Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in the legal business?
I trained and worked as commercial lawyer working in large law firms, but it was the “business of law” that excited me more than the practice of law. When I was practicing law, I would always question what is the best value I can add to the client and whether as an industry, we were challenging ourselves enough to innovate in the delivery of legal services. There was a clear case of the legal sector being way behind the curve in adopting technology as an enabler. There was a need for a revolution to the change the direction of the legal service delivery model. Commoditization of legal services via tech automation and AI seemed a no brainer to me and I suppose I always had an “entrepreneurial bug” so I decided to leave a fairly lucrative career in the practice of law to start ContractPodAi.
What do you do for a living right now?
I am the CEO of ContractPodAi – a disruptive, SaaS based legal tech business providing AI powered end to end contract management solution.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
Being able to convince lawyers that they should accept AI as an “opportunity” and not a “threat” – and that it’s only a threat if you don’t accept the future of AI – is quite fulfilling, especially as lawyers are trained to be risk averse. Helping customers lead tech enabled legal transformation is certainly a triumph.
Although I think we still have miles to go, taking an idea, converting into a hyper growth disruptive legal tech business and leading the Legal AI wave across the world in less than a 5 year period is truly a testament of the success of the full ContractPodAi team, which I am privileged to have led so far.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
The legal industry is headed in a new direction, that’s for sure, and that’s facilitated by tech like ours. I’m an optimist so I consider it to be the right direction, but there are still so many barriers to faster change – mainly focused around reluctance to do away with old business models and the billable hour.
Who – or what – inspires you – and why?
The work of Steve Jobs and the design-led simplicity of Apple’s user interface and brand touch points has always inspired me. As has Google and the way it has single handedly democratized access to information and simultaneously created such a hugely successful business model.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
It’s a great time to be joining the legal field especially as it is going through rapid changes: keep an open mind, challenge the traditional norms, think out of the box and be ready to innovate.
How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
Whether the legal industry is ready for change or not, change is most certainly being “thrust” over them and leaders in the legal industry are having to adapt to these changes.
Is more – or different – leadership required? In what ways?
Different leadership is the need of the hour. Legal leaders need to be able to clearly articulate their vision, inspire and motivate their peers who are struggling to understand AI and gauging whether it is a threat or an opportunity. Leaders who are accepting and adopting new tools and processes and communicating their advantages are the ones who are creating a high performance and motivated teams.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
If the past few years are anything to go by, technology inroads within the industry are going to be very deep. Law in 2025 will have no resemblance to the current state.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
Change is here and it’s making an impact fast. 15 years back if you told a lawyer that a machine will augment some of the work you are doing, they’d laugh out loud. That has already happened in more ways than one. Blockchain, AI, VR are already here and as I keep telling everyone – the technology will only get better. The Darwinian philosophy will continue to prevail: The existing player who will continue to accept change and build new strategy around it will continue to excel, others will consolidate, and some will clearly die off. Law in 10 years will be significantly different from the current state.
Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
We’ve seen new roles being created including legal engineers and legal process managers who typically blend consultancy with legal skills. It’s a flourishing market for such consolidated new roles especially as lawyers turn into more business managers. Innovation is never bad on balance.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
Data should at best treated “as guide” in decision making process, the actual process of procurement of legal services needs to be nuanced than merely going by recommended guides especially as the independence of some of these guides can be questionable.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
We’ve already seen this change significantly. UK has taken a lead – from creating of Alternative Business Structure (ABSs) to law firm IPOs. The sector needs an outward reach and flexibility on investment structure will truly support the transformation of the sector.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
As a reactive industry, pressure for clients and customers to change and innovate will be the most important factor.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
Yes, we are although that change is still in its nascent stage.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Old Law is finding it challenging to adapt to New Law. We have seen so many law firms going through bankruptcy as they have failed to innovate and change with time.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
There are great opportunities for new ideas, inventions and businesses to flourish and transform the industry.
Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
Yes, it most definitely can. I feel that there needs to an industry wide best practice initiatives, forums and groups formed which set benchmarks around matters which matter most diverse workface and equal pay for firms to comply with.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future?
So many things are ripe for change these days, whether that’s driven by tech or public opinion, I’m not sure it’s possible to answer that question
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
Entrepreneurs across sectors who have moved the needle beyond the status quo.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
I’d do it all over again and wouldn’t change anything including some failures –without failures, we would not have success.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Depends on the law firm, some are high quality but overall I’d probably not invest in law firms. Traditional law firms continue to be a “people centric business”. Valuation is highly dependent on individual partners and if they leave so the fortunes of the firm (and its future).
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Take up golf for a living!
What would you like to be known for?
A rebel who always wanted to shake things up and challenge the status quo.
What would surprise everyone if they knew (they may now)
Was driven to a career in law courtesy of all court room drama movies in the 1990s, especially those inspired by John Grisham.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Love to travel and explore new places, culture and food.
What’s your favorite sports team?
Arsenal Football Club (although it comes with own set of agony!)
What’s your favorite city?
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your nickname – and why?
There’s never more than one Sarvarth in the room, so I’ve never needed one!