I had a chance to catch up with Avaneesh Marwaha, CEO of Litera Microsystems earlier this week at LegalWeek18. Litera Microsystems is one of the larger document management service and technology providers with a range of products in this space. I first met Avaneesh at last year’s ILTA conference shortly after the Litera Microsystems merger which I wrote about in a piece for the Lawyerist. At that time, the CEO decision was up in the air although it seemed pretty obvious to me at least that Avaneesh was the likely choice.
Avaneesh is one of the more thoughtful technology leaders and I find him interesting to talk to about where things are and where they are going. His blog post earlier this year identified 5 key trends in legal technology: law firm differentiation, legal technology company consolidation, new legal technology work flows, AI and continue migration of legal in house. As you might expect Avaneesh is passionate about the new company and takes his job very seriously. He talks to dozens of law firms and in-house departments every uear and considers his responsibility to know and discuss with firms leaders what is going on in the marketplace very serisoulsy.
“Avaneesh identified 5 key trends in legal technology: law firm differentiation, legal technology company consolidation, new legal technology work flows, AI and continue migration of legal in house.”
He and I had the chance to chat in the Hilton bar on a snowy Tuesday of the Conference.
I asked Avaneesh about the concern that all this technology will reduce billable hours and eventually the number of lawyers. He disagreed with the first premise but accepted the second: Avaneesh thinks that while technology will reduce hours billed it will inevitability—and perhaps in the long run– lead to increased realization rates which will make the hours that are billed more profitable. But he agreed that while some lawyers will be more profitable many others will simply be out of work. This disruption will be cushioned, he thinks, by the availability of other jobs lawyers could perform. He noted for example that his company employs some 9 lawyers in jobs that didn’t exist before. And he thinks this trend will continue in the legal tech marketplace in general.
I asked Avaneesh about innovation in law firms and why it seems so slow. Avaneesh thought about this for a minute and then said he had concerns that the current law firm model-a partnership more and less governed by consensus—was a “tough” model for innovating. But he cautioned, it will happen: its happened to all other industries and in the end, law will be no different.
“The current law firm model-a partnership more and less governed by consensus—is a “tough” model for innovating.”
I asked him about all the recent mergers and acquisitions in legal tech. He told me that big players like LexisNexis and Westlaw clearly dominate because many other tech companies depend upon them for functionality. As a result, he thinks they will continue to grow and acquire others and aren’t likely to be challenged. He also thought providers like FastCase particularly in the research and guidance area, is poised to also become one the dominant players as well.
I also asked him about the future of LegalWeek and his company’s decision to not have a booth this year, which seems to be a general trend. He told me that LegalWeek was historically an eDiscovery show unlike, say ILTA, which he considers to be more of a sales and marketing show. As a result, he just didn’t think a booth at least at this time for Litera Microsystems not offer a good ROI. He told me he and Litera Microsystems’ President, Paul Domnick were both attending the conference and conducting meetings with various folks and scoping out the products being offered and demoed.
He did admit that LegalWeek was gradually moving away from pure eDiscovery and more into general legal tech of all sorts and that Litera Microsystems would revisit the booth issue next year. With a chuckle, he told me it was his hope that LegalWeek would ultimately evolve into more of a show for “legal tech nerds”.
I asked him finally (he was running close on time and had to catch a plane) what he thought about one of the big topics this year: artificial intelligence. Like me, he thinks AI is really more a tool for big law and that smaller firms will have trouble using since they just don’t have the manpower to make it work. He noted that it can take up to 10-15 people to make some AI programs to work. So while smaller players might make good use of plug and play legal research AI tools, they won’t at least in the foreseeable future be able to take advantage of other AI tools.
Interestingly, he told me that he foresees one big future use of AI is to augment law firm business development by equipping firms with a better understanding of not just the business of potential clients, but also their individual personalities as well. This will enable firms to match like personalities in their shop with the client when making marketing approaches and pitches. He thinks the real future of AI lies in providing better understanding and prediction of human emotions.
“One big future use of AI is to augment law firm business development by equipping firms with a better understanding of not just the business of potential clients, but also their individual personalities as well.”
Avaneesh is noticeably excited about the Litera Microsystems future. He told me it is growing like gangbusters (at the time of the merger there were some 80 employees in the combined companies and now, some 5 months later, it has over 250) and has become a real player in the document control/management market. Avaneesh gets the fact that for lawyers to buy and use a product, it has to be easy to use and intuitive and he plans to make sure Litera Microsystems’ products meet this criteria.
As always, it was an interesting discussion with a mover and shaker. (And I mean mover and shaker in both a literal and figurative sense. Avaneesh is passionate and excited about what he does and like me, can’t sit still when talking about subjects that interest him). Can’t wait to see what’s next for him and the merged companies.