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.

Prajwal Gyawali
Prajwal Gyawali

In this edition, I speak with Prajwal Gyawali who graduated in law from NALSAR University (Class of ’13). Currently a Senior Legal Office at the Ministry of Finance in Uganda (Oxford Policy Fellow), Prajwal enrolled for the European Master in Law & Economics (EMLE) programme (Class of ’18). With disarming amounts of forthrightness, Prajwal discusses the reason behind the programme, finding success in a “100 rejections”, and a lot more.

(Edited excerpts)

Were you considering an LLM while at NALSAR? Or was this only something you decided to do after working for a few years?

Yes. An LLM (or a masters in general) was at the back of my mind. In fact, to be quite honest, my original plan was to directly join a master’s program after NALSAR or perhaps take a break for a year and work back home in Kathmandu before applying.

Since recruitments were going on in NALSAR, and all of my friends were sitting for it, I decided to give it a shot. To my surprise, I got recruited by ICICI Bank. I was very bemused at that point, but it is only a few years later that it kind of made sense.

Why the EMLE? And were there any other courses that you considered/applied to?

After working in ICICI Bank for 4 years, I started to get interested in banking and finance. Although I was working in the field of corporate finance, I got some exposure in the international market which is when I got curious to learn more about the global economy.

After working for four years as a corporate lawyer, I didn’t see myself being much of a transaction lawyer as I was always interested in the field of development and policy. I thought that the purpose of doing an LLM for me should be to broaden my perspective, rather than specializing in a subject of law. That is the reason why the European Masters in Law and Economics (EMLE) seemed fascinating to me.

The course had lawyers, economists as well as students from other backgrounds in the classroom. I thought it would definitely be interesting to study in such an interdisciplinary classroom.

“I thought that the purpose of doing an LLM for me should be to broaden my perspective, rather than specializing in a subject of law. That is the reason why the European Masters in Law and Economics (EMLE) seemed fascinating to me.”

Furthermore, EMLE required you to study in a different university every trimester. That meant that you got to travel a lot, meet new friends and learn more by traveling. In my case, I was allotted Germany, Netherlands and Israel. What better way to travel around the world and get a master’s degree at the end of it?

“In my case, I was allotted Germany, Netherlands and Israel. What better way to travel around the world and get a master’s degree at the end of it?”

Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any financial aid although I did apply for aid from Erasmus. But thankfully, compared to other master’s program, EMLE (or generally studying in Europe) is quite cheap.

Even though I didn’t get any scholarship, my whole master’s program cost me below fifteen lakhs. This included my application fees, TOEFL, tuition fee, accommodation, flights, visa, all the travel that I did, personal expenses etc. Thankfully I could manage the majority of my cost from my savings along with a small loan that I took from my family.

A statement of purpose or letter of motivation can be challenging to write – any advice on how to go about this part of the application process?

Out of all the colleges I had applied to, only EMLE accepted me. So the only tip I have is to try until you succeed. But I did share a lot of my ideas with my friends before applying. Brainstorming really helps.

What were your expectations from the EMLE program, and were they met? What were some of the highlights of the course?

I was in contact two of my seniors from NALSAR who did EMLE prior to me. They clearly told me that if I was doing EMLE with the expectation that my employability is going to increase in Europe, I would be thoroughly disappointed. I was aware that there was no recruitment which EMLE management initiated so I actually joined EMLE with no professional expectations.

“I was aware that there was no recruitment which EMLE management initiated so I actually joined EMLE with no professional expectations.”

The program required a student to study in 3 countries within 9 months. On top of that there were 12 exams which we had to give and a thesis to submit by the end of the program. All that while we had to figure out travel, visa, accommodation other issues all on our own. The only expectation I had from the program was that I would make a lot of friends and get to travel. I was certain that by the end of EMLE, I would be broke and would have to go back to India or Nepal to work to be able to repay the loan I took from my family.

The EMLE is interesting by itself, but your next step was even more so. How did you land up as an Oxford Policy Fellow? And what is the kind of work you are doing now?

Towards the end of EMLE, my friend from Brazil and I were totally clueless about what to do and where our lives were heading. We started a “100 rejections project” where we would apply to places and jobs without having much expectations. This was a great experiment since both of us started to apply for jobs which we assumed were out of our league. To our surprise, both of us ended up getting jobs which surpassed our expectation.

“We started a “100 rejections project” where we would apply to places and jobs without having much expectations. This was a great experiment since both of us started to apply for jobs which we assumed were out of our league. To our surprise, both of us ended up getting jobs which surpassed our expectation.”

Today I work as a Senior Legal Officer (Oxford Policy Fellow) at the Ministry of Finance in Uganda. I assist the department of Development Assistance and Regional Cooperation in negotiating loans that the Government takes from various multilateral and bilateral development partners – Islamic Development Bank, EU, China, India etc. The foundations of Banking and Finance which I learnt in ICICI Bank, with a masters in law and economics (where my thesis was related to sovereign debt and reputational risk) definitely helped me secure this fellowship.

Given that you are now firmly in the field of policy – how do you view this field when it comes to employing law graduates?

I wouldn’t say I am firmly in the field of policy as it has been less than a year that I have been working as an Oxford Policy Fellow. I am slowly realizing how the policy sector works and during my time here, I have understood that development partners and governments are slowly realizing the importance of lawyers in the field of policy making. I am hopeful that more doors for lawyers will open up in the future.

Final question – would you recommend a foreign master’s course to Indian law graduates? Why?

Of course! Not just to Indian or Nepali students, but students from across the region. I think there is some sort of a peer pressure in law schools that you need to do a master’s program from a reputed institution or else you are looked down upon. Well of course it would be great to get a masters from one of the big universities. But we don’t keep in mind the financial aspect of it. And we almost never speak about it with our friends or alumni.

“I think there is some sort of a peer pressure in law schools that you need to do a master’s program from a reputed institution or else you are looked down upon.”

Don’t stop yourself from applying to colleges which your friends or teachers have not heard of. Don’t worry about the brand or reputation of the master’s course. A foreign master’s definitely helps you broaden your perspective and helps you grow as an individual. I am someone who values personal development as much as the professional, and when we apply for a master’s, we only talk about the professional aspect of it. I hope students see the value a foreign master’s adds in the personal front.

“I am someone who values personal development as much as the professional, and when we apply for a master’s, we only talk about the professional aspect of it. I hope students see the value a foreign master’s adds in the personal front.”

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