First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of 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 Mritunjay Kumar to talk about his reasons for enrolling in a specalised LL.M. at Melbourne Law School which he completed in 2017. Graduating in law from ICFAI University in Dehradun (Class of ’09), Mrityunjay is currently a Special Counsel at Budidjaja International Lawyers in Jakarta.
After seven years of working, what made you decide to enrol for an LLM?
People from India and other Asian countries have a different perspective, when compared to western countries, about the time line for education (higher studies) or enrolling again into a full-time course after having substantial amount of experience in the field.
Coming to the question, having worked for seven years, I realized that it is the right time for me to have a higher education. The decision was a combined effect of many factors.
Indeed, higher education was always a plan, but the circumstances were not supportive. So, I kept preparing and waiting for the circumstances to align in my favour. To this end, I would say that I did not give up on my goals and stayed focused waiting for opportunity to strike.
How did you go about selecting law schools, and what got you to narrow down Melbourne Law School?
In my opinion, selecting a law school depends upon three factors. First, the course you wish to pursue. Second, the structure of the course and the third factor is the cost associated with the course. I was determined to have a specialized course in the field of energy and resources law.
“Selecting a law school depends upon three factors. First, the course you wish to pursue. Second, the structure of the course and the third factor is the cost associated with the course.”
I looked for universities offering the course and found that the University of Melbourne was more competitive as to the criteria mentioned above.
Did you apply for financial aid of any kind?
No. As I mentioned earlier, I was waiting for the circumstances to align; and when it did all of the scholarship programs were closed. I had an option to get the course deferred and wait for the scholarship programs to open again but decided not to waste my time. I got my finances secured through an education loan, a special thanks to Axis Bank and my family for supporting me.
How was the LLM experience?
First, my LLM experience at the University of Melbourne was extraordinarily good. I learned many things, which ultimately added towards improving my personality as a professional and person as well. In a nut shell, I would say that before experiencing the study at the University of Melbourne, I was a frog in a well.
Turning to the second part of the question, my favorite part, I will answer the question in the end of this part. To start with, I do not understand why anyone even mentions the word “become/becoming student again”. From my perspective one is always a student for there is no end to learning. One always keeps learning either through formal/informal platforms or through professional platform.
“From my perspective one is always a student for there is no end to learning. One always keeps learning either through formal or informal platforms or through professional platform.”
Not understanding or ignoring this fact of ongoing learning process is nothing but result of a self-imposed delusion. People think that as soon as you enter a profession you lose your “studenthood”, like virginity; and you will not and cannot get it back. Another angle to this delusion is superiority complex. Having a few years of experience, specially which includes few highly sensitive and impactful matters, we start generating superiority complex, especially people from Asian countries. Why did I mention here “especially people from Asian countries”? This question leads to the example I was waiting to share.
My first foreign country visit was to Australia for the LL.M. program. However, during my session at the University I met with people from all over the globe and from different background and age group. In two of my subjects, except 2-3 students including me rest were between age of 45-62. One of them, a director of projects, had more experience than the professor who was teaching the subject. He had worked on almost all of the project, globally, mentioned during the class as an important case study either in some or other capacity. Nevertheless, he always behaved like just another student.
“One of them, a director of projects, had more experience than the professor who was teaching the subject. He had worked on almost all of the project, globally, mentioned during the class as an important case study either in some or other capacity. Nevertheless, he always behaved like just another student.”
To conclude, the answer is ‘no’ I did not find difficult to become a “student” even after seven years of working professional. I always consider myself as a student.
After your LLM, you joined the Asian International Arbitration Centre – was this something that MLS facilitated, or did you have to find this position on your own?
Though the University facilitates internships, which has to be chosen in place of one of your modules, joining Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) was my own initiative suggested by one my classmates.
What prompted the move to Budidjaja International Lawyers? And could you share a few lines on the kind of work your current position entails?
In energy and resources sector, dispute resolution is my interest so I joined AIAC to have an experience of the other side of the dispute resolution process. However, my active interest is to become a dispute resolution lawyer. I was looking for opportunities, and I met the managing partner of Budidjaja International Lawyers (BIL) at one of the conferences at AIAC. We talked about dispute resolution process and opportunities in Indonesia. Considering my interest, it seemed promising to me and I expressed my interest and finally joined the firm.
Here at BIL, I am responsible for handling dispute resolution, particularly international arbitration and advising national and international clients on transnational litigation and dispute resolution strategies along with representing them before international arbitral institutions, if required.
What is your opinion on the recruitment prospects of Indian law graduates who are looking to work outside the country?
Prospects are good for fresh graduates through training contract with leading law firms. However, it depends upon the jurisdiction where one got offer from. Some jurisdictions have strict visa requirements and it’s completely their discretion. Even if one got an offer and all the paper work is in place, there is a possibility of not getting the work visa due to national policy for job security to the locals, for example the UK.
“Some jurisdictions have strict visa requirements and it is completely their discretion. Even if one got an offer and all the paper work is in place, there is a possibility of not getting the work visa due to national policy”
On the other hand, it is quite challenging for experienced lawyers to secure an opportunity with international law firms unless one has extraordinary professional background with some international experience.
In this line, I would suggest to look for the jurisdiction which has lenient visa requirement. Also, one should target mid-to-high level local law firms with international exposure. It is easier to enter the international market through this way and once you entered you can easily chalk out the path ahead.
Please note that opinion rendered under this paragraph is in accordance with my personal experience limited to my exposure till date. Someone may find it contradictory to their own personal experience.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are looking to do a master’s?
My answer to this question is of two-fold and relates to the purpose of doing Master’s. The purpose may be either to enter academia or to enter the practice including both professional and corporate. As to the first purpose, Master degree is a prerequisite for having doctoral degree which allows one to enter academia easily. Again, this has two options – joining after Master’s or joining after doctoral degree.
I am, for the sake brevity, not going to explain these all details, but anyone interested to know more can reach me out. The point, here, is if one wants to pursue Master’s to enter academia then I would recommend them to chalk out the interest first and then probable universities from where both Master’s and doctoral degree can be secured. Doing both the degrees from the same university enhances the chances of getting employed in the university.
To the second part, in my opinion, a Master’s degree does not make any big difference to practical knowledge base unless the course is specialized one. Besides, even if one is opting for a specialized course it is suggested to pursue the course after having 2-3 years of work experience. Otherwise the degree just becomes a colourful addition to one’s profile.
“Even if one is opting for a specialized course it is suggested to pursue the course after having 2-3 years of work experience. Otherwise the degree just becomes a colourful addition to one’s profile.”
In other words, pursuing Master’s is a platform to widen your network, sound your presence and eventually to get a pass to enter higher professional class. It is just like having a membership of very fancy club where the elites hang around.
Therefore, one’s focus should be networking and spending more time on extracurricular activity, but please do not lose focus from passing the course at the end.