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Helping Legal Teams Reimagine the Tech Toolkit

By Ari Kaplan.


Ari Kaplan speaks with Ab Saraswat, the vice president of international sales for Litera Microsystems, a software company that provides document lifecycle and deal management solutions to the legal profession. Ab is also the host of the popular Fringe Legal podcast.

Ari Kaplan

Tell us about your background and your role at Litera.


Ab Saraswat

I'm part of the revenue team at Litera and look after the international team, which is essentially everything outside of North America, focusing on EMEA, APAC, and Latin America, but I'm based in the U.S. so I end up getting a view into the entire world, which I'm quite lucky to do. I am trained as a barrister in the U.K. and joined a legal tech company that Litera acquired.


Ari Kaplan

How are you managing your global responsibilities without the ability to travel?


Ab Saraswat

I am still in the happy phase of not being constantly jet-lagged and like everyone else in the world, we pivoted to having meetings online using Zoom and Teams, among other tools. And actually, since we are not traveling to see our clients as much, we have been able to speak a lot more.


Ari Kaplan

What have you seen in terms of how international law firms have fared in the pandemic compared to their U.S. counterparts?


Ab Saraswat

One of the benefits of managing such a diverse portfolio is that you get to see the trends sometimes ahead of when they may hit the U.S. so as the market started shutting down in Asia, for example, we saw the impact that would have for other law firms. One of the ways that we helped our clients was by communicating some of the things law firms were doing in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore so they could prepare better. For the most part, though, it has been similar to what the U.S. has done though firms shut down at different paces and had to quickly accommodate working from home. Now, they are getting to the stage where their markets are opening up so you see a higher velocity and volume of transactions encouraging their lawyers and other staff to make sure that they all work to the requirements of their clients. From the U.S. point of view, those that have really stepped up have been the knowledge team, the document production teams, and the supporting teams, which are pivotal in a law firm.


Ari Kaplan

Which firms that are managing to continue to find success are leveraging technology to support their teams most effectively?


Ab Saraswat

Firms of all sizes. Smaller firms, from solo practitioners to 50-lawyer firms had good tech stacks in place already so they have become more agile to compete and maximize what they can do for their clients. Larger law firms have also been able to leverage technology to ensure that business as usual remains as usual. In particular, those firms that have had a strong knowledge function have really thrived because when the serendipitous moment of bumping into someone or walking over to their desk to get the information you require is eliminated, a strong knowledge function allows you to transfer, allocate, and absorb information distributed across the entire firm much more easily and readily.


Ari Kaplan

In what ways are those knowledge management teams elevating their influence?


Ab Saraswat

The first is just supporting and being a beacon of light by helping the lawyers find information. From a training and development point of view, it is being able to assess and recommend technologies to them, whether they have them in house or are looking at acquiring them in the future. The second is ensuring that they can capture the tacit knowledge that their lawyers have, such as through a content library, from which everyone, trainees through senior partners, can benefit. And, the third is about being that fluid layer in the law firm that links everyone together. In my experience, KM professionals are the most well-connected within a law firm. They know who to go to in order to get something done and empower individuals to collaborate, especially when it comes to pitching for work.


Ari Kaplan

What challenges and opportunities are legal professionals seeing in this remote work environment?


Ab Saraswat

Engagement has been the most significant challenge. When things were moving so fast and there were so many unknowns, it was critical to pick up the phone and ask clients how they were doing and how their businesses were managing. I heard from plenty of in-house lawyers that this type of outreach was not happening enough. In fact, many were only really hearing from their lawyers when they needed something, such as the payment of an invoice or work to be delivered. The lawyers and legal professionals who stood out were those that were connecting on a regular basis. And, while there has been a torrent of information, which is fantastic, being a trusted resource for clients and understanding their business needs really set some legal professionals apart.


Ari Kaplan

How do you see Litera’s approach to technology evolving?


Ab Saraswat

We are all about ensuring that there are workflow innovations happening by helping teams work smarter. This could be a monumental shift, such as using transaction management software in a transaction-heavy practice to make a difference. Or, it could be helping simply reimagine your toolkit as a lawyer or as a legal professional by providing a more guided experience. Lastly, we are making sure that there is a lot more interoperability across all of our products and making things as simple as possible.


Ari Kaplan

As a fellow host of a podcast, Fringe Legal, what issues are resonating most with your audience?


Ab Saraswat

The issues are quite varied. Human connections really resonate with individuals. People are missing those networking opportunities where they may run into a colleague from another law firm or another practice group out for lunch, in court, or at a conference. In absence of that, helping individuals connect has been super important and is something on which almost everyone is focused. A lot of legal professionals are also leaders and these are difficult times in which to lead. There are crises all around us and there is an increased awareness around mental health, which is critical.

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the

legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at http://www.ReinventingProfessionals.com.


Listen to his conversation with Ab Saraswat, the vice president of international sales for Litera Microsystems, here


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