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 (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
In this FPA, I get to speak with Eeshan Chaturvedi, a litigating lawyer who completed an LL.M. from Stanford Law School (Class of ’17) , with a specialisation in environmental laws. A graduate of Symbiosis Law School, Pune (Class of ’12) Eeshan clerked with Swatanter Kumar J., both in the Supreme Court and then the National Green Tribunal. Eeshan discusses his time at Stanford, where he also cross-registered at different schools, the value of an LL.M. abroad, and much more.
Did you contemplate an LLM right after graduation? Or was the plan to always work for a few years before enrolling?
I was always excited by the idea of specializing in a particular field of law. I think our profession is gradually transitioning into specific fields being made one’s métier. During Law School, I had developed quite a keen interest in Arbitration Laws but in time I understood that basic understanding as taught in Law Schools would not suffice anent specializations.
However, I was also aware that an abstract interest in any field might not always translate into actual practical interest, for which I was well advised to first work for a few years to really understand where my interests lay and then take a decision as to what might eventually be my specialization.
“I was also aware that an abstract interest in any field might not always translate into actual practical interest, for which I was well advised to first work for a few years to really understand where my interests lay and then take a decision as to what might eventually be my specialization.”
Were you always interested in environmental law? Or was this something that you developed an interest in during your Supreme Court clerkship?
Environmental Law turned out to be a natural progression for me. I was lucky to be clerking with Justice Swatanter Kumar and upon his retirement as a Judge of the Supreme Court, I had the opportunity to be associated with the National Green Tribunal.
By then I had inculcated a strong liking for the field and was academically inclined towards delving in the subject.
Given the specific professional interests you had, what were the other schools that you applied to? And why did you narrow down on Stanford Law School?
I had applied to a few other School in the US however, Stanford was always my first option and I was lucky enough to get through.
During my research, I had realized that California was at the heart of the environmental revolution of sorts and was the pathbreaker when it came to enviro-legal policy and strategy. The faculty at Stanford is arguably the best with professionals and pioneers taking up interesting courses with a practical reference to all the teachings.
Apart from the advantages of studying environmental law itself, I was also excited about attending one of the top law schools in the country.
Any advice on how to go about the application process? More specifically, writing a personal statement, and sourcing recommendation letters?
I get asked this question pretty often from prospective students. I really think that the best way to write a personal statement is by being absolutely honest. The admissions board that goes through the applications in the respective colleges is quite experienced and really appreciates honesty and keenness when it comes to SoPs.
One has to be able to answer through his/her SoP: how and why, firstly, that particular school, and secondly, that particular course.
“I had, in my SoP been absolutely frank about why I had zeroed in on ELP and Stanford and I think that was what stood out. I would really advise the applicants to not overthink their SoPs and be forthright in their thought process and expression.”
I had, in my SoP been absolutely frank about why I had zeroed in on ELP and Stanford and I think that was what stood out. I would really advise the applicants to not overthink their SoPs and be forthright in their thought process and expression. As regards recommendations, it is always better to get one from someone who knows your work ethic and is acquainted with your interest in a particular field.
How was the LLM experience? What were some of the highlights?
My experience at Stanford was extremely enriching both academically and socially. The kind of exposure one gets cannot be measured in terms of comparative experiences. The faculty, as I stated, was extremely helpful and approachable despite being the who’s who of the legal field in the US.
My colleagues and classmates from all over the globe, over time, became really close friends whom I stay in touch with regularly. Also, I do believe that there is a definite impetus a Masters gives to one in her professional career.
“My colleagues and classmates from all over the globe, over time, became really close friends whom I stay in touch with regularly. Also, I do believe that there is a definite impetus a Masters gives to one in her professional career.”
During the Masters, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the Rising Environmental Leaders of Stanford University. Interactions with peers and faculty and finally the camaraderie are things that I would cherish for a long time.
At Stanford, you also took a course at the Business School – how was this experience?
I took classes in schools outside the Law Schools as well, including the Business School which is one of the advantages of doing a Masters from Stanford. The idea was to try and learn as much as one can in respect to a topic irrespective of the professional background.
The Graduate School of Business was a brilliant experience where I got to learn about the managerial dynamics of energy laws/technologies which have helped me understand the field better. While it might be quite gruelling, the academic and networking opportunities really open up with such courses.
Now that you have some time to look back on your LLM, how do you think it has helped your litigation practice?
A specialized LLM helps a great deal in litigation especially when you plan on starting your own practice. An intrinsic global understanding of any field not only helps in Courts, while drafting or pleading but also helps you apply principles in an ever developing domestic scenario.
I have also, over the years, interacted with some LL.M. graduates who have felt that without any substantial connections or background in the legal field, the Master’s puts them on a better footing in terms of identifiability. The connections one makes during their Masters also helps a great deal in reaching out to a larger base of practitioners and litigants alike.
“I have also, over the years, interacted with some LL.M. graduates who have felt that without any substantial connections/background in the legal field, the master’s puts them on a better footing in terms of identifiability. “
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are contemplating a foreign LLM?
I would really encourage prospective students to take up a field which actually interests them instead of following something that seems more practical or en vogue. Also, it is always advisable to weigh the pros and cons when choosing a school not only on the basis of rankings, faculty, alumni, and placements but also the environment one is looking for.
For instance, life as a Postgraduate student at Columbia University would be completely different from Cornell, and the student has to choose what might suit her better. An LL.M. is eventually a culmination of various academic, social and professional interactions and engagements and one has to be open for the opportunities that come one’s way.
“An LL.M. is eventually a culmination of various academic, social and professional interactions and engagements and one has to be open for the opportunities that come one’s way.”