Abhishek Sudhir is a maverick. He completed his LL.B. from The University of Birmingham and LL.M. from University College London, University of London. For a year and a half he worked as the Assistant Professor, JGLS, which he left with some fanfare. He then went on to found Sudhir Law Review, an online law tutorials platform. He’s now the Dean of IFIM Law College.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Sudhir Law Review has been an advertiser on Lawctopus.
1. How did you get the offer? What was the selection process like?
In the first week of November last year, I received a message on Linkedin from one of the business leaders of the education practice at the recruitment firm ABC Consultants.
He had reached out to me a few months before about an opportunity at a new law school in Dehradun but, as I was gainfully employed at the time, I was not too interested. But my circumstances had changed quite dramatically since our last conversation.
I had built a startup that was doing reasonably well and had more or less made up my mind that I would never return to legal academia.
But one conversation with Mr. Agarwal’s client Sanjay Padode, who is the Secretary of the Centre for Developmental Education under whose aegis IFIM Law College has been setup, changed all of that. Editor’s note: We had a fabulous telephonic interview with Sanjay Padode as well. Since the interview left us touched, moved and inspired, we’ll be doing a feature on that too.
Mr. Agarwal informed me that Mr. Padode was looking for someone to help him establish a law school. This was the opportunity of a lifetime.
I prepared a blueprint on some of the preliminary steps that would have to be taken to ensure that the law school would be built on a strong foundation. I sent the blueprint to Mr. Padode even before I had spoken to him and little did I know that he had already implemented some of the measures I had suggested.
The first thing he said to me when we spoke was “Abhishek, I believe in your vision”. This one line had me sold and I knew at that precise moment that IFIM Law College would be my professional home for the foreseeable future.
We met a few more times, first in Delhi and then in Bangalore, before I finally signed on the dotted line.
We were practically completing each other’s sentences and it felt more like we were having a series of strategy meetings, and less like a job interview.
I finally visited the campus where the key figures in the administration assessed my suitability for the job in accordance with the norms and regulations of the Karnataka State Law University (KSLU), the institution IFIM Law College is affiliated to.
This visit helped me observe how things were functioning and assess the magnitude of the task ahead. I remember asking Mr. Padode, rather nervously I might add, “the job is mine right?” “Of course” he replied, before adding “We are going to make you a Dean”.
2. Were you surprised?
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Given my age (I am 29), and lack of a PhD it came as a shock really.
But Mr. Padode was clear from the start that he wanted someone who would give the law school a vision and direction, with things like qualifications on paper being secondary.
For him, execution is the name of the game and he has given me a mandate to translate thoughts and words into concrete action.
3. What’s your vision and plan for the school?
I will have failed in my duties if IFIM Law College does not become a prime destination for legal education in India within the next five to seven years.
A malaise has set in as far as the study and practice of law is concerned. The current approach of emblazoning the words “National Law University…” on a building and then sitting back like it is a landmark achievement is getting us nowhere.
The need of the hour is introspection on some of the fundamental issues plaguing our legal education system:
What is the purpose of a law school? Is it to simply hand out degrees and produce lawyers by the bucket load? Is the current system of rote learning working?
Are traditional academicians, whose forte lies in a more theoretical approach to the study of law, capable of producing competent, employable lawyers?
How can we ensure that the brightest legal minds turn down Amarchand and the like for a career in academia?
We at IFIM don’t claim to have all the answers, but we are certainly raising and grappling with these questions. The endeavor here is to give our students an education and not just a degree.
A comprehensive choice-based credit system (CBCS), with an emphasis on directed learning, where due weightage is given to curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is being designed from scratch.
A central plank of the CBCS will be IFIM’s unique “Personality Enhancement Program” (PEP), which is based on the idea of experiential learning.
We will impart lifestyle and life-skills training to our students. We will teach them how to talk, how to walk, what to wear, how to wear it and when to wear it. We will tutor them on courtroom, business and dining etiquette.
They will be trained in the art of public speaking, making presentations, how to write an email, a letter and a project report. Most importantly, they will be offered the opportunity to take part in wellness training under the watchful eye and supervision of decorated Kargil war-hero Colonel Vijay Bakshi.
What’s more, in three weeks’ time, five of our first year students will be creating history at the India National Rounds of the 57th Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court competition.
IFIM Law College will become the first law school to enter a team into the Olympics of mooting in its very first year of operations. When the Jessup compromis (problem) was released, we had just completed one month as a law school!
We also aim to qualify for the Asia rounds of Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot, another prestigious competition that features in the Mooting Premier League.
Mooting is just a start. We want to keep on creating history. We aim to be a purpose-driven, peak-performing well-knit family of students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and management. We want to lead, not follow.
4. What do you think will be your biggest challenges?
I very much view Mr. Padode as the captain of the IFIM Law College ship, and in turn he treats me like the First Mate.
He has asked me to put together a crew, chart a course and supervise them as they steer the ship. He has asked me to be bold and brave, and not to be afraid of failure.
We might encounter choppy waters, maybe even stormy seas, but under his able leadership, I am confident that all challenges can definitely be surmounted.
Rather than brood over the obstacles on this journey, we want to focus on our destination: making IFIM Law College the best law school in India.