By Rochelle Maruch Miller
It is not surprising that Jeremy Lustman has been described as the start-up nation’s “ultimate matchmaker.” An attorney at DLA Piper, the renowned global law firm that works with many Israeli companies and their investors, he has filled many job openings, helped job-seekers with positions, introduced many acquisition target and investment opportunities to potential investors, and opened doors for many of his clients to resource internationally for business growth.
In this interview with the 5TJT, Mr. Lustman, who has the attention and respect of CEOs and the most powerful corporate executives, discusses a variety of compelling topics.
Rochelle Maruch Miller: Jeremy, please tell us about yourself.
Jeremy Lustman: I grew up in Baltimore–my family still lives there–and spent two years in Israel, post-high-school, studying at Sha’alvim. I graduated from Yeshiva University in 1996 and from Georgetown University Law Center in 2000. From 1997 through 2009, we lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is where my wife grew up.
RMM: What inspired you and your family to make aliyah?
JL: We had been thinking about it for many years. Our decision was based on a combination of many close friends coming before us, and seeing that it was achievable. Both my wife and I had studied here post-high-school and felt connected to the country. This is where we came for vacations when we were able to save up for it. And seeing that professional opportunities were growing–more Anglo doctors, lawyers, and investors were finding local jobs or finding ways to make it work with companies abroad.
RMM: How have you and your family acclimated to living in Israel?
JL: Thank Gâ€‘d, well. Any time you pick up and move from a community where you are comfortable and active to somewhere brand-new is incredibly challenging, especially in a new country. And there certainly have been bumps along the road, especially in the beginning. But we generally managed to meet expectations well, such that little came as a surprise. It was helpful to seek guidance from friends and those who paved the path of aliyah before us, and overall, everyone is doing well. We are in a community that we love, each of our kids is in a strong school that caters to their individual needs, and our collective social spheres are strong. The hardest part is being away from close family (all of our parents and siblings live in the United States), but we do whatever we can to be together. Relatives visit frequently, we try to go back to the U.S. as a family for a block of time in the summer, for s’machot, etc.
RMM: What makes DLA Piper unique?
JL: We are one of the largest firms in the world, with 4,500 lawyers in more than 70 cities in over 40 countries. We have a strong reputation as a top global firm, but work locally across many different markets around the world and provide an effective one-stop solution for our clients. They know they can call with a wide range of projects, and have the comfort that we handle all of them–from opening a subsidiary in Australia to hiring an employee in Germany, to acquiring a company in the United States to buying a piece of real estate in the UK, to signing a big commercial deal in Spain to needing regulatory guidance in Hong Kong. The diversity is incredible. We are an entrepreneurial firm. We try to do things that make us relevant to our clients, even during those times when they haven’t called us for a legal project, including business introductions, help in identifying potential investors, educating them about new markets, etc.
RMM: Jeremy, you’ve been called the start-up nation’s “ultimate matchmaker.” Please tell us about it.
JL: Because the Israeli system is so robust, but at the same time intimate and close-knit, there is a unique ability to meet and become well-acquainted with many companies, investors, and service providers who are located within a short distance. Instead of six degrees of separation, there are only two. You know quickly if someone deems you less relevant to their company (and Israelis are not shy to let you know that!), but the flip side is that if they deem you relevant, they open doors much quicker, introductions are made at a much more rapid pace, and you can act on those relationships in a much more proactive manner.
In the United States, if an investor introduces me to a great company in Florida and I am in DC, I often have to delay meeting them and having a meaningful conversation until I can arrange to be down there in the coming weeks. But in Israel, if I am told to meet someone in Jerusalem or Hertzliya, I can be there tomorrow for coffee. It makes a big difference. Also, because our geographic presence is so robust and diverse, we are involved in many more international ecosystems than most other companies. So when someone in Israel calls us that they are looking to grow in the Hong Kong market, would like some exposure to potential Indian investors, or would like to better understand the dynamics of setting up a subsidiary in Seattle, we can open doors for them and help address their issues.
I spend a lot of time meeting with companies, investors, and service providers within the country, but also travel a great deal, trying to build bridges and opportunities for collaboration between Israel and any international market where we have presence.
I have been with this firm for over 12 years. I know our resources and my colleagues well, and everyone has incentives to grow
RMM: What are some of the challenges you face?
JL: Working across many different time zones on behalf of our clients makes the day much longer and prioritizing tasks much more challenging. I make many calls late at night with both the U.S. and Asia PAC and am up early to keep current on e-mails. On most days, I have several meetings and spend a lot of time on the road. I’m hardly away from my family for more than a few days at a time, but my work requires me to be on a plane frequently. There are certain language barriers as well. I want to be more fluent; fortunately, that has gotten easier over time.
RMM: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
JL: I love working with a diverse group of clients, developing so many close-knit relationships and knowing that every day will be different than the day before. We are intersecting with so many different sectors, types of projects, and geographics that no two days are the same. It’s also gratifying to know that we can consistently answer our clients favorably and incredibly professionally wherever in the world they require some assistance. They appreciate it, knowing we have become more relevant to their day-to-day aspects in running their company. There are so many opportunities that we have to connect dots between people, personally and professionally.
RMM: Jeremy, what is your message to our readers?
JL: Never underestimate how your relationships can help other people.
On a personal note, Israel has become so much more attractive, achievable, and less intimidating for Anglo families considering aliyah. No one size fits all and there are many possible ways of enabling a positive integration for families looking to make a move.Â v
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist and creative-media consultant who writes for many magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She can be contacted at Rochellemiller04@aol.com.