CURIOUS MINDS: A Conversation with Andrew Arruda, CEO and Co-Founder of ROSS Intelligence

Topics: Access to Justice, Artificial Intelligence, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Curious Minds, Efficiency, Leadership, Legal Innovation, Q&A Interviews, Talent Development

Curious Minds

We continue our monthly column, “Curious Minds” which was created and written by Rose Ors to tap into the minds of legal innovators, disrupters, and out-of-the-box thinkers to learn what influences and inspires their work.

In this installment, Rose speaks with Andrew Arruda, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of ROSS Intelligence, about the people that influence him, how to improve access to justice, and lessons he learned from his grandparents.

Rose Ors: What leaders or thinkers outside of the legal industry have influenced you and the work that you do?

Andrew Arruda: The greatest influencers in my life — personal and professional — are my grandparents, Jose and Maria Andrade. Both were from Azores, a beautiful, remote nine-island archipelago about two hours from Europe.

My grandparents emigrated to Canada for a better life for their five young daughters. Although they had to literally start over, they flourished in their newfound city, Toronto. My grandparents’ stories of sacrifice, persistence, and grit help me navigate my reinvention as an entrepreneur.

Rose Ors: What lessons have you learned from your grandparents?

Andrew Arruda: Being fearless, having belief in yourself, and pursuing your dreams. It is that first leap to get things in motion that is scary and hard to do. They stood out for me as people who did just that, got comfortable with being uncomfortable and were fearless in doing so.

Rose Ors: Who are other influencers?

Andrew Arruda: I have been very inspired by the work of Bill Gates. On the tech side of things, his focus on software and the power of the software he created with his team at Microsoft was life-changing for me. I am pretty confident that I became a tech nerd because every time I logged into Internet Explorer the world opened up. I was hooked.

On the philanthropy side, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is very inspiring. I firmly believe that success is not just about doing well, but also about doing good. I’ve been pushing myself to do both.

Curious Minds

Andrew Arruda, CEO & Co-Founder of ROSS Intelligence

That is why ROSS is a founding member of the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation “Legal Tech for a Change.” The focus of the initiative is to increase the ability of our country’s legal aid organizations to better serve their clients by providing those organizations free cutting-edge technology.

Rose Ors: What books outside of the legal industry have influenced your work and your thinking? And how have they done that?

Andrew Arruda: I want to be the best leader I can be and Eric Schmidt’s Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell has become my leadership bible. Of course, Schmidt was the CEO of Google for over a decade. Bill Campbell, an ex-football coach, coached Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Marissa Mayer.

It was this book that prompted me to get a coach — one of my best decisions. My coach has helped me take a thoughtful approach to leadership and approach it as equal parts science and art.

Another book is Customer Success: How Innovative Companies are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue by Nick Mehta. He talks about how a company can succeed by helping their customers succeed. It sounds intuitive, but the focus of so many companies is on getting new customers. Focusing on existing customers resonated with me. Our first customers believed in us at the get-go. They have grown with us. So, to make them super happy makes all the sense in the world.

Then there is a classic, Harry Beckwith’s Selling the Invisible. Beckwith talks about the importance of communicating the value of your service, the value of brand, and the critical need to connect with your customers. He also talks about how if you’re doing anything worthwhile, you’ll probably suffer through a dozen or more failures before you start to succeed.

The legal industry — including legal tech — needs to understand and accept, and even celebrate, the fact that failure is part of innovation. We can’t be afraid of the inevitable scrapes and bruises. Failure is how you learn and get better with each iteration.

Rose Ors: Where do you get your most creative ideas?

Andrew Arruda: Hiking with my wife Meghan. During these hikes I often bounce ideas off her and those conversations have led to some important “aha” moments. I’m lucky to have found such an amazing life partner.

Another place I find gives me the space to think is on airplanes. I travel a fair amount and when I’m on a plane that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, it forces me to unplug and gets me asking big questions that affect ROSS and the legal industry. Sometimes, and I’ll admit it, I won’t purchase the Wi-Fi even if it is available to ensure I get some good thinking time in.

Rose Ors: What is a big-picture question facing the legal industry?

Andrew Arruda: There are two main issues the way I see it, and they’re both very much related. First, we’re going to have to do more around collaboration within the legal industry. How can members of the legal ecosystem — law firms, law companies, legal tech companies, in-house counsel — collaborate better? I see a lot of progress here, but there is still more that can be done.

For example, in the legal industry, categorizing legal professionals as “lawyers” or “non-lawyers” masks the bias by some “lawyers” that “non-lawyers” are somehow less than. We need to work together as equals.

Another big question that flows from the first is who does what in the delivery of legal services 2.0? Specifically, what will be the role of lawyers and other legal professionals? Both the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers — both of which I work with — are assessing the question.

Similarly, the State Bar of California task force, Access Through Innovation of Legal Services, of which I am also a member, is proposing changes to regulations governing the unlicensed practice of law, advertising, and fee-splitting. The proposed changes all focus on allowing legal professionals without a JD to perform some tasks traditionally done only by licensed lawyers.

All these suggestions aim to create a regulatory environment that allows for better collaboration among legal professionals. I believe changing the regulations will provide better access to justice. I am excited about the regulatory changes in states like Utah, Arizona, California, and Illinois with more joining the list almost weekly.

This interview has been edited and condensed by Rose Ors.