Monday, February 09, 2009

LPO means business and opportunity

LPO industry comes across as a silver lining amidst economic slowdown and companies going out of business. With U.S. and European companies busy devising effective cost cutting measures without compromising the quality, Indian legal outsourcing industry stands to reap many benefits. A large pool of quality lawyers and engineers; the Indian legal system, which is common with that of U.S. and U.K.; exhaustive academic infrastructure; ability of some established LPO companies to scale-up operations in cost-effective manner; and certifications such as ISO 9001 (Quality Management System) and ISO 27001 (Information Security) attained by some of the Indian LPOs are some of the factors that add to their attractiveness for the U.S. and European markets. Forrester research projected that legal outsourcing to India will reach $4bn by 2015. This increase in legal outsourcing business has translated into two major challenges for the LPO industry. First, identifying what is being called the ‘employable’ talent among the tens of thousands of lawyers graduating every year and the second is retention of the best and the brightest – the ‘human capital.’

The work done in LPOs ranges from relatively simple legal tasks, such as document or contract review, to the more strategic and complex work such as patent intelligence and monetization, contract drafting etc. Therefore, there are different requirements of skill and expertise for the different activities that fall under the purview of LPO, as it stands now. From paralegals to lawyers to engineers and now even doctors and bio-chemists are hired by these firms to fulfill job requirements. Companies are using different techniques to get the best talent and be the first ones to grab the opportunity to utilize this talent for business success. Some of them are going directly to the campuses while others are using internal referral programs for recruitment. For example, CPA Global by its internal job posting program (IJP) offers opportunities to employees for lateral & vertical career advancement and development & learning through a transparent process of internal job posting & selection that would ensure fair and healthy competition. Once the step of recruitment of an individual is completed, an employee friendly company, and LPO companies are no different, needs to chalk out a plan for retention of this ‘human capital’ so acquired.

It is not uncommon to notice stories in the media about attractive careers offered by the LPO industry to engineers and lawyers in India. These careers because of aspects like dynamic environment, lively culture, career growth and opportunities, continuous learning and challenges excite young graduates (or post graduates and even doctorates) who want to achieve their dream job. One thing that needs to be focused on is the fact that the industry is in its growing stage. In other words, it is neither too young to have doubts about its future nor too old to worry about sustained growth. The growth from nadir to zenith is happening at a phenomenal pace. This has resulted in an environment where talent, out-of-the-box thinking and zeal to make a difference have become the most valued attributes. Bhaskar Bagchi, Country head of CPA Global – an LPO Company, in one of his interviews used the phrase “culture of empowerment”. The term captures the essence of companies who know that the present generation cannot be bounded by the chains of a bureaucratic system. In any given setup, challenges require courage and creativity. The present generation thrives on both of these attributes in a job. And, with the LPO industry surging ahead to expand across global jurisdictions, the need for these qualities cannot be direr as it is in the present situation. What they both should understand that only a symbiotic relationship can bring the growth of an individual as well as the company as a whole. It means that “Employee” and the “Company” stand on the same platform. Legal service providers do acknowledge this philosophy. CPA Global in India in keeping up with the demand of the time and creating a relation of equals, between the management and the employee, involved every single person in the making of its vision statement. Phenomenal isn’t it! Thus, every employee becomes a part of the decision-making process and responsible for the same. In this egalitarian setup, every person feels free to think about his/her career graph and opportunities for moving ahead within the company.

Career mobility in the LPO sector is rapid due to a galore of opportunities available to employees to prove their mettle in their respective fields. Separate departments have been created in HR section of the company that takes care of employee growth within an organization. Many law graduates have within few years become AVPs of their respective business verticals. This has been the case with engineers as well. What makes it possible? The reason behind it is that more than 80% of the workforce is constituted by people falling under the age group of 25–35 years. This young and dynamic junta makes the think tank of the company. With their entrepreneurial spirit at the right place and global market opening up, they are exposed to many challenges as well as devise mind boggling ways to deal with them. Every challenge thus becomes an opportunity to define one’s own career graph and give it the desired shape. This kind of a prospect is missing in other industries and careers. For example, in a corporate legal department any new entry takes at least 3–5 years just to get into the groove of operations. Less gestation period coupled with continuous learning opportunities makes a career in an LPO an appealing option.

Learning and development is one of the very crucial aspects of this industry. Candidates after they join the company are made to undergo rigorous training that spans from concepts such as punctuality and time management to intricacies about patent laws, legal research, contract drafting and other key areas. UnitedLex has its lawyers evaluated regularly. CPA Global in India has a separate department for learning and development. It makes the training contract for each employee according to which in a financial year 4.5 man days are completely devoted to honing up their skills or guiding them. U.S. patent attorneys are flown to India to train the lawyers and review their work. Such endeavors not only prove beneficial for the employee but also increase productivity and quality of the deliverables by the team. Interest in the well being of the employee is alone not the concern of the company but also of the client who is outsourcing his/her work. Microsoft, client of CPA Global, flies small groups of CPA Global employees to Redmond in order to know more about the people who work with them.

In all, alluring opportunities, equipping the employees with right set of skills and facing the challenges is what the LPO work profile has to offer in the long run.