While walking up and down the aisles of the vendor hall at the AALL annual conference, I saw a booth for an Indian company called Manupatra. I have to be honest, when I first saw the booth I thought that it was an outsourcing company and I avoided it on my first couple of sweeps through the hall. However, once I took a deep breath and walked up and started talking with Manupatra’s CEO, Deepak Kapoor, it turned out that I was flat wrong in my assumption and Manupatra is actually the Indian legal system’s equivalent to Westlaw or Lexis. After a short discussion about Manupatra, a few Indian sweets, and a little discussion of my Bollywood movie obsession, I walked away with a good impression of what Deepak Kapoor was doing in making it easier to track the decisions the courts in India were producing.

After a follow-up email, I sent Kapoor a few questions I had about the product, the Indian legal system, and how Manupatra’s presence at AALL was viewed by other law librarians in attendance. I’ve place the transcript below. There is also great interview of Kapoor with a little history of Manupatra at the Bar & Bench that will give you some background on Manupatra’s mission.

Lambert:      Thanks for the follow up on the exhibit at AALL. It was very nice meeting you and your colleague (and I enjoyed the Indian sweets as well.) I found the Bar & Bench article from May 20th of this year and found the story behind your creating Manupatra very fascinating. Why would a non-Indian lawyer or law firm use a product like Manupatra?

Kapoor:      India has been evincing lot of focus and interest from Companies across the globe in last few years for the opportunities the country offers. China and India are the two sought for investment destinations today . This interest is on the upswing. As a result there is a building and growing need for legislative , regulatory and [procedural Indian content .
Manupatra provides a one point solution to this need by bringing forth Legal, Taxation, Corporate and Business Policy information all in one place. Archives coupled with updates across all subjects of law covering primary documents ( Case laws, regulations, notifications, statutes etc ) and proprietary analytical content, www.manupatra.com is the largest and most comprehensive online resource for Indian material.
Thus a non Indian lawyer/ law firm assisting any Company/ firm to set up business in India or evaluating feasibility/ viability for their clients to have business interests in India would require access to Manupatra database.
Also, number of students are now going oversees for their Masters. They look for Indian materials since they do their projects on Indian issues.

Lambert:      How does Manupatra compare (price and content) to other products like LexisNexis or Westlaw?

Kapoor:      Both Lexis and Westlaw as of today do not host any Indian content, thus no comparisons are available.

Lambert:      Do you see Indian courts adopting an official citation system for its decisions? If so, are you currently lobbying the courts to adopt such a system?

Kapoor:      As per statute the court is to cite the citation of the official publication “India Law Reports specific to each court”. But this publication is either not published in most courts or has very skeletal coverage or is delayed by couple of months. Hence the private journals end up being cited. Each court pushes a particular journal which has maximum and fastest reporting. Since Manupatra is fastest to report , we see this working in our favour over years.

Lambert:      Can you give me a brief overview of how lawyers in India currently conduct legal research (are they still book researchers, or are they like American lawyers and conduct most research online?)

Kapoor:      India is still in the nascent stages as far as legal research is concerned. The users in metros and big cities have moved to online legal research The smaller courts use CD ROM based products or book research and the rest of the market is still driven by book research. Apart from geographical distinction, the age profile also distinguishes users. The senior guys would go for book research more out of habit and thus they trust the same. They personally are not tech savvy and thus books still rule the roost in their libraries/ chambers. India is fast moving towards electronic legal research, if not online research and with Computerization increasing and price of bandwidth going down the stag seems to be set for Online legal research.

Lambert:      I see you have about 45,000 current subscribers to your product. With the expansion of the number of lawyers in India increasing in great numbers, where do you see these numbers in a year? two years? five years?

Kapoor:      45000 are users and not subscribers. In India we still do not have a non sharing policy. So in a firm which has 15 users may still have a single subscription.

Lambert:      Please add anything else about Manupatra that you think would be of interest for those of us in North American.

Kapoor:      Manupatra not only started a Company but also has pioneered an industry. Through dedicated in-house effort and sustained support from clients, Manupatra has come to be recognized as the pioneer in online legal research in India.

Lambert:      I also have a question about your thoughts on the AALL conference. I imagine that many of the attendees at the conference had the same thoughts that I did when I first saw your booth… that you were a legal outsourcing company. Perhaps that is an assumption that we should not have made, but we law librarians here in the U.S. are a little paranoid that some of our jobs will no longer be around in a few years, and that they will be outsourced to a call center in India. Did you find that other attendees were thinking the same thing (or was it just me??)

Kapoor:      In India legal research is understood in a different way than it is in USA. Thus our tag line turned out to be confusing not only for you. There were some others also who came and clarified. Thanks for pointing this out since we will take care when we are exhibiting in different markets.