Ken Randall, president/CEO, iLaw Global, a leading provider of legal education, and former dean of Alabama School of Law for 20 years, was recently in India to announce a tie-up with mylaw.net, an online legal learning start-up, to offer American Bar Association certified courses in the country. Sudipto Dey caught up with Randall, an expert in international relations and diplomacy, to understand the scope of the tie-up, and the implications of the growing Indo-US relations on the legal fraternity. Edited excerpts:
What are the implications of Barack Obama's visit for the legal fraternity in the US and in India?
There are many aspects to his visit. One key aspect is international trade as we move towards $100 billion worth of transactions over the next few years. Along with growth in international trade, will come the role of lawyers in facilitating those deals.
Do you expect any movement on the positions of respective governments when it comes to opening up the legal services to foreign law firms?
I can't predict if India will allow foreign law firms to do business here, but from India's international trade perspective there are great advantages of doing that. As countries globalise and become trading economies, integration and collaboration among global law firms becomes important. It corresponds to the growth of business transactions between two countries. There are great law firms in India and many bright lawyers too, collaboration with US law firms will only strengthen them. Just as many law firms in the US have offices across major markets globally, many global law firms have their offices in New York. So the direction in this route is not only towards India, but also from India to different directions as well.
Many in the Indian legal fraternity feel that foreign law firms have to abide by the regulations of the Bar Council of India if they have to operate in India, which is a touchy issue...
If you practise law the way you practise business in India, you have to follow the rules and regulations of India. Just as law firms and businesses going to the US are subject to rules. If US law firms have to do business in India, they must do it under the regulations of the Bar Council.
Coming to your venture, iLaw Global, what was the trigger for offering specialised online courses, targeting students and the legal fraternity in India?
Our group has thought for a while that India is an excellent market for the type of courses that we excel in. India has Commonwealth traditions, and the backgrounds of lawyers in the US and India are similar. India has the second most number of lawyers in the world (around 1.2 million), after the US. With the expected five-fold growth in international trade between India and US over the next 10-20 years, we plan to offer online diploma courses in association with mylaw.net in international and American law, starting with courses in international intellectual property and international taxation. We could not have done this on our own without boots on the ground. Mylaw.net does in India what we have been doing in the US. So, there is great synergy between us. Our goal also is that at some point in time, we will bring to the US specialised courses in Indian laws. There are a lot of lawyers in the United States who want to know about Indian business laws, and online education is the best way to do it.
Are you open to the idea of an equity relationship, going forward?
Very much - equity participation is on the cards. But it is early to give you contours of how that will work.