First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of lawyer’s who have pursued a post-graduate course from different schools across the world.
Not necessarily restricted to an LLM, the FPAs should serve as some guide as to which is the ideal law school for you.
Hussain Somji is a Mumbai-based lawyer who completed his LLM from the University of Hong Kong (HKU). In this First Person Account, Somji shares the reasons behind choosing HKU, job prospects post the LLM, arbitration in India, and much more.
Amicus Partners: Why choose HKU? Were there any other law schools/universities that you were considering?
Hussain Somji: Since arbitration law was the area targeted for my study, I started looking at universities in popular arbitration seats such as Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Geneva etc.
Queen Mary in London was an option but I did not want a large batch size of 100+ students. NUS was not running the arbitration course that year. HKU had a good global reputation and the tuition fees were half of what is normally paid in London.
Since I had not studied in a school of great repute, I was keen on choosing a university that offers me a good standing with arbitration courses. MIDS was also an option but I did not make it considering my academics in law school were not that strong.
So the factors that led to my decision were:
- lower tuition fee;
- popular arbitration seat;
- good global reputation for the its law school; and
- a small batch size (30 or so students with a mix of full-time and part-time students).
AP: When did you decide to do an LLM? Was it while you were studying law or was this a decision you made while working?
HS: After four years of practising experience since I was then sure of dispute resolution as the area of practice to specialise in.
AP: Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?
HS: Yes, I did apply for the financial aid offered by the University but later learnt that those (also student accommodation) are usually offered to students who choose non-commercial subjects such as human rights and so on.
AP: How was the LLM experience? What were some of the pros and cons of the course?
HS: Outstanding! I have no regrets.
The faculty, infrastructure, library, research opportunities and facilities are all top-notch. Without being biased, I am unable to think of any cons as of yet except that if you are interested in applying for work positions post your LLM, one could face language barriers as HK does a lot of China related work where language could play an important role.
AP: If you had any advice for those interested in this program, what would it be?
HS: Weigh your options wisely but you will not be disappointed or regret at all doing this program. Also remember, HKU offers CIArb courses as part of the its curriculum and so if you want a dual benefit of CIArb qualifications with an LLM, it is the right place to be at.
AP: Did HKU help LLM graduates in recruitments?
HS: Opportunities are circulated on the universities job portals and dispute resolution specific positions are shared with LLM graduates. There is no dedicated desk or office for this purpose.
AP: How was the internship at the HKIAC?
HS: This was something that gave me a completely different perspective and an insight into how an arbitral institution works. I was very clear about my return to India and re-commencing practice but wanted to carry this experience with me.
AP: What were some of the benefits of the LLM when you resumed working in India?
HS: I was clear of commencing counsel practice on my return with a focus on arbitration related work. The depth of research conducted as also the fundamentals of arbitration law that remain same across the model law countries including India, the grasp in matters was almost immediate.
Recently, I was in fact approached by a Swiss Arbitrator to assist her in some research concerning HK law on arbitration. As with every course, you have a different way of looking at things and you try to bring in the international standards in your domestic practice which is immensely helpful.
AP: Anything else that you would like to tell Indian law graduates looking to do a LLM?
HS: An LLM is not a job creator. It is for those who wish to immerse themselves into a subject to apply it in practice. Be proactive as all universities offer ample opportunities to improve your academic profile that helps a lot in the professional world.
Be clear on what the objective is and choose a university and location accordingly.
In arbitration law, location matters as it gives access to a pool of lawyers and practitioners who will be helpful to connect with throughout the term either in their capacity as professors or just generally in conferences and seminars.