This DPIIT-recognised edtech startup is building an online finishing school for law students
Abhishek Sinha has been a corporate lawyer for nearly 15 years with stints at some of India’s top law firms, including Khaitan & Co, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, and AZB & Partners.
His last role as Partner at Khaitan & Co lay at the intersection of law and corporate affairs: M&As, joint ventures, investor term sheets, PE contracts, strategic alliances, regulatory compliances, and so on.
These “non-contentious sectors” of law, where lawyers don’t have to appear in court every day, employ about 60-70 percent of law graduates in India.
However, what concerns Abhishek is that legal education continues to be theoretical; not practical or “participatory”. As a result, most young lawyers are ill-equipped to handle dynamic situations in corporate setups.
Abhishek tells YourStory,
“There’s a huge gap in what students learn in law colleges and what recruiters at law firms expect. Everyone learns contract law in theory, but no one has seen an actual shareholder agreement. Our legal education system doesn’t favour practical applicability. So, commercial knowledge and how the law applies across sectors is very low.”
With e-learning platform NotJustLex, this is what Abhishek wants to fix. Or what he calls “building a finishing school for law students”.
The Mumbai-based startup was founded in August 2019, and went live with its first certificate course in April 2020.
What NotJustLex solves and how
NotJustLex, a DPIIT-recognised startup, wants to bridge the gap between theoretical law and practical application, and make quality legal learning accessible to not only legal students but also fresh law graduates looking to upskill.
In legal parlance, ‘lex’ stands for a collection of unspecified laws. As the startup’s name indicates, NotJustLex wants to go beyond generalised legal education, and focus on applied, contextual, and “participatory learning”.
“Law is not maths, you can’t learn concepts here. Law is where you discuss the context and understand the nuances. You need classes to be live and interactive, and not pre-recorded like most general edtech platforms do. We intend to facilitate a process of collective analysis and learning. It’s a fun way to learn the law.”
At present, NotJustLex offers certificate courses in ‘Private Equity Investments in India’, ‘Commercial Contracts in India’, ‘Sports Law in India’, and ‘Finance for Legal Professionals’.
The courses last for four to eight weeks, with one-hour sessions per week. Each session includes only 15 participants. This is a conscious choice by the startup to be able to focus on each learner.
Abhishek explains, “A monologue is not good in any kind of learning. If you look at BYJU’S, for example, even though the sessions are pre-recorded and non-interactive, they are not boring. The presentations and animations stand out. At NotJustLex, we’re testing the same approach with attractive presentations of judicial precedents, well-prepared notes, smooth articulation, simple Q&A sessions, and focused one-on-one interactions.”
“But there’s no straitjacketed formula in learning. You have to keep changing the formats and presentations based on your target audience,” he adds.
NotJustLex also offers bite-sized products like 'NJL Voice' (a video collection of industry insights) and 'One-Pager Guide Series’ (a knowledge initiative for students).
All courses and learning programmes have been developed by the founder himself, with some assistance from senior associates at top law firms. In six months, NotJustLex claims to have enrolled more than 300 learners, and is growing “organically”.
It has also earned the acknowledgement of the legal community. Platforms like Bar and Bench (a renowned online portal for Indian legal news) have helped spread the word about the platform among aspiring lawyers.
The pricing conundrum and business model
At the very outset, NotJustLex was clear that it would not subsidise learning as many of its peers in the edtech market do.
Abhishek cites the examples of upGrad, Udemy, and the likes that offer law courses at under Rs 1,500. That was a strict no-no for the bootstrapped startup.
“Courses are priced too low as if you’re selling vegetables. To build a comprehensive and quality learning module, you need to price it higher,” the founder says.
NotJustLex sessions are priced between Rs 12,000 to Rs 19,500 each, which pegs the total course cost at Rs 2-5 lakh each. “We started with the highest price for an online law course in the market. It was working very well, but because of COVID-19, it became difficult to hold those prices," Abhishek reveals.
Even after slashing session prices to Rs 6,000, NotJustLex continues to be India’s most premium legal e-learning platform. If students want to get certified by it, they have to attend at least 80 percent of the live classes.
Besides the B2C offering, NotJustLex is partnering with learning and development (L&D) and legal teams of large corporations to train fresh law recruits.
Even though L&D budgets globally have shrunk in the pandemic, the startup believes that B2B would be a lucrative route to take in the future.
Abhishek sums up by saying, “There are challenges because every learner is looking for tangible benefits. In the legal industry, learning is secondary and placements take precedence. But that is the mindset we want to change.”
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta