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 Mitisha Chheda, who recently completed an LLM in Intellectual Property from George Washington University Law School (Class of ’17).
In this FPA, Mitisha talks about the reasons behind choosing a specialised LLM (hint: Conde Nast), how she went about the application process, Research Assistant positions, and a whole lot more.
At what point in time did you decide to do an LL.M? Was this something you had planned to do even as an undergraduate or was this only something you opted for after working for some time?
It was during the fourth year of law school that I decided to purse an LL.M. This decision was largely influenced by my brother’s experience; he has earned his LL.M from a U.S law school. His LL.M experiences were an inspiration for me and a starting point for my own LL.M. pursuit.
Many students who pursue an LL.M. tend to have prior work experience before taking up the course. Prior work experience helps in choosing your Masters’ specialization and allows one to refine their skills in the desired concentration of law.
How did you go about the process of narrowing down on George Washington University Law School? What were the other schools that you applied to (if any), and how early did you start the application process?
I have always been very passionate about Intellectual Property (IP) law and Entertainment law. It dates back to my interest in travel photography coupled with the practical insights I gained during my internship at Conde Nast Traveller. It was this internship which led me to pursue law with a focus in IP.
Post my internship at Conde Nast Traveller I have been crafting my experiences only in IP. So, pursuing my Masters in Law in IP was a natural progression.
I started preparing for my LL.M application process six to seven months in advance. I had very few law schools in mind for the IP course – George Washington University, NYU, UCLA, Berkeley, and Georgetown. I narrowed down on George Washington University because of its robust IP Program, esteemed professors, and its proximity to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S Copyright Office.
A lot of applicants struggle when it comes to writing the Statement of Purpose – any pointers on how applicants should approach this?
Indeed, the Statement of Purpose takes up a lot of time and like many other students I grappled as well. My advice is – be a good story teller. Apart from this, you should spend at least (I stress on “at least”) three to four weeks in writing the SOP.
My advice is – be a good story teller. Apart from this, you should spend at least (I stress on “at least”) three to four weeks in writing the SOP. One should also discuss their line of thought for the SOP with their friends who are not from the legal background. This helps in bringing a new perspective and in simplifying the SOP’s language.
One should also discuss their line of thought for the SOP with their friends who are not from the legal background. This helps in bringing a new perspective and in simplifying the SOP’s language. Unlike India, the U.S. prefers the written material to be reader-friendly and easy to understand even for a lay person.
What were the biggest changes that you observed when it came to the learning experience between your undergrad and post-grad days?
The biggest difference was the classroom experience. In the U.S., professors assign class readings before-hand and they expect you to come prepared for classes. During the class, you are expected to engage in classroom discussion rather than be lectured by the Professor alone. This method is known as the Socrates method.
I personally believe that the Socratic method was very helpful because every class introduced a new and novel thought process. We were encouraged to participate in healthy classroom discussions and submit various practical assignments as opposed to my under graduate program, where we would just appear for a final written test.
Was it easy to get a RA post while an LLM student? Any advice for those who may be interested in doing something similar?
It was not easy to receive a Research Assistant position. I found out about this position through a friend who was already a Research Assistant to the Professor I eventually assisted. One has to be aware and attentive and check out listings for these positions on the law school portal or notice boards.
Interested students can also reach out to the Professors well before their course starts, even before arriving in the United States. If not as a full-time RA, Professors also hire students on a part-time basis on a project-basis.
What is your reading of the job market in the U.S? Are you planning to write the NY Bar as well?
As foreign attorneys its slightly tougher to break into the U.S. job market, especially when your first degree in law is not from the U.S. So it is certainly an uphill task but it can be done.
The best way to go about your job hunt is to network and build new connections. You can do this by asking for coffee meetings, attending relevant events, and becoming members of relevant organizations.
For this process to work, it’s very important to stay in touch with your new connections and keep them updated with your progress. Persistence and patience are the most important attributes when looking for a job in the U.S. You have to keep trying and not give up. For most people who land a job, it is an organic process. It’s very rare for someone to land a job over-night, on the basis of a cold email.
You have to keep trying and not give up. For most people who land a job, it is an organic process. It’s very rare for someone to land a job over-night, on the basis of a cold email.
As for the New York Bar, it is definitely worthwhile to have it on your resume as it increases your marketability for the U.S. job market. But again, there are jobs in the U.S which do not require you to be enrolled with the Bar. So while it’s a great asset, it may not necessarily be indispensable. I do plan to take the New York Bar in July of 2019.
Looking back, any advice for law grads who are interested in an LL.M? And would you have done anything differently?
In addition to doing well academically, being involved in extra-curricular activities is equally important. One should strive to hold at least one leadership position or be a member of a committee during their LL.M. program.
For instance, be a part of the editorial board of a law journal, or the law school’s moot court association, help organize cultural events, etc. A clerkship with a judge or an internship with the legal team of a government office would also greatly help your resume.