Cleveland State University recognized Cleveland-Marshall College of Law alumnus Steven Potash '78, President and CEO of OverDrive, as the college’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Potash received the honor at the October 6 awards ceremony, on the basis of his distinguished record of service, leadership and professional achievements as part of Homecoming Weekend.
Potash formed the idea for his company while attending C|M|LAW. OverDrive is now the leading worldwide digital platform for eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital media for libraries, schools, government agencies, corporate learning centers, and colleges and universities. In 2016, he was honored by the UJA-Federation of New York Publishing Division and in 2011 he received the first Ambassador Award from the publishing industry at BookExpo America. His wife Loree Potash (1979), daughter Erica Potash (2004) and son-in-law Anthony Lazzaro (2004) are graduates of C|M|LAW. Potash serves on the C|M|LAW Board of Visitors.
Alumni Spotlight: Steven Potash '78
Originially published in the 2014 C|M|LAW Stories Book
Steve Potash ’78 leveraged previous business experience when starting a successful law practice after graduating from Cleveland-Marshall. Years later, Potash leaned on business experience that had been furthered by operating his solo practice, to build an industry leader in an ever-evolving digital field.
“During the practice of law, I was highly motivated to be successful and generate revenue,” explained Potash. “That same level of drive is required from any successful business. A solo practice is a stepping stone for someone who really wants to be successful growing his or her practice, or for transferring into other business opportunities.”
Potash is the President and CEO of OverDrive, a company he founded in 1986. Under his leadership, OverDrive has become the world’s leading multichannel digital distributor, supplying a secure eBook-lending platform for thousands of libraries, schools and retailers worldwide. In 2013, OverDrive’s content included a selection of more than 1.8 million eBooks, audiobooks and other digital contents available in more than 64 languages.
The seeds for OverDrive, which is headquartered in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and employs over 200 people, were formed during Potash’s law practice. He found his client work was generating a considerable amount of paperwork, and that he needed a way to automate his documents. Using now obsolete 6”×8” large-format floppy discs, Potash digitized reference books and various legal forms.
Potash realized the software he developed would be useful to other practitioners, and eventually that the technology and software experience he had could be leveraged for book publishing. His first publishing deal was with West Publishing, for the digitization of law books. While he launched the software business, Potash continued to practice law for over a decade. Eventually, OverDrive grew to the point where he decided to transition out of private practice, but Potash stayed active with the Ohio State Bar Association until the last couple of years. Potash believes legal experience is helpful when running almost any business, and has been beneficial to OverDrive.
“The legal education I have is invaluable, and provides a level of experience that is a significant advantage for any business person,” said Potash. “They enhance the strategic evaluation of many of the transactions and deals that are part of the day-to-day operations of virtually any business.”