while I swim.
I also love cinema, theatre and literature; and, of course, my family.
What has been your proudest accomplishment to date?
I think building Source Legal into a successful and award-winning business is my most important achievement to date. The recognition that the business of the year award brings is a major breakthrough for us. [2017 Business of the Year, Optus My Business Awards] Our clients already love our model and approach, but we were like a best-kept secret. Suddenly, hundreds and thousands of businesses will hear about us and our unique approach. This is a game changer for us.
What is going on at Source Legal? Are there any new programs or initiatives?
There is a huge amount going on now.
For example, we have recently rolled out our free one-page contracts at 1pagecontracts.com.au. To put it bluntly, we are ‘cutting the crap out of contracts’, so that businesses can actually understand them and not be intimidated by unnecessary legalese. We will be expanding them in 2018.
We have a subscription service for start-ups and micro businesses at sourcelegalonline.com.au where we offer unlimited legal support for a very small monthly fee. We already have plans to expand in this space. For example, we are planning to establish a legal academy for start-ups and SMEs offering free legal workshops, and, in partnership with other businesses, providing a broader range of business training. We’ve got international ties in the start-up space, particularly in Israel and Singapore, which both have really exciting start-up sectors – so that means we’ve got a huge amount of experience and insight that we’re keen to share.
What are you doing to grow the business?
We are pursuing many growth initiatives, such as partnering with other professional service providers to expand our reach, so that an increasing number of SMEs can access high quality legal support at the affordable value-based price that we offer. We are ramping up our marketing, PR and social media presence.
The bigger picture for me, of course, in the wake of the recent award is to consider our overall growth strategy. This award is a testament to the strength and robustness of our business model. It is now a question of how best to tap into the broader market and with what resources. I feel that now is the right time to consider strategic investments or partnerships.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing the legal industry this year, both in Australia and beyond? How is Source Legal facing these challenges?
I think many people would answer this question by pointing to the current technological revolution – for example, artificial intelligence – that promises to disrupt and fundamentally change the legal industry, and all industries for that matter.
However, my answer is a bit different. I think the real issue is that the legal industry is disconnected from real business. This is evident in many ways. For example, lawyers continue to produce highly complex and lengthy contracts that are beyond the comprehension of most business people. Most lawyers continue to charge by the hour while businesses really want to pay for the value of the service they get, i.e. a piece of timely advice, a contract, or a resolved dispute. I think the most pressing issue the legal industry is facing is the question of how to bridge the gulf that exists between what lawyers do and what businesses need.
What is/are the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I was ever given was always to go an extra mile. Just when you think you have done your best, do a bit more.
This is the advice I would offer to young lawyers. This ‘extra mile’ will be noticed by their clients and employers and will pave the way to success.
What is your advice to lawyers looking to transition to a new career path, such as joining a NewLaw firm like yours?
I find that I like the term NewLaw less and less these days. What drives us is much more down to earth than this buzzword might suggest; quite simply, we work hard to provide amazing service to our clients at a price that reflects the value of the service to them and that they, as a result, are genuinely happy to pay. The lawyers we want to join us are those who share this mindset and want to work in a flexible, entrepreneurial and creative environment.
Also my advice for lawyers looking to transition to a firm like ours is to try setting up and running their own business or side project. Deep legal expertise coupled with an understanding of what makes businesses tick creates a whole new mindset that’s very useful in practising law.