As the firm’s North East hub expands offering new opportunities for graduates in the region, Legal Cheek Careers meets Kiran Radhakrishnan
In the spring of 2016, while less than two years out of his training contract, Kiran Radhakrishnan was handed an unusual opportunity that proved too good to turn down. He explains:
Our head of corporate mentioned that the firm needed someone on the ground to develop its legal process and innovation hub in Newcastle, and just asked if it was something I was interested in. I was immediately intrigued.
Having thought things through, Kiran accepted the role initially on a six-month trial basis — and quickly found himself in his element. So he decided to take the significant step of leaving behind fee-earning as a corporate lawyer to take on responsibility for developing the Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle Hub.
Energised by the added responsibility, the opportunity to manage teams and the excitement of building something new, Radhakrishnan hasn’t looked back since.
“It was a huge decision to move on from a role that I had trained for over a period of years,” says Radhakrishnan, who knows Newcastle well from studying history at university 2006-2009, and then converting to law via the GDL. “But it was clear that this wasn’t the sort of opportunity that I was going to get again, so I went for it.”
The Newcastle Hub has grown exponentially over the last 18 months, rising from just four full-time legal process assistants (LPAs) when Radhakrishnan started to 28 today. And the firm is keen to expand further, looking to bring in more graduates over the coming months as it goes on a recruitment push in the region. Last month, the firm confirmed that it was moving the Hub to much larger premises on the Quayside from 1 November. “The team is really excited about the new space, especially as they were involved in its design,” says Radhakrishnan.
Most of Norton Rose Fulbright’s LPAs have a legal background, but there are also technologists and plenty of graduates of non-law subjects. The position, says Radhakrishnan, is “separate to a career with the firm as a solicitor” and is an opportunity to “be at the cutting edge of a changing legal world”. “There’s a sense that we are at the beginning of something enormous,” he adds. The Hub allows the firm to experiment with new technology and different ways of working, and the chance to innovate is part of the appeal.
“The most important objective is to maintain the quality” continues Radhakrishnan, “but as long as we are doing that there is scope for creativity. Whether it’s testing new technology, working on new processes or adapting old ones, what we are doing often requires a fresh pair of eyes. We have plenty of experts around the firm to advise on the substance of the work, but some of the best ideas we have had have come from the LPAs, who haven’t been doing the tasks in the same way for years. They are extremely high quality, and the success we have had has largely come from their work and ideas.”
At the same time, there’s the opportunity to take on “a level of responsibility that you might not get elsewhere at that stage of your career”. Already, the first of graduates are moving on to more senior roles, with a managerial element, as “career paths organically develop”.
Another interesting aspect of Norton Rose Fulbright Newcastle is that it is very much an international operation, with LPAs as likely to be dealing with “Singapore in the morning and Rio in the afternoon” as with lawyers in London, says Radhakrishnan. They are continuously immersed in the process element of high value, international transactions and cases, so for those wishing to gain legal experience with a view to applying for training contracts in the future there is no doubt that this is valuable experience. “It’s great to see first-jobbers coming in, some relatively shy, and then within a few months you watch them advising partners on what processes they should be using and how to make them more efficient,” continues Radhakrishnan.
At the moment, the Hub’s young chief is splitting his time between London and Newcastle. “I’m spending a lot of the time on the train, but it’s worth it to be part of something new and exciting,” he says.
Norton Rose Fulbright is recruiting graduates for legal process assistant roles in Newcastle to commence this autumn. Find out more.
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