Guest: Judy Swan
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Judy Swan is an experienced lawyer, notary public and mediator with an impressive legal background of over 30 years. She is currently the Principal at Swan Lawyers, an innovative start up law firm. Judy worked as a Special Counsel practising as a generalist, served a 16 year stint as General Counsel focusing on Employment Law related matters and has worked at Ord Minnett NZ Ltd. Judy has developed a keen interest in Family Law, Commercial Litigation, Employment Law, Commercial Law and helping start-up companies. She is a skilled advocate in any Criminal Law jurisdiction. Judy is well versed in the intricate nature of human behaviour and uses her champion negotiation skills to navigate the most complex of cases. Judy speaks several languages, including English, Afrikaans, German, some French which assists her in understanding cultural nuances. Judy feels that law has become unreachable to most which makes Swan Lawyers so important to her.
Segment overview: Joining us in this program is Judy Swan. Judy is the Principal at Swan Lawyers, an innovative start up law firm based in Sydney, Australia. She talks about the areas of focus of Swan Lawyers, how they are different from other law firms, and who their ideal clients are. She also shares her insights on the possible effects on small local businesses as Amazon and eBay establishes their physical warehouses in Australia.
Transcript – TBU
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Business Radio Talkers FM. My name is Wayne Bucklar and joining me today in conversation is Judy Swan. Judy is a Principal Solicitor, Notary Public, Mediator from Swan Lawyers in Sydney. Judy welcome to the program.
Judy Swan: Thank You Wayne.
Wayne Bucklar: Now Judy, I’ve been looking at your website and I noticed amongst other things that you speak multiple languages and that you’ve got a plethora of experience. Tell me, what is it that Swan Lawyers do that leads you to say “We’re different?”
Judy Swan: Well, as you said I have had a lot of experience in law in both as an in-house counsel and as a practitioner, and as a barrister, and a solicitor. I have come to law as a consequence of life changes. So I was in law to start with and worked as an in-house counsel for a while. I came back into private practice as a consequence of life changes. I was lucky to have a fallback but what happened is, because of those life changes, I realised what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence – not to have access to the law, or not to be able to afford lawyers, or to find lawyers extremely expensive, or to find lawyers out of reach to the person in the street and so that’s what makes us different. The fact that we practise what you call “therapeutic jurisprudence.” We have empathy for people. We listen to their problems. We try to help people as best we can. We give advice to people if they can afford a lawyer and send them in the right direction. If they can’t afford a lawyer, we try to arrange fixed price contracts with them which is within their budget so that really does make us different. We also have an ambit of other experiences. So for example, I’ve been in business. I’m able to draft contracts, shareholder agreements and resolve commercial disputes because I’ve had that experience for 30 years, where every day there is a dispute that which can be resolved. If it’s not worth $500,000, it’s better to sort it out because legal costs are exorbitant and access to the law is almost impossible for people without a big back pocket or companies without big back pockets.
Wayne Bucklar: And Judy you’re based in Sydney?
Judy Swan: That’s correct.
Wayne Bucklar: And the nature of what you do makes it a reasonably local practice?
Judy Swan: Not really. I go to Melbourne quite a lot. I haven’t been to Brisbane, but I have been to other parts of Australia. It’s more a question of the networking, comments, word-of-mouth and somehow I’ve always discovered that people talk to each other whether it’s through internet, or whether it’s through social media, or whether it’s through the telephone. It doesn’t matter, they seem to track you down from all parts of Australia. So if you have a specific specialty, they’ll find you. If you have a specific ear, they’ll want you to hear them.
Wayne Bucklar: And Judy in this series, we’ve been talking to people about eBay and Amazon in particular, setting up their physical warehouses in Australia. Do you find that the internet and electronic business has much impact on the way you do business or the way it impacts on your clients?
Judy Swan: Look, I think the internet is a marvelous tool. And I think social media is a marvelous tool, provided you can use it properly. I think one of the biggest problems with social media is people don’t realise that once it’s up, it’s up forever. And a lot of people weren’t properly educated in terms of how to write a letter. It was a period of time where there in English there was little focus on language and the use of language was not as specific as it is probably today. And so people will put things on social media without even realising the consequences and I’ve done that too. So it’s not as if I’m saying you’re stupid and I’m not stupid, everybody does it. And we have to be mindful of that and mindful of the consequences of putting things on the internet. But I do believe that it has a very valuable role to play for people and I just don’t think lawyers have got it together yet to actually know how to use social media or the internet. And partly because they’re too busy, the good ones. And partly, the bad ones aren’t busy enough and really aren’t busy enough because they’re not good enough. So for my ideal world, there would be to actually be able to create a platform for people that can then communicate online where there can be precedents given to them so that they can draft their own documents or an interactive platform for them to actually be able to do whatever they can to save a lot of money on legal cost because a lot of the procedural matters or procedural items are quite difficult to understand even for a lawyer. There are so many forms to fill in and how to actually work the forms are difficult. And if we could just make it simple for people, it would be so useful. So that’s ideally what I’d like to do in the future, is to build an interactive platform. There are some available, I know for example there is the alternative dispute resolution platform which is being run by Professor Patrick Parkinson in commercial arbitrations in the Family Court. But whether it’s being used or not I don’t know because people still want to have the face-to-face contact with their lawyers that they can feel comforted. And that’s one of the issues that is going to be difficult to transport legal services onto the social media platforms. I don’t know if I’ve answered your question, but I’ve sort of specified it to law. If you’re asking me in terms of what Amazon and everything else is concerned, look I feel very sorry for people in Australia in terms of the retailers and so forth because of the struggle is trying to make money in Australia as it is because of all the high wages and the on-cost for employers in terms of hiring people. And there’s lots of tax relief in terms of profit and so forth but there’s not much tax relief in terms of employment. I mean people need to earn their living so I’m not discounting the fact that wages need to be high but the real problem with employment in Australia is that if you’re a large organisation, you have to pay payroll tax which is an archaic tax. And then if you’ve got all these other taxes that there is so much compliance and so many regulations, it is becoming quite difficult to operate a business face-to-face with a customer. And customers tend to also then use the internet a lot to shop, because it’s cheaper. So while I’m not in favour of regulations and so forth, I do have a lot of sympathy for my small business owner/operators and realise that a lot of them are actually not doing as well as they should be. And the Amazon and all of that will have a massive impact on them. I mean Amazon had a massive impact on book shops, very beautiful book shops which were places where people could take their children to browse through books whether they’ve purchased the books or not. It sort of swallowed that up. But I mean, I guess, we just have to keep up with the times. We can’t really stop it. I mean we’re not China, we can’t say ‘Forget it, you’re not allowed to come in here because we are protecting’. I mean that’s an not a legal question, it’s a protective question and I’m not necessarily a protective person.
Wayne Bucklar: I’ve been in conversation today with Judy Swan of Swan Lawyers. Judy, who is the kind of ideal client? Who is it who reaches out to you looking for your legal services?
Judy Swan: That’s a very, very difficult question because my ideal clients are the people that listen. It sounds crazy, listen to advice and don’t try and tell you what you should do and even though you tell them “I’m giving you advice not to do that. Do this.” They say “I’m instructing you.” So that’s very difficult. My ideal clients are people who want to help and who you can help. My ideal clients are people that I can stay in touch with after I finished working for them because they are decent human beings and then I want to be friends with them. Now that sounds incredibly silly for a business operated law firm, but you asked me that question. Obviously the ideal client is the one that pays. But I think that I work, I try to keep my overheads as low as possible. So obviously I worry about financial considerations because I’ve got to feed children and so forth. But in terms of ideal clients, the ones who actually you interact with and they’re grateful afterwards and you feel like you’ve done the best for them, because they’ve allowed you to use your tools and resources to the best of your ability.
Wayne Bucklar: Well Judy for people who do want to get in touch with you, how’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Judy Swan: I think always email email@example.com. I use Facebook quite a bit in terms of Facebook Messenger because that’s a way of keeping in touch with people that you’ve been in touch with in the past. Obviously you can phone, there’s a mobile phone 0414 341 317 and that which is always easier or message. Messenger, I’m not so great at text messages. Phone, Facebook or email are probably the best. It’s just a matter of dropping me a line and asking me a few questions. I’ll send you a response as soon as I can and try as best I can to possibly and able in directing you. Often people come and ask you about something, they there are the Ombudsmen available. You know the Ombudsman. So people financial services Ombudsman are excellent. So if they ask you a question, I can send small business concerns can go to Ombudsman. There is ASIC and there is the ACCC. There’s a whole lot of places that people can go instead of going to lawyers. And that’s where I try to direct people. Or in case of family law disputes, they can be mediated. They can be arbitrated. There’s no need to actually go to the expense of having to engage in a massive fight. Those are only the really last resort cases. So I’m happy to help people in terms of trying to direct them to the right place and to give them advice if I can. If I can’t, I often refer out to other people. I have a network of other lawyers that I work with and that seems to work quite well because it means that you’re able to direct people in the right. I do employment law which is something that your business people would be interested in. I appear in the Fair Work Commission quite a lot. But again, I prefer to resolve commercial disputes.
Wayne Bucklar: Judy Swan of Swan Lawyers, Principal Solicitor, Notary Public and Mediator. Thank you for sharing your time with us today.
Judy Swan: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Wayne Bucklar: If you missed that website, it was www.swanlawyers.com.au. And if you joined us late and missed my conversation, we have an audio archive on our website and on SoundCloud. We also have a transcript of the interview on our website. You can find all those resources at www.talkers.fm.