Today, we introduce iPleaders, a legal startup. They are a leading online legal education company, dedicated to making knowledge of law accessible to every citizen. Starting out in 2010 and in the last 8 years, they have grown to be India’s leading online legal platform, offering over 60 comprehensive courses in diverse legal subjects from competition law to technology contracts. A Journalist Reveals spoke to Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO and Co-Founder, iPleaders and this is what he had to say about his journey:
What inspired you to start iPleaders?
When I was in law school, I wanted to become a successful corporate lawyer. I wanted to learn beyond what was there in the textbook, something that will really prepare me for my life ahead as a corporate lawyer. However, owing to the structure of legal education in India, I didn’t find that. 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 tough 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 best friend from college and colleague at the law firm, and I thought that there must be a better way of creating powerful lawyers in India. Something was clearly missing. The hallowed law schools are really not doing their job. They teach statutes and case laws and nothing to prepare us for the real world. Most students who manage to do well have mostly their own contacts or have their own effort or serendipity to thank for. I decided that it is necessary to change this state of affairs of legal education in India. 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 the practice.
I 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. This is what propelled me 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 at law school, I noticed that there are many non-lawyers who wanted to learn the law. Managers, CEOs, directors, NGO workers – people can be empowered through legal training. These are the things that not only inspired us back then but still keep us going.
How did you prepare yourself for starting your company from scratch?
To run a business you need many skills. These skills are better learnt while you are working under someone else, at someone else’s risk, and when you are not financing your mistakes yourself.
I had an opportunity to begin working while I was still a law student. I worked as a freelancer for one of the coaching institutes that was trying to enter the law entrance market. I performed well and managed to get fairly large contracts from them. I made courses for the institute from the scratch for thousands of students. My work involved writing modules, preparing questionnaires, planning curriculum and classroom teaching. I also had classroom teaching experience of over 300 hours. I managed a team of people who helped me with this work. At a point, the team grew to twenty people working as freelancers for me. I also got exposure in marketing and sales as I went from school to school promoting the CLAT classes. These three years really prepared me well to take the challenge of starting my own course, which I did even before I graduated. I designed and launched a course called BarHacker which is a bar exam preparation course. 50 people bought it before the first bar exam and we were in business! It was thrilling to be actually making a difference.
Apart from this, I began doing some legal risk management work when I was a student. Initially, I worked for entrepreneurs for free. When I learned enough and had enough goodwill, I started charging. This was the beginning of iPleaders. It helped me immensely to learn about the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs, businessmen and even lawyers.
Our experiences prepare us. It is always a good idea to get as much exposure as possible early on in life. My exposure was training me for my eventual role as founder of an online legal education company.
To be continued…