Box clever

There are very few members of the legal profession who can claim to be world champions at anything unconnected to the world of jurisprudence, still less something so visceral as boxing. But Alex Mehta, barrister with Judicium, can make such a claim. “I’m the world light-middleweight white collar boxing champion,” says the 34-year-old, with just enough modesty. “I fought an American judge to win the title. He hit like a truck.”

However hard the judge in question – 45-year-old Phil Maier from New York’s administrative law circuit – hit him, Mehta prevailed, but his pride in the victory is tempered by regret that he is not currently training – and fighting – anywhere near as much as he would like. “I’ve had to take a break because of work,” he says ruefully. “You don’t realise how much you miss something until you’ve been away from it for a while, and I’m determined to start training again in earnest. It’s been far too long.”

The work preventing Mehta from indulging his passion is his role as head of legal and communications for Judicium, a legal compliance consultancy spawned during the dotcom revolution. Unlike so many other great new things from the dotcom days, Judicium has prospered and now boasts a formidable board – including ex-Eversheds senior partner Nimble Thompson – as well as some impressive deals.

Mehta is particularly proud of one recently struck with the Welsh Assembly, which in January tied the knot with Judicium so that Welsh school governors would be able to access the company’s specialist legal services whenever required. “The Welsh government approached a number of City firms, but none were able to get the project off the ground,” says Mehta. “Judicium helps government bodies and blue-chip clients deal with their legal and compliance obligations. In this instance, given the growing compensation culture, school governors had become increasingly worried about making decisions. They needed access to independent legal advice to guide them through data protection, employment, child protection and other legal issues. “There remains a filtering process,” says Mehta, “but legal problems come through to us. It’s no surprise, given the way that the last decade has seen a massive increase in scrutiny over corporate governance in general and the decisions of company directors in particular.”

That, then, is Judicium’s niche – the provision of advice on “technical but critical”, not to mention ever-increasing, issues of legal compliance faced by businesses and administrative bodies in the UK.
Launched in 2000, the company was formed by “a group of likeminded people who were all frustrated with the law and traditional legal services”, according to Mehta. The company provides its tailor-made ‘legal plans’ to fashion houses, businesses large and small and private individuals. Little of its legal work is outsourced, but if it was “we’d be hard on the lawyers involved”, says Mehta.

Birmingham-born Mehta qualified as a barrister at the chambers of Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC, having previously completed a doctorate in law and legal compliance at Oxford University. His academic background (which also includes a geography degree) is belied by an entrepreneurial zest that perhaps meant he was never destined to sit in a legal ivory tower for long. He left the bar after one year of public planning and commercial property work to “do something different”, and soon found himself engaged in “months of research, planning and writing business plans” as the idea of Judicium gained momentum.

The company obtained venture capital finance from individuals who remain shareholders to this day, and was launched with the express aim of bringing “a more rigorous, business-like approach” to the provision of legal services. “We have a very entrepreneurial approach to legal business,” adds Mehta. “We’re very good at the
commodification of legal services.”

Mehta drops this phrase into the conversation as if it is an everyday fact of life, and is just as effortless with an explanation of what the ‘commodification of legal services’ actually means: “Law is an intellectual process, but commodification is a way of stripping away the front-end mystique and complexity to make it easier to purchase and utilise.”

If this sounds a little more sales than legal-speak, it is no surprise, given that Mehta has no doubt about what is key to his role.
“Business development is crucial,” he says. “The role is very much client-facing and about winning the business. I see myself as a businessperson first, who understands the appropriate way to package and deliver law in an ethical manner.” The blend of packaging and ethics has won admirers, with Judicium recently voted one of the top 50 most promising companies in the UK by Real Business magazine. A number of plaudits from the press appear on the company’s website, and the shareholders – Mehta being one – must be far from displeased. “We’ve delivered better returns than just about anything else they’ve invested in,” he says.

But for all the intriguing blend of legalese and sales patter, no appraisal of Mehta is complete without understanding his love of boxing. A trip to Gleason’s Gym in Bermondsey, recently opened and home to professional heavyweights such as 20-year-old Michael Steed, as well as amateurs and City boxers of Mehta’s ilk, seemed like a good idea, with Mehta heading there to unwind after a hard day at the office. Mehta’s undeniable flamboyance finds an outlet in boxing, specifically, the phenomenon of ‘white collar’ boxing (for City types – lawyers, bankers and brokers) introduced by boxing promoter Alan Lacey under the brand of ‘The Real Fight Club.’

“I must have had 10 or 12 white collar bouts,” says Mehta; and yet a conservative side to the man whose ring presence is far from quiet emerges during our trip to Gleason’s. “There are a lot of similarities between boxing and the law,” continues Mehta, a veteran of 37 fights for Oxford University, only one of which he lost. “Law is by its very nature adversarial. And what better crucible than a boxing ring can there be for learning the mechanics of adversary?
Alex Mehta
Head of Legal and Communications

Organisation Judicium
Sector Legal and compliance services
Employees 25
Legal capability 15
Annual legal spend “Very little”
Head of Legal and Communications Alex Mehta
Reporting to Chief executive officer Leon de Costa