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 edition, I speak with Surya Kapoor who is currently enrolled for the LL.M. at Georgetown University Law Centre.
Surya, who completed his law from Delhi University’s Faculty of Law (Class of ’15), also clerked with Justice L. Nageswara Rao for more than two years before embarking on the LL.M.
Not quite connected to the LLM, but what are your thoughts on the 3-year LLB degree? Did you ever consider taking up the five-year course? And any advantages or disadvantages that you see in the 3-year over the 5-year one?
I believe both the 3-year as well as the 5-year programs have their own specific sets of advantages and limitations. Though the substantive content of both would broadly be similar, the pedagogical styles are very different and also they both cater to a different set of audience within the legal profession.
The 3-year LLB course was perfect for me as firstly, it gave me an opportunity to switch from my economics background and enter to the legal profession whilst still being at par with the other 5-year graduates.
Secondly, I felt the 3-year program treats students like adults and gives a lot of independence to the students. The experience one gets out of the 3 year LLB course depends very heavily on the individual’s motivation and drive.
“Secondly, I felt the 3-year program treats students like adults and gives a lot of independence to the students. The experience one gets out of the 3 year LLB course depends very heavily on the individual’s motivation and drive.”
For instance, classes during most of my 2nd and 3rd year were mostly clustered at a particular time period – that gave me the opportunity to pursue and get valuable internship experience for the rest of the day.
The third advantage that I saw in the 3-year program was that it was more disputes/litigation oriented rather than the 5 year program which was more corporate/law firm oriented.
(Note: I have a personal bias/inclination towards court room practice over corporate/law firm practice and in no way intend to discourage young lawyers wanting to enter the latter.)
You sought at an LLM after working, and then clerking, for a few years. Did you ever think about enrolling for an LLM fresh after your LLB degree?
No. Being a wide-eyed graduate fresh out of law school, my aim was to begin working as soon as possible with the goal of starting my own practice in arbitration within the next 5-6 years. The idea of an LL.M. never crossed my mind until I began working with Justice Rao in the Supreme Court of India.
On asking him for guidance, he gave me two essential pieces of advice first, in order to be recognised in the profession, it is very important to position yourself apart from the rest of the crowd and second, given the competition in the profession, having a specialisation would go a long way in achieving my aims. The advice really resonated with me and eventually led me to my masters journey.
How did you go about selecting schools? Given that you had a very specialist field of interest, could you share some of the schools that you shortlisted?
As you mentioned my area of interest is very specialized so for me selecting a school was not that big of a challenge. However choosing the right law school requires a lot of background research and talking to current students as well as alumni is critical as they can give you valuable insights about the school.
“Choosing the right law school requires a lot of background research and talking to current students as well as alumni is critical as they can give you valuable insights about the school.”
There are a lot of great law schools for arbitration. MIDS, Columbia, NY, Georgetown, etc. have highly reputed arbitration courses.
Any advice on how to go about the writing requirements in the LLM applications, more specifically the personal statement?
Personal statements are a challenge and an opportunity. It forces you to do some soul searching and ask difficult questions from yourself. However being able to produce an an end product that is a very satisfying experience.
I highly recommend starting early and fine tuning it several times. It is the first impression that you create on the institution, make sure that it is a good one. There are several articles, videos and books on the net regarding how to write a good SOP, but my advice is simple. Keep it real, keep it interesting and keep it simple.
“There are several articles, videos and books on the net regarding how to write a good SOP, but my advice is simple. Keep it real, keep it interesting and keep it simple. “
How has the LLM experience been thus far? Any particular highlights?
It has been a very enriching experience for me. I have had the privilege of interacting with and learning from the legends in the field of international arbitration. I think winning the 8th LL.M. International Commercial Arbitration Moot competition has been the highlight so far.
What is your reading of the US arbitration market when it comes to recruiting international LLM grads?
It is difficult but not impossible for international LLM grads to secure employment in the US arbitration market. Securing a job in the US is itself a full time job. Try hard but don’t expect it to be easy.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are considering studying abroad?
My advice is that an LLM abroad is a great journey, if you know your destination. Make sure you know why you want to pursue your masters and then give it your all. This will be the best time of your life.