Lawsikho

This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

LawSikho is India’s leading online education company that creates advanced and practical legal courses that cater to lawyers, leading businesses and even universities. 

We bridge the gap between theory and practice in legal education.

We bring industry insights into the domain of legal learning and make learning practical skills that help you to do client work simpler, quicker and cheaper.

Over the years, LawSikho has become a formidable library of practical legal knowledge, a repository of insights, video lessons, how-to guides and templates that can elevate a legal practice and help it to scale faster. 

LawSikho is also a community of lawyers who are forever a law student in their heart and dedicates some of their time to studying and learning law, writing about it and even teaching it.

This community is also a force behind many projects like the iPleaders blog, which is one of the largest and most well-read legal blogs in the world, with around 1 crore individuals reading it annually, many events and webinars, as well as our fast-growing YouTube channel. There are projects like Project Access, through which we have been making the entire law school curriculum available on YouTube for free in the form of video lectures, and creating free to access reading the material as well.

Who takes our courses?

Most of our students are lawyers with several years of experience who want to add new areas of law to their practice, or work on matters involving expertise in multiple areas at the same time. 

There are also many young law graduates who take our course in order to speed up their professional development and career progression.

There are some advanced law students who take our courses in order to procure practical knowledge beyond what is taught in law schools. It helps them to rapidly develop practical legal knowledge and skills, stand out from the crowd and perform better than expectations in internships and job interviews.

We have also catered to many non-lawyers who want to learn the law due to various professional benefits, from information security officers who want to learn technology law, procurement experts who want to learn more about contract law or HR managers who want to learn labor and employment laws or factory laws. We have catered to many government servants as well. About 5-10% of our students in any given month come from non-legal backgrounds. Some of our courses are in fact dedicated to such professionals.

We also offer a few test-prep courses for Bar exam, judiciary exam and CLAT. We intend to increase our footprint in this sector in the coming years. 

We have also worked with in-house legal departments, HR departments and various other divisions of very large corporations like ITC, ICICI Bank, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. to create and deliver customized online courses for their lawyers and other employees. For some of our blue-chip clients, we also offer physical workshops that rapidly train their employees in a specific area of law. 

Universities engage us to train their teachers or to train their students in practical aspects in order to make them job-ready.  We have worked with a range of institutes like MNLU, Mumbai, NUJS Kolkata and KIIT Bhubaneshwar towards this.

How do our students benefit?

For ages, lawyers have learned practical legal knowledge through many years of apprenticeship. Law schools focus on a kind of liberal education, which focuses on critical thinking at best, and rote learning at its worst. However, one thing it certainly fails to do is prepare lawyers for practical tasks that they would have to undertake on behalf of their clients.

There was a time when clinical legal education was mooted as an idea in India and promoted by luminaries like late Prof. Madhav Menon, but it did not work, although National Law Universities were supposed to dispense clinical legal education. Still, at best, presently National Law Universities offer liberal education that arguably develops the thinking capacity of a law student, leaving them on their own when it comes to learning and performing practical legal work.

The training bottleneck faced by young law graduates trying to get a job, therefore, is incredible. They are exploited by lawyers who take them under their wing with a promise to teach them how to perform legal work and then can make them do all types of menial chores as well, without a specific focus on elevating their professional competence. Most of them are reduced to being file bearers, clerical workers or even personal assistants of these senior lawyers for a meager payment that may often be less than the minimum wage levels of any state. I have written in detail about this problem over here. 

There is another dimension to the legal education crisis. The bigger problem is that India has absolutely no method for lawyers already practicing law to learn about new areas of law. Continuing legal education is non-existent in India, except for what we have to offer. Some courses are offered at times by NLS Bangalore and MILAT, but the less is said about those courses the better. A lot of lip service is given and a lot of money is made by certain organizations in the name of CLE in India, but forget quality even quantitatively these programs have impact tending to zero.

Why did those who identified the gap fail to make a long-term difference to the state of legal education?

While many luminaries, experts and even our competitors before us have identified the gap in legal education provided by existing law universities correctly, their attempts to fill the gap have not been successful, or have been mildly successful for a short while, after which results have sunk like lead in water. 

Why is that the case? 

For that, we have to review the methods which were deployed until now to resolve the problem. 

At the first level, many people who started to work on this problem believed that bridging the gap between theory and practice is an ‘idea issue’. It is not. The idea is known to everyone. These experts have underestimated the depth and breadth of effort required to solve the problem.

While the idea is simple, its implementation is laden with many challenges. It is difficult and challenging to bridge the gap.

How should one get busy practitioners to give inputs on a syllabus? How can they prepare exercises, or send templates? How can one continuously upgrade courses? How can this be done repeatedly over a period of time, and not as a one-time solution? 

How can one ensure that all kinds of learners benefit, that they get personal feedback, and that their doubts are resolved, without unduly burdening full-time practitioners?

What would be a just pricing model for a service which is able to integrate all of these at scale?

It takes dedication, creativity, time and patience to solve it. The solutions we devise frequently break as we explore newer areas of law, as the challenges and market expectations from lawyers are different. The needs for our cyber law course are very different from our Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code course, which is very different from the M&A diploma or the contract drafting diploma.  The same size fits approach just does not work in this market.

Every leg of growth brings a new set of challenges too. We have to start from the beginning and reinvent the wheel again, several times until the courses are working reliably, and our learners are satisfied. And then we have to keep doing it repeatedly.

We work on identifying solutions to these challenges every day. The real secret to this is the introduction of appropriate teaching methodology and systems necessary to implement this idea. You can read more about this in the next section of this article.

The gravity and complexity of this challenge were not foreseen, even by us, initially. However, we kept at it when we figured out how difficult it was to scale any solution. Ultimately, most players who were not willing to work on this issue fizzled out or tried shortcuts of selling cheap and quick certifications with fancy titles.

Second, for many, starting online courses was a way to make a quick buck. They thought that one could create a course with a handful of production quality videos or amazing animations and wait for a steady income stream to flow in from quick enrolments. Upgradation costs would be minimal, after the first version of the course would be created. 

Unfortunately, that does not work. Lawyers and law students are willing to read, and they need volumes of content. It would take a huge amount of time to do ‘movie-like’ post-production effects and introduce animated videos, and that creates a huge time lag and cost but does not add much value. We chose to focus on content rather than production quality, which helped us to keep costs low and efforts focused in the right direction.  

In this way, legal education is very different from K12, where the syllabus is limited and high-quality animated videos or doubt clearing can add more value. Legal education, on the other hand, is an extremely content-intensive game. 

Our learners need an experienced teacher who can guide them and coach them until they learn. Learners want videos too, but richness and depth of content is more important than the special effects and voice-overs for them. They want tons of templates and ready-to-use checklists. They want how-to guides and they want someone to correct their drafts so they can rapidly improve.

We realized that one practitioner may not be best positioned to do this, no matter how deep his or her experience. An elaborate system is needed to consistently deliver results to a wide variety of learners.  

Third, inviting practitioners to take guest lectures or a credit course in the university has been another popular mechanism to impart practical knowledge and skills. One or more guest lecturers visit the university at a fixed time every week to take special credit courses. 

These methods are highly faculty-dependent, which means that results vary. Also, these guest lecturers are not teaching regularly, and their focus on teaching or attention to pedagogy or understanding of the need of the students is fleeting at best. How well will you expect law professors to perform in the court if they were to argue before a course 6-7 times in a year? Can one really develop any coherent expertise or ability to make a real difference from such irregular engagements?

It is not enough that a practitioner of great capabilities is teaching, we also have to see how capable he is as a teacher. These skills are difficult to find in one person. As a result, which university finds a great expert to teach which subject and when, and which students can benefit from it, is all left to chance. 

Also, if Lloyd Law College or Jindal Global Law School or National Law School of India University or NLU Delhi has a great guest lecturer for a particular credit course, say, on Company Law, can the rest of the law students and young practitioners benefit from it and learn? Access to good guest faculty has been a massive problem across law colleges in India. 

Further, this mechanism primarily focuses on the one-way delivery of information from a star teacher to hundreds of students, through guest lectures. 

I have spoken to many practitioners who take such guest lectures, and very few focus on giving detailed task-based assignments to students. 

It focuses on the acquisition of knowledge by students, not the development of their ability to perform real work. There is very little design around coaching and feedback to students, practical exercises, development of the students’ problem-solving capabilities, focus on weaker students, etc. We know why it is so. Can we expect amateur teachers to be able to cater to these delicate needs? 

As a result, the ability to perform practical tasks is not directly acquired by law graduates. The current legal education system is not even attempting to step outside that in order to cater to the rest of the industry that requires learning solutions.

A neat blend of technology and specialization is needed to perform a complex set of teaching tasks together and in sync with one another. Examples of such tasks include design of a comprehensive syllabus, classroom training, design of simulation exercises, in-line evaluations, follow-up calls (if you are a student of Lawsikho’s Executive Certificate or Diploma Course, you will receive multiple follow-up calls to track how your course is going), and even conversations on networking and time management. These are all independent tasks. 

Do you think one or even two teachers can perform these tasks end-to-end for hundreds of students? 

Well, it does not happen in the real world.  

If this was to be done, practitioners will have to leave their practice to focus full time on education. Some of them could do it successfully, but this shift would cut off their exposure to the environment of practice.

This is why many institutions that have tried to bridge the gap between theory and practice succeeded at best for a very short while. They lured great practitioners to teach and got them to move out of practice into full-time teaching. However, gradually, the practitioners’ skills went out of sync with the needs of the time. 

Continuous industry-academia exchange of information and collaboration needs to be inherent in the design of any system which intends to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

What did we do differently?

In this background, LawSikho is the only organization with a credible presence contributing to close to 2000 learners per year through a selection of over 30 practical courses that go into specific details of the frequently performed tasks in each practice area.

You may find it shocking that after 5 years of legal education, even the topper of a university or NLU for that matter is not taught how to draft various commercial agreements or a plaint or a bail application. They do not learn how to negotiate or review a legal document. They are promised that they will learn such skills from internships which rarely happens.

In contrast, in LawSikho, we teach 2 practical and marketable skills each week in our premium courses. The idea is that each skill should be valuable enough that the learner can charge at least INR 10,000 for doing that work. 

The process starts with the learner trying to solve two assignments, using our extensive library and study material. They are provided templates and how-to guides, using which they may draft or review an agreement, or prepare a negotiation strategy, draft an advisory note or memo, prepare applications of different types, or a plaint or a statement of defence.

Once every month they also have to write an article that is of publishable quality and then publish the same.

When they submit this work to us, we review it and give them specific feedback in writing, through inline comments. For this, we have trained practicing lawyers as evaluators. If learners do not submit assignments, our evaluators even follow up with them on the phone. We have success coaches who call and coach students who are struggling to learn something.

Trust me, this really stretches them. Even successful lawyers do not have a habit of regularly writing and publishing articles (although they may draft multiple contracts, opinions, and petitions everyday), so they are impressed when they see our alumni’s writing portfolio.

Finally, we have a live classroom session every week. Since people have already done some work on the subject matter of the class, and by now they have various opinions and ideas about how the work should be done, we have a very rich discussion under the guidance and mentorship of a very experienced teacher who is not an academic but a practitioner with substantial experience.

Imagine you practicing singing, or boxing or just work out at the gym, regularly, for a year. How much will you change? If you had a well-developed system to nurture and guide you through the process of growth, how much you can progress in a year under the guidance of a capable and dedicated teacher?

That is exactly what happens to LawSikho students. They benefit from 3 things primarily: regular practice of simulated legal work, regular feedback on their legal drafting and strategic inputs from experts in a safe and no-pressure environment (minus the scolding or judgment that one encounters at a real workplace) and regular deep engagement with peers and senior lawyers in forms of debates and discussions.

Apart from these curriculum-driven activities, they also benefit from a number of career focussed training sessions. Our students learn to work on a variety of skills, from how to prepare for interviews, how to read faster, how to develop your personal brand, How to get better at time management, how to become more effective through self-care rituals, how to become effective at networking etc. There are multiple webinars every week and hundreds of recorded sessions that they benefit from.

They also publish their articles on iPleaders blog and other media portals where their work gets noticed. They benefit a lot from interacting with our large alumni base as well as their classmates. The networking opportunity is amazing as people refer work to each other and often get guidance from each other in various matters.

We do not bank exclusively on the ability of a star expert to design a course and deliver a handful of lectures. We do not give a broad mandate to an expert, such as to teach a course on ‘M&A’. That would disproportionately burden an expert to contribute on areas he or she has not worked on. That may not enable the expert to contribute in the most meaningful way possible.

https://lawsikho.com/course/diploma-entrepreneurship-administration-business-laws

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Instead, our team consults a larger pool of experts to identify the areas where cutting-edge work and opportunities exist and prepares detailed syllabi. We have noticed that different experts have had practical experience and proficiency in specific parts of a subject. So, if you look at M&A, some lawyers would have done unlisted company acquisitions and business transfers for 7-8 years but not worked on listed company acquisitions under Takeover Code. Therefore, we identify experts who have worked on each kind of area.  

We also take care to speak to young, mid-level and senior practitioners, so that a broad range of challenges can be captured. 

We believe that learning is not a one-way transfer of knowledge from the expert to the student. Our learners stretch and expand their brains by application of knowledge to simulation exercises framed around real-life situations.

Our research team works with experts on the preparation of simulation exercises that will stretch the minds of our learners so that they are able to develop the skills required to perform real legal work.  

We have created a system to provide individual feedback to learners. The quality of our programs is not measured by the stardom of the teacher, but the improvement in the capacity of the student.  

There are many more people involved in the creation and delivery of a single Lawsikho course than we know of in any conventional university. In a university, at least in India, the entire course creation process is left to one or maximum of two teachers, who rely on textbooks to teach an entire course. Compared to that, a whole world of work by a team of 6-10 people goes into creating a LawSikho course.

Over time, our methodology has evolved and gotten better. 

We are working on reducing many of the skills which a law firm partner or experienced litigator would say are developed ‘with experience’ or ‘vary based on commercials’, into a scientific way of teaching. The results are so drastically different, that most lawyers find them hard to believe!

Our courses are always in a state of upgradation. In fact, the amount of time, effort and money we spend on upgradation of existing courses far exceeds what we first incurred on creating the first version of the course. 

It is not just about the money spent on upgradation, every goal is not accomplished merely by throwing tons of money at it. A lot of meticulous planning, research and effort is required. Some things improve organically. We consider this to be a necessary part of our mission to improve the quality of legal education. 

Experts find joy in working with us because their intention to impart practical skills materializes in a very unique way. They are able to limit their time to do what they do best. Some experts may find it worthwhile to contribute to exercises, while others may prefer to take online classes. Still, others might be willing to contribute some templates or write a few chapters. 

This flexibility enables us to create courses that are extremely rich in their scope. Yesterday, a GST lawyer was really impressed to know that we were teaching about Entertainment Tax and GST regime on movies in a media law course. I said that an in-house counsel in a media company should know about it. They should know about sting operations, internet shutdowns, and other contemporary topics as well, in addition to media contracts and licensing work, which is the bread and butter of any media laws practitioner or in-house counsel in a media company.

Our mission has not been fulfilled merely by launching 30 or more breakthrough courses, which is the situation today. We know that we are on the correct path, but we are improving constantly and not resting. And that is why our students do not hesitate to pay us 1 lakh rupees to us for something like Master Access.

It will be fulfilled when we see that the quality of lawyers and legal solutions delivered by lawyers in the country has drastically improved owing to superior legal education. 

It will be fulfilled when a young lawyer has the skills necessary to earn a sustainable living in any part of the country at the time of his or her graduation. 

It will be fulfilled when the playing field between a lawyer with 10 years of experience and a lawyer with 2 years of experience is relatively flattened because the lawyer with 2 years of experience has access to top-notch training on technical subjects, practice development, and networking.

LawSikho is a unique organization with a very unique learner profile. We are often approached by recruiters and law firms to recommend capable lawyers with the right skills to them. This puts us in a great position to share exclusive job opportunities and openings with the learners. We even recommend those who perform well in class for jobs and internships on a regular basis. However, we give no guarantee to anyone for placements or jobs.

Nonetheless, we can assure you that if you properly follow our premium courses, you will tremendously benefit and getting a job or finding your own clients would not prove to be a particularly hard thing provided that you go through the training program with diligence and motivation.

What else would you like to know about LawSikho? Ask us anything. 

All questions will be answered by Ramanuj Mukherjee and Abhyuday Agarwal, the two founders of LawSikho. We look forward to hearing from you.

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

https://t.me/joinchat/J_0YrBa4IBSHdpuTfQO_sA

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