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Early last year, students from the Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) started the Legal Entrepreneurship Cell (LEC), an initiative aimed at providing business advisory to early stage ventures, and pro bono advisory to Tibetan refugees, amongst other things.
In this interview, Bar & Bench’s Shreya V chats with Harsh Loonker, a final year law student, to discuss the workings of the LEC.
Shreya V: Tell us about this society?
Harsh Loonker: The LEC is a pro bono initiative, aimed at providing holistic legal research solutions to early stage ventures, NGOs and individuals who typically cannot afford to hire legal services. The LEC was founded in February, 2016 and is headed by Suprotik Das, Mishaal Nathani and Harsh Loonker. The team at the LEC consists of students from the second to the fifth year.
Our strength lies in providing tailor-made legal research notes spanning a breadth of practice areas (corporate, commercial, foreign exchange, tax, etc.) and drafting various contract templates (commercial contracts, employment contracts, miscellaneous agreements). We have been functioning quite effectively over the past year and have dealt with many interesting and challenging legal issues concerning numerous start-ups and NGOs.
We also work towards coaching and mentoring our junior members to facilitate learning, development and teamwork so as to build experience and knowledge in the legal aspects of doing business.
SV: How does it function?
HL: One of our assets is our diversified and experienced faculty. Our faculty advisors are qualified lawyers with deep domain knowledge across a wide range of practice areas. For example, if we are consulted for an issue dealing with a commercial contract, we would approach a faculty that teaches corporate law and contracts. Similarly, if a taxation query finds its way to the LEC, a professor with prior taxation experience would be roped in.
All work is signed off by the professors, who are also admitted members of the bar. Further, all pre-incubation facilities are supported and provided by the University.
We function in a simple, yet effective manner; the initial contact and discussion happens between the members and a querist. We then form a team depending on the query, subject matter and members’ interest, chart out a plan of action, conduct the research/drafting activities, consult faculty and adhere to strict timelines and bar council ethical guidelines. The long term goal of the LEC is to provide law firm-quality work and build expertise in the legal issues involved in starting up, growing a business and running of NGOs.
SV: How did you come up with the idea?
HL: We have always been interested in the confluence of law and business. Added to this, with the advent of the Start-Up India Action Plan last year, the demand for pre-incubation and incorporation advisor was on the steady rise. Running parallel to this, various centres in our university, from the business school to the liberal arts school, were in the process of incubating several start-ups out of the Delhi-NCR region and were also playing host to a number of entrepreneurs who needed holistic business solutions.
We theorised that a pro bono consulting practice was the need of the hour, which finally led to the inception of the LEC. This also meant that the business and legal consultancy aspect was available under one roof at JGU, thereby improving our engagement with the start-up ecosystem.
As law students, we also saw an opportunity to convert our theoretical understanding of the law into practice by dealing with very real albeit challenging legal issues at our doorstep. It also dawned upon us that for entrepreneurs and businessmen alike, the requirement is to have simple, uncomplicated and pragmatic legal solutions.
SV: What initiatives has the LEC been part of?
HL: Keeping in line with confidentiality, we cannot, of course disclose the names of the start-ups we have worked with. However, a snapshot into our activities for 2016 include:
We do not represent our clients in any form, whatsoever, in front of courts, quasi-judicial bodies, tribunals or notary/registrar’s offices.
SV: How has this impacted you individually?
HL: The LEC functions as a unit. As such, the takeaway for each of our members is manifold. There is an increased appetite amongst our members to solve real business problems via legal research. Working at the LEC is analogous to a full-time job; there are real issues waiting to be solved, strict timelines to be adhered to, and an individual’s soft skills to be developed.
The legal profession brings with it an astute focus on developing one’s soft skills and learning how to deal with people. At the LEC, we are trying to start early and hone our soft-skills – something that is often overlooked in our daily lives as law students.
SV: Do you plan on expanding this to other law schools?
HL: Absolutely. Expanding the LEC to function on a Pan-India basis is essential. We seek to partner with other law and business schools in India so that we can collaborate and elicit business solutions on a pro-bono basis to startups and NGOs around India.
The members of the LEC team are: Harsh Loonker, Suprotik Das, Vedant Agrawal, Narayan Gupta, Saamir Prabhakar Raketla, Rishikesh Vishwanath Hiremath, Isha Malik, Tantuvardhn Sabharinathan, Aishwarya Singh, Aditya Vora Viral, Anubhav Khamroi, Anujay Shrivastava, Pranav Narang, Reshabh Bajaj, Vinitika Vij, Depti Narayanan, Madhavi Achaiah, Himani Bhatt, Anant Goenka, Onshi and Mishaal Nathani.