This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
“These courses are too expensive. I can’t afford them.”
“Why are you commercializing education?”
“I am unfortunate, I can’t buy this. Only rich kids can afford such courses.”
“I am in financial problems. I will do this someday when I have money.”
“Your pricing is crazy! Every other course provider is so cheap, why are your courses so expensive?”
A lot of different people say these things to me every once in a while. And I speak to them and explain our pricing strategy.
However, if I am getting the same question so many times, I feel obliged to put this out there. If you wonder why we charge much more than any other online legal courses provider, then please read on. Otherwise, we will catch you tomorrow. This mail is all about pricing strategy and what we think about the commercialization of education at iPleaders.
Let’s be clear about one thing first. I want to talk about why these courses are more expensive than the usual online course. Next, I will tell you what to do if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know where to find the money.
First of all, it’s futile to compare the price of our courses with that of any other. None of our competitors offer the kind of courses we do.
Sure, there are universities, colleges, online course providers who offer courses with similar names. Sometimes they may even have a similar syllabus. In fact, some of them try to copy our syllabus, landing pages and even course names in hope of luring away our students at cheaper prices.
However, I assure you that none of them offer any courses which are remotely close to what we offer.
How can I say so?
Let me start from the beginning.
There are 3 kinds of legal courses, online or distance mode, available in India. And trust me, I have seen most of them. I regularly have my colleagues or students enrol into these courses, just to know what they teach and how they teach.
The first kind, of course, I want to tell you about is a classic distance education.
This has existed for over 100 years. The most well-known distance courses started in the USA, in cities like New York and Chicago. It was the industrial age, people went to work for and build great corporations. There was a huge demand for skills. And it was easy to send course material by post. The idea really caught on and worked.
You may have heard of Dale Carnegie. He was an early proponent of distance education for adults. He himself offered distance courses on personality building and public speaking, which were very popular at the time.
Eventually, universities realised the great opportunity of distance education and joined the bandwagon. In India, you now have universities like IGNOU which wholly devote themselves to such distance courses.
A good example of a classic distance education course will be the MBL by NLS Bangalore. This is a course with a heavy syllabus, a lot of study material which is sent to your address, there are some optional classes to attend and finally, there are really difficult exams. The course is known to have a really low pass rate, and while I haven’t seen the data, I have heard that the pass rate has been under 10% over the years.
So here is a course, which kind of tries to create value by providing study material as well as a filter. If you get an MBL from NLS Bangalore, it means you can read a lot of study material, memorize law and pass a tough exam that the vast majority of takers fails. That’s nice.
Also, most people think that adding the NLS Bangalore brand, which is, of course, the best-known law school in India, would improve their CV value. I am not sure if people who really know about the MBL program think so, but nonetheless, the program attracts thousands of lawyers as well as business executives every year. However, the vast majority of those who signed up for this course never passed and never will. After a couple of attempts, they give up.
Now let’s assume that you will pass the exam which is not too difficult if you are a disciplined person and can sit down and memorize legal provisions. Unfortunately, whatever you will be learning in this course, which costs around INR 70,000, would not be at all practical in nature (no matter what the brochure may claim).
The course will teach you sections of various statutes and case laws associated with them. This is how law is traditionally taught in India. This is what leaves a huge gap in the education of lawyers as they learn things they can Google in under 5 minutes whenever necessary, but do not learn the critical skills like how to draft an agreement, how to find the law that is essential for your legal research, how to strategize a negotiation session, or how to plan the various steps in a long drawn litigation. They don’t even know how to draft a legal notice or respond to one.
So yes, as you have to clear a very tough exam, you will learn a lot of sections and case laws by heart, so that you can write these in the exam. Hopefully, you will be in the small percentage of people who will pass the exam. And after that what?
If you expect that you will have any mastery in any of the things taught in the course, you are severely mistaken.
A simple ability to remember law has not remained a desirable skill for lawyers anymore today, thanks to the fact that anyone who knows how to do a google search can find any law that impacts them. Lawyers today are valued for a very different kind of skills. We will tell you in a bit about what those skills are. Do these classic distance education courses train you in those skills?
Not at all. We visit this subject later again, but for now, let’s move on to the second type of courses. The canned online courses.
The internet changed everything. New possibilities emerged in the field of distance education too. People could learn from their phones and computers. Courses could be updated as often as necessary. Students could actually interact with teachers without having to go to college. Even a breed of superstar teachers rose as they acquired millions of students. This brings us to the second kind of courses, canned online courses offered by private educations platforms.
The easiest way to build online courses is to create canned courses. You make some nice videos, put together some good reading material, and voila. You have an online course. Now for every additional learner, your costs do not increase much, except for the hosting cost and other basic admin costs. However, you don’t need more teachers, more people to evaluate, guide or coach no matter how many new students join.
This is true passive income. The holy grail of internet business. Sounds attractive, doesn’t it?
When we started iPleaders in 2010, we started off by offering “canned courses”. Canned courses are one size fits all courses where there is no personal training, no attention from a coach but you get some good quality material which you can study on your own. We still offer some canned courses in lawsikho.com. They are not necessarily bad, although there are a lot of portals out there offering canned courses that have just a few videos and some reading material, followed by some quizzes, and the problem is that not much work goes into the material. Some of them don’t even bother to upgrade their study material when the law changes. So you need to be careful about these things when you buy a canned course.
So we started with canned courses. We launched good ones, with a lot of research. We have created amazing material. We’ve sold a lot of courses. We still have a lot of them on the LawSikho.com website.
But over the years, we have noticed that canned courses don’t work well. Something was missing.
You need to learn practical skills, not just some more knowledge and insights! You need to be able to create litigation strategies, draft contracts, negotiate across the table, draft plaints and written statements, respond to legal notices and such other real, cold, hard skills.
Reading stuff doesn’t help. Doing does. But nobody was teaching that stuff.
The MBL, IGNOU or the canned courses would not really prepare you for a job. They will give you some rudimentary knowledge, and hopefully a certificate that is recognized by the government.
But is that sufficient? Does that make you a better lawyer or the executive with the crazy good strategies? Will, that help you to make the next big jump in your career? Will it help you to crack interviews and bag your dream jobs?
I am afraid not.
An entirely different kind of training is needed for that. Training that teaches you skills. I call the third type of courses online immersive courses. These courses are doing courses that become a part of your life over a period of time.
Sure it can’t be too bad to add a nice name like NLSIU, Bangalore or a tag like Masters in Business Laws to your profile. However, it’s much more fun and profitable when you have the real skills.
What do we do differently?
To start with, you will not get just get some material from us. You will get a whole library of material, that you can access on the go, from your phone, whenever you need.
Imagine, in a meeting, you have a doubt, you pull out your phone, and get to what exactly you need so that you can answer a query. Neat, right?
Maybe you are doing an internship. You have been given a task you have no clue about. It’s about due diligence. You can open the right part of the course, and get what you need in minutes rather than sitting and worrying about what you should ask your senior!
It works even for non-lawyers. That’s the power of a well-organized library of legal information that you can carry in your pocket. It will be a life saver.
Then comes the weekly exercises. We’ve learnt over the years that people who take online courses often do not finish them. Also, they do not always get enough hands-on experience. Let’s say that they have to draft a contract. Now, you can’t learn how to draft without actually drafting first. You also need feedback on your output. Just like you can’t learn to swim without getting into the water!
We found the solution in weekly exercises. Every week has a learning objective, and accordingly, we give you two exercises. So you end up doing about 100 exercises! When you submit the exercise/assignment, you get feedback on how well you did, with in-line comments and all!
Also, there is a live class, in video conferencing mode, that you can access through your phone or computer. The class always happens after work hours as a majority of our students these days are working lawyers and executives, apart from some law students. In the class, you discuss the learnings of the week, get prepared for the next week’s exercises and see the best answers.
The people who teach in these classes are very experienced, superlative people with a lot of teaching skills. We have people who formerly worked at big law firms, have led IPOs as an in-house expert, currently work as leading lawyers or have worked for major international banks. We will add more of them in the future, but as a rule, your teacher in the live class will always be an accomplished industry expert who knows what he or she is talking about.
It’s easy and cheap to put some articles and videos on a portal and charge a small amount and call it an online course.
It’s hard to actually teach in the online medium. It’s hard to do in-depth research to learn what you need to learn, what would be valuable in your workplace, what would be in demand in the industry next and then find the best way to teach it to you.
Our courses are so good that in-house law and compliance departments of major companies and even law firms trust us to teach their employees. We have mastered the art over the last 8 years. The quality of our courses far exceeds anything else out there. That’s why we even offer a no-questions-asked refund provided you actually use the course and do not like it. You can use the course for 1 month, and then claim a refund if you find that it’s not worth it. Here is the refund policy! BTW, this refund policy applies to only our diploma and executive certificate courses (which have this feature of live classrooms, weekly exercises and in-line feedback on your submissions).
Do you know any other course provider in this space which can confidently make such a promise?
We don’t overcharge. We are very reasonable. We charge as much a decent tutor at class 12 level will be charging in a year! But we provide you with highly valuable professional insights which are rare and gathered after years of research. You can directly use in these insights in your career, get quality printed study materials, a technology platform to study from, an application with chock-full of amazing and exclusive content, plus a dedicated support team which is committed to your success!
As we do not mark up our prices, we do not even, ever, offer any discounts. We offer a fair price, full stop. Over the years, you will see us only raising prices, something our competitors are usually unable to do.
Online education – it’s no child’s play. In the world of online education, you get exactly what you pay for. So choose wisely.