Is litigation management software hitting a tipping point?
Ari Kaplan speaks with Alma Asay, the chief innovation officer for Integreon, an alternative legal services provider that recently acquired her company, Allegory, a cloud-based litigation management platform.
This Q&A has been condensed.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and your new role at Integreon.
Alma Asay: I was a litigator at Gibson Dunn in New York and absolutely loved litigating, but it felt like we could spend more of our time being lawyers if we had better technology. I also thought it would take someone who understood the way that lawyers think and work to create a solution. So, I left Gibson Dunn in 2012 to start Allegory. I was very excited last fall when Integreon acquired the company, and I’m now focusing on combining Allegory with the other services that Integreon offers, as well as looking at how we can deliver the best practices and technology to the entire industry.
Ari Kaplan: Can you describe the highs and lows of starting a legal tech company?
Alma Asay: Very quickly, you realize you can’t have highs and lows because they are too intense. Amazing things will happen. For example, you will get a giant deal that is going to change the course of your company. You’re excited, of course, but it’s a moderated enthusiasm because you have to maintain an even temperament for the lows, which are also really intense. Sometimes the client decides to go another way, through no fault of your own, or the case settles and suddenly, that huge opportunity is gone. You have to learn to moderate the highs and lows so you end up in this middle place. Our greatest highs come when a particular person or case team tells us how Allegory helped. The lows are often due to things falling through. It is hard-hitting when someone offers to help or invest and then doesn’t, especially if they just disappear because you really have to be able to rely on the people around you. That’s why building your team and finding the right investors is so important.
Ari Kaplan: Can you describe your process of deciding to leave a big firm and move into the world of legal tech?
Alma Asay: Not well-thought-out. I knew nothing about legal tech, startups, or technology when I left Gibson Dunn. I was admittedly naive about all of it, which may have been for the best because I just dove into the deep end not realizing how deep it was. Of course, I have no regrets and feel so fortunate for the way that things have played out. At the time, however, there wasn’t really a big legal tech community. I remember meeting Dan Katz, who stopped by a booth we had at Legaltech New York and was talking about Reinvent Law. That was the first time I had ever heard anyone really talk about legal innovation in a broader way. I think it’s amazing that there is such a robust legal tech community now, with a lot of support and examples for lawyers interested in diving into this space.
Ari Kaplan: Is there anything you would do differently?
Alma Asay: So many things. No matter how good a plan you make or how many people you meet, there will always be unknowns, and you cannot fully anticipate what you’re getting yourself into when you make such a big leap. On the economic side, lawyers take financial stability for granted when they are practicing because they can get any loan they want and banks shower them with credit card offers. Take advantage of that while you can, because the second your tax return is filed and you become an entrepreneur, you are persona non grata to banks. I wish I had opened up some personal lines of credit and gotten extra credit cards because suddenly, the offers weren’t there and I didn’t have that financial backing.
Ari Kaplan: Now that Allegory is part of Integreon, how is the company incorporating the platform into its operations?
Alma Asay: Integreon’s management sees where the world is heading and knows that the company has to distinguish itself by partnering with and potentially acquiring other technologies. Of course, technology doesn’t stand alone. It’s the people and the processes behind it, and Integreon has a lot of amazing people and processes. We have been adding Allegory as an extension of what the company is already doing by combining it with their e-discovery services. The company sees the potential for Allegory to open doors. Although people are tired of hearing about e-discovery and often have their preferred providers, they get really excited when they hear about Allegory.
Ari Kaplan: What are your key priorities as the chief innovation officer?
Alma Asay: Allegory is, obviously, near and dear to my heart so one of my key priorities is to scale it. We’ve already hired two engineers, and it is amazing how quickly we are able to move with more resources. We have a new release with a dashboard that gives more insight into what’s happening. I am also learning about all of Integreon’s service lines to identify how we can combine offerings and deliver a holistic solution to law firms and legal departments. I have also been freed up to meet with clients and potential clients to better understand their needs and challenges instead of focusing exclusively on the day-to-day responsibilities of building a business.
Ari Kaplan: What advancements in litigation management and e-discovery do you foresee over the next few years?
Alma Asay: I’m seeing stronger leadership support for litigation management software within law firms and corporations. We’ve had partners, associates, and paralegals interested in using Allegory, but it has been on a case-by-case basis. There has now been an entire shift with partners and corporate leaders advocating for the technology, which is critical because adopting new technology isn’t just about making a sale. Rather, you need to navigate the change management process and ensure that people are maximizing the investment. Just as e-discovery hit a tipping point, I am finally seeing that shift on litigation management side.
Ari Kaplan: How is technology creating opportunities in the legal community?
Alma Asay: In every industry, we’re seeing some awakening and an opening of opportunities for women, which is no different in legal. Obviously, there are still challenges, but there are so many outstanding women now in legal tech and it is not just women at the top. There are just a lot more women in the room on both sides of the table and I think it’s a great example to set. The integration of the female perspective will also help sell legal tech as it impacts broader adoption.
Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.
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 Reinventing Professionals.