Trilegal, Krishnamurthy, Wadia Ghandy, two law schools, CLAT coaching centre, Gov't join NUJS diversity project IDIA

The law ministry, law firms Krishnamurthy and Co and Trilegal, CLAT coaching institute IMS and law schools NLSIU Bangalore and NUALS Cochin have pledged financial or other support for NUJS Kolkata professor Shamnad Basheer's project to increase diversity in the legal profession, which visits poorer rural secondary school students to train and encourage them to apply to top law schools.

The IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education) project was launched in March, as first reported on Legally India, and will identify bright students in disadvantaged areas and teach them for free to tackle the Common Law Admissions Test (CLAT) to enter national law schools.

Trilegal founding partners Karan Singh and Sridhar Gorti have personally pledged Rs 5 lakh to the project, which will pay for learning materials.

Singh said that while currently it was personal funding by him and Gorti, Trilegal would be fully involved once the project was approved internally, also offering internship places to students selected by the programme.

"At this point in time its personal - I wanted to be involved in the project at the personal level and they needed the funds pretty quickly," explained Singh. "The idea is that once this reaches some scale, while I will continue to do it on a personal basis, we will bring in not just firm support but also support from the wider community."

Bangalore law firm Krishnamurthy and Co and Mumbai law firm Wadia Ghandy and partner Ashish Ahuja have also pledged varying financial and logistical support to IDIA, including personal donations and offering internships.

Common Law Admissions Test (CLAT) coaching institute IMS has also agreed to provide unlimited free CLAT coaching places and learning materials for students selected by IDIA.

IMS national product manager Rajneesh Singh said: "It is actually a very good combination – [IDIA] are the best people to increase the awareness of law and to find talented good students, and it is our area too."

He added that eight students from Pelling in the North-Eastern state of Sikkim will be attending free CLAT classes in Kolkata and that there were no constraints on the numbers of the programme. "Even if we select 100 or 200 students, it is not a problem."

According to sources close to the law ministry, law minister Veerappa Moily and will make an announcement next month while also launching a separate training programme for lawyers in rural areas.

NUJS professor Basheer commented: "The law minister has agreed to support this project in principle and will also look towards creating a scholarship fund for this."

Basheer noted that the project was progressing well: "Sensitisation programs finished in Bangalore, Tumkur, some districts in Kerala, Sundarbans and Howrah. Also in a blind school in Hyderabad."

NLSIU Bangalore has also come on board to support IDIA, with Adithya Banavar overseeing the project locally.

NUALS Cochin student Raghul Sudheesh is co-ordinating the project in Kerala, with 50 students having volunteered to assist with their time.

NUJS students Diptoshree Basu, Ramanuj Mukherjee and Arnab Roy are leading the initiative in Kolkata.

Trilegal's Singh said that Trilegal would be supporting IDIA for two main reasons. "There's corporate social responsibility and I think the social responsibility element of it is not just for organisations but for each of us in the profession.

"Second, we need to widen the net if you look at the other career options and other mainstream opportunities – whether engineers, doctor or MBA grads. Right now [law] is very mainstream: access is to people who have lineage or to bright sparks who feel that profession is at the right time to get into it."

"But you can not build profession just with bright sparks – you have to go into non-core areas to go a little broader," said Singh.


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