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Trilegal labour head Ajay Raghavan to set up climate change NGO, biz after discovering limits of laws to save Bangalore

10+ year Trilegal partner leaves to look for solutions outside of the law to help make his city more sustainable and resilient

Trilegal Ajay Raghavan to set up environmental company
Trilegal Ajay Raghavan to set up environmental company

Trilegal Bangalore-based partner and head of employment Ajay Raghavan will leave the firm effective 1 April to set up a company and a non-profit dealing with climate change.

Raghavan had been with the firm for his entire legal career since graduating from ILS Pune in 2001, making partner in 2009.

Bangalore-based Trilegal co-founder Rahul Matthan commented that the employment practice at Trilegal would be “stable” following Raghavan’s departure. “He’s been building out a climate change kind of practice for a year and a bit”, Matthan said, and the employment and labour practice has been continuing in the meantime under two partners, Atul Gupta and Swarnima.

Matthan also added that Trilegal was still “committed to building the climate change practice, and we hope that Ajay being on the outside will help us build it”.

“I‘ve been following the climate space for a while now,” said Raghavan, noting that while also preparing for the handover of the employment practice, he had spent the past years meeting people in Bangalore ranging from the government to entrepreneurs, ranging from waste to water to energy, to “understand what we’re doing at the city level around climate action and in general”.

While still early days and he wouldn’t start proper until retiring from Trilegal’s partnership, Raghavan said he has already started to put together “a little bit of a framework”. And the more he worked on it he said, the more he realised “that perhaps, at a personal level, I could do a lot more”.

One initiative would be a non-profit around climate action in Bangalore, trying to work with environmental activists and lawyers to map out Bangalore’s next 10 years “as a city and build out a framework to be more climate resilient”.

The second initiative would be a physical warehouse space in Bangalore, which would function as a “sustainability hub”, he said, and provide access to solutions around sustainability, including water and energy, and offer “curated classes for children” educating them about sustainability.

This would be a for-profit, but also with an obvious social enterprise element. Funding would be bootstrapped by Raghavan’s own savings from his years as a legal professional.

Limits of the law

Raghavan had tried to build a climate change practice over the last year at Trilegal though things on the legal side weren’t as straightforward as he’d hoped. “There are actually loads of solutions to most of the problems but to my amazement I realised [the problem is] the lack of those solutions a) becoming viable, and b) accessing those solutions,” noted Raghavan. “Perhaps the law could be a big tool to move something,” he said, but the ecosystem wasn’t yet developed enough.

Internationally, he said, law firms were active in carbon mapping and trading work, while pensions funds abroad had put sustainability “front and center” in terms of where they would make investments.

“On account of that, [abroad] there are increasingly law firms that are trying to cater towards that specific need. There is some regulation starting to develop at least in Europe and practices and all that,” he said, adding: “India is some way away. There is some depth in the law [in India] but you have too many shortcuts around it.”

His new ventures are very clearly outside of and not constrained, as such, by the current legal landscape, to come up with new solutions and innovate practical ideas. “What i like to do is open up opportunities across sectors,” he said.

Ajay Raghavan Work history From: 2009: Partner, Trilegal From: 2001-2009: Trilegal Education 1996 - 2001: ILS Law College, BSL, LLB, Law

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