A year back, when we were launching our new office in Lviv, we did believe in what we were doing. We’ve managed to succeed in some of our projects and keep working on the rest of them. Lida Klymkiv, Yuriy Kornaga, and Orest Gavryliak were our pioneers in Lviv. Now we’ve got four more people on our team, our own office space with a terrarium where we keep our partner Yura, and our own coffee maker. However, it’s hard to get rid of this feeling that our guys found Pablo Escobar’s stash he had somehow hidden in Lviv. You don’t buy it, do you? Read the interview our guys gave to Yurydychna Gazeta and look at those faces. Why do they seem so happy? What is that our Orest Gavryliak and Jeff Bezos have in common? And why should anybody shop for a three-piece suit?
– So, Lida, Orest, and Yura, hi there, guys! Tell us your stories. How did Axon come your way?
Orest: Back when I was a kid, I used to spend summer holidays at my grandparents’ place not far from Sambir (Lviv region, Ukraine). I remember riding in the back seat of my grandpa’s ancient made in the USSR motorbike with my grandma sitting in the side-car and smoking cigarettes all the way.
I hated the smell and I loved mathematics plus I knew all about biological oxidation of energy-containing substances and generation of energy in humans.
I did the math and told my grams that smoking had probably taken away some 9 years of her life. I thought I would get credit for my intelligence and profound knowledge of biology, but my granny suddenly burst into tears. I didn’t know what to do. My grandpa stopped the bike. “Being good to people is harder than being smart. You’ll eventually get that”, he said.
And when I was 26, I saw Axon in one of my dreams.
Lida: Back in 2015, right after Den Beregovyi and Misha Pergamenshik (a legendary man who doesn’t work with us anymore because he switched to java development) interviewed me for an associate position, some guy with a profile pic of Karlsson-on-the-Roof sent me a friend request on Facebook. I didn’t really know who that was back then, so I googled the guy and realized it was our CEO Dima Gadomsky.
While I was waiting for their response, I felt that something was going to change and I was going to start a new chapter in my life. They offered me a job and I became part of the team. So, that’s how it happened.
Yura: Orest is good to people and I am smart. While he was dreaming about Axon, I was doing some market research trying to find a law firm like Axon. We thought it was time to start something new. And well, the way they worked was just what we wanted.
After I’d finished my research, I realized that there was no need to reinvent the wheel. We decided we should join a law firm that already existed and was just perfect for us. We had been discussing our merger for several months and eventually joined Axon in late 2016. For me it was like, “Finally! I am home!”
– It’s been a year since the launch of your office in Lviv. So, we want to hear all about your ups and downs.
Lida: There are a lot of good things, such as our freakolawyering weekends and stuff like that. We were named the №1 law firm in IT, we launched our office in Lviv, which, for sure, was a new start for Axon Partners. Besides, there are our amazing and brilliant legal tech projects. We were part of great legal tech projects. In addition, we had our online video meetups live streamed on YouTube about some exciting stuff in IT law. How many other law firms in Ukraine do anything like that? Zero! Besides, there were a lot of big and small legal battles we won for our clients. Speaking about bad things… humph, I don’t know. I do have to deal with lots of issues every day, but right now I can’t think of anything that our team couldn’t handle. It’s our great sense of humor and our motivation that help us do an outstanding job. We want to improve our planning, but we don’t really have time for stuff like that. That’s not a good thing, I guess. But we’re working on it.
Orest: Pros: we get to know and work with really cool people. Cons: I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad, but I haven’t noticed any macro negative trends in Axon’s life. Maybe that’s because we’re always wrapped up in our work.
Yura: The day we launched our office in Lviv was a great event itself. We invited Yaroslav Grytsak with his one-of-a-kind vision of the future and he spent an hour talking about how long and miserable our life was and that we were going to die eventually and it would be better if it happened sooner rather than later.
While in law school, we had forensic medicine class in a morgue twice a week. Sure enough, I wasn’t exactly happy to see all those dead bodies and feel that awful smell. However, it helped me realize that before I get to lay on one of those tables, all that mattered was what I was doing and what it felt like. I would call this experience kind of antimediocre (something like Antifragile by Nassim Taleb). However, law school students do not do this morgue thing anymore. Unfortunately.
Speaking about bad things, it’s hard to tell right now. One Monday morning I overcooked my burger. It was a failure and I was hungry until I finally had my lunch. I can’t think of any other bad thing right now. We are a young and unique company, so every mistake we make is a greater asset than hundreds of business books.
– What’s the role of your Lviv office in the context of IT industry development?
Orest: Yura won’t let me speak.
Lida: It’s the Petri dish of the Ukrainian IT industry.
Yura: I hope that for Ukrainian IT, it’s Palo Alto. I think that in this case, trends are more important than any legacy. Palo Alto is like Lewis Carrol’s Alice, where it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place, and if you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast. That’s how real life looks like. And I’m being realistic. Let’s say, I’m a realistic optimist.
According to Lviv IT Cluster research, out of the million people living in Lviv, every 17th employable person worked in the IT industry in 2016. Not necessarily as a developer. However, the local IT industry generates quite a lot of jobs for people from other professions, including lawyers. It is the employment statistics bright-spot in Ukraine.
The question is, how should its structure look like? It should be outsourcing, occasional outstaffing, and sometimes R&D. Let’s not talk about product companies. They do exist, but most of them are startups for now. They are not businesses with high added value, even though IT product companies should actually be like that.
These industry-specific statistics are true not only for Lviv, but for the entire country. However, the latest trends show some quantitative and qualitative growth when it comes to product startups. I guess, in a couple of years or even sooner than that, we’ll hear a real success story with capital growth amounting to billions. I hope we’re going to help this happen.
– It’s no secret that to be a successful lawyer (or a law firm), you should have a deep insight into your clients’ business and know what they really need. What is that your clients need?
Orest: Our clients want their lawyers to know what’s a Blockchain protocol, how to draft a smart contract and how to tell the difference between the latter and a usual contract. They think it would be great if lawyers could/would want to draft a SAFT in the middle of the night, do a KYC compliance check because FinCEN has just called, or recite some verses from the Koran via Skype.
Lida: It depends on the client. Some people want their situations to be dealt with in less than no time, some would say, “Take your time”, some don’t want to know what their lawyers do, while others like to keep in touch 24/7 and talk over every contract clause via Skype just because they want to be involved. Some clients would ask a million questions, some don’t ask questions at all. But all of them want the same thing — they want us to do our job well.
Yura: Lawyers should provide services, and it’s really sad when clients don’t actually get any. Clients want simple and legitimate solutions instead of some treaties full of obvious facts and disclaimers. We have clients who told us that some law firms offered them numerous solutions to certain problems but could not tell which one was better. Clients of such law firms don’t know what to do and have no time to verify those numerous solutions. They have two options here: either develop their technology very quickly and hit the market or continue playing games with their lawyers for weeks.
Our clients are advanced Google users, so they can find numerous solutions to their problems. Given the high aptitude for math most of them have, these solutions would be totally valid and legitimate. But time is money. We help them save their precious time. For this, you’ll get thanked and get paid.
– People often ask you about your plans for the future. But what would you do if you could change the past?
Orest: It’s very simple. I’d buy BTC and Apple shares. I’d invent a search engine and launch a marketplace for selling books online. Besides, I would not say ugly things to my grams.
Yura: This ВТС thing, it really hurts. When we launched our office in Lviv, Bitcoin was at USD 1,000. Now it’s USD 20,000. If I could turn back time, I’d send lots of vodka to Satoshi Nakamoto. He would hit the bottle and wouldn’t be able to build protocols for cryptocurrencies, so I would have no reason for regret. Besides, I wouldn’t ditch my English classes at school. I realized I was wrong and started catching up on it when I was 27.
Lida. I would join the Plast (Ukrainian scout organization). It’s the only thing I’m looking back at with any regret. When it comes to my profession, I guess I should have spent less time studying and started actually working while at a law school. However, I doubt that I would have managed it. Besides, there’s no point in looking back. So, I guess there’s really nothing I’d change.
– Tell us about your new projects and secret plans for the future?
Yura: Secret plans should be kept secret, right?
We’re definitely going to have more activities not only in Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa but also in other Ukrainian regions.
Besides, we’re planning on sending our partners abroad. But not into exile. Actually, we started doing it this year. Every year, our partners engaged in business development will spend a month in some other countries networking with local businesses and lawyers and taking part in pitching events. We’re trying to go global right from the very start.
Orest: I’d establish a digital jurisdiction and help to cut down on legal routines for businesses.
Lida: I’d become a GDPR officer, wear a hat and a whistle and advise my clients on how to process personal data properly.
– When in Rome, do as the Romans do. What is this old saying about? Does it apply to our legal industry?
Orest: Yes, it does, but I like this one better: If you pledge, don’t hedge.
Lida: It means you should spread your wings. I guess, it means you should respect the rules of a certain community. But if this community doesn’t want to hear you out and let you do what you think is right, you should leave this community, create one of your own and go somewhere you need to go. So, it means you have to spread your wings.
Yura: It sounds like some fifth columnism. It may be applied and is actually applied not only in our legal industry. But the question is, what’s in it for us? Nothing, I guess. We should look for likeminded people and take them on a trip to Rome.
– How much time do you spend working and how do you balance work and play?
Yura: When you’re sleeping, your brain is analyzing and cataloging information from before going to sleep. At times, you spend hours brainstorming but you still can’t solve a problem. You go to bed and then wake up with a ready-to-use solution. Or no solution. That’s a toss-up. Well, I like to think I’m working while sleeping.
Orest: Actually, it’s a secret. I did put my signature on an NDA.
Lida: I do work a lot, I have to. But I take it slow, so the data would not be accurate, with a deviation of 15. It’s hard to tell how much time I spend working. It depends.
– What are you really proud of in your work?
Lida: It’s that I don’t have to pretend anything and even when in Rome, I can do it my way if I want to.
Orest: I am proud to be part of a team of highly qualified professionals.
Yura: Yeah, that’s how we usually talk to each other.
— Yura, you’re such a highly qualified lawyer.
— Orest, you’re a real professional.
— Guys, that’s the way to go! (Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed).
My parents wonder when I’m going to find a real job, one where there’s no Internet. It’s a pity that industry in Ukraine isn’t in a good place right now and that I’m not really into farming.
– A couple of words to those who’ve decided to commit to a law?
Orest: Have an additional profession and a hobby. The latter is a must.
Lida: It’s very simple. You should know why exactly you do it. You should have a goal, believe in it, work for it, and be honest with yourself, your clients, and all people around you. Don’t commit to anything for no reason. Believe me, you don’t want to do it.
Yura: Go and see the Louvre and make a solemn oath on the Code of Hammurabi. Buy a couple of three-piece suits, since they will probably come in handy when you’ll be shooting your company promo. Try to improve your English whenever you have some free time before and after watching Suits so that you can watch it in English.