Why would people take extra courses – when they already have projects, exams, vivas, moots and god knows what else?
In some colleges, they teach 50 subjects in 5 years, while BCI recommends almost 30 mandatory subjects. Why on earth will anyone want to study more law?
We had to answer these difficult questions when we decided to start a new course for law students. We were quizzed by a lot of people – our faculty, decision makers at NUJS, our colleagues and bosses at Trilegal, even our parents. “Why were we quitting our lucrative jobs on this wild goose chase that seemed rather unattractive?” they asked.
Our audacity of hope
We believed that we understand something that none of them did. Yes, I know it is very audacious – but we very strongly believed in what we were about to start – a legal education company -which will make learning law easier, simpler and faster.
We decided that everything we create will be effective, relevant and accessible. We promised to ourselves that we shall not let traditional wisdom stop us from innovating and delivering education that solves real life problems.
The first ray of light
Over the last six months, with our first batch of 170 students (I am not sure if I should call them students – some of them are double my age, many of them way more accomplished than any of us), which constitutes of lawyers, patent attorneys, MBA students, engineers, entrepreneurs and a large number of law students, we tried to live up to those promises.
We reached out to our students, aggressively asked for feedback on content, form and usability – and acted on such feedback. We analyzed their usage pattern and identified where they are struggling to learn, and smoothened out the rough edges.
Teaching even more law to law students
Law students join our courses with a simple goal – to learn business law.
We are aware of the gap between the aspiration of students and what is actually taught in law schools or law colleges. There is not a single national law school from which we do not have students, with the exception of NLU Assam.
We have students from each of the years you can think of, and even graduates who are practicing or working in a law firm for the last one or two years. Why did all these people join our course?
We knew that the answer was important – and that the answer would determine the trajectory of our company for a long time.
The holes in the law school dream
We all went to law schools with the dream of becoming the best lawyers in the country, or at least a legal expert – but in reality, by the time law school is over, people find that they have very little useful skills.
They have studied contract law, read a lot of cases, but have no idea as to how to draft a simple contract. They have done a major in commercial laws – but they have no idea about how commercial transactions are carried out. They don’t know the simplest of tasks that even the worst lawyer is expected to do.
Our problem statement
Even the best Indian law schools do not teach business laws in a systematic way. It is not only practical knowledge that is lacking – even theoretical knowledge about very important areas of law practice is completely missing from curriculum.
Do you learn about joint ventures? Do you have any idea of technology transfer agreements? Do you even know what lawyers mean by a projects or project finance practice?
Let me share a real life example.
I was taking a workshop at a well-known law college in Bangalore. At some point, I asked the students if they know anything about mergers and acquisitions. Most of them said that they did – as they are studying M&A Law as a full-fledged subject.
The M&A Law teacher was incidentally also sitting in the class. Quite impressed, I asked them if they knew what was the first step in an M&A transaction. They had no clue. They didn’t even hazard any guess – they just didn’t learn that sort of thing.
I mentioned that the first step is a Letter of Intent. I thought perhaps they didn’t understand my first question – and so asked them what a Letter of Intent is. No one, including the teacher, had any idea.
Take a deep breath
If you are a law student – stop here. Think – do you want to learn business law? Are you really learning what you want to, or need to learn to become a good lawyer?
Having a vague idea about what is IPO does not make you an expert in capital markets law. You need to know enough so that you can advise people. The people you will advise will be professionals. Can you match up to their standards? Are you learning enough to become the legal expert you hope and need to become? Will reading contract law and constitutional law cases help you to get there?
My experience is that most law students in India are nowhere close to that standard. The few who are able to display anything close to that standard out of intelligence, personal efforts and sometimes luck are the ones who do well and get selected by law firms or in-house legal departments.
Most law graduates struggle to find suitable jobs due to lack of knowledge and skills.
Practical skills can deliver you from the dilemma
What are practical skills? Think of all the things you have learned, or still learning in your college – is any of that going to help you to achieve a practical purpose? Can you visualize someone benefiting from your knowledge? Do you have any skill that can be used to fulfill yours or another person’s needs?
In most cases, you’d see that you know a lot of things that are almost useful – but fall short of being something that a client would actually pay for – because you lack certain skills or knowledge. That is the practical knowledge I am talking about.
It’s great that you studied IP law. You scored top marks in the copyright course. If I want to transfer my IP in my latest book to my aunt, can you do the formalities and documentation needed for that? Can you draft the necessary contracts? Do you know if any forms have to be filled and submitted to the Registrar of Copyrights?
That would be quite useful – someone may pay for that. Compare that with all the theoretical stuff you learnt about copyright – without practical skills, they will remain useless forever.
Most law students learn the fact that their legal knowledge acquired through classroom scholarship in law schools is insufficient for them to cope with the real world scenario the hard way – through internships and the jobs they take up immediately after graduation. Internships provide exposure to very limited areas of law.
Most interns are caught unprepared and a majority of them are unable to perform their best due to lack of clarity on practical aspects of law.
Another important aspect for law students is to understand the commercial intent behind legal provisions and transactions.
As a practicing lawyer, especially in corporate practice, it is indispensable to have a great perception of commercial intent behind different types of transactions and interests of the client. This is a major obstacle that students face during their transition into the professional world.
Our answer: the Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws
We wanted to solve each of these problems through the course we started with NUJS, Kolkata; working on it as soon as we left our respective law firm jobs. We knew we have succeeded when our students gave us feedback.
We wanted to make it simple but awesome. Effective, In-depth and yet easy to understand.
“The course has been very helpful so far. The crisp modules are very effective indeed.” – SagarDevgan, law student, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad
“The course is awesome!!! It is the Greek God of business courses.” – RijuDev, law student, NLU Delhi
“Finding the course really helpful and it keeps me ahead of my class. The video uploaded on partnership was really helpful, just like an interactive class.” – Anisha Bose Aditya, law student, Lloyd Law College
We wanted to give a confidence boost to our students when it comes to practice of law.
“I feel more confident when asked questions on subjects like LLPs and taxation. More so, my internship is due and I am certain that this course will help me during the internship in the law firm where I will be faced with more practical challenges.” – MayankSapra, law student, NLU Odisha
“The study material and questions posed really help in understanding the subjects discussed. The drafting exercise and the material on Customs law is really detailed and helpful. Overall, it can help bring legal clarity to a layman to understand the procedures and real life demands of the specific business laws. It has also vastly increased my basic knowledge in subjects that I haven’t yet studied.” – PrashantSreenivasan, law student, NUJS Kolkata
We wanted our course to be unique and very special.
A lot of the things I am learning through the course are exclusive, that is we usually don’t get to learn such relevant topics in a comprehensive form otherwise. Thanks to the course for informing us about various relevant topics in such a precise and comprehensive form- LekhaVijayan, final year law student, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi
The course is very helpful. iPleaders is a doing a great job. The modules are easy to understand and the exercises are extremely helpful. – Shreyasi Das, law student, Government Law College, Mumbai
Students told us that we have succeeded. We know we are still on the job – and we are going to make it way more awesome.
The second batch of the course is starting from 30th January 2013.
If you want to learn more about the course, visit the website here.
To view the syllabus of the course, see here.
To get more information about the course, you can sign up here. You can also fill the form below.[dciframe]http://startup.nujs.edu/include/signup-mc-iframe.php,100%,410px,0,auto,border:0px;align:left;[/dciframe]
Ramanuj Mukherjee is a co-founder of iPleaders