First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued, or are currently pursuing, a post-graduate course from different schools across the world.
In this edition of the FPA, we get talking with Prarthna Kedia, who is currently working at the Cogent Law Group in Washington DC. A graduate of the School of Law at Christ University (Class of ’11), Prarthna worked for two years before enrolling for an LLM at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
In this FPA, she discusses her reasons for applying to Berkeley, the process of writing a statement of purpose, the US legal market and much more.
Were you thinking of doing an LLM right after graduation? Or was this something you decided to do only after working for a few years?
During the first two years, at Christ University we were exposed to a very dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment, the primary reason being a truly world class faculty, a few of them had done their masters from very good schools in U.S. and U.K, such as Columbia University, LSE and Stanford to name a few.
The seed was planted right then, immediately after graduation I was consumed in looking for jobs, but even while working the thought of doing an LL.M. kept coming back to me. Having worked with litigation law firms for about two years, I finally decided to apply to a U.S. LL.M. program.
How did you go about selecting which law schools to apply to? And why did you narrow down on UC Berkeley?
If I wanted to do an LL.M., it had to be from a good school. I applied to a few schools in the US. Berkeley was on top of my list. I had read about the faculty and researched the courses that were being offered. I took a mix of IP and business law courses. I chose my course on the basis of the faculty members teaching the specific courses.
Any advice on how to go about writing the SoP for LLM applications?
An SoP is going to be the most important document, that universities are going to look at, when making a decision. In my case, after having written it out myself, I got it reviewed by friends who had already done their LL.M. and by a few faculty members I was in touch with.
It took months to reach a final version to send out to universities. So my advice would be to give it time, and have it reviewed multiple times, you want to make it simple, lucid and have only the relevant information in.
“It took months to reach a final version to send out to universities. So my advice would be to give it time, and have it reviewed multiple times, you want to make it simple, lucid and have only the relevant information in.”
Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?
I applied for the South Asian Student Scholarship, which also required me to write an SoP-like essay. It generally has specific guidelines as to what the scholarship is looking at. The University offers both, merit and citizenship-based scholarships which are awarded to outstanding admitted LL.M. students each year. Scholarship decisions are made at the time of admission.
Some of these Scholarships, such as mine, require a separate application for all other scholarships there is no separate application needed, and all eligible admitted applicants will be considered.
Looking back, what was the biggest positive of the LLM experience?
The biggest positive of the LL.M. experience was having met some of the brightest minds from different parts of the world, classroom teaching was enriched by varied experiences of peers from around the world.
Since we got to network at a very personal level with each other, I still gain a lot out of the alumni network at a professional and personal level.
After your LLM, you came back to India before eventually moving to the US – what prompted you to move to the US?
I was given a sabbatical from work for pursuing my LL.M. After having done my LL.M, and having met some of past alumni members working in the U.S., it was an attractive proposition to try and set foot into the U.S. legal market.
“However, the legal job market is very challenging here and more so for foreign lawyers, it takes a lot of networking and immense patience to be able to obtain a job.”
However, the legal job market is very challenging here and more so for foreign lawyers, it takes a lot of networking and immense patience to be able to obtain a job. Since I was already working in India before I started the LL.M. program in the US, it made sense for me to go back to India and resume my work as at attorney there. However, I wanted to work in the US and kept in regular touch with lawyers who were already working here.
In 2016, I met my future husband, who was working as an energy economist in the U.S., which gave me an additional incentive to move. Even before moving I started connecting with people and getting a sense of the steps I should be taking, the initial days involved a lot of networking. At a networking event I met the founder of Cogent Law Group LLP which offered me a position, which is where I currently work.
As a legal professional in the US, what is your reading of the legal market? Do you think there are recruitment opportunities for Indian law students with a US LLM?
As I already mentioned, the market is very competitive and even more challenging for foreign lawyers, an LL.M. from a good school does help getting your resume noticed, but even with that the challenges are numerous.
Having said that, there are lot of foreign lawyers working here, all of these people would have discovered different ways of getting around the market. In my experience huge amounts of patience, and almost an equal amount of faith is the key. If you set your mind to it, it is not impossible.
“In my experience huge amounts of patience, and almost an equal amount of faith is the key. If you set your mind to it, it is not impossible.”
Lastly, any advice for Indian law grads who are thinking of an LLM outside the country?
My advice would be to introspect and understand the real purpose one wants to do an LL.M., it is an investment in terms of both time and money, talk to people who have already tread this path. In my opinion its a very good long term investment, provided one uses the experience effectively in the short term.