Abhishek Sudhir, an ex-JGLS professor has set-up Sudhir Law Review, which is like a paid Khan Academy for Indian law students. We love the concept and decided to interview the man about it.
How did the idea for Sudhir Law Review come about?
I had always dreamed of being a litigating lawyer, but circumstances beyond my control meant that this ambition of mine had to take a backseat.
I took up a job at the Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) a couple of years ago and it was there that the idea for SLR started to take shape.
My former students at JGLS will tell you that I never sent them any reading before class. Why? Because as a law student for six years in the United Kingdom, I never did the reading before class!
Instead, I sent them PPT Slides with extensive notes that I had prepared on the subject I was going to lecture on.
Having these slides in front of them as I lectured during class meant that they could actually engage during the lecture.
The slides I prepared acquired quite the reputation on campus and I would often find students in the library using “Sudhir’s Slides”, as they came to be known, en masse.
Hmmm, “I wonder if students will pay for these slides and the opportunity to watch my lectures” was what I asked myself. And SLR was born.
How have you implemented your ideas? What are your learnings?
I founded SLR in June 2015. In three short months I have setup a website HERE and uploaded lectures with notes on the CPC and Constitutional Law.
In the next couple of weeks lectures on Taxation and the CrPC will be up on the site.
It has been a tremendous learning experience. Running a start-up is by no means an easy business though. I have put together a team of legal practitioners to assist me with content creation but by and large this is a one-man operation at the moment.
At this point I am both the office boy and the CEO. It’s probably too soon to give you a fair and objective assessment of what I’ve learnt.
What I will say is that having no one to answer to but your customers, no office politics and no boss is great!
You’ve written for Scroll.in. How did you land your first gig? What would your tips be for someone who wants to freelance?
I got my first big break when Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) decided to publish my article. This was followed up by an op-ed in the Hindu and I started to get noticed by editors.
I then wrote a weekly column for an online publication and this helped me learn the skill of churning out quality pieces on issues that were in the news.
I have written about eight articles or so for Scroll, and I honestly don’t see myself writing for anyone but them in the future.
As far as tips for someone who wants to freelance, I would suggest that they stick to their area of expertise.
If you’re someone with a legal background, watch the news, look for a legal angle in every story and put pen to paper. It’s as simple as that.
JGLS experience: What was good, bad and ugly about it?
My teaching style was universally appreciated and not a single student (I taught over 300) gave me negative feedback on my in-class performance.
I taught more hours than any other professor (13 hours per week) and designed two courses from scratch that proved extremely popular as electives.
JGLS students are hard to please, and the fact that I was able to please them is something that makes me feel proud.
When I decided to enter the world of academia, I did so as an idealist. I met with the VC of JGU and I bought into his vision for JGLS.
But it was not too different from any other law school in India. I tried my best to bring about some change and looking back I would say that I failed.
I made some great friends, all of them students by the way, and these are friends, I hope, who will be by my side for the rest of my life.
I hope that one day JGLS becomes the top-ranked law school in the country. If I do live to see that day, I will be one proud professor.
You’ve done your legal education from abroad. How was the experience?
I would wholeheartedly recommend an undergraduate degree in law from the U.K. to prospective law students.
It gave me a solid grounding in the common law and I have taught complex subjects like the CrPC and CPC without ever studying them formally.
It also meant that I could settle into my LLM at University College London from day one as I was familiar with the legal culture.
Apart from the formal education, I gained a lot of life experience. I spent six of the best years of my life in the United Kingdom.
I left India a boy, at the age of 19, and came back a man. I worked in a nightclub as a cleaner and as a bartender at football games.
I got to see the world and live with a couple of Englishmen which fundamentally changed my world view.
Tell us about qualifying to be a Barrister-at-Law.
It was the fulfilment of a childhood fantasy. History was my favourite subject and I was in awe of figures like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Jinnah, all of whom were Barristers.
Given my love for the Constitution of India, I joined Grays Inn as it was the Inn that B.R. Ambedkar and K.T. Shah belonged to.
I underwent a rigourous Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and excelled in the advocacy, client conferencing and negotiation modules.
I was called to the Bar Council of England and Wales in July 2011 and at that point it was the achievement I was most proud of.
But in June 2012, I was enrolled as an Advocate with the Karnataka State Bar Council and taking the advocate’s oath in Kannada (my mother tongue) after overcoming several obstacles takes the cake over becoming a Barrister.
Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani I suppose!
You’ve worked on Speeches for Pranab Mukherjee. How did that happen? Were you paid for it?
The Registrar of JGU, who has always been very kind to me, made this happen actually.
The President was to deliver a speech on B.R. Ambedkar and I was tasked with preparing a speech for him given my familiarity with the Constituent Assembly Debates.
I strained every sinew and prepared a speech that incorporated some of Baba Saheb’s most powerful quotes.
Although the speech was amended, to hear the President deliver some of the words that I had written for him on live television gave me goosebumps.
You’ve been an ace mooter and public speaker. Give our readers your best pieces of advice on this.
When it comes to mooting, work on your memos; the quality of memos in some of the moots I have judged are appalling. Students seem to just insert tons of case law and there is absolutely no flow.
When I practiced briefly before the tribunals in the U.K., I never lost and I hardly had to open my mouth as my written advocacy (in the form of skeleton arguments i.e. memo) got the job done.
When I was training for the Bar in England, it was drilled into us that effective oral advocacy begins with written advocacy.
It is my belief that great orators are born, not made. Does this mean that if you’re not born with the gift of the gab, like Cato and Pericles, you simply give up? No. Your goal should be to achieve a level of functionality as an advocate or a public speaker.
The next logical question is how does one go about becoming a functional/better advocate or speaker? The answer is practice, practice, practice.
Converse with people; stick to English; don’t slip into Hindi; be economical with your words; measure every word that comes out of your mouth; pay attention to your tone; modulate your voice; and practice!
What if SLR doesn’t work out? What’s your Plan B?
I will do everything in my power to make it a success. It is my dream to build India’s biggest law school, an online portal where thousands of students can learn and master the law.
We are well on our way to realising that dream. In a little over seven weeks, 350 students have become members of the site.
It is my hope that a couple of decades down the line SLR will produce a senior counsel or a High Court judge, and who knows maybe even a Supreme Court justice. So that’s Plan A. No Plan B for now.
Full disclosure: Sudhir Law Review is advertising on Lawctopus. However, no money exchanged hands for this interview.