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.

Soumya Patnaik
Soumya Patnaik

In this edition of the FPA, we get to speak with Soumya Patnaik who recently graduated from Leiden Law School (Class of ’18). Soumya graduated from National Law University Jodhpur (Class of ’11) after which she worked at JSA for close to seven years before embarking on an LLM in Advanced Studies in Law & Digital Technologies at Leiden University. She also happens to be a recipient of the Leiden University Excellence scholarship (LexS).

How did you narrow down on Leiden University? Were there any other schools that you looked at?

My choice was primarily based on the specialisation that I wanted to pursue and the reputation that Leiden Law School enjoys in this respect. The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in the field of technology and innovation, and therefore, pursuing an LL.M in digital technologies in the Netherlands was an obvious choice.

I had also applied to Stanford, Berkeley and Fordham, and in fact, gotten offers from all of them. However, my decision to choose Leiden was motivated by the fact that the tuition fee was much higher in the US universities, for a course that was of the same standard, and I received a full LexS scholarship that covered my tuition fee in Leiden. Moreover, the EU is a pioneer in digital rights, and my personal values are more in line with EU policy.

“Moreover, the EU is a pioneer in digital rights, and my personal values are more in line with EU policy.”

Any advice on how to approach the SoP, and the application for the LexS scholarship?

A very important point to remember is that the SoP is not a description of your qualifications listed in the CV. An SoP is an opportunity to express your skills and motivations for pursing the program. It is also the opportunity to stand out. Therefore, make the SoP interesting, coherent, logical and honest.

“An SoP is an opportunity to express your skills and motivations for pursing the program. It is also the opportunity to stand out. Therefore, make the SoP interesting, coherent, logical and honest.”

An interesting anecdote is good to have, but care must be taken to not go overboard with it. The university receives many applications and can easily sieve through the ones that are clearly exaggerated. Same goes for the LexS scholarship. In the latter, it would be a good idea to emphasise how the candidate would help the field that s/he is seeking scholarship for. Concrete examples go a long way in strengthening the application.

Looking back, what were some of the advantages of gaining some PQE before the LLM? Any disadvantages?

The biggest advantage is perspective. I didn’t choose to do an LL.M simply because it was a Master’s degree in a foreign country.

My PQE helped me understand what I wanted my future to look like; what fields of law I could see myself excelling in, and what fields I would eliminate going forward. Without trying out different things, how does one know what she actually likes?

“My PQE helped me understand what I wanted my future to look like; what fields of law I could see myself excelling in, and what fields I would eliminate going forward. Without trying out different things, how does one know what s/he actually likes?”

I would thus always advise working before pursuing an LL.M. Having said that, everyone’s trajectory is different.

How was the LLM experience? What were some of the biggest learnings made during your time at Leiden?

My year in Leiden was definitely one of the best in my life. Quoting a friend, “I was at the right place, at the right time, with the right people.”

Being in an international environment is fruitful in many ways; it helps in broadening one’s horizons and gaining perspective. The LL.M program itself was an excellent choice; it was refreshing to be in a classroom with lecturers who were renowned in their respective fields, and passionate about emerging legal and ethical concerns surrounding digital technology.

They gave us challenging assignments that made us think. I definitely grew as a lawyer, scholar and human being in many ways during this year. One of the biggest learnings I would say, is my ability now, to see technology and its impact on our lives in an objective way, and not in terms of black and white alone. I believe this would enable me to contribute to policy making and regulation in more realistic terms.

“One of the biggest learnings I would say, is my ability now, to see technology and its impact on our lives in an objective way, and not in terms of black and white alone.”

How difficult or easy was it to gain recruitment after the LLM? Any advice for Indian law graduates looking to use the LLM to move jurisdictions?

It is definitely not easy to get a job in the EU after an LLM. However, for me, the biggest advantage was that I pursued a very specialised LL.M and looked for a job in that specialised field itself.

No doubt, the GDPR coming into force played a big part in me getting a job here. My advice would be to pursue a specialised LL.M rather than a generic one.

Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are keen on pursuing an LLM abroad? 

I would ask them to firstly reflect on what they expect at the end of their LL.M. If they are unsure, then I would suggest working for a few years first. If they still want to do an LL.M, they would probably know if they want to pursue an academic career, practice in a law firm, or branch out into policy or research.

To be honest, getting a job with a foreign law firm is very hard, even with an LL.M. So, they must keep that in mind while making their decision. Finally, it is important to follow one’s heart. I believe that if one pursues a specialisation in a field that she is truly interested in, then everything else eventually falls into place.

“Finally, it is important to follow one’s heart. I believe that if one pursues a specialisation in a field that she is truly interested in, then everything else eventually falls into place.”

 

End Notes

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.