Updated: Aug 3, 2022
Varun Mehta is the CEO of Factor, a leader for complex legal work at scale. Factor serves over 50 of the Fortune 500 / FTSE 100 companies, combining the legal skill, market know-how and expertise of Traditional Law with the process efficiency, technology and data orientation of New Law.
A long-time problem-solver and biomedical engineer by training, Varun is a trusted advisor to general counsel and legal 4 leaders within global organizations. His efforts have helped legal departments innovate, transformed how legal work is delivered and generated value across the legal landscape.
Before joining Factor, Varun was a founding member, EVP, and CRO of Clutch Group. He learned the market, built the organization from the ground up and transformed it from a staff augmentation company to an industry-leading, tech-enabled managed legal services firm. In three years, Clutch expanded to $55M in annual revenue, 500 people and 7 offices across the globe, then merged and became Morae Global. His focus on advising and investment flowered in 2015 when he founded Rogers Avenue, a firm focused on partnering with founders and CEOs to grow their business through fundraising, corporate development and growth strategy. Varun guided the development of Bodhala, a Legal Technology provider, which grew 600% in 24 months.
Tell me a little about your background and how your career choices led you to doing what you do now.
Many years ago; I went to school to become a Biomedical Engineer, while I dabbled in that market for a bit both as a researcher and working within the world of Medical Devices at firms like Boston Scientifc and J&J, I was always a bit more entrepreneurial and had a deep desire to start at the beginning of things.
I always had oriented to finding interesting problems to solve with people that I could learn from, which led me to joining Clutch Group as one of it’s first employees on the Founding Team and built it over 10 years from a legal staffing firm to a leading tech-enabled managed services provider in litigation, investigation and eDiscovery services to some of the largest banks and life science firms in the world.
While I was never particularly fascinated with legal services in the beginning, the deeper I dug into some of the challenges the industry was facing and how far it was across other markets, it was both shocking and exciting. It gave me a true opportunity to change the way things were done, for the better not just for the customer but hopefully helping to create more meaningful careers for the folks doing the work themselves.
Ultimately the little success we had at Clutch we always oriented around the same way how could we help our clients solve the largest problems by harnessing data, leveraging technology, assembling fit for purpose talent and running an efficient process.
After the Clutch journey came to an end, I put a pause on my career. I realized learning about what I wanted to do, where I could be most effective was important. So I took a year off as a sabbatical which I spent reading, learning, discovering, traveling and exploring many areas. To be frank, I was tired of the slow progress in the world of legal and I thought it was worthwhile to learn about other markets and industries. Over time though, the problems I saw in other markets seemed incremental while those I’d observed in legal still felt exponential. I wanted to solve those problems. I was attracted to the ever growing amount of entrepreneurship and investment in this space and started advising a number of legal technology startups, venture funds and private equity funds looking to see what’s next in legal.
The tinkering, exploring and connecting brought me an opportunity to come in and join Factor, a business recently spun out of Axiom, as its first independent CEO. It’s been a great journey thus far, but we have much work to do.
What was the impetus for Factor?
Factor has an interesting history. Factor is a new brand, with proven capabilities. Initially started in the innovation labs of Axiom, the business that became Factor was established to address a growing need & gap in the market.
The gap here was to build and provide solutions to clients for high volume, complex legal work. We bust the myth that only simple legal work can be made more efficient and handled at scale.
Factor was well positioned to do this as we brought together the best of traditional and new law. To date, complex work, requiring legal and market expertise, has been the domain of traditional providers (in-house and law firms) while relatively newer providers or ALSPs have focused tech-enablement and process re-design on large-scale commoditized work. We bring these elements together.
Now, we are stepping into the next chapter of growth with a great leadership team assembled over the last 10 months, and our recent capital raise alongside Board expansion. We’re going to bring bigger, more comprehensive and innovative solutions to our clients piecing together the best of todays legal ecosystem…focusing on the world of Complex legal work at scale.
While the legal industry continues to make some strides in evolving, how do we build up the momentum and establish a widespread culture of innovation within a field that has long been based upon tradition?
To begin with – let’s accept that innovation is becoming an overused word and can just mean so many different things to different people.
My take on innovation is that it’s whatever it takes to turn ideas into solutions that actually deliver value & advantage to customers. It’s about changing the nature of work and the outcome achieved. It’s not about just about tech apps, tools or features in isolation.
I’ve been in this space for a while now and I’ve never felt more energized about the momentum and recognition for the need to innovate in the legal market now.
So, how do we continue to build and spread this culture?
Be rooted in the customer value proposition. What matters most that perhaps customers aren’t even aware of.
We have to be prepared to try things, they may not always work, but start somewhere and refine
Something I’m focused on at Factor: Engage our People. Some of the most passionate, driven, knowledgeable people around. Create the best culture for them where they love what they do and believe in our mission. It’s those people, that will drive innovation
Building community. We won’t solve these problems being insular, we need to bring great thinkers from other markets, and we need to unlock great thinkers from our own world to solving bigger problems. We need to enable as many of those wanting to start big ideas by funding startups as investors, trying new services clients and helping those as advisors. One thing I admire Axiom for a great deal was their ability to bring tremendously bright minds from outside of the industry into our market. Mark Harris, founder of Axiom is on our Board at Factor, and he talks about how some amazing are ex-leaders, consultants, engineers that were solving problems in other markets and industries were excited to join the wild world of legal with Axiom and transform it for the better.
You often talk about “New Law.” How would you define it?
I would say New law is anyone in the space whose business model is built on deploying ‘new law’ virtues (Legal Tech, process improvement, smart resourcing).
These are different from law firms who cannot pass the test of “is their business model is built on these virtues…?”, even if they make a little noise about Process & tech etc.
At Factor, we believe we are unique in our ability to bring together ‘old law’ virtues (legal expertise, market know how and tons of practical experience) with the ‘new law’ virtues (legal tech, process and resourcing).
Where do you envision the legal industry going over the next five years?
I believe largely in the effect of compounded interest. Whether it be in the work we do, our relationships or our ability to effectuate change.
Many people have been doing great work for 15+ years in this space, those will start going from ideas and interesting engagements, to companies and scalable solutions. Our ability to create communities like LexFusion or EDI will enable the market to continue its evolution to change and hopefully in 2025 there will be more examples of legal value creators vs cost centers.
The common thread to successful change and evolution will be those that focus on customers and execution, over hype and salesmanship, will win. I’m excited to play a small part in this with our team at Factor.