If you put out a call for the proudest parents on the planet, surely the mother and late father of Adam Kossak would be near the head of the line. Because Kossak is the son who grew up to qualify as both a lawyer and a doctor. And then he turned his attention to running his own vineyard too. So is he a huge overachiever or just easily distracted? Neither, it turns out.
He merely has a predilection for spotting opportunities and following the ones that interest him wherever they may lead. And if they feed into a developing vision, so much the better.
Born and bred near Fort Lauderdale in south Florida, Kossak’s first great love was volleyball. At the University of Florida he took a double major in economics and history with a view to teaching and becoming a volleyball coach. But those plans were derailed by history, when the unrest linked to the acquittals in the notorious Rodney King police brutality case resulted in school closures and a jobless Kossak.
Returning to study while considering his future, Kossak applied to law school without much understanding of the discipline, but knowing there would be plenty of reading, which he loved.
The law suited him well, particularly the structured thinking and way of approaching legal problems. On graduation, he didn’t join a law firm, but took a more non-traditional route with in-house counsel roles at computer software companies. A strong interest in transactional law led to being sponsored to get his MBA, while he also began to travel internationally, often to Australia.
Loving the country and its lifestyle, he eventually made the move down under, where a strong professional relationship with Herbert Smith Freehills partner Lesley Sutton helped him get a foothold in the legal industry here – first with Gilbert and Tobin and later with Herbert Smith Freehills itself.
While working in law he made another radical career change when a client offered him a new position. Joining TrakHealth (now merged into Intersystems) marked a segue into the medical industry, which was compounded by his father receiving a cancer diagnosis and Kossak’s reappraisal of his career. “I’d worked or studied non-stop and I needed to shake up my life a bit,” he says. “So, because I was working around doctors a lot in the health software sector, I thought I’d like to understand that more.”
Some people might watch a few YouTube videos or read up on a topic. Not Kossak. He applied to medical school and was accepted. He admits that his career trajectory could look somewhat random from the outside and notes that his family once made a map of his career featuring a long and winding road, as a joke. “But to me there’s a through line, which is really pursuing things that interest me,” he says.
Without a science background, he found medical school understandably challenging at first, but again the structured thinking approach meant things soon fell into place.
And he still managed to work casually at Herbert Smith Freehills. Sutton had introduced him to Perth-based partner Tony Joyner and, for the next three years, between clinical shifts, he would go into the Perth office one day a week and work on projects. During his summer breaks he would do the same in the Sydney office. Some of the most useful learnings from this period, he says, relate to the work he did for clients, preparing deep dives into topics and presenting them. “It gave me something to put my teeth into,” he says.
His software transaction work had an emphasis on US revenue recognition rules, a topical issue at the time, while he also worked with the marketing teams developing materials aimed at health industry clients and potential clients. Additionally, he developed a series of internal ‘lunch and learn’ sessions on topics related to software contracting.
Meanwhile he was still completing his medical studies. After training in Perth, he completed his Honours research in Toronto, leaning towards children and neonates for both work and research.
Eventually though, he came to yet another crossroads. To continue full-time in medicine would require the long haul of speciality training, when what he really craved was a level of autonomy. He returned to the software industry working for WiseTech Global, but eventually decided the time was right to realise a long held pipe dream that had been developed during his overseas travels. “This little idea that lived in the back of my head for a long time was that one day I could own a vineyard,” he says. “I knew I could make great wine because I’ve tasted thousands of wines and been to hundreds of vineyards.”
That little voice in his head grew louder and louder until he could no longer ignore it. At the beginning of 2017 he settled on a property in the Hunter Valley and Adam’s Leap was born. The name is self explanatory.
He now spends half a week in his boutique vineyard as a one-man band, managing the business, selling at the cellar door and producing around 800 dozen bottles a year. The other half of his week is spent in Sydney sitting on boards of early stage software companies and doing clinical work once a month to keep his skills up.
It’s been an extraordinary journey to here, but the challenges of new horizons and COVID notwithstanding, Kossak is clearly extremely happy he took the plunge. He says that his experiences in law, medicine and business are all part of the mosaic. “They’ve helped phenomenally. Obviously being a lawyer brings some practical skills – how to read a contract or research things and find out the rules. But also the structured thinking in terms of where do I want to get to and what’s the best path to get there? It’s all problem solving.”
Each of his wines comes with a name and a story attached. He loves to recount these stories at the cellar door and says his fondness for this has surprised him. “I have more introverted tendencies, I always thought I’d be the mad scientist in the back, but the enthusiasm and joyfulness of sharing those stories is really one of the things I enjoy most about it.”
But above all he says he finally understands the concept of an entrepreneur’s vision. “When it’s genuine, it’s really something unique,” explains Kossak. “And that’s how my wine journey was born. It was born out of that vision.”
And his experiences are yet more proof positive that legal training and a career in the law really can take you anywhere…
Adam would generously like to offer HSF alumni the following discounts:
15% discount off of all wines. When ordering from website use coupon code HSF22
10% discount off of all accommodation stays at Ghost Rider’s Lodge at Adam’s Leap Wines. Contact Adam directly prior to booking ([email protected] or (+61 (0) 409 664 983)
Complimentary private wine tastings at the Adam’s Leap Wines cellar door (by booking) ([email protected] or ( +61 (0) 409 664 983)