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 get Tishita Mukherjee to talk about the LL.M. experience at the National University of Singapore. A graduate of ILS Law College in Pune (Class of ’18), Tishita opted for the LLM in Corporate and Financial Services Law at NUS. In this FPA, she discusses why she chose a master’s right after graduation, the NUS application process, and a whole lot more.
At what stage did you begin thinking about an international LLM? Did you consider working for a few years before enrolling for a post-graduate degree?
Coming from an academically inclined family, I had always envisioned a post-graduate degree in my career trajectory. In the third year of law school, I found myself in a quandary about whether or not I should pursue it immediately after completing my under graduate degree.
After hearing the experiences of several others, I decided to grab this opportunity at the earliest. I was certain and highly motivated to specialise in corporate laws because of the exposure that I had gained through internships, conferences, company secretaries and other courses. So I considered it best to dive into the depths of the subject and mould myself in this field from the very beginning.
How did you go about selecting universities, and why did you narrow down on NUS?
Being a fresher, my objective behind doing an LLM was not to revisit known concepts but to learn new ones. Thus, the programme structure was the most important consideration.
NUS offers a comprehensive list of electives, with about thirty within the Corporate and Financial Services Law specialisation and over a hundred other modules in general. This provides the platform to venture into several practice areas.
“NUS offers a comprehensive list of electives, with about thirty within the Corporate and Financial Services Law specialisation and over a hundred other modules in general. This provides the platform to venture into several practice areas. ”
My decision was further strengthened because of the opportunity to be guided by renowned academicians like Professors Sornarajah, Louise Gullifer, Hans Tjio among others. A basic cost-benefit analysis of the course, its reputation in India and Singapore’s proximity to home acted as additional factors.
Any advice on how to go about the application process, more specifically the writing requirements and the recommendation letters?
The primary thing is to start early. Admission procedures require a lot of effort and time- from arranging transcripts and LORs to getting your SOPs reviewed. Start with learning about the university and its application procedure. Most universities are very particular about the documents required and you wouldn’t want to lose an opportunity for a documentation error. To gather information in addition to what is available on the university’s website, reach out to the alumni of the University and learn about their experience.
The next step is to work on your essays. An SoP is the distinguishing factor of your application. It is a narration of your story which expresses your personality, qualities and goals. You can start by looking at a few samples to understand the basic structure and identify the questions that need to be answered. Some of them include- your journey to law, what motivated you to choose a particular specialisation, why that university and how are you an ideal candidate. Paraphrasing someone else’s SOP and repeating the contents of your CV in your SOP are the two big mistakes that need to be avoided. To ensure uniqueness of your SOP, be simple, original and honest.
“Paraphrasing someone else’s SOP and repeating the contents of your CV in your SOP are the two big mistakes that need to be avoided. To ensure uniqueness of your SOP, be simple, original and honest.”
With respect to recommendation letters, I advise you to approach those who can vouch for your knowledge in the field of specialisation. I was fortunate to have worked with two senior professors at ILS who supervised and mentored me continuously at several events over three years. Such an endorsement with a personalised and detailed account of your qualities will make your application stand out.
How has the LLM experience been thus far? What are some of the bigger differences in the learning experiences at NUS and ILS?
My experience has been enriching both professionally and personally. I have greatly benefitted from the breadth of the University’s syllabi content and interaction with reputed scholars.
The assessment mechanism at NUS is very different from ILS. NUS has a modular credit system with a requisite of 40-44 credits.
The varying credits of modules allow you to plan your schedule for the year, in order to have a balanced workload. Continuous evaluation is through class participation, presentations, quizzes, reflection papers, six-hour take home exams and pre-readings for every class, thus making you strive from day one. Classes are conducted with the LLB students, which brings diversity and gives you a glimpse of different perspectives.
Apart from this, NUS offers great cultural exposure. I have learnt so much outside the classroom from my interactions with people from different backgrounds, however sharing similar ambitions. Canteen conversations with friends would include discussions about food, travel, legal and political systems and cultures of our respective countries. All these develop skills that will help you adapt in any global environment.
“I have learnt so much outside the classroom from my interactions with people from different backgrounds, however sharing similar ambitions. Canteen conversations with friends would include discussions about food, travel, legal and political systems and cultures of our respective countries. “
The learning experiences at NUS and ILS have been very different. The foundation laid by ILS led me to NUS. The assessment system in ILS was purely examination-based. Even though it was less practical, ILS offered many opportunities in terms of participation in moots, conferences, activities of each centre, organising events and workshops. The classes were less demanding and allowed me to manage internships, obtain additional qualifications and also engage in co-curricular activities. I can say that both the experiences have been unique and rewarding.
What is your reading of the recruitment market for international LLM graduates in Singapore?
The recruitment market in Singapore is very competitive, especially for international students. The employment visa requirements add to the challenge. Recruiters are not very welcoming of international lawyers and preference is generally given to local undergraduate students.
That being said, opportunities are several in number and securing a job is not impossible if you have the right expertise and motivation. If you are keen on working in Singapore, internships can be a good way to start.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who are considering a master’s abroad?
Be clear about your reasons for doing an LLM. If it is to improve your job prospects or fear of entering work life, think twice. If you consider that it is going to be beneficial in the long-run, go right ahead with it.
Start early – I cannot emphasize this enough. Studying abroad is an expensive affair so research well and plan your investment carefully. There is no ‘right’ time for a post-graduate degree. No matter when you decide to do it, it will be beneficial in its own way. So trust the motivations that come from within and everything else will fall into place. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you need any help.
“There is no ‘right’ time for a post-graduate degree. No matter when you decide to do it, it will be beneficial in its own way. So trust the motivations that come from within and everything else will fall into place. ”