Pub­li­ca­tions

Inno­va­tion it’s in our DNA 

I always remem­ber our founder, the late Fred Swaab, talk­ing about being at the bleed­ing edge.

He was a man who looked ahead to the next step, always chal­leng­ing him­self, and those along­side him, to find bet­ter ways to do things.

Fred want­ed to be right out in front – at that bleed­ing edge – where you dare to explore new ideas, where you ask the ques­tions and push the bound­aries, and where inno­va­tion is always the driver.

Fred was not afraid to do things dif­fer­ent­ly in law – in such a con­ser­v­a­tive indus­try he stood out from the crowd.

His phi­los­o­phy under­pins every­thing I do in my priv­i­leged posi­tion as Man­ag­ing Part­ner of Swaab Attor­neys.

My approach to inno­va­tion at every lev­el here at Swaab, means hav­ing an open mind to try new things and see things differently.

It appears to be work­ing well — as Fred may have envis­aged – evi­denced by the fact that the firm con­tin­ues to suc­ceed and grow.

We keep broad­en­ing the Swaab sphere of influ­ence. We spend time with peo­ple who are not lawyers, because I know the val­ue of lis­ten­ing to and work­ing with peo­ple from a broad range of industries. 

There is so much to learn and it changes our think­ing. I find that we stop think­ing like tra­di­tion­al lawyers and, while we work inside the legal frame­work, we are bet­ter able to put our­selves in our clients’ shoes and see things from their perspective.

For exam­ple, we work with a range of start-ups and SMEs who are inno­va­tors and entre­pre­neurs. Or, high net worth indi­vid­u­als, and fam­i­ly offices and busi­ness­es — peo­ple who put ideas into action and have achieved suc­cess because of their abil­i­ty to think differently.

We work with peo­ple who have the courage of their con­vic­tions — peo­ple who get things done.


Our focus on inno­va­tion is sig­nif­i­cant because my tenure has come at a time of pro­found change due to the dis­rup­tive forces affect­ing our clients and our profession.

To stay at the bleed­ing edge, I recent­ly com­mis­sioned the Swaab Inno­va­tion Ini­tia­tive.

It involves four key stages:

The first stage involves immer­sion in the inno­va­tion and entre­pre­neur­ship ecosys­tem.

For almost a year, we have been:

The sec­ond stage involves broad­en­ing the skills of our people 

We have craft­ed a pro­gram that expos­es our peo­ple to what’s hap­pen­ing in the inno­va­tion and entre­pre­neur­ship ecosys­tem, bring­ing them face to face with peo­ple dri­ving change.

We have already heard from Anne-Marie Elias and worked with Sandy Plun­kett and David Uren, Gavin Heaton and Joanne Jacobs. This after­noon, we will be joined by John Dob­bin who has pro­vid­ed assis­tance to Urban Growth in plan­ning the White Bay Inno­va­tion Precinct.

In the com­ing weeks we will hear from Paul Shetler (DTO), Liz Jakubowk­si (Data61), Bel John­son (Uber), Mon­i­ca Wulff (Star­tup­Muster), Alex Scan­dur­ra (Stone & Chalk), Kate Car­ruthers and (UNSW) and James Mab­bott (KPMG).

The third stage involves sup­port­ing the efforts of our clients

We have designed a pro­gram that includes the:

  • Client Sto­ries ini­tia­tive – where we share the sto­ries of suc­cess from across our client base with those who want to learn from their expe­ri­ence. We pro­filed the sto­ry of Paul Chan from Pure­pro­file and Mark Nagle from Treysta Wealth Man­age­ment to the com­mu­ni­ty at Stone & Chalk.
  • Pitch Series where Star­tups will pitch their busi­ness to an audi­ence of poten­tial cus­tomers and investors
  • Mar­ket­place pro­gram – where clients will hear from those who can help them move their busi­ness­es into the new economy
  • Export ini­tia­tive – where Star­tups and SMEs can learn how to grow their cus­tomer base off-shore, with a spe­cif­ic focus on coun­tries with whom Aus­tralia has signed FTAs.

The final stage involves being inno­v­a­tive ourselves

The year’s pro­gram will cul­mi­nate in a Design Chal­lenge @ Swaab. Our plan is to co-design solu­tions for spe­cif­ic chal­lenges iden­ti­fied by clients, our lawyers and staff. We will then pick solu­tions that we will incu­bate and deliv­er so that we can dri­ve bet­ter out­comes for our clients and our people.

As a Founder Firm, we are the embod­i­ment of what inno­va­tion and entre­pre­neur­ship can produce.


We lost Fred Swaab ear­li­er this year, but we will nev­er lose the appetite or the inspi­ra­tion for innovation.