The Law Tutors: Shiv Raja
After previously working as a solicitor, this entrepreneur talks about setting up his one-to-one private tuition business
Name: Shiv Raja
Company name: The Law Tutors
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 28/09/15
No. of employees: 1 (plus 15 advisors)
Tell us what your business does:
The Law Tutors provides one-to-one private tuition in any law module, revision courses and advice on training contracts and vacation schemes.
The advice is given online, by email or at our office in London.
We also provide general advice on careers in the legal sector and how to structure a CV and covering letter.
In addition to providing support to clients in the UK, we also provide advice internationally to individuals who would like to get a job at a UK law firm.
We’re basically a “one stop shop” for anyone who wants to become a lawyer.
We help with the academic side, the vocational side and the professional side of law.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I used to work for an agency in London where I tutored law students and I have also provided CV and application advice to lots of people.
I decided that I wanted to bring private tuition, revision courses and application advice under one roof.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Education is a rapidly expanding sector.
I read somewhere recently that the global education market is worth about $4.4 trillion and is set to grow to $6.3 trillion by 2017.
I felt there was space for our company somewhere in those statistics!
With training contracts becoming even more difficult to obtain, I felt that honest and direct advice from someone who went through the process not too long ago would really help people.
Some students come to us very demoralised having been rejected from hundreds of law firms.
It’s usually because they have not structured their application in the right way, not because they are not good enough to be lawyers.
With private tuition, I think that e-learning is going to become increasingly important over the next few years.
The bulk of our private tuition is actually for people learning online and this allows us to deliver our services outside the UK too.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was practising as a solicitor at a large international law firm where I specialised in employment law.
I was advising clients on unfair dismissal, redundancy, discrimination and general day-to-day employment issues
I studied law at the London School of Economics and then trained at a Magic Circle law firm (yes, I’ve worked the horrible hours!).
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes! I’ve been dreaming about starting my own business since I was a child.
I used to spend hours thinking about the day I could run my own business.
However, there was always a strong emphasis in my family on being a professional (a doctor, lawyer or dentist!), so I qualified as a solicitor.
However, I have always been entrepreneurial and at school, I was always thinking about ways to make a bit of extra pocket money!
I think my first venture was buying sweets and crisps from the cash and carry in bulk and then selling them to other students in the playground.
It may seem like a very simple concept but it helped to develop an entrepreneurial mind set by teaching me about buying, selling, managing cash flow and dealing with competitors i.e. the school tuckshop.
How did you raise the money?
Bootstrapping – I worked as a lawyer on short-term projects before starting the business.
The projects all paid by the hour so I worked about 80 hours a week to save as much money as possible.
Most days, I ended up having breakfast, lunch and dinner in the office but it was worth it because I was with a good team and we were paid well for it.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We have a very simple fee structure: we charge our clients by the hour or have fixed fees for work.
We have one rate for advice provided in our office and another rate for advice provided online. We also offer a discount for block bookings.
I wanted to keep the fee structure as simple as possible.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Interestingly, the biggest challenge has actually been finding high quality tutors who are able to teach the law in a practical and fun way.
I was surprised by the number of graduates who are academically very gifted but who find it difficult to explain basic legal concepts in a simple, fun and easy-to-understand way.
We have overcome this by having a rigorous recruitment process; I personally interview all tutors and they all have to give a mock lesson so that we can assess what they will be like in a classroom environment.
Often clients come to us because the universities have been through the material too quickly or have not broken down topics in a way that is easy for the student to understand.
All of our tutors are recruited because they have the ability to convey information in a way that our clients will be able to understand.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Being invited by some universities to hold a CV clinic at The London Law Fair 2015.
The London Law Fair 2015 was a great marketing opportunity for the company and also gave me the opportunity to provide free assistance to students at our CV clinic.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
You can spend years thinking of “the idea”. I strongly believe that if you have a business idea that you think is viable, give it a go – don’t sit on the sideline!
For those leaving the security of a corporate job, I guarantee you that most people will think you are mad!
My advice is that you surround yourself with positive people.
You want to be around people who will encourage you to follow your dreams.
I am fortunate enough to have very encouraging people in my family who have provided invaluable advice.
My uncle, Hemant Kotecha, has taught me the importance of ethics and honesty in business and one of my other uncles, Saleem Sheikh, has always inspired me to have the courage to follow my dreams.
Both of them have provided constant support and guidance.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I want The Law Tutors to be the leading provider of private supplementary legal education in the country.
My tutors and I want to help as many students as we can to pass their degree and get the job that they want.