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 (be it an LLM or otherwise) from different schools across the world.
In this edition, we speak with Richard Mantosh, who recently graduated with an LLM from the University of Hamburg. Richard, who completed his Indian law degree from Sarsuna Law College in Kolkata, discusses the reasons behind choosing Hamburg University, recruitment prospects in Germany, and a whole lot more.
What got you interested in the study of law after your B.A.? Did you look at the 5- year options as well?
As far back as I can remember, I always had an affinity with the subject of Law. I reckon this, indirectly, had to do with the fact that whilst growing up I was mostly surrounded with Legal discourse, as my uncles are practicing lawyers (High Court at Calcutta) and my father is a former Parliamentarian (Lok Sabha).
Notwithstanding, I still wanted to be 100% certain that Law was ‘my calling’. Hence, after completing my High School, I chose the ‘unconventional’ path for budding Lawyers, by enrolling in a 3 year B.A. I felt this would broaden my mind, and upon my graduation I was a 100% certain to pursue an LL.B Degree.
How was your LL.B. experience? Was it during this time that you decided to do an LL.M. or was the decision made only after working for a few years?
My LL.B. experience was positive: Sarsuna Law College, Kolkata, had a well- equipped library, the teaching faculty was encouraging, and my fellow class-mates came from diverse education backgrounds. Frankly, during my LL.B. I never really saw an advantage to study an LL.M, as practical skills such as court craft seemed more rational then. Upon passing the Bar Exam, I commenced my legal practice predominantly at the High Court at Calcutta and the Supreme Court of India.
One of my client’s was a Non-Profit (International Justice Mission), their case-work was on Indian Criminal/Human Rights Law but it also had a strong interplay of International Law. I discovered how the realm of Law/Natural Justice goes beyond our National borders & thereby decided to study an LL.M. after two years of practice.
The University of Hamburg is an interesting choice – what got you here, and did you look at any other schools?
So when I decided to pursue an LL.M., I zeroed in on going to a Law School in England or Germany. England looked like a more ‘natural fit’ as our Indian Legal system is fundamentally based on theirs (Common Law), in addition to a common language. In fact, I got offer letter(s) from, inter alia, City University of London. However, Germany appealed to me more as I was curious to study a different Legal system (Civil Law). The reason why I chose Universität Hamburg was because it is a Global Top 100 University (for Law) & the course was a perfect blend of German, European, and International Law.
Another factor was the tuition fees of this University, which was substantially cheaper to its UK counterparts.
“The reason why I chose Universität Hamburg was because it is a Global Top 100 University (for Law) & the course was a perfect blend of German, European, and International Law.”
At Hamburg, did you take up the EMLE program? Or was it something else?
No, I did not apply to the EMLE program. The program I applied to is called the ‘European and European Legal Studies’ which is run by the Faculty of Law, Economics & Social Sciences of the University of Hamburg, in cooperation with the Europa-Kolleg Hamburg (an institution at the University of Hamburg). In addition to Law, we also studied the nuts & bolts of Economics to understand the underpinnings of European Competition & World Trade Organization Laws.
Any advice on how to go about writing the Letter of Motivation/Statement of Purpose?
Writing an LoM/SoP to study in Germany is a two part process – the first being to the University Admissions Committee and the second being to the Consular Visa Officer. My advice to prospective LL.M. candidates would be to keep their LoM/SoP to the point.
Focus on your most relevant credentials, what skill-set(s) you would bring to the class, what you are expecting to gain by the end of the program, and how you intend to leverage the same in your job/profession.
How was the LL.M. experience? What were some of the bigger differences in the learning and teaching processes between Hamburg and Vidyasagar University?
The LL.M. experience was, in one word, stupendous. The program was taught in English by professors who had themselves studied at the best law schools in the world. Further, part of our program was a 2-month internship, where I interned at a Law Firm (Bryan Cave LLP) in Hamburg. In addition, we were also taken for study excursions to the key European Institutions in Brussels & Luxembourg.
Although not part of the LL.M., I had the privilege to be selected as one of the youngest Judge’s at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Moot Competition 2018, at The Hague, Netherlands. Prima facie, the core difference between the University of Hamburg and Sarsuna Law College, Kolkata (affiliated to Vidyasagar University) was that the former University would consistently enforce the Socratic method of learning/teaching. This pushes students out of their comfort zone to develop argumentative debates, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking.
“This pushes students out of their comfort zone to develop argumentative debates, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking.”
What is your reading of the German market when it comes to recruiting international students?
Germany, having the largest economy in Europe, has a large pool of International Applicants/Lawyers looking to gain further exposure, especially post-studies. In my reading, two factors are significant: one should at the least have a basic understanding of the German language and two, one could apply at law firms having their Country’s ‘Legal Desk’ or which deals with International Legal fields (such as Arbitration, Competition, Trade – among others).
As for myself, I have secured a job-contract with a Law Firm (GERMELA Wülfing LLP) in Hamburg.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are looking to do an LL.M. outside the country?
To you all I would humbly say, keep your grades in the above-average range and get “your feet wet” by practicing/working on various case-work (even pro bono cases) for at least a year, as it is of paramount importance to know what kind of LL.M./Legal Specialization you would like to embark on.