First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued (or are pursuing) a post-graduate course from different schools across the world.
In this edition of the FPA, I speak with Varsha Kashyap who is currently enrolled at the Master of Law and Business programme at Bucerius Law School. A graduate of Symbiosis Law School, Pune (Class of 2015), worked at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas for nearly three years before enrolling for the MLB where she also happens to be a recipient of the Bucerius Global Scholarship.
The MLB is an interesting course, a sort of hybrid between commerce and law which I think will be a good match for Indian lawyers looking to get greater insights into the business side of things. Anyway, here is the FPA.
At what point in time did you start thinking about a master’s course? Was this the plan as an undergraduate student, or only something you decided to do after working for a few years?
During my undergraduate studies, I don’t think I considered pursuing a master’s program very seriously since I wanted to start working as soon as I graduated. However, after about three years of working, I felt the need to go back to school and study subjects that I was interested in, but never got the opportunity to study in law school.
Also, I think the three years of work experience really helped me understand myself as a lawyer and introspect about the kind of subjects I wanted to study and the kind of work I wanted to do in the future.
Why Bucerius’ MLB? Was it something to do with your time as a DAAD scholar as an undergraduate? Were there any other schools that you applied to?
The Bucerius MLB is a mini-MBA and a mini-LLM rolled up into a power packed one-year program which focuses on law, business and technology – which was what I was looking for. The program has about 35 participants from 22 countries from both, law and business backgrounds. This makes class discussions and group activities really interesting as we are working with people with diverse backgrounds, ideas and experience.
Yes, applying to Germany was definitely influenced by my time here as a DAAD Scholar in 2013 when I participated in a summer exchange program in Germany. During that time, I remember deciding to come back to study and work for a few years in Germany.
The only other university I applied to, was the Institute for Law and Finance in Frankfurt. The master’s program at ILF would have complemented the work I had done as a corporate lawyer in India. However, I chose the Bucerius MLB because of the unique course structure and the subjects.
On the MLB application – any advice on writing the personal statement, as well as the Global Scholarship application? How early should one start the application process?
Well, my personal statement was an honest essay on why I applied to study in Germany and why I chose the course. Bucerius does appreciate community engagement and student activities, so I suggest including such experience in the personal statement.
“Well, my personal statement was an honest essay on why I applied to study in Germany and why I chose the course. Bucerius does appreciate community engagement and student activities, so I suggest including such experience in the personal statement.”
The Bucerius Global Scholarship application is pretty straight forward – it just needs an essay of 750 words identifying a problem in the business or legal field and providing a practical solution. Since the essay can only consist of 750 words, I suggest contextualising the problem you identify early on in the essay and working towards a practical solution in the latter part.
The deadline for the Bucerius Global Scholarship and the early-bird fee discount is January 15 in 2019 (this could change from year to year). I would suggest starting the course and scholarship application in the beginning of December, so you have enough time to fill out all details in the application.
What are some of the bigger differences in the learning experience between your undergrad and post-grad days?
During my undergrad days, I was being introduced to legal concepts and ideas for the first time. However, during my post-grad days, I am learning and re-learning legal concepts and ideas with emphasis on its practical application and how law and business interact in daily life. Personally, I have enjoyed being back in class and going to day-long classes (something I did not particularly enjoy during my undergrad days) because it involves learning something new every day.
Of course, it goes without saying that participating in a master’s program requires a lot of pre-class reading and group work which could involve diverse topics like pitching a business plan to investors or analysing start-up strategies.
You are also part of the LWOW project – how did you get involved in this, and what was that experience like?
The LWOW program is an elective offered as part of the MLB course. So, Bucerius selects 3-4 students for the program based on an internal selection process and I was one of the 4 students chosen in 2019 for the LWOW original program which hosts a kick-off at IE University in Segovia and a conposium at the University of Miami Law School in Miami.
LWOW is a part-virtual experiential learning program designed to train future and current lawyers, transform how professionals collaborate, and create innovations that solve problems at the intersection of law, business, and technology. As part of the LWOW, teams co-create a Project of Worth: a business case, prototype, commercial, marketing campaign, and more to a real problem sponsored by a corporate legal department, law company, or law firm.
“As part of the LWOW, teams co-create a Project of Worth: a business case, prototype, commercial, marketing campaign, and more to a real problem sponsored by a corporate legal department, law company, or law firm.”
At the kick-off, we meet all LWOW participants from universities across the world, participate in a hackathon and are assigned teams and topics to work with for the next 3 months. Once the project is ready, all teams will present their ‘Project of Worth’ at Miami Law School in April 2019.
What is your reading of the employment market in Germany? I ask because for a lot of LLM applicants, recruitments are a vital factor in the final decision.
I think the German employment market is maybe easier to enter as compared to the UK or the US markets – but I say this only from a work-visa stand point. This is because Germany offers a ‘looking for work’ visa which allows students to stay back in Germany for 18 months after the completion of the course to look for a permanent job.
Of course, knowing German is extremely essential as German is the working language in most companies and law firms. However, there are start-ups and companies in cities like Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt where there are many English speakers – but, in most cases, people end of learning German eventually.
“Working in Germany as a lawyer is really tough as all lawyers that can advise on German law are required to pass the 2 state exams in Germany to qualify for the German bar. However, there are many roles in law firms and the Big 4s which require jurisdiction specific knowledge – so India desks, China desks and legal tech teams are always an option at international law firms.”
And this may be relevant for law students – working in Germany as a lawyer is really tough as all lawyers that can advise on German law are required to pass the 2 state exams in Germany to qualify for the German bar. However, there are many roles in law firms and the Big 4s which require jurisdiction specific knowledge – so India desks, China desks and legal tech teams are always an option at international law firms.
Finally, any advice for Indian law grads who are looking to pursue a master’s course outside the country?
I would say go for it – it is an experience like no other and it can really change your perception of the world and its workings. But do try and formulate a path for yourself after the master’s program as well – especially if you are taking part in the program after a few years of work experience.
Having a defined path can help you decide on which projects to undertake and which subjects and internships to choose. Of course, it is also okay to choose a program and see where it leads you – for the most part, this has been my approach.
“Having a defined path can help you decide on which projects to undertake and which subjects and internships to choose. Of course, it is also okay to choose a program and see where it leads you – for the most part, this has been my approach.”