It was a surprise to many in the legal technology community when the legal tech company Litera announced this week that Avaneesh Marwaha was stepping down as CEO and into a new role as chairman of the company’s board of directors.
Replacing Marwaha as CEO is Sheryl Hoskins, a veteran technology executive who spent the first decade of her career at General Electric and McKesson Corp, where she held domestic and international leadership roles, and who was most recently CEO of Upserve, a provider of restaurant management software.
(Litera has also hired a new chief product officer, but has yet to publicly release her name. But the addition of the new CEO and CPO mean that five of the company’s eight C-suite executives are women.)
For Marwaha, who says the move was his decision, his nearly six years as CEO of Litera brought about almost a complete transformation of the company, most notably through 14 acquisitions in the last four years that expanded the company from an exclusive focus on document productivity tools to a much broader range of products that span transaction management, due diligence, litigation, firm intelligence, and other aspects of the legal workflow.
Under his watch, Litera has grown global users by over 1,500%, annual revenue by 1,200%, and headcount from 85 employees to over 850 worldwide.
A former intellectual property lawyer, Marwaha became CEO just as a $100 million investment by the investment firm K1 brought together four separate companies – Litéra, Microsystems, XRef and The Sackett Group – into a single entity. Marwaha had briefly served as Microsystems’ CEO before becoming head of the combined entity.
Redefined the Market
In an interview this week, Marwaha said that he believes Litera, under his leadership, has redefined the legal tech market and its potential – both for investors looking to get into the market and for startups looking to launch products.
“We’ve built a lot of trust in the marketplace with our approach, and we’ve given a lot of opportunities to startups that create businesses because they know there can be a good outcome for them,” he said.
“I think we’ve taken an industry that may not have always been looked at by investors as a place that’s investible, and I think we’ve changed that and shown that, look, there’s real stuff here. The legal market’s big enough and it’s exciting and firms and lawyers are looking for innovation and new ways of doing work.”
Regarding his decision to step down as CEO, Marwaha said it seemed to be a good time to keep elevating the business by bringing in strong leadership with proven experience in running a software company to guide Litera on the next phase of its journey.
As chairman of the board, his role will now primarily be to advise and support the leadership team on issues such as mergers and acquisitions, product strategy, and customer relationships.
“We want the leadership team to run the business and to make it happen, so I’ll continue to be using my brain for the things that I’ve really enjoyed doing – making good acquisitions, product advancements — those are the things I’m super-excited to keep working on.”
Is an IPO Imminent?
Might this change in management portend an imminent IPO for Litera?
That was not the reason for the change, Marwaha said. The company will be sticking to its mission of continuing to reduce the pain of running a law firm and helping to automate manual processes.
He said that the board selected Hoskins as CEO after an intensive search because of her understanding of software and software scalability, of reaching and serving customers, and of running a successful business.
He also expressed enthusiasm for the fresh perspective she would bring as someone who has not previously worked in the legal industry.
“Sometimes we get really stuck in thinking about legal tech and about that as who we are, but in reality we’re a software company.”
Plus, Litera already has the benefit of extensive experience and knowledge in the legal field from its own staff and the customers it partners with, he said.
As for customers, they should not expect to see any dramatic changes ahead as a result of this change in management, Marwaha told me.
“The strategy of Litera is pretty well defined. Every new leader gets a chance to look at it and ask, ‘What can we do to make it go faster or better.’ But we are pretty committed on our roadmap.”
I asked Marwaha what he was most proud of as CEO.
“One of the things we always wanted to do was change how lawyers work forever. I think we’ve done that.”