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IDIA Law Blog: Increasing Access by Increasing Diversity

Empowering underprivileged students through legal education.

An estimated 5-minute read

Romanticising the Law

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Ever since we kickstarted the IDIA project in 2010 with a visit to a government school in the small Himalayan town of Pelling, we’ve visited around 250 schools and spoken to more than 15,000 students on the wonders of law as a career option.


This year, we plan to ramp up our sensitisation efforts and cover a great many more schools across the length and breadth of India.  Sensitisations are really the first phase of the IDIA programme, where we spread the gospel of the law and the lure of the legal profession to poor unsuspecting school children.


Naturally, given the negative imagery associated with law (thanks to Bollywood, law enforcement officials and the sizeable chunk of not so ethical lawyers in various parts of the country), we have a tough job convincing decently bright kids that law is a good prospect. More so in remote and disadvantaged parts of India, where the law is often seen as an oppressive instrument. We need to therefore romanticise the law a bit and sensitise them to the true state of affairs..that law is not only about a woeful criminal justice system, or an instrument of oppression or unethical touts parading around court premises etc etc. That the law is also about social empowerment, fancy jobs in fancy cities with more than ample financial security, intellectually exciting doctrines and arguments and high adrenaline rush moments that come with closing corporate deals or winning court room battles. And that most importantly, the law is one of those rare professions where there is such a wide diversity of career options that it caters to almost every personality/talent type (extroverts, introverts, subverts etc etc).


We’ve done this with some modest success in the past (where while before our talk, only one out of hundred students may have wanted to do law, after we were finished with our romanticisation of the law spiel, more than 80% were interested in law). What we missed out on though is having more people representing the various diverse segements of the legal profession with us. This would have certainly attracted more to the fold


1. Joining Us On School Sensitisation: Calendar

Some of you have expressed an interest in accompanying us for these school sensitisations. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to offer you sufficient advance notice, since a lot depends on our local law school teams/volunteers, and their rather unpredictable academic schedules. We plan to however make amends this year, and are hiring a full time salaried person to take charge of these sensitisations, so we offer you notice well ahead of time.


We plan to have a calendar on our website to list out the various dates of school sensitisations and hope you can join us. We also plan to create lists outlining names of IDIA advisors, donors, well wishers and partners who’re interested in joining us on sensitisations. Please do email Jiti Nichani () if you are interested in joining us for one/more sensitisations in future (please also include the broad geographical areas that you could traverse along with our student teams).


2. School Chains (JNV, KV and Sainik)

One of our primary target areas are the school chains. To begin with, we’ve identified the JNV (Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas), KV (Kendriya Vidyalayas) and Sainik Schools. Our local teams will now be approaching schools that are part of these chains in their respective jurisdictions. In fact, as far as JNVs are concerned, some of our local teams have already finished sensitisations at some of these schools. However, we’ve not yet had wide access to many of the other JNV schools or school chains, such as KV’s and Sainik.


Since these are essentially government run institutions, it would help immensely if we had names/references of people that are known to the school in some way. This will make it easier for our student volunteers to gain access to the school and conduct sensitisation. As you can appreciate, given the negative imagery associated with the law and the push towards more lofty professional pursuits (medicine, engineering), some schools are awfully hostile to us and our mission. If you (or any of your colleagues) happen to known any of these chains or local schools (that are part of these chains), please do let Jiti (jiti@idialaw.com) know. Also if you know of other school chains (ramakrishna mission etc.) that we could approach, please let us know.


3. Diversity at Home and the Power of Individual Sensitisations

The “diversity@home” project was started in our first year of operations (2010) to help identify potential IDIA scholars from our own homes. This could typically include kids of our domestic help, gardeners, staff in our homes, offices, law schools etc. It was meant to be an adaptation of the all too cliched aphorism: “charity begins at home”. Unfortunately it petered out despite the initial enthusiasm. Imagine if each one of our volunteers (400) and if each one of you (advisory board members, donors, partners and well wishers) identified at least one potential IDIA scholar from amongst your midst, we would have a much wider pool of students to chose from. Not to mention the potential benefits of evangelising the law on a much larger scale. I really hope you will help us re-ignite this initiative in a significant way.


And this brings me to the last point: that each one of us can individually sensitise students/groups of students/schools without the backing of a large team of volunteers or extensive resources. Imagine if we spoke to the cabbie on our way to airports and countless meetings on the lure of the law (and the prospects of a legal career) and mentioned the IDIA project to them. That by itself is a sensitisation of sorts. Or just walked into a school close to our homes or in our native hometowns etc. and spoke to students on the law. To this end, we have a wide variety of sensitisation material (including a good pithy one pager on law as a career) that you could use with ease. We will make this available on our website soon. In the meantime, if you need copies of any of these materials (our brochure, one pager on law, power point presentations etc), please do let us know () and we can email it across.


Thanks again to all of you for your continued support and help.



Original author: Dr. Shamnad Basheer, IDIA Founder and Managing Trustee

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