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Legal publishing provides a plethora of career opportunities to those with skills in developing, writing, editing, producing, selling and marketing legal content. Karan Malhotra, with more than 22 years of experience in operations, account management and business development in this industry, provides insight into his journey so far and on various aspects of legal publishing in this Q&A.

Describe your current role and responsibilities.

My key role is to develop business in professional, education and academic segments in publishing. This involves creating and managing strategic relationships with industry principals/consultants and nurturing partnerships with technology companies.

How did you get into legal publishing and what is exciting about the role?

Thomson Reuters and Lexis Nexis were the very first accounts that I managed for their respective BPO engagements in India in 1998. This included working with their operational leadership teams for initial feasibility and the knowledge transfer. The initial scope was imaging and converting the documents (caselaw, legislations) into searchable text/SGML. On the basis of my account knowledge and key contacts, I had the opportunity to be a part of the start-up team for Thomson Reuters in Hyderabad in 2007 to help transition processes from their locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Australia and the APAC region.

What are some of the most exciting projects that you have worked on?

  • Transition of Commentaries processes to the captive operation of Thomson Reuters in Hyderabad : This required intense knowledge transfer from Rochester, New York and creation of SMEs in Hyderabad in a short duration of 6 to 9 months. We were able to create a team of 12 to 15 super users who were trained on all aspects of the commentaries work and were responsible for all liaison with the US team.
  • Implementation of the VOICES team that was responsible for identifying and implementing process improvements based on Lean/Six Sigma principles : Each operational team started looking at opportunities for improvement very closely and came up with ideas that had a threshold improvement target of 15% on a specific metric.
  • Working on RFPs for 2 major legal publishers in 2020/2021 : This provided understanding of the scope of the complete legal publishing operation as well as the ability to think across processes for providing value add.

What are the opportunities that you have got? What were the main challenges faced and how did you handle them?

The biggest challenges I have faced are as follows:

  • Attrition and the ability to continue seamless delivery to the client. The solution was to always have a strong back-up plan for replacing resources with an allowable buffer in critical processes, creation of a very strong training function and increasing retention of key resources.
  • Managing budget challenges without being able to reduce resources : The solution was to have proper metrics in place to help identify utilization and the ability to cross-train resources to manage peaks/valleys while increasing utilization.
  • In 2020/2021, convincing the customers/prospects to provide an opportunity to us to be a service provider : While there was no easy answer, it just meant consistent communication with the client and providing update on key developments/value add we could provide.

How do you navigate a successful career in publishing and what do you think are the skills that gave you that edge?

  • Learning never ends – be always connected to the industry, technology developments (especially the start-ups/disruptors)
  • Change is important – always be ready to deal with it
  • Never hesitate to take help from the experts/SMEs
  • Clients need help in making their processes more efficient – find a way to communicate and provide true value-adds as a partner.

What are your views on the future of publishing and how should executives keep pace?

  • Move to Digital, Open Access, Content Reuse, Personalization
  • Building of abilities to leverage developments by providers such as Google/Microsoft/Apple/Amazon
  • Focus on security of content/access
  • Seamless and device-agnostic access by the end users
  • Significant collaboration and development of a strong ecosystem between all key participants/stakeholders in the publishing industry.

What will help executives keep pace are self and disciplined learning, networking with peers/customers/other service providers. Technology and digital transformation should become the basis for all learning.

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