Starting a Legal Practice in Israel
Hebrew: הקמת משרד עורכי דין בישראל
If you're planning on setting up a business in Israel, it is important to understand the system and learn from other people's experience. These interviews are designed to give you some insight into the process and requirements of the profession. This is an interview with Michal Tsarfati.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Michal Tsarfati, I am a lawyer and specialize in commercial law including real estate, labour law and contracts. My parents are Anglos, but I was born and educated in Israel. I have a B.A LLB from the Netanya Academic College as well as practical business experience. I worked for a number of years as an associate in a large law office and I have also worked in the insurance business.
Do you need to know Hebrew in your profession?
In some professions in Israel, you can get by without knowing Hebrew. But in the legal field you have to know Hebrew. I am fluent in both Hebrew and English and so, naturally, my clients are both Hebrew and English speakers. As a lawyer with fluent Hebrew and English skills and an understanding of the needs of the Anglo-saxon community, I have a unique and marketable skill.
How did you go about setting up your business?
I did not really need to do any market research when I went out on my own. I had years of work experience already and knew exactly what niche I would fit into. I knew after years of working and commercial experience, that with my language skills, there was a demand and necessity for someone like me. There are other lawyers out there who speak English and Hebrew, but I don't feel like I am in direct competition with them. Being an Israeli with strong Anglo-Saxon roots creates a “comfort zone” for English speaking clients.
I had a business plan before I went out on my own and it took me a few months to set everything in place. There were a lot of things that needed to be taken care of and this all took time.
Fortunately, I had sufficient capital to start my business and I did not have to take out any loans.
What kind of running expenses do you have in your business?
My office is in Petach Tikva and obviously there are certain expenses involved in that. There are some professions you can work out of home in Israel, but lawyers have to have offices.
Do you have any employees?
I did not need any employees to start up and so I did not have those additional expense as well. I have a partner in my business. As a lawyer it is important to have back up as well as other lawyers to consult with.
Many new immigrants going into business for the first time in Israel, do not fully understand the Israeli tax system, do you think it is important to have an Anglo accountant?
My accountant is an Israeli. I am an Israeli. I have a good knowledge and understanding of the Israeli tax system so I have not had any real surprises along the way. It is always good to have an accountant who is patient and can answer your questions if you are not very familiar with Israeli tax laws.
Do you actively market your business?
I have to market and advertise my business to a certain extent. I make use of social media, selected publications and contact groups and not forgetting word of mouth. The younger generation do all their research on the internet and so today you have to have a website if you want to be in the game. My website will be up soon. Of course, there is a lot I need to learn about that.
If your business were to fail, what would I do?
Failure is not an option.
After all these years, if you had a choice, would you still choose to be self-employed?
Knowing what I know now about the profession, if I had my time over once more, I would choose the same path and do it all over again.
Any tips and advice?
My advice to anyone wanting to set up an independent legal practice in Israel; don’t rush into it. Make sure that you are fully prepared financially and emotionally. Work with good and reliable professionals to guide you on the road.
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