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My Journey to Innovating Justice

As a child, the idea of justice intrigued me. Every time I saw the inequalities of our society, I felt that justice had to be enforced for the millions who were in dire need of it. I thought that by becoming a lawyer, I would be able to solve problems of the society and empower people by making them aware of their rights.

After finishing my law degree from the London School of Economics, I became a practicing attorney at a High Court in India. The extremes that I witnessed in the court of law troubled me. On one hand, I saw the poor leaving their fates and even lives at the mercy of the justice system but their demands for justice were often met with disappointment. The rich and the resourceful, on the other hand, found it easier to navigate the system owing to their connections in the right places.

I had dreams of building a better society with the help of the legal system. But I saw that the system needed help itself!

As I wondered who will bring a change in such a situation, Gandhi came to my rescue. His famous statement, “Be the change you wish to see”, really resonated with me and I decided to do my bit – however little – about the issue which I felt strongly about.

Research Foundation for Governance in India (RFGI), is what we decided to call the think-tank I created, along with my sister Kelly, to analyse problems plaguing the Indian legal and governance systems. RFGI attracted youngsters from across disciplines to work on challenges that lay ahead. Our work was able to make a dent in creating a need for justice reforms, while reaching out to the local communities about innovating a solution to their legal problems.

Working on legal challenges at RFGI made me realise that the legal domain was ripe for innovations, which would make systems of justice more efficient and people friendly. As part of RFGI, one of the activities we regularly undertook was conducting workshops on laws and rights for children in schools. Looking at the popularity of our sessions, we wanted to create a tool which could reach many kids across different cities. This led us to create “Lawtoons”, a comic series that makes legal information fun to learn for kids. Lawtoons (published now in Hindi and English) is being loved by teachers, parents and kids across the country. I am currently working on Lawtoons-2, which will be out by the end of this year.

My vision for Lawtoons has been for it to reach millions of people, making legal information easy to understand for them. I don’t come from a legal family, nor had the entrepreneurial bug bitten any of my previous generations! This, apart from being a woman talking about a mammoth and slow moving area of justice reforms, has made my entrepreneurial journey interesting, to say the least!

Honestly speaking, there have been times when I have felt like giving up and take up a conventional path which other lawyers take. When I see my classmates, most of them are now hot shot corporate lawyers, enjoy a life of luxury, I wonder if I took the right path.

At times such as these, my inner conviction - that justice needs to reach those who need it - has pulled me through. Perhaps I could have made RFGI and Lawtoons scale greater heights with better support systems around me.

I was fortunate to win the ‘Innovating Justice Award’ of the Hague Institution for Innovation of Law (HiiL), which along with a few well-wishers, has been pivotal in my continuing the journey towards justice innovations.

Throughout my journey, I have met aspiring lawyers believing in innovating a brighter future for the justice sector in India. Sadly, I have also seen many giving up on their dreams due to lack of adequate support systems, mentors or other life pressures.

I truly believe that the ideas and the people are ready to bring about a change in our systems of justice delivery. Their need is to be recognized, supported by the right platforms and quickly adopted so that they can live up to their vision of being the change they wish to see!

This article was originally published on August 23, 2018 on Kanan Dru's LinkedIn page


About the Author:

Kanan Dhru is a legal innovator and founder of Lawtoons, LawForMe, Research Foundation for Governance in India. Kanan is based in Ahmedabad.

She strongly believes in the cause of simplifying legal information and legal service delivery. Kanan has over 10 years of experience in the areas of law, policy-making and justice innovations. In 2014, she won the “Innovating Justice Award” at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. With a law degree from the London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Kanan consults governments at the state and central level in India, advise non-profit organisations, mentor startups and manage international communities apart from teaching and writing for prominent newspapers and magazines.

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