Who has redefined what it means to think outside the law (aka OUTLAW) and is helping each of us in the process?
Meet Swati Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of Firmseek, a national, award-winning web company, which has served the legal industry since 1999. With clients ranging from Am Law 100 firms to the Rhodes Scholars, Swati has grown Firmseek from a start-up into a leading web developer for some of the most successful professional service companies in the world, helping them improve their competitive positioning and grow market share through enterprise-based websites. Prior to Firmseek, Swati worked for 4 years as a litigation attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, preceded by stints at the White House, Department of Labor, and the Urban Institute.
We asked Swati a few questions, and her answers can be found below. Enjoy getting to know this Outlaw!
Q: What got you working in the legal industry?
A: I chose law early on. As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, I took the GMAT, LSAT, and GRE. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get a PhD in economics, get an MBA, or do a joint law and public policy degree. After visiting schools and programs, I was hooked on Yale Law. During admitted students weekend, Yale sold us on the fact that we wouldn’t need MBAs or joint degrees if we chose to go there – that we could really pursue whatever career we wanted. They were right. After working for nearly 5 years in private law practice at Paul Weiss, I started Firmseek with Janice Ugaki (who followed a similar path, attending Harvard Law School after graduating with a masters from Oxford University). It was a natural fit to focus on the legal sector, as we understood law firms from the inside and the forces behind law firm business development. I feel like I owe the school a lot, and today I serve on the Yale Law School Association Executive Committee and as my class secretary.
Q: Who is your real life hero?
A: My real-life hero is my dad who passed away nearly 8 years ago. He immigrated to the United States in 1970, with only $200 and a dream of building a life for his family (my mom and I stayed back in India). He attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he received a second Masters in Engineering degree; he obtained the first such degree in India, but no one would hire him here without a US degree – despite already having worked as a professional engineer in India. He paid for his schooling and supported his family through a job at Atlantic Die Casting, followed by an engineering job at Bendix Corporation. My mom and I moved here once my dad was settled. I was only a year old. Growing up, my dad was active around the house on the weekends. He always gladly had my sister and me help in whatever project he was doing, whether it was changing the oil in the car, hanging wallpaper, putting together a bike, planting a tree saved from a home demolition, or installing an in-ground sprinkler system. I credit him with making me self-sufficient and teaching me not to be afraid to face challenges just because they were unfamiliar. I’ve carried that lesson with me, whether it be in my education, home life, or starting a new company.
Q: Finish this sentence: “If I could have one super-power, it would be…”
A: …to prevent the emotional pain and suffering that comes with disease. I lost my best friend to stage 4 breast cancer this year, so it’s on my mind. Sorry to be so heavy!
Q: Your favorite musician or band?
A: David Bowie. I developed a love for his music in the early 80s and still remember climbing over our floor-level seats from 40th-something row to 3rd row when I saw him in 1987 on the Glass Spider tour. I loved Bowie’s music and the fact that he was a true artist in every sense of the word – never shy about controversy and risk-taking. Rest in peace, Ziggy Stardust.
Q: Where would you like to live?
A: Whenever I go on vacation, I have a fleeting thought that I’d like to live in the place that I’m visiting. But I really do love living in the DC area – home is where your friends, community, and family are. I feel inspired by those around me who work every day to make our community and country the place we should want to live. As an immigrant who has lived in the US for nearly 50 years, there’s nothing I appreciate more.