Founder and director, Legalese
Eitan Stern has always loved the idea of how the law could be simultaneously certain and progressive. Motivated to study law by social justice issues in South Africa, his passion led his early career towards animal rights and consumer technology, but he finally found his professional comfort zone when he founded Legalese, a creative legal agency that redesigned the way commercial legal services were offered to musicians, creatives and start-ups — making the law accessible, understandable and affordable.
“The legal profession, with the fancy suits and complex legalese, just seemed inaccessible to those who needed it most, everyday South Africans — our entrepreneurs who have an idea and are throwing everything at it to bring it to life,” Stern says.
“What I noticed was that regular people and businesses needed lawyers but weren’t using them. Many SMMEs were relying on online legal tools, calling in favours or just ignoring their legal issues.” Stern, who started Legalese from his bedroom, explains that his biggest challenge was that there was no model to follow. “Because we service start-ups, I ran Legalese like a startup — we went where there was value, fought to get into each industry in which we work and put in long hours to keep our clients happy,” he says.
Forging a new path in an old profession comes with extra challenges, says Stern. “The price you pay to be a lawyer dressed in sneakers is that you can’t make mistakes — ever. If we were going to offer a new take on commercial law then we had to be better and more attentive than our competitors who had a lead of a few centuries on us.” Stern loves being a lawyer because so many of the world’s problems can be solved by using the law.
“The law can be used to fight corruption, uphold race or gender rights, and create a rule book for games with unequal playing fields,” he explains. “There is a power and authority in a legal solution which one struggles to find in just about anything else. Nature and fate are probably more powerful, but few of the world’s issues have been solved by, say, real estate agents.” One of the keys to the development of South Africa is the ability of our people to start businesses, create jobs, build solutions, develop culture and grow our economy. At Legalese we’re able to use the law to offer support to entrepreneurs and help turn their dreams into a practical, wellstructured reality. I love the law because of its power to get things done.”
— Kerry Haggard