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Sunday, September 18, 2011

'Legal eagles need new skills to work in LPOs'

Ganesh Natarajan has been instrumental in the growth of Mindcrest, a premier legal outsourcing company (LPO) based in India that provides services to firms in the US, Europe and Australia.

The genesis of this LPO was as a result of Natarajan spotting an opportunity in the nick of time. “I was a partner at a large law firm in Chicago doing international mergers and acquisitions work. In the course of my career, I saw many opportunities where lawyers in India could be leveraged to perform services to US and UK clients. That was the genesis of Mindcrest,” said the LPO’s co-founder, president and CEO.

Natarajan is a Bombay University alumni with a management degree from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune, and an MBA from Brigham Young University in Utah. He also has a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Washington University in St Louis. He has been a consultant for several Fortune 500 companies over issues such as market-entry strategies, capital raising activities, joint venture arrangements, strategic alliances and various commercial arrangements, including mergers and acquisitions.

He has done all of this over 20 years, but explains that it’s not necessary for young lawyers to cut their teeth in a routine law firm or a corporate legal division to work at an LPO, or may be even start one. “There is no real need for a young lawyer to get experience with a legal firm or a corporation. Subject to their meeting our requirements, we will train them to be effective in their work. This means that a lawyer at an LPO has to develop the rigor to ask the right questions and demonstrate the initiative to understand and resolve issues from the client’s perspective,” he explained.

“They also need to embrace new skills, such as project management, teamwork and technology, and to improve existing skills such as written and oral communication, analytics and attention to detail,” he added.

Natarajan has also worked at the Indian division of McGuire Woods LLP, an international law firm. It was here that he met George Hefferan, and together they teamed up with Rohan Dalal and Teju Deshpande and founded Mindcrest.

On the current LPO scenario in India, he said: “In the wake of the global economic downturn the amount of legal work has significantly increased in several areas of the law. Yet, legal budgets remain frozen or have shrunk.”

“The trend that we observe is that buyers of legal services, whether corporations or law firms, are keen on forging strategic partnerships with LPO providers. Such partnerships typically contemplate engaging a single preferred provider for a variety of legal services that derive significant value with scale and over multi-year relationships. Also, there are numerous LPOs in India today but I expect the number to reduce in the wake of consolidations that might happen,” he said.

Though Natarajan does have all this varied experience, which has enabled him to become a visible figure in the international legal industry, he admits to not understanding new-fangled social media and crowdsourcing strategies, and he does not feel they are an important criteria to run an LPO. He creates brand awareness the slightly old-fashioned way — by addressing many industry forums, bar associations and lecturing at international law schools.

Natarajan and a couple of friends got together to start Mindcrest, but he says self motivation and a strong independent streak are big factors in getting started. Other requirements that come in handy are “common sense, a feel for people and the ability to convince others of your vision. Having domain knowledge of the law business was very helpful as well."

Written for India Syndicate

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