From the moment you shake hands with Travis Schultz, it is clear he is a man who doesn’t like to follow the crowd. His energy is palpable as he looks you directly in the eye. The vast palette of colour that dominates the artwork on his office walls is matched only by the man’s distinctive wardrobe. And he talks with fervour about ideas such as charity and affordable legal services for all, coining phrases like ‘social justice’ and ‘fair go’.
This wouldn’t be all that extraordinary, except Travis Schultz is a lawyer and a very good one at that, with plenty of awards to prove it. But spend a few minutes with him and you will soon learn he doesn’t like to behave like your typical attorney.
“I detest timesheets,” he says with a distaste only a lawyer who has worked in the trenches deserves to use. “I will never fill one out again and I will never ask my staff to complete one either.”
It’s unusual to hear a lawyer talk like this given the profession is often characterised by time being of the essence and an essential tool for knowing how to bill clients. But when Travis opened his boutique law firm, Travis Schultz Law, little over a year ago, he knew straight away he wouldn’t be pursuing a business model that mirrored how it has always been done.
“I knew very early in my career that I wanted to practice civil litigation including insurance, injury work and negligence cases. It felt like I was making a difference helping people who were in a tough spot due to no fault of their own,” he explains.
“So when the time came in my career to start up my own firm, creating a business with a focus on social justice rather than maximising profits was a natural choice for me.”
Travis Schultz Law (TSL) was launched on the Sunshine Coast in May 2018 with three lawyers and two support staff. Since then, the firm has more than tripled in size and has established a solid reputation in the community for providing cutting edge expertise, without the price tag.
This week, Mr Schultz presented in front of an interview panel as a finalist in the professional services category of the prestigious Sunshine Coast Business Awards and said it was a humbling experience to share the Travis Schultz Law story, the incredible team he has around him and the contribution they’ve been able to make to the community in more ways than one.
“We’ve created quite a unique point of difference in the market,” he said. “I’m not trying to be disruptive or anything like that and there are a lot of law firms who do great work within the profession and in their communities. All we’ve done is agreed on some not-so-typical ground rules and set ourselves a benchmark of committing 30 per cent of our resources to charitable causes that are important to us.”
“Obviously we need to do some paid legal work so we can be sustainable, but even when we do that, our philosophy focuses on providing a client-focused, low cost model,” he said.
Unlike other firms, TSL won’t charge uplift fees to cover their risks and they’ve decided that where outlays have to be paid to sustain a case, the firm pays them and doesn’t charge anything extra for doing so.
“We’ve also set a cap on costs in no win/no pay matters, ensuring our clients always receive the lion’s share of any settlement they get. It’s a very different way of servicing clients and our referrers tell us its much better,” Travis said.
“To be honest though, I’ve never had to introduce a cap. Our team are efficient and focussed on getting the job done for our clients and that has always resulted in an outcome before a cap on costs is required. It’s something we are proud of and proves you can deliver results for clients without a massive legal bill at the end.”
The low fee, social justice model appears to be working, with the unique approach attracting clients and lawyers alike. Practice manager, Kelly Phelps, was drawn to the firm for its community and client focus.
“I joined Travis Schultz Law because not only are our lawyers some of the best in Queensland, but they are genuinely nice people. It feels good to be part of a team that is committed to making a positive difference to the lives of our clients,” she said.
“I love it here because we really do put people first and profits second. And the fact that I get to work with a firm who do so much work for the community and local charities makes me proud to be part of the TSL team.”
Travis is involved in a range of boards and organisations. He’s currently on the board of the Queensland Law Society and Chair of the Queensland Law Society Governance Committee. He serves on the board of the Sunshine Coast Turf Club, the Board of the Lifeflight Foundation and is a Brand Ambassador for Coastline BMW. The Wishlist Spring Racing Gala and the Travis Schultz Winemakers’ Masterclass for SunnyKids are just a few of the charity organisations to benefit from the philanthropic approach of the firm. And for something to do in his spare time, he is also a wine writer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and Head Judge of the Restaurant of the Year Awards Program.
When asked what has been his greatest lesson during his first year in business, Travis is swift in his response.
“One of my favourite quotes comes from author Robert Collier when he said ‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out’, and that’s what I’ve been doing for years now,” he said.
“I’ve learnt that success is all about being happy and achieving what is important to you. We’re all different in what matters to us, but getting to the point where I can set up a social justice law firm like this one, is success to me. My team and I do our bit and it adds up over time,” he said.
And if he had one piece of advice for those venturing into business for the first time?
“Identify what is important to you, write your vision and those values down and never compromise on them. You might be surprised how a clear vision can help navigate you in those early months of getting started,” he said.
“I’m a huge fan of authors of change – people who can see a better way of doing something and who have the courage and creativity to make it happen. Those are the people who keep me focussed and set a benchmark that I may never actually meet but can certainly aspire to.”
“And don’t be afraid to stand out in a crowd,” he says with a grin.