With an estimated hundred thousand new law graduates every year, it is not surprising that international law schools are increasing their focus on India. After all here is a large pool of law graduates with global aspirations, aspirations that may be met with the varied programmes that foreign law schools have to be offer. Be it the more popular LL.M, or the Juris Doctor, or even executive programmes for mid-career lawyers – foreign law schools are offering it all, and more.

So why do Indian lawyers continue to form a not too significant proportion of postgraduate students in foreign countries? Well, the reasons for this are many, including the costs of legal education and the very utility of the degree (perceived or otherwise). But I also think that there is something to be said about simply building awareness, about making sure that the Indian law graduate knows about her various options.

It is not like foreign law schools are unaware of this. Although some may cringe to classify their efforts as “marketing”, to my mind, that is exactly what they have been doing. And this is not a bad thing.

It could, however, be more effective.

Let’s take the example of education “fairs” – representative(s) of foreign law schools get to interact with prospective applicants or parents or both. On paper, this sounds like a great idea, but I am not sure how effective this in the real world. I don’t think it is that easy to ensure the right kind of footfall at such fairs, especially for something as specialized as law.

Today’s generation expects, no demands, information be brought to them, and not the other way around. Add to this the over-supply of information online, and you can see the need for a more effective channel of communication. One way that this could be done is for representatives to actually visit Indian law schools, speak to the students, the faculty etc. Some schools are, in fact, making this effort. Of course, this needs to be done consistently, over a period of time, for the results to show up.

Another thing that foreign law schools are engaging in is online advertisements. In fact, this is something that Amicus Partners devotes a lot of time to. But again, I think the danger here is of believing that online banners are all that is required, that having a banner advertisement will immediately start getting you leads.

In an ideal world, at least for the media vendor, this would be the case. But it is not an ideal world, and online banner adverts certainly do not work that way.

At best, much like law fairs, one can view this as brand building exercise; a necessary investment for long-term rewards. In other words, I don’t think the challenge is to get people to view and click. Or, to reframe, the real challenge would be to get them to engage after they have clicked.

How can this be done?

Well, and this comes back to the initial point, I think the message, as well as the delivery of the message, has to be more personalized. Foreign law schools will not only have to demonstrate how their programmes are top-notch, but also how their programmes fit into the Indian law graduate’s plans.

Another avenue, one that some of the smarter foreign law schools are exploring, is to tie in directly with Indian law schools. This, in my opinion, holds a lot of promise. Not only does this grant direct access to a large pool of prospective applicants, but also allows both parties to test and explore the relationship. This is always (always!) a good thing.

So, will foreign law schools bite? I definitely think they will, if they have not already. All in all, these are some exciting times ahead!

(Lead image by sk)