Legal Innovator Profiles: Shruti Ajitsaria, Head of Fuse, Allen & Overy

This week’s Legal Innovator Profile is with Shruti Ajitsaria, Head of Fuse, the legal innovation space inside global law firm Allen & Overy.

When did you first hear the term ‘legal tech’ and what did you think at the time?

I have been an angel investor for a number of years now and I think I first came across ‘legal tech’ on a Sunday evening at my home in Finchley when being pitched to for investment by a start-up, which had built a platform to negotiate derivatives documents. As a derivatives lawyer at the time I was blown away by how treating documents as data could improve my job and outcomes for the client.

The demo I received that evening was one of the main reasons that I believed that an innovation space like Fuse could be successful.

What is your role now?

I am a Partner in Allen & Overy’s London office and the Head of Fuse, which has been open for five years.

Why did you move into this field, (if this is not the only field you’ve worked in)?

I absolutely loved being a derivatives lawyer, but I was always curious and always determined to deliver to the best of my ability for my clients. I originally came up with the idea of Fuse during my third maternity leave, when I spent some time visiting incubators around London and preparing a business plan.

I was incredibly fortunate that our Senior Partner, Wim Dejonghe, had a strong commitment to Allen & Overy being ‘the most advanced law firm’ and with his support and the guidance of others, we launched Fuse in 2017.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

As the Head of Fuse I have three main stakeholder groups – our lawyers, our clients and our Fuse cohort. My most rewarding moments are when the three groups work together to deliver successful outcomes.

If you looked into a crystal ball, how much do you think the everyday practice of law will change in the next five to ten years?

It is almost inevitable that the everyday practice of law will change within that timeframe. For a start, we are attracting talent with new and different skillsets (whether that be a STEM degree or a deeper technical expertise) and expectations (often, regarding the quality of work, and work, life balance).

The technology is moving on, enabling some laborious tasks to be done more easily and effectively. And of course we all know that client expectations are changing. Putting that altogether, I expect to see an increase in multi-disciplinary working, a more pervasive and ambitious use of technology in lawyers everyday working practices and a shift in how we charge for our services.

If you had one gripe about legal tech companies what would it be?

I sometimes interact with legal tech companies who haven’t taken the time to do their research – on the type of law firm we are, the work we do and the products we already use. My advice to anyone pitching for business is very basic: know your audience and be clear on the value that you would bring to them specifically. If I was allowed another gripe, I would add that legal tech companies should be clearer about what the KPIs of success are – and help law firms to measure and deliver on those KPIs from the outset.

If you had one thing you’d really like to applaud legal tech companies for, what would it be?

I have thoroughly enjoyed being on the journey with some of the Fuse cohort companies and am full of admiration for their desire to continuously improve their products.

One of the key benefits for a legal tech company of being in Fuse is the regular feedback they get from users – of different levels of seniority, from different geographies and from a range of departments. But only if they listen. For those who do, it has been a pleasure to see how products have progressed.

And finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into this field?

Be brave and give it a go!

Thanks Shruti, great insights. And indeed, be brave!

Legal Innovators Conferences in 2023

If you found the topics discussed here of interest, then keep a look out for news of Legal Innovators conferences in California, USA, in June 2023, and in London in the autumn of next year also. More info here.