Haley Altman on Stepping Back From Litera, Work/Life Balance + Sabbaticals

Haley Altman was until very recently Global Head of Corporate Development at the highly acquisitive Litera and oversaw 10 legal tech M&A deals after selling her own company, Doxly, to them in 2019. Although she is keeping an advisory role, Altman is moving on from her full-time job at Litera, with a plan to benefit from a better work/life balance and eventually head towards new opportunities.

Artificial Lawyer asked her about the changes, her views on finding the right balance, the role of sabbaticals, and what comes next.

– First things first, why are you leaving your full-time role at Litera?

I decided to make the shift to Strategic Advisor to allow me to expand my remit to providing strategic insight on product growth in addition to M&A strategy while finding greater balance in my life. It was fitting to have my last acquisition be in the talent space because I think now more than ever, it is critical to look at retention and employee happiness.

Attrition rates continue to grow which is mitigated slightly by the downturn, while burnout and dissatisfaction rates continue to rise. As I spoke about in my Legal Geek talk, we continue to prop up these badges of honour (working all-nighters, holding onto manual processes, etc) that are just toxic traits that lead to burnout. I pulled many all-nighters and burned down any boundaries I had between work and personal life during my legal career, and I carried that into the tech space.

Litera did a lot to help me try to find balance even with an aggressive strategic vision (making sure I took vacation, ensuring I felt acknowledged and supported, etc.), but I needed to make a bigger change to really find balance. I’m thrilled that I get to continue to support the company on important strategic decisions while reminding my daughters that their mom can exist outside the office.

– What do you plan to do next?

Continue to support Litera, mentor women in the legal industry and give advice to start-ups, and, as people are already joking, do more work than someone that isn’t full-time would probably do. Most importantly, I’m spending a lot of time with my daughters who are in 3rd and 5th grade and reacquainting myself with the gym. As for my next career step, I’m trying to give myself a little space before I make any decisions… but I have a few ideas.

– Do you believe that every company and law firm should allow its staff to take a sabbatical? And more broadly do you feel that sabbaticals are a good thing?

I’ve started to see more companies offering the option as an incentive… sometimes tied to being at the company for a specific amount of time, other times allowed after a particularly strenuous time-period. My friends that have taken a sabbatical have found tremendous value in having that time off. They’ve come back refreshed and with a renewed excitement for the company. It’s something I think law firms should explore more outside of secondments with clients.

As attorneys, we often get caught up in going from deal to deal, working through vacations, holidays, and other important life events. Giving people a way to reconnect and find a little balance could go a long way to reducing burnout and keep people in the industry. We have the data and tech available to help us better understand attorney behaviour (hours worked, vacation days, skill development, career goals) and how to improve the overall experience. Sabbaticals are one tool that could be added to the arsenal.

– What is your happiest memory of your time at Litera?

There are so many happy and inspiring moments from the company. I come from a science background with a life-long love of learning so I’m incredibly happy with how much I’ve learned about leadership, scaling a company, building a value creation plan, and determining how to evolve the product portfolio in a way that continues to solve customer problems.

I will say one of my happiest memories is having the entire original Doxly team still with Litera on the one-year anniversary of the acquisition. When you are deciding who to sell your company to during a competitive process, you worry whether you made the right decision… should you have taken the other sliding door to better protect your team and your customers. To have everyone still working together after a year helped validate that decision.

– What was the toughest moment there?

Moving on from working directly with the transaction management team. I love our team and what we continue to accomplish, but it was hard not be involved with the customers or product direction.

– And for the record….how many merger deals did you do at Litera? It must be a world record!

10 😊

– A few people have changed roles or left Litera, is there a lot changing there since you joined?

We’ve grown an incredible amount since Doxly joined Litera in team size, product portfolio, geographic reach, and customer base. We’ve been fortunate at every stage of growth to work with amazing team members well-suited for that stage of growth. We’ve also seen other companies recognize how skilled our team is and have seen team members continue their career progression with next-level roles at other companies.

Personally, I am forever grateful for the career growth Avaneesh and the Board supported me through during my time at Litera. Now serving as a strategic advisor with Sheryl, our new CEO, leading the team, I’m excited to see how she infuses her strong leadership skills and operational excellence into the business. She is an incredible add to the team.

And finally, if you could land a dream job when you come back to full-time work, what kind of role would it be?

I’m going to hold on that answer for now…

Thanks, Haley, and good luck in whatever you do next!