First Person Accounts: Shantanu Kanade on an LLM at the Leiden Law School

First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued a masters course from schools across the world. In this FPA interview, Amicus Partners speaks to Shantanu Kanade, who is currently pursuing an advanced LLM in International Dispute Settlement and Arbitration at Leiden Law School.

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Shantanu Kanade

A graduate of HNLU, Shantanu also has a masters degree in global studies from the Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA). In this FPA, Shantanu shares his reasons for choosing Leiden Law School, his advice for those looking to pursue an LLM, and what life in a European law school is like.

When did you decide to pursue an LLM? Was it during your days as an undergraduate student, or only after you started working?

I was deeply interested in public international law (PIL) as a subject while in law school. I was able to secure really good grades in the mandatory course on PIL. Further, three out of the four moot courts in which I represented HNLU (Manfred Lachs, Frankfurt Investment Arbitration and Jessup) were based on PIL or related subjects. Having said that, I had never considered the possibility of charting out a career in this field.

It is only whilst pursuing my first Master’s degree at Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA) that this thought struck me. I had the honour of reading courses on International Criminal Courts and Law of the Sea from Professor Gudmundur Eiriksson, a titan of international law. Thanks to him, I had the chance to interact with HE Judge Abdul Gadire Koroma, former judge of the International Court of Justice, who impressed upon me the power of international law to create a more just and equitable international order. These priceless interactions made me rediscover my love for the subject and inspired me to apply for a specialised LLM in the field.

In fact, this is the second post-graduate course that you are pursuing. What prompted you to take up a Master’s in Global Studies at Jindal University? 

To be honest, there was not much planning or thought that went into this decision. I had started working as a transactional lawyer right out of law school but after about two and a half years of doing so, I decided to quit because I felt that my true calling lay somewhere else.

I was a little unclear about what that “somewhere else” truly was, though I had a few vague ideas. I therefore decided to take a short break to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do. A few months in, I had all but decided to join the chamber of a senior advocate in the Bombay High Court and pursue litigation.

However, a few days before this, I came across the MA(DLB) program offered by JSIA while I was randomly surfing the internet. I have always had a keen interest in international affairs and a voice within me said that this was something that I would want to pursue. I called up the school and they informed me that I would have to take an entrance test. I took the entrance test without much preparation and got an admission offer.

It wasn’t the easiest decision to make because: one, it was entirely unfamiliar territory and two, it involved a significant investment of time. However, I decided to trust my instinct (as I almost always do) and went ahead. As I look back, it was a decision that changed my life for the better.

How did you narrow down on Leiden and the specialised LLM? Were there any other courses/universities that you considered?

As I mentioned before, I found an excellent mentor in Prof. Eiriksson. He was of the opinion that Leiden Law School is a great place to pursue an LLM in PIL. He also emphasised (and I think that is something that future applicants may want to consider) that while the Ivy League schools in the US may have a better brand name, Leiden Law School is a better bet if one is looking to pursue a specialised LLM in PIL. This is primarily because PIL as a branch of law has its roots in Europe.

While the Ivy League schools in the US may have a better brand name, Leiden Law School is a better bet if one is looking to pursue a specialised LLM in PIL.

In fact, Hugo De Groot, widely regarded as the father of international law, is known to have read at Leiden University.

I think it is important to mention here that I had originally applied and been admitted to the Advanced LLM in Public International Law. Until last year, international dispute settlement was a specialised track within the Advanced LLM in PIL program but starting this year (2018-19), Leiden has decided to offer a new program altogether that focusses solely on international dispute settlement and arbitration.

Leiden University

From 2018-19, Leiden has decided to offer a new program altogether that focusses solely on international dispute settlement and arbitration (Source)

Once admitted, I was given the option to move to this program and I chose to do it because I was particularly interested in this field. The new program, the Advanced LLM in International Dispute Settlement and Arbitration (IDSA), while maintaining a PIL focussed approach, also incorporates a private law element by way of courses on international commercial arbitration, advocate and writing and negotiation and mediation.

The IDSA program is, in a way, Leiden’s answer to the MIDS program and seeks to be more connected to practice than the Advanced LLM in PIL program, which takes a relatively more philosophical and academic approach. The practical approach of the IDSA program is reflected in the fact that several of our classes are taught by practicing lawyers. So far, we have had law firm partners, barristers from the UK and associate legal officers from the ICJ [take classes].    

Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?

Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to apply for financial aid. However, I must share that Leiden University has the Leiden University Excellence Scholarship for international students who have been admitted to a Master’s program.

I am, however, fortunate enough to have supportive parents who offered to loan me the money required to pursue this degree. Having said that, I must say that the overall cost (tuition fee + living expenses) of pursuing an Advanced LLM at Leiden is considerably lower as compared with comparable schools in the UK and certainly those in the US.

The overall cost (tuition fee+ living expenses) of pursuing an Advanced LLM at Leiden is considerably lower as compared with that comparable schools in the UK and certainly than those in the US.

At the same time, the academic standards of Leiden are at par with most law schools in the world when it comes to PIL (Leiden is consistently ranked in the top 10 for PIL across different rankings). This makes it quite an attractive option.

I know it is early days but what are some of the big changes that you have seen when comparing Indian law schools and international ones?

In the limited time I have spent at Leiden Law School, I have witnessed certain notable differences between law schools in India and the ones here in their approach to education.

First and foremost, there is much greater emphasis on the Socratic method of learning, essentially meaning that each class is more of a conversation between the teacher and the students as opposed to a situation where the teacher does most of the talking. As a student, one is constantly encouraged to come up with new ideas and challenge existing notions, which is intellectually stimulating.

Second, the relationship between teachers and the students is a lot less formal, especially when it comes to a Master’s program. The professors respect the fact that most, if not all, students have had some work experience before joining the program and accordingly bring a perspective to the table. They are always happy to have a chat over a cup of coffee to discuss any queries or concerns that one may have.

Second, the relationship between teachers and the students is a lot less formal, especially when it comes to that in a Master’s program. The professors respect the fact that most, if not all, students have had some work experience before joining the program and accordingly bring a perspective to the table.

Last but not the least, the method of assessment is a lot more holistic. For each course that one studies, assessment is usually broken down into sit down examinations, essays and take home examinations (in which one may refer to whatever material they wish). Further, the method of assessment is also tailored to suit the nature and content of each course.

For instance, in the course on ‘Negotiation and Mediation’, our assessment shall be based on a simulated negotiation exercise in which the class will be divided into different groups and each group will be given a specific mandate to negotiate.

Any advice for Indian law graduates who are looking to pursue a master’s course outside the country? 

I am afraid there is not a “one formula fits all” advice that I may be able to offer in this regard. Every prospective applicant is different in terms of a number of things, including whether one desires to pursue a general LLM or a specialised LLM, the area of law in which one desires to specialise in, whether one plans to pursue it straight out of law school or after working for a few years, one’s financial situation and so on.

Assuming that one has limited financial means at the time of applying, one must be clear in their mind about why one wishes to pursue an LLM and what one expects to get out of it. Do keep an eye out of scholarships (offered by the concerned university and otherwise) and ensure that you apply in time!

Quite a few Indian students set out for an overseas LLM with the idea of being able to get a job. Such students must bear in mind that merely earning an LLM degree will not by itself be enough to land them a job. The LLM year merely gives one a networking platform and how well one uses this platform is up to each individual.

Merely earning an LLM degree will not by itself be enough to land them a job. The LLM year merely gives one a networking platform and how well one uses this platform is up to each individual.

Further, while pursuing an LLM from a university in a particular country does increase one’s chances of finding a job there, most countries would require one to qualify the local bar examination if one intends to work in a law firm. On a slightly sceptical note, I think one would also do well to appreciate that there seems to be a progressive increase in protectionist and anti-immigrant sentiment in several western countries and that may sometimes, not always, work to the disadvantage of Indians.

Please note that these are just words of caution meant to provide a realistic perspective and are not, by any means, an attempt to dissuade anyone from pursing an LLM abroad. In fact, I would day that if one has the means, one must definitely consider pursuing an overseas LLM for the immense potential it has to broaden your horizon.

I am three months into my program as I write this and I am enjoying every bit of it. I can vouch for the fact the sheer experience of living in a different country and studying in a class with people belonging to several different nationalities and legal traditions is, in itself, an enriching experience. I have always believed in enjoying the journey as much as the feeling of reaching the destination. In line with this philosophy, I am treating this as an opportunity to, besides earning a Master’s degree, immerse myself in the Dutch culture and explore Europe (the added advantage of pursing an LLM from a university in continental Europe is that your residence permit allows you to travel freely to all countries within the Schengen area).  I also hope to acquire at least basic proficiency in a new language, preferably French.

Speaking of which, proficiency in a foreign language, especially French or Spanish, is a great asset for students desirous of pursuing a career in international dispute settlement since the ICJ and some arbitration institutions would require one to have at least a working knowledge of one of these languages. Further, quite a few law firms working in this field have teams working on international disputes based out of Paris. Accordingly, if one has the chance to learn a foreign language while in law school, I would strongly recommend it. I regret not having done it myself.

I can go on and on about this but I think I will choose to stop here as I think I have broadly covered the major points. I would conclude with this last bit of (really important) advice for all the prospective students: Don’t let the dishes and the laundry pile up, everything else will take care of itself!

The Amicus Interviews: Professor Kellye Testy, President of LSAC

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Professor Kellye Testy [Source]

Professor Kellye Testy, the President and CEO of LSAC was in India recently, and I am glad that I got the chance to speak with her on the sidelines of a conference on the future of legal education.

I was particularly interested in two aspects of Prof. Kellye’s career thus far: one, her ability to increase faculty and student diversity at the University of Washington’s College of Law, and two, she was Dean of UW Law when the university raised more than $500 million from private contributions.

Both of these factors are, in my view, going to become increasingly relevant for Indian law schools, and I think there is a fair bit that we can learn from the likes Prof. Kellye. And of course, as head of the LSAC (which oversees the LSAT India entrance examination), I was quite curious to know her views on gauging one’s aptitude for a legal education.

(Edited excerpts from our conversation)

How do you think the LSAT is better than, say the Common Law Admission Test?

I think there are a number of advantages to the LSAT. The first one is that it is a very reliable test. It has been around for 70 years and we continually improve it. So, we have the advantage of making sure that every question has been tested before it is released, that all the questions are well designed etc.

I think the most significant thing about the LSAT is that it tests aptitude and basic skills. It looks at things like reading comprehension, reasoning etc. So, it is not asking a young person to already know the law, because that is going to be learnt in law school. [The LSAT] is about making sure that you have that fundamental core of skill to make sure you really thrive once you are in law school.

The other thing I would say is that it is administered by an independent organization. We are non-profit, we are not associated with any institution – there is just a very high degree of transparency and fairness.

Are you in favour of the three-year model or the five-year model of studying law in India?

Well, I actually am in favour of both models in the sense that there is nothing wrong with the ability to take an undergraduate degree that is focused on law. [This degree] can help people decide if they want to study law more thoroughly. It is also good for the world generally if more people understand law, because law is so important to democracy and the rule of law.

But law is complex. And the ability for someone to have a 3-year degree is also really appropriate because then the student might be a little more mature, and have the ability to think about what the [law degree] might mean for their career. I am not someone who thinks there is only one model; there can be multiple ways to study law.

At the University of Washington’s College of Law, you managed to increase diversity in students and faculty.

[Educational equality] is a serious problem, and it is one that I have spent my life trying to figure out. Really starting from the youngest of ages, there is inequality based on race, economics, gender and all kinds of things that don’t let everyone have a level playing field. What that means if when you start admitting students to law school, you are going to see that inequality.

And unless you really address it, you are going to have everyone be the same in your law school class. I have always believed that diversity of all kinds makes the educational experience a lot stronger.

The way we encourage [diversity] is that, first of all, we really reach out broadly. We try and hold forums so that people who may not have lawyers in their family hear about law, and we explain the process of applying to law school.

We also do scholarship programs so that there is more of a level playing field [with respect to] economic class.

And then the other thing that is so important is that when you are conducting admissions, you look at the whole person. So, you use the test scores as part of the file, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. You also ought to look at what the personal statement says, what does the person want to do, what are their leadership capabilities. I think you can admit a diverse class when you take more factors into account.

So, you use the test scores as part of the file, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. You also ought to look at what the personal statement says, what does the person want to do, what are their leadership capabilities.

The other interesting bit during your previous tenure is the funding that UW managed to raise. 

We talked a lot about costs in the conference, and it is a good subject because good education is expensive. You are paying people – faculty and staff. These payments have to come from either the state or [federal] government or student fees. And you don’t want to have students bear the whole burden.

I have found that looking at alumni, at the friends of the law school can really help. It is a very reciprocal relationship. Because once an alum graduates, his or her reputation is linked with that of the law school. So, [alumni] have every interest in wanting the law school to thrive.

Once an alum graduates, his or her reputation is linked with that of the law school. So, [alumni] have every interest in wanting the law school to thrive.

But how do you build this reciprocal relationship?

It needs to start when the person is a student – you make sure that the students know that as alums, they are going to be asked to give back. That they are going to be privileged by having that law degree and that once they are out, they should help students.

So, early on you start to help your students understand that this is not just a transaction – it is not that they are there and gone. It is their law school for a lifetime. And that is what I help them understand – once you are with me as a law student, then we are together. The fate of the law school, and your reputation are interwoven. So, you can help future generations by going out and being successful, and then giving back to the law school.

We are involved with the alumni from day one. We do continuing legal education for alumni, we keep them informed about what is happening. We invite them to come back and be judges in moot court competitions. We cheer them on when they are doing well in their careers. We help them when they are not doing so well.

It really is about helping the alumni understand that they may be students for three years, but they are part of the law school family their whole life.

It really is about helping the alumni understand that they may be students for three years, but they are part of the law school family their whole life.

I know US law schools are facing their own troubles of increasing costs and lower number of applicants.

Law schools did have a decline in applications after the great recession. The good news is that it has recently started going the other way – there has been an 8% increase in the number of students applying in the US, and some people think it is because what they call “Trump Bump” – people are mad about what the government is doing and thinking, “I have got to be a lawyer to help push back on the government, and make sure that the world is fair”

Now when it comes to international LLM students, the US law schools have seen a decline in numbers because of [US] immigration policy. And I think some of what motivated the JD students to apply is making the LLM students reticent to come.

Final question – what got you into law, and would you recommend it to others?

I had a bit of of a non-traditional way into law. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family. I grew up in a really small town, and I didn’t know any lawyers. But I happened to grow up in a town that happened to have a university in it – Indiana University.

And even though I was very disconnected with that, I used to sneak into the gymnasium to play basketball. That is what motivated me to first go to college – sports. And I became a journalist because I was a sports writer. I went to Indiana University to play basketball, and then I realized that I actually like academics.

I was studying journalism, and one day in communications class, a professor told us to go to the law library, find the “New York Times v Sullivan” case – it is a very famous libel case. So, I went to the library, found the case, read it, and fell in love. I realized that I would have to go to law school someday.

But because my family could not help me economically, I worked for almost five years. And then I went back  to law school, applied to only one law school (Indiana) because I was so fond of it!

I have never been sorry I went. I think students should study law because it helps you be a better citizen, it helps you be a better person. I also think that there is just so many things you can do with a law degree. You might want to be a traditional lawyer, you might want to be in business, you might want to be a journalist who writes about law or what have you.

I have never been sorry I went. I think students should study law because it helps you be a better citizen, it helps you be a better person. I also think that there is just so many things you can do with a law degree.

First Person Accounts: Akshay Aurora, JD student at Osgoode Hall

Akshay Aurora speaking with Amicus Partners

Akshay Aurora

Although certainly not as popular as an LLM, at Amicus Partners we do see some interest in the JD (Juris Doctor) programme amongst Indian law graduates. This three-year program is comparable to the LLB degree that Indian universities grant; both are post-graduate professional degrees.

In this First Person Account with Amicus Partners, we get Government Law College graduate Akshay Aurora to speak about the reasons behind his enrolling for the JD at Osgoode Hall Law School, at York University in Canada. Akshay shares his thoughts on the JD degree, his time as a law student thus far (he is currently a 1L), and why a JD might must make more sense than an LLM.

Were you considering a post-graduate degree while you were studying at GLC, or was this something you decided to take up after working?

I did consider doing a masters around my 4th year of law school. I dropped the idea once I started my job at Trilegal, but decided to take it up a few months into the job. I did consider an LLM, there were quite a few programs I was interested in actually.

Two questions on the JD itself – Why the JD, and two, why Osgoode Hall?

I chose to do the J.D. program because after a year of practising in India I did not think I would want to spend the rest of my life practising there. I needed to find away to move abroad but be able to litigate.

An LLM is considered to be an academic degree (at least in North America), and would not serve my purpose of wanting to practise law abroad. Throughout law school I have been confident that I would only work as a barrister, and so it would be pointless for me to do a 10-month LLM, only to be outdone by J.D. students who are considered to be more “practice-ready”. The J.D. program in law schools in Canada is based on a very interesting model – only the first year has mandatory courses, and the rest of the years are determined by you. I found this a lot more attractive than a ten-month LLM, which surprisingly, costs as much as the 3 year JD (purely in terms of tuition).

The J.D. program in law schools in Canada is based on a very interesting model – only the first year has mandatory courses, and the rest of the years are determined by you. I found this a lot more attractive than a ten-month LLM, which surprisingly, costs as much as the 3 year JD (purely in terms of tuition).

Career development offices are also geared towards J.D. students and do not put the same amount of effort for the LLM students, so finding a job, networking opportunities, volunteer work etc. are much easier to come by when you are in the J.D. program. The structured On Campus Interview (OCI) process is also available only to JD students.

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The library at Osgoode Hall (Image Source)

I chose Osgoode because it is undoubtedly Canada’s leading common law law school. It has an unparalleled reputation, particularly in the field of clinical and intensive education. Some of the professors I came across during research in India are now my professors, and they are all experts in their respective fields. Osgoode also places its students in great positions.

Did you look at applying at any other law schools, either in Canada or the US?

I applied to a four schools in the US, in Canada I only applied to Osgoode and UBC (Vancouver). In the US law schools are extremely expensive, and I was not keen in studying in that sort of political environment. The US was always a backup for me.

Fun fact: when I did get accepted to my US law school choices, even after scholarships, they were more expensive than Canadian law schools!

Early days yet, but how are you finding the learning experience thus far? 

I’d hardly call it early days, it has been three months of rigorous work and it feels like its been forever!

I can confidently say the Indian legal education system is far behind in understanding what it actually takes to be a lawyer. Our professors, while extremely qualified, were often tied by the various external issues like lack of funds/administrative issues etc. Its extremely saddening to see great faculty unable to teach well because our syllabi are simply too theoretical.

If you would compare it to your GLC days, what would be some of the bigger differences?

The larger differences appear to me between Canadian and Indian law – both former British colonies, but with contrasting views to the law. In India the judiciary is quasi-legislative when it wants to be, and paradoxically, sometimes very positivist in their application of the law. If the law is bad, it does not matter to Indian judges, they continue to apply it as is.

Canadian courts, on the other hand, take much advantage of the lack of codification – especially in the field of contract law. They are eager to find good solutions to previously decided bad law. In fields such as criminal law, they are more concerned about attaining social justice than blindly applying precedent.

Unlike in India where provisions are simply taught as is, or judgments are simply remembered for their ratios, that is not the case here. As one of my professors now says “A case is a solution to a problem, not a rule.”

From an education perspective, this is how law is taught as well. Unlike in India where provisions are simply taught as is, or judgments are simply remembered for their ratios, that is not the case here. As one of my professors now says “A case is a solution to a problem, not a rule.” We are constantly taught to challenge bad decisions, fight for dissenting opinions, and find solutions in common law for problems that people face. I feel like professors here start a process of making us excellent future human beings who happen to be lawyers. In India, the course is designed at making us great lawyers who happen to be human beings.

Lastly, any advice you would have for law students or law grads considering a JD degree?

If you have the willpower, it will change your life. Be very aware of what you want, your goals may be purely academic in which case an LLM works. But if you plan to practice abroad, a JD places you in a much superior position than an LLM, especially in fields like litigation or criminal Defence/Crown (Government).

I know it has only been a few months into my JD, but having spoken to many LLM students and having watched them go back to India after spending large sums of money, I am extremely happy with my decision. You must be cognizant of the monetary drain, but also aware that once you graduate the return on investment is very high, unlike India, there is not a culture here of making interns/junior lawyers slave away without minimum wages at least.

Let’s talk about legal ed (baby?)

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Clickbait-ey it may be is, but the headline is my one-line takeaway for me after attending a recent symposium on the future of legal education. Held in New Delhi (cough cough) over the past weekend, the two-day event saw multiple panel discussions, each with a diverse mix of speakers.

For me (and Amicus Partners), the symposium was particularly relevant since it was organized by LSAC, and Harvard Law School’s Centre on the Legal Profession (CLP). For obvious reasons, I watch both these organizations with more than a little interest. After all, LSAC has been conducting the LSAT for Indian law schools for a while now; LSAC is also the preferred mode of LLM admissions for roughly half of all US law schools.

I was also keen to meet Professor Kellye Testy, the recently appointed CEO and President of LSAC, and our brief conversation (to be published soon) did not disappoint.

As for the CLP, well I have been following Professor Wilkins and the GLEE project for a couple of years now. They have managed to come up with some interesting publications, so if you have the time do take a look.

Anyway, I could not attend all the panel discussions but the ones I did attend were well worth the hike to Lutyens Delhi. The discussions also made me realize that there is such a pressing need to start publicly debating issues that plague Indian law schools.

Some of the pertinent (law is showing – Ed) points that I think deserve more discussion are:

  1. The funding structure of law schools and not necessarily only on the fees component. Do Indian law schools have a road map for moving away from government funding and/or student fees?
  2. How efficient is the entrance mechanism for law schools? And here efficiency includes access, as a means to measure one’s potential, and overall purpose.
  3. Greater involvement and/or support of the Corporate Bar when it comes to Indian law school

Sure, some of these topics fall directly in the clichéd category, but I don’t think that lessens their importance.

We need to talk about legal ed.

And we need to do it now.

Amicus Interviews: Priyasha Corrie on QLTS Geek, foreign practice & more

Priyasha Corrie on the QLTS Geek app

Priyasha Corrie

The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is a great way to seek a foreign, professional qualification, and has become quite popular with Indian lawyers looking to move out of the country.

Priyasha Corrie, an Indian law graduate currently working as a corporate lawyer in the UAE, has not only taken the QLTS but has also set up QLTS Geek, a website and app meant to help those who are looking at taking up the QLTS.

In this interview with Amicus Partners, she talks about the journey behind QLTS Geek, her own experiences with the QLTS, and a whole lot more.

QLTS Geek – how on earth did you find the time for this? Also, when did you start planning the site? 

When I was preparing for the QLTS, I longed for a mobile app which would help me with the QLTS subjects.  After I cleared the QLTS, I thought to myself – why not make this a reality?  But I was in two minds because taking this initiative required commitment and time and I wasn’t sure whether I had it in me to give the project my dedication.

In any event, I started blogging about my experience on LinkedIn. I then started receiving a lot of LinkedIn messages from QLTS candidates asking for advice and I felt that it would be good to follow through with what I had in mind because there isn’t much guidance out there on the QLTS (as against, say the New York or the California Bar Exam).

QLTS Geek’s objective is essentially two-fold. First, I’ve created a mobile app with flashcards on OSCE subjects, which is for the whole ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning experience. Second, I have created a website with a blog and guidance on the QLTS – I hope to create a discussion forum and a way to review prep schools on the website soon.  I still don’t know whether this initiative is going to be a success, but when I receive feedback from candidates saying that the blog or my app has helped them, it really makes my day.

Working on a side project outside of work is tedious and I spend my evenings and weekends on QLTS Geek. I don’t party much and so basically don’t have a life! But I’ve always loved challenges and working hard towards a goal.  I am a geek myself and so the name ‘QLTS Geek’ is apt, I guess!  Perhaps I could call QLTS Geek a ‘labour of love’.

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I don’t party much and so basically don’t have a life!  But I’ve always loved challenges and working hard towards a goal.  I am a geek myself and so the name ‘QLTS Geek’ is apt, I guess!  Perhaps I could call QLTS Geek a ‘labour of love’.

How did you go about the “non-law” part of it like website design, the proposed app etc?

I might have been into computers had I not chosen to be a lawyer, and so I still like to keep myself at least a bit technologically savvy. Thanks to Google research, I was able to make the website myself on WordPress. Unfortunately, creating an app is complex and requires one to depend on developers and that’s what I did. I googled developers and engaged one in India to help me out.

It was expensive, but I’ve learned a lot through the process. I look at it as an investment in my learning – an alternative to spending thousands of dollars on an MBA course for theoretical knowledge.

Do you think the QLTS is becoming more popular amongst Indian lawyers? What prompted you to take the QLTS?

An Indian qualification is often not perceived on equal footing with a western qualification and you will realise this once you start practising outside India.  This is one of the reasons the QLTS is popular amongst Indian lawyers practising abroad. As such, the idea behind taking the QLTS was to make myself more marketable. And like I said above, I love challenges and taking this one on made sense.

The QLTS may not be that relevant for those lawyers who do not intend to move outside India. But since a large part of Indian law is based on English law and the assessments place a strong emphasis on practical skills, there is a lot to learn and gain in the process.

In addition, there is a significant focus on professional conduct in the QLTS assessments and I appreciated that because I believe ethics are important for a lawyer.

Apart from the obvious advantage of admission to the roll of solicitors, do you think the QLTS provides any other skill sets for international lawyers?

What I loved about the QLTS assessments was that the OSCE focussed on the practical skills of a lawyer — interviewing a client, advocacy, research etc. I don’t think any other bar exam in the world tests these practical skills. I learned a lot of soft skills in the process and have emerged a better lawyer.

I don’t think any other bar exam in the world tests these practical skills.  I learned a lot of soft skills in the process and have emerged a better lawyer.

Also, the SRA is very organised and sends regular newsletters for solicitors to be updated about the profession and elicits feedback on the admission process and assessments. It just made me realise how much catching up our Bar Councils in India have to do.

As a starting point, we need to have an online roster for lawyers in India and lawyers from corporate law firms should be represented in the Bar Councils.

In terms of prep time, you do write that to each his own. But looking back, what is the minimum amount of time one should look to devote to QLTS prep?

For the MCT, I would advise about 3-4 months (with the aid of a prep school) for a working lawyer, in order to feel confident taking the assessments. For the OSCE, I would suggest 4-6 months for a working lawyer.

The QLTS is a significant financial investment – are there any ways at all in which an international lawyer could lessen this burden (Do employers offer financial aid, are there any waivers or bursaries of any sort?)

It sure is an expensive process and I paid for all of it myself – that’s where my credit card came to the rescue! Many lawyers are sponsored by their firms, particularly if one is working for an international firm. I’m not sure whether there are any fee waivers though.

What is your view on the Indian legal market, specifically when it comes to smaller, transaction-based firms? Do you see space for more breakaway firms? 

The Indian legal market does look like it’s on fire.  There are a lot of opportunities and I think firms have risen to the task.  Looking forward, I think there will more breakaway firms because the millennials and Gen-Zs will not be able to gel with those having traditional mindsets. Firms evolving and adapting to a flexible approach to work will do well, in my view.

Lastly, any predictions on international law firms (somehow) making it to India?

It is hard to predict international law firms making it into India because the subject does seem politicised. I see no harm in allowing international law firms in India – it would only make the market better and competitive. I also don’t believe that they would eat up the share of local firms. In fact, international law firms will most likely outsource many of the smaller matters to smaller boutique firms or collaborate with local firms.

I see no harm in allowing international law firms in India – it would only make the market better and competitive. I also don’t believe that they would eat up the share of local firms.

I can go on but I will end up digressing. Again, we need corporate lawyers in Bar Councils who would be able to add more dimensions to the discussion. For instance, in the UAE, both international and local firms thrive together and the market is better because of it.

Final question – You have had quite an interesting career so far. A mid-career break, shifting jurisdictions and jobs, acing the QLTS – what keeps you motivated?

Thanks for your kind words, although I don’t think my career has been that interesting!  I look at everybody else’s career and fret about mine — I’m still learning the art of not comparing myself with others.

I have a passion for learning and that’s what keeps me going. I don’t believe in the theory of ‘Work hard now, enjoy the rest of your life’. I believe one should always work hard on all spheres of one’s life, and enjoy the process (including seeing the merits of the tough times). There’s a still a lot more I want to do although I think I need to be clearer with my vision and chart out the map to get there.

#Alert: LLM online fair with 14 US Law Schools

In case you are thinking about an LLM from the US, here is some good news. Fourteen US law schools including the likes of Brooklyn Law School, and Case Western University will be participating in an online fair on November 27, 2018.

Prospective applicants can register here, and get in touch directly with the admission offices of the participating universities.

The list of participating law schools for an LLM includes:

LSE will be visiting India (Sign up)

LSE-logo-and-signage-on-building (1)

In case you are thinking about enrolling for the LLM (or any other degree) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), here is a good opportunity to find out more. LSE’s Will Breare-Hall, the school’s Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Manager, will be in India and hosting sessions throughout the country.

This is the e-mail I received recently, links for the registration are available below:

Mr. Will Breare-Hall, LSE’s Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Manager, will be in India in November and December 2018, visiting Mumbai; Bengaluru; Chennai; Kolkata, and Delhi. He will be meeting prospective students and delivering presentations on applying to and studying atLSE.

 

These will be followed by question and answer sessions and the opportunity to speak with Will on an individual basis.

 

If you have questions about undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate or study abroad programmes at LSE, please reserve a place at one of Will’s presentations using the relevant online booking form. Attendance is free of charge and does not form part of the School’s selection process.

The dates are as follows:

Mumbai (28 Nov, 2018)

Event Page &  Register here

Bengaluru (3 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

Chennai (6 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

Kolkata (7 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

New Delhi  (11 Dec, 2018) 7.00-9.00pm

Event Page & Register here

 

(Lead image courtesy LSE)

“Demystifying the New York State Bar” by Brooklyn Law School

One of the more common reasons that Indian law graduates, or rather law graduates from around the world, choose an LLM in an American law school is to be eligible to write the Bar examinations in the United States of America.

Brooklyn Law School

And of these examinations, the New York State Bar examination is one of the most popular among LLM students. There are multiple reasons for this, including eligibility norms, but that is not relevant for this post.

A few days ago, Julie Sculli from Brooklyn Law School, gave a short presentation on the NY Bar examination that I thought was quite insightful.  She has been kind enough to share the presentation, which I have uploaded below.

 

Image from Brooklyn Law School

First Person Accounts: Anubhav Tiwari (LLM in International Human Rights from Essex University)

Anubhav Dutt Tiwari on his LLM from Essex University

Anubhav Dutt Tiwari

Anubhav Dutt Tiwari graduated from NUJS in 2013, and worked for about a year  before enrolling for the LLM in International Human Rights Law from Essex University (Class of ’15). He is currently a Senior Research Associate a Jindal Global Law School (JGLS).

In this edition of First Person Accounts, Anubhav discusses the reasons behind his decision to study at Essex University, the state of Indian legal academy, and his advice for Indian law students interested in an LLM abroad.

(Edited excerpts)

At what point of time did you realise you wanted to do an LLM? Was it as an undergrad, or only after working?

Anubhav Tiwari: All my internships had been at corporate firms, and I got a PPO in my fifth year. So, I sort of stumbled into a law firm for a year. It was during this time that I realised I wanted to do an LLM primarily because I did not feel I was being challenged intellectually. I also thought that the LLM was a good way to change my field of practice.

How did you use or explain the Clasis work experience while applying for a degree in human rights? 

Anubhav Tiwari: I did explain the good aspects of working in a demanding corporate law firm environment and the takeaways of professionalism, in my motivation letter.

How did you go about course/university selection? Essex is known for its HR faculty, but were there any other courses that you looked at?

Anubhav Tiwari: I was sure I wanted to study further human rights, humanitarian law within PIL. Essex was a natural choice due to its reputed faculty and Human Rights Centre. Moreover, [former NUJS Registrar] Sarfaraz sir from NUJS had also done his LLM from there and he gave very good reviews of the faculty.

I had also applied and got through Leiden, though eventually the faculty profiles at Essex convinced me to go there. In fact, I had also gained admission at Queens Mary but decided against it because living in London would have been too expensive.

Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?

Anubhav Tiwari: I did not mainly due to the fact that I was late. I took a student loan.

At Essex, what were some of the big changes in the learning experience as, say, compared to your undergrad days? 

Anubhav Tiwari: Essex was quite different from NUJS – the entire orientation of lecturing and discussion was very different. We did not have examinations, instead we were expected to write publishable papers for ever subject taken. In the eight months I was there, my research style completely changed.

Moreover, the environment is conducive to studying more than in any university I have seen. I have been to Christ for a year, then NUJS and now Jindal and I have to say, UK universities have an environment which compels you to study!

The accessibility of professors and the empathy they have with the students was also very nice. Further, the faculty were actively using their professional experience from the field to give us perspectives. At the same time they were not forcing us to take a view, but instead forcing us to not take sides!

Looking back, anything you would have done differently? For example, would you have gone fresh after NUJS or do you think work experience is important?

In hindsight, I feel a bit of experience in human rights would have been better before taking up the LLM. Work experience, according to me, is definitely important before an LLM.

What was your cohort like (age, experience, regions)?

Essex is known for its diversity in terms of the students. My class had representation from almost all the continents, and was the perfect mix of diverse backgrounds and experience – extremely necessary for the study of human rights.

What got you to JGLS, and what are you working on at JGLS?

I am trying to find my space in academia as a field-based researcher bringing his experience to the classroom while teaching. My focus is on refugee rights, citizenship issues, etc. My style of researching is going to the field and collecting data before analyzing and bringing out the main themes.

JGLS gave me the space and freedom to do these and also encouraged me to take on ‘controversial’ and sensitive research – something I believe very few universities in India do. Right now I am the lead researcher with the Centre for Human Rights Studies at JGLS, I also teach Legal Methods to first-year students, and have other research projects with colleagues at Jindal Global University.

A PhD must be on the cards?

Yes, a PhD is the next step. I am in talks with UNSW Australia where I have found supervisors. The next step would to be finalise the scholarship.

Having studied in India and abroad, what do you think are some of the differences in law schools in the two regions? Also, how do you think Indian law schools can attract younger faculty and/or researchers like yourself? 

The difference is faculty! Even at NUJS, we remember the good faculty very well because they were few! And most of them were young.

I feel in order to attract young faculty – you need to give them freedom to research. And also incentives. Younger faculties want to research, teaching comes secondary, and law schools in India should recognize this. I also think that if NLU’s did away with the UGC NET requirement, you would have a lot more younger faculty applying.

Last question – any advice for Indian law graduates or law students looking to pursue a post-graduate degree? 

Be sure that you want to do this and also be mindful that a post-graduate is actually more relevant if you intend to get into academia.

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