August 19, 2015 by nluodoublethink
(Law school traditionally prepares its graduates for restrictive career paths – majority of whom limit themselves to a life in a corporate firm or litigation. However, with more and more young lawyers and graduates venturing into untouched areas, this notion is fast changing. Doublethink! speaks to Anant Gupta and Rachnendra Tripathi, two 5th year students here at National Law University Odisha, who’ve ventured into the world of entrepreneurship with Memo Pundits, which recently conducted a 3 day workshop in memorial drafting and formatting techniques for students at the University campus, while talking about the idea of start-ups and the scene in law schools.)
Q. When did you get the idea for Memo Pundits?
Anant Gupta (AG): I think, right from the first year, there were seniors like Jingle Sahasransu Sourav and Soumen Mohanty our super-seniors who were the geniuses of their batch and they knew the little tricks that got you the best memo and they used to do really well in Moots. So, the crux of that was that we came into this college and we had this trick with somebody. So we learnt a little from them.
Rachnendra Tripathi (RT) : And by then we had discovered, within the first year only, that there is a trick and that somehow makes you win and that’s for sure. Then in second year, we were sitting in the shack…
AG: All theories begin at the shack!
RT: ..and we were exhausted making memorials for the entire teams going from our college.
AG: Actually, it began as a problem because many of our friends used to ask us for help. And we were wondering why not give them something so that they can make it themselves, or maybe better than us?
RT: Why not sell it?
AG: Yeah, exactly. So Rachu and I always shared a penchant for start-ups. And I think that’s why we turned it into an idea with monetary gain. And we wanted to give the start-up some time to mature so that we could expose it, not only to NLUO, but to other law schools as well. ‘Cause I think the value of this idea in the outer world is quite high. And there is no start-up with such an idea.
RT: Yeah, this was a very new idea and there was no workshop of this sort. And we just wanted to try our luck with it so that’s why we just went for it.
AG: And the reason why we’re holding all these free classes is that we ourselves want to test our scope and our reach. We are still experimenting. It will take a while, yeah. Around six months to one year to mature it fully, maybe it can be out there as a webinar kind of thing.
Q. So basically, these super-seniors, Jingle and Somen Mohanty- what were they like?
AG: Okay, those guys were pros. They were doing Vis Hong Kong, and in the meantime, they went for HSF. And they did it. They made the memo in three days.
RT: And it was just like a normal memorial. It had the chance of being in the finals.
AG: Well, their guidance as well as our friend, Pratik Suri were really helpful. Also, we both are a little inquisitive.
RT: Not only inquisitive, but we are also very creative. We kept looking at how to change the footer and how to change the header. We kept experimenting.
Q. So how did you guys get so good at this yourself?
RT: So, in my first semester, I went for a moot. This was a Constitutional Law moot but I went with three citations in my memorial. I was absolutely shocked to see the other memorials with around 150 citations and three pages of Table of Contents! I was flabbergasted to see such huge memorials. And I was just wondering what the trick was.
And then in my second year, I went for my second moot. And then there was a friend of ours, Pratik Suri, who had mooted with the super-seniors and he told us, “Dude, you HAVE to manage 150 citations, and you HAVE to manage a table of contents that exceeds three pages, and then you’ll have a chance at winning.” And we won! Consequently, I won the best memorial.
AG: We helped a few teams as well, like Jessup and Hong Kong Maritime Arbitration. Harneet’s team won best memo in Hong Kong and it was quite a big thing. Also, both of us had mastered it just by sheer practice.
RT: Just by practice. We have made so many memorials that over time, it just boosted our confidence.
AG: We had become quite good at Microsoft Word as well, which was our medium.
Q. So, did you receive encouragement from the university?
AG: Okay… the encouragement started with the students. Our friends supported us a lot to make this the best possible. But somehow, we knew there were undercurrents going on with our batch mates. Some of them were not really happy with this idea and some of them thought this is unethical. So yeah, we were not really in a fight with someone but we sensed a kind of cold war.
RT: I think those were the obvious fallouts of an idea that was about to be executed. The whole ruckus was created after we mailed it to the college.
(Could you give us a brief timeline?)
RT: This was around July 2014. We had planned it in February.
AG: We started planning it out in February. And making the brochure and all took us a lot of time. And then when we came to the college authorities- first, we actually thought we had the freedom to do this. But then we were told by the college authorities that we don’t.
RT: We received around 60,000 bucks from the college after the registration. We thought the registration would go on till 17-18 days and we were expecting 70-80 registrations in one month. But then in 2 days, we were full on our buckets and we had received 150 registrations. We had to stop it there.
AG: After that, the authorities called us and counselled us on why we shouldn’t practice any kind of trade in our college. So we thought we could start this off without any fees, which was the main problem with the college authorities. That’s why we started the free course. The main problem was that we weren’t allowed to use college resources for monetary gain.
RT: We were more discouraged by the fact that in other law schools, this does go on. In NUJS, RMLNU, GNLU etc. There are workshops on entrepreneurship in GNLU. And then this happened here.
AG: Oh and we gave the example of NLS’s Bhukkad, a student-run canteen. So we had a couple of more examples but they didn’t seem too convinced by students practicing any trade or profession in college. So, not much encouragement. As an answer to your question.
RT: But that’s okay. We pulled it off and now we’re planning to get it registered.
Q. In other law schools, do people face resistance as well?
AG: I think in other law schools, they are doing quite brilliantly. Like in NUJS, Ipleaders doing quite well. It is authorized and funded by NUJS. Lawctopus is also there, Tanuj Kalia.
RT: GNLU also has courses on entrepreneurship called Enhelion. The founder even came to our college in August 2014, Rodney Ridon.
AG: And in NLS, there are student-run canteens…
RT: Oh my God. That’s Bhukkad, that’s wonderful! Such an amazing idea. It has also extended to other law colleges. Not only NLS.
AG: Hm, there are others too. Like in RML, there is the SRIL which is a society for research. It recently gave recommendations recently to Department of Finance.
RT: I would just like to add that apart from engineering students having all these ideas, there is a nice avenue for law schools as well to have nice start-ups and just boom it up.
Q. So what future plans for Memo Pundits?
RT: First of all, we’re getting it registered as soon as possible.
AG: We’ve started off by contacting other law schools where mooting culture is at a good peak. So we sort of created a list of colleges to contact. We’ll start off from there. We are in talks with these law schools.
RT: But the problem is the students from other law schools, wouldn’t want students teaching them this, especially students from other Law Schools. But now since we’re going to pass out, we’re not students anymore. So there’s a high chance of success there.
AG: That’s one plan and the other plan is to hold some sort of webinar or an online course by way of which, we can tell them, maybe through text or video, of the various tricks and how it has helped us in the law firms.
Q. Has Memo Pundits helped both of you professionally?
AG: It might have. I can’t say for sure but it might have. It has helped sharpen my skills in basic formatting tools, which you’ll need in any profession. So if tomorrow, I’ll go for a law firm or maybe even an MBA or any other stream, which would help me to a basic level. That would create a good first impression.
RT: Considering Anant’s career options are very different from mine, I want to go into the Civil services. More than Memo Pundits or MS Word, it was a cause for us. We’ll do something, we’ll help out the juniors, and inko pata chal jayega and we’re done. We had two years left in college and we could hold four sessions. For me, it was more of helping the juniors. I just hope that it helps me in the forms that you have to fill out when applying for services, stating what work you have done. I think, I THINK it may help. Very bleak chances but it may help.
AG: Also, one more thing. It was a great experience for us teaching. That is one thing we had not expected. I think the whole practice of teaching is very thrilling.
RT: We even circulated feedback forms and those were- [both laugh] very good.
AG: Yeah, the teaching experience was very good. I think I can actually think of becoming a teacher now, if nothing then I’ll teach Microsoft Word.
Q. After you pass out, how do you plan to help the juniors of the future batches?
AG: Yeah, I think one junior came up to us and asked, “What would happen after you guys go? How will this thing carry on?” We got a suggestion through a feedback form that we could hold another session and videotape it. So that is one option and that can be shown to other people as well. Another option is that we identify the people who can teach and let those people teach next year. After telling the Moot Court Society, of course, that these people can teach. The third option is that we ourselves come back.
RT: Actually, next year, the dates of the Memo Pundits workshop will be clashing with the dates of our convocation. We can probably teach the next session.
AG: One last session in NLUO is left, at least for us. Then we’ll circulate the job.
Q. Are there any particular instances while teaching that you would like to share?
RT: Hmm, for the first few times, classes were very interesting. Being on the other side of the podium, it was a welcome change, classes were very interesting and students were very enthusiastic.
AG: They wanted to come to class. It was really shocking to see that you set the time at 6 and at 5:55, the whole classroom is full.
RT: And then the next day, there were 5 students who hadn’t showed up but at the same time, there were 25 students who were new to the class. So that was quite a nice experience.
AG: The students actually liked the way we taught, it was helpful to them. I think, being honest, we criticize the teachers so much that we get the pros and cons and all the aspects which have to be set aside.
Q. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Doublethink and those people who might have ideas of their own?
AG: I would say if you have a start-up which has any aspect of booming, any idea which has the chance of a business in the legal industry, I don’t think you should be afraid of the college authorities. Because this culture will develop in a while in our college. Start-ups will happen and it will only happen if the students take the initiative.
RT: In fact, the main devil lies in the execution. We all planned it very well but then the execution was very difficult. The resistance from the college authorities and the students and the fees and the registration fees. So I would suggest to everyone to just go for it. Don’t be discouraged by anyone. Just do whatever you planned. We did it free of cost but in the end, it was nice.
AG: If you’re in a law school, there will be two sides. It’s a given. There will always be people who this that this is unethical.
RT: There’s a whole lot of moral policing going on. So don’t be discouraged.
One more lesson that Anant and I always preach is that please stop the sir/ ma’am culture.
AG: Seriously. We couldn’t stop it, we’re sorry. You have to. The reason is that when we meet friends from other big law schools and tell them about this-
RT: It’s like a junior comes up and says, “Rachu sir!” –
AG: We have to be like, “Sorry yaar, yeh mera junior hai.” It’s just disrespectful.