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, I speak with Rubanya Nanda, who is currently enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Investment Treaty Arbitration at Uppsala University in Sweden. Rubanya, who graduated from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (Class of ’18), shares the reasons for opting for an LL.M. right after her undergrad, how she narrowed down on Uppsala, and her experiences during the course thus far.

(Edited excerpts)

At what point during your undergraduate days did you decide to pursue a master’s degree?

I always had an interest to pursue higher studies. But, I was not sure of which subject to specialize in. I chose arbitration for my master’s as the prospect of out-of-court dispute settlement fascinated me. It has a prominent inter-disciplinary aspect which widens its scope.

Furthermore, it deals with facets of international law as well. I used to enjoy working on propositions related to arbitration during my internships. I was sure of pursuing a master’s in the field of arbitration by the end of my fourth year.

Did you consider working for a few years before embarking on a master’s?

I decided to pursue my LLM in 2018 as I was skeptical that I might not have the patience to go back to academics if I take a break from studies. But, I would put emphasis on the fact that one should always strive according to one’s individual preferences.

Work experience does add certain weight to your scholarship applications. It is an added advantage but not a compulsion. Everything works out if you are sure about the subject you want to specialize in.

“Work experience does add certain weight to your scholarship applications. It is an added advantage but not a compulsion. Everything works out if you are sure about the subject you want to specialize in.”

How did you go about selecting which law school to apply to? And how did you narrow down on Uppsala University?

I had applied only to two Universities for my LLM. One was the ICAL programme of Stockholm University and the other was Investment Treaty Arbitration (ITA) programme of Uppsala University. Both of them are in Sweden.

I had decided to do my masters in Sweden even before shortlisting the Universities.

This was  essentially due to the fact that the quality of education in Scandinavia is very high. In addition to that, both Universities have good reputations. I got admitted into both courses. Ultimately, I chose the ITA programme at Uppsala University as the programme is very specific, it is interdisciplinary in nature and gives ample scope to explore. It is intrinsically linked with Public International Law.

“Ultimately, I chose the ITA programme at Uppsala University as the programme is very specific, it is interdisciplinary in nature and gives ample scope to explore.”

Also, my decision to pursue this programme strengthened because Prof. (Dr.) Kaj Hobér is the programme director. He is a prominent arbitrator specializing in investment disputes and it is a privilege to study under his aegis.

Any advice on how to go about the application process? More specifically, on the writing requirements as well as getting letters of recommendation?

I would advise to keep a track of the application deadlines in advance. In case of any doubts, do not hesitate to contact the respective Universities. The Universities have a very efficient support system and they are often reliable. They will guide you with respect to clarifications on eligibility criteria.

The first step is to shortlist the University of your choice. Secondly, it is pertinent to keep in mind that statement of purpose (SOP) is something which is very individualized. You need to tell and rely on your own story. It is completely your discretion. Thus, be honest and genuine in writing your SoP.

You need not boast excessively about your achievements (your CV is enough proof of that) but focus on what motivates you to pursue a master’s in that subject. Try to be precise about your law school journey and mention your aims in your SOP.

“Focus on what motivates you to pursue a master’s in that subject. Try to be precise about your law school journey and mention your aims in your SoP.”

It is wise to start collecting the LoRs way before the application deadline to avoid any last minute hassle. Do have a look at website of the University to have an idea of its requirements. There is no specific format for the LoR but do inform your professors, mentors about your areas of interest. Avoid any kind of gross errors in your documents.

Did you apply for financial aid of any kind? 

My parents have been kind enough to fund my studies. The Swedish Institute (SI) provides a generous scholarship to students who want to pursue their master’s in Sweden. It wants specific hours of work experience and looks into other subjective factors. I missed the deadline of the SI scholarship application. Thus, I would strongly advise to keep a track of the scholarship applications as well.

How has the LLM experience been thus far? What are the biggest differences you have noticed between your time at DSNLU and your time at Uppsala?

My LLM experience has been really enriching. This journey in Uppsala has been both about learning and unlearning.  Throughout the master’s, I have been subjected to numerous mock arbitrations and seminars. There were specific seminars on dispute resolution clause drafting in treaties. These seminars made me aware of my inhibitions and helped me grow academically.

I have also been exposed to numerous study visits which included law firms as well as Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. The programme includes guest seminars by professionals working in the field of dispute resolution at international law firms. There are networking events in Stockholm which is in proximity to Uppsala.

The classes in DSNLU were held in the form of lectures. It helped in creating a theoretical base for subjects such as arbitration and public international law. There were a number of lectures in a week during my bachelor’s. Apart from arbitration, it is important to have knowledge of the concepts of public international law (PIL) to study investment disputes settlement. I studied PIL during my third year at DSNLU.

The classes are held in the form of seminars in my LLM programme. We are divided into smaller study groups and the strength of the class is 25. This exclusive class consists of students from 16 jurisdictions.  You are expected to discuss the questions with your study group before the seminar.

This master’s demands a high level of independent thinking, planning and active participation. Prof. (Dr.) Hobér always encourages us to voice our opinions. The programme also offers adequate amount of flexibility and independence to explore subjects such as investment law, international arbitration and public international law. It is divided into four modules in which exams are held at the end of three modules. The last module is the thesis drafting period.

Uppsala as a place is very vibrant and student friendly. It offers an ample opportunity for students to develop varied interests. Being a University founded in 1477, it has a rich legacy. You can develop yourself academically as well as individually.

It helped me widen my perspectives, being aware of certain nuances and grow as a person. If you love academic research, brainstorming sessions and want a memorable student experience, Uppsala University is the place to be!

“[The LL.M.] helped me widen my perspectives, being aware of certain nuances and grow as a person. If you love academic research, brainstorming sessions and want a memorable student experience, Uppsala University is the place to be!”

What is your reading of the recruitment prospects of international LLM graduates, particularly in the field of arbitration?

A master’s in Arbitration opens up many avenues when you are looking for employment. Since, international arbitration is something which is not limited to a specific jurisdiction, there are a number of institutions, and there are ample amount of opportunities.

It is an evolving area which entails exposure both in practice and academia. Investment Treaty Arbitration is a very niche area which needs more experts. You can work in a law firm along with keeping option of further academic research in it. It again depends upon your personal preferences.

Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are planning a master’s abroad?

Apart from the aforementioned checklists, I would advise you to be aware of your interest(s). That is a starting point. If you are not sure, then it is okay to take your time in exploring it by yourself. Look for subjects that inspire you the most. It is good to talk to the programme director, the coordinator of the specific master’s programme in advance.

“If you are not sure, then it is okay to take your time in exploring it by yourself. Look for subjects that inspire you the most.”

Try making contacts with the alumni of the same programme as it widens your network. Just be prepared to give in your best of efforts during your stay abroad. An LL.M, abroad demands substantial amount of resources and time, thus make a calculated decision. Try making fruitful connections by exposing yourself to moots, international seminars and interacting with your faculty.

But, do enjoy your time when you are there. It is the experience of a lifetime!

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