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Most valuable players / Issue 103

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Managing a law firm tends to become harder rather than easier with size. Acknowledging this, in what is still a largely symbolic step albeit with potential future significance, AZB Mumbai has created a new top-level management function outside of the name partners.

With the new chief executive officer (CEO) position for the AZB Western region (an umbrella of Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune), two of the initials in AZB are sending a message that they would like the brand to continue independently of them some point in future.

The dynamics of a CEO-style role will be challenging and it could either turn into an experiment or become a prototype for other Indian firms.

New CEO Abhijit Joshi has obviously made a case for the latter and with his strong personal interest in law firm strategy and his veteran status at AZB Mumbai, he could be just the right person to begin the process.

In terms of institutionalisation the legal process outsourcing (LPO) industry has a much easier time in India than the more traditional side of the profession.

Less surprising then the news this week that the LPO outfit UnitedLex, which only last year bought out a smaller rival and hot on the heels of Pangea3’s acquisition, has now been sold to two private equity majors including Sequoia pretty much as a going concern.

Ajay Agrawal, who co-founded the LPO less than five years ago, bagged almost $17m for his 18 per cent stake in the brand. This translates to a valuation of more than $90m – an amount that probably no Indian corporate law firm would fetch nowadays without its founders.

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