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CPA Global restructures LPO biz as India headcounts plummet ahead of $1.45bn sale

Leah Cooper: Left in November, quietly
Leah Cooper: Left in November, quietly
LI-Mint Exclusive: Legal process outsourcing (LPO) and intellectual property (IP) management firm CPA Global Ltd, which is being fully acquired by UK-based Cinven Partners Llp for an estimated $1.45 billion (Rs 7,135 crore), has internally restructured the LPO business unit that failed to hit growth targets in India and saw headcount reductions and senior executives’ departure.

[Click here to read full story in today’s Mint]

India-based headcount in the general LPO business—or legal service outsourcing (LSO) as CPA describes it—had dropped from around 130 to less than 80 in 2011, according to several ex-CPA employees.

Anand Sharma, the firm’s chief financial officer and head of LSO and management services, said there was no “planned reduction”, but only a “bench reduction” of no more than 20%.

In March, Sharma had told industry website Legally India that CPA was looking to increase its general LSO business of around 400 staff by around 100% year-on-year.

Around 250 employees in the unit, primarily focusing on onshore litigation support, were based in the US, while around 150 were in India doing mostly contracts and legal research work, he said.

General legal outsourcing made up roughly 20% of CPA’s total work in March, while another outsourcing unit focused on IP-related work. Those two units were merged in December, Sharma added. The two largest business segments at CPA are IP portfolio management and the supply of IP industry-specific software.

“When everybody saw the market to be emerging very fast and very, very speedily in the LSO space, we all started investing in capacity, management and people in advance of the growth coming our way,” said Sharma. “(But) the recession had taken away the demand and supply that started a reduction in the LSO business.”

India-based legal work, especially in research and contract drafting, has decreased, Sharma said, and added that demand for onshore US-based litigation support outsourcing has increased.

“It created a situation where you were expecting a high growth (in offshore LSO) and not really seeing it,” he said.

Leah Cooper (pictured), who was responsible for a major legal outsourcing contract with CPA when she was a managing attorney at Australian miner Rio Tinto Group, had joined the company full time amid much press attention in February 2010, as head of LSO. In November 2011, she left more quietly.

“She did a great job bringing us to the limelight from a nascent stage (in the LPO business) to where it’s become a great opportunity,” said Sharma, adding that Cooper had left for family reasons. Cooper did not respond to email seeking comment.

UK-based Carol Unwin, chief operating officer of the LSO business, left in January to join as director of global outsourcing services at Logica. She was unreachable for comment, but Sharma said her departure was unrelated to the new business structure or the reduction in LSO work.

“We see a solid business in this, it is just a matter of time and it will be a very significant part of CPA’s growth,” said Sharma. “It’s an idea whose time has come now—maybe we were slightly ahead of the market.”

Cinven announced on 18 January that it would buy all of CPA.

This article first appeared in Mint, which has an exclusive content partnership with Legally India features the latest legal news and analysis every Friday fortnight.

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