The Story of iPleaders: What Made Us Start and What Should Our Future Be

This article has been written by Mr. Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.

When I was in law school, I was a good student. I had topped the law entrance (2nd topper, actually). I didn’t want to be ordinary. I believed I was special. My dream was to become a successful, amazing corporate lawyer.

I wanted to learn beyond what was there in the textbook. I wanted something that will really prepare me for my life ahead as a corporate lawyer. Maybe reading all the big fat textbooks in the library will do it? Maybe the secret is to win some moots? Maybe I just had to get the right internships? Maybe I should just read the pink news papers like everybody says?

I did all those things. Quite successfully. But then I was dissatisfied. It was all bakwas. I didn’t find something that would really teach me how to become a good corporate lawyer. Reading the big fat Mulla and Mulla didn’t teach me how to draft a single commercial contract for which a lawyer can get paid a fat sum. I read the Companies Act, yes I really did. I still couldn’t make head or tail of corporate governance. I didn’t know anything about how all these play out in the real world.

I didn’t get what I was looking for, but I was studying at a top law school, had the right CV and marks, and I knew stuff. So I got multiple offers on the Day Zero of recruitment. I had a job that paid close to 1 Lakh per month even before I started my final year. I graduated.

When I went on to work for one of the best law firms in India, I discovered that people really struggle through the process of joining a law firm, learning on the job, adapting to the work culture, delivering on the clock – all at the same time. It is a very hard process. A large number of lawyers drop out in less than a year. There are a lot of other lawyers who never make it because they do not get a good senior who is willing to train them.

Abhyuday (my Co-founder) and I thought that there must to be a better way of creating powerful lawyers in India! Something was clearly missing. The hallowed law schools are really not doing their job it seemed! They teach statutes and case laws. Some of them claim to teach the law students to think like a lawyer but hardly any of them do that.

Most students who manage to do well have mostly their own contacts, or have their own effort or serendipity to thank for. I wanted to change that. I wanted to create a systematic way to learn practical aspects of the law, from the best in the practice, without jargons and deadwood legalese. Something that will set people on the path to excellence as a lawyer, a program that will help them to hit the ground running as they graduate and join practice. What if we can create a system – where we can train them to be extraordinary business lawyers? What if we made an equivalent of a business law gym? What would it look like? What will it take?

We wanted to simplify legal learning to the extent that even a high school student should be able to understand it. Somehow, that really appealed to me – that we are working on a project that will one day enable crores of Indians to understand the laws that govern their life without having to break their head to make sense of every sentence. That is what propelled us to create the iPleaders Blog (now used by over 50 lakh people in a year), and courses on subjects like RTI and FIR.

Also, while I was in law school, I noticed that there are many non-lawyers who want to learn the law. Managers, CEOs, Directors, NGO workers – people can be empowered through legal training.

That, and the intent to create a new generation of powerful lawyers in India. These are the things that not only inspired us back then, but still keep us going.

It has been over 6 years since then. Back in 2010, we took that question seriously. What if we have a 1 year curriculum to teach business laws – what can we teach in 1 year to set people on the path of becoming extraordinary business lawyers? We went and talked to people from the industry and asked them exactly that. We went and spoke to retired judges, we spoke to partners and associates of law firms. We consulted investors, bankers, litigators about what we should teach young lawyers and law students.

To be honest, many of the people we asked were either blank or pessimistic. One well-known Supreme Court lawyer almost threw me out of her chamber because she felt we are doing a disservice by trying to create shortcuts.

We were indomitable. We found our champions, we convinced them, we got them to form an industry-academia panel and to volunteer their time. Then we went and met Prof. M.P. Singh, and we convinced him to start a course for lawyers and entrepreneurs together. We convinced him and a full strength faculty meeting that such a course will bring glory to NUJS. And that was how we started our first online course, Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws.

Over the next 6 years, this course brought us many accolades. Prof. Ishwara Bhat, the new VC of NUJS who replaced Prof. MP Singh, was touched when while on summer vacation, he met a girl from Dharwad Law School, who did our course and then got a job at a Mumbai law firm. She told Prof. Bhat how the course made the impossible possible for her (she left the law firm in a while though, and now teaches at an NLU herself)!

Prof. Bhat was impressed. He called us and told us to expand online courses at NUJS. Encouraged by his support, we launched a battery of certificate courses over the next few years. We also enabled NUJS to launch the MA in Business Laws course, with the goal of giving a solid competition to NLSIU Bangalore MBL course which is very popular.

We were successful beyond our wildest dreams. But NUJS had to stop the degree course due to some abrupt changes in rules by UGC. In order to offer a Degree course online, ideally NUJS should get a NAAC accreditation which till date eludes the University.

No worries, by then we had launched, our own online courses portal. We began to focus more on it. We launched a number of new courses, almost all of which received great reviews and considerable success in a short time. We have many more lined up.

2017-18 was an amazing year for iPleaders. Our team was strengthened. iPleaders blog grew about 400% year on year to a peak of 7.5 Lakh unique users per month.

The iPleaders story continues. Every year more amazing. New surprises in store. We do have setbacks from time to time, but with every challenge we have risen to the occasion and grown even more. It was always possible because of you, our reader, our learners, and our supporters. Even when we felt desolate, we didn’t give up because you had faith in us. We will never stop because our commitment for you in unflinching and absolute.

Let me share some of the upcoming projects we have in store for you:

  • A corporate law career development program – 1 year long
  • A course cum legal library for directors of listed companies and unlisted large private companies
  • A microlearning app – that will turn learning law into fun and games
  • LawSikho Diploma courses – 6 of them. Three are already launched and and the limited seats are filling up quick:

Online Business Law Diploma course

M&A, Banking and Investment Laws Diploma course

Cyber Law, Fintech and Technology Contracts Diploma course

What do you think we should do in 2018-19? What should be our focus?

You can give us your suggestions in the comment section. We are really looking forward to hear from you.

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