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.
Although the majority of FPA’s have focused on the LL.M. degree, there are a few non-LL.M. interviews as well, and I hope to increase their number. After all, I do believe that the Indian law graduate ought to look at LLM alternatives rather than stick with the more tried and tested path.
In this edition, I speak with Deepshi Singh (GNLU, ’18) who is currently pursuing a master’s course in Communication and Media Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Alright, so let’s start the start – why not an LLM? When did you decide that you would not be pursuing a master’s in law?
I grew up on Bollywood and the prospect of working in the Entertainment Industry always fascinated me. I decided to pursue law for my undergrad because it is interdisciplinary and gives you the flexibility to choose amongst a plethora of specialisations. However, I was very sure that I did not want to do a “conventional” lawyer job.
I did my internships and dissertations in topics related to Media and Entertainment law, which wasn’t a very popular choice half a decade ago. I enjoyed law school and did really well, but I didn’t want to pursue an LLM just for the sake of it.
As I was always motivated by the idea of working in the Entertainment Industry, I thought of going for a master’s program which broadens my skill set and makes me better equipped to work across different sectors in the Industry and not just with the legal teams of organisations. So, an LLM was never the plan and right at the end of my third year, I decided that I would go for a master’s in media and communications.
Was it difficult to identify the ideal course for you? How did you go about selecting this, and why did you narrow down on LSE’s master’s course?
Although my inclination was mostly towards films, I didn’t want to study just films because that gets restrictive. I was very sure that I wanted to explore all aspects of media and communications and therefore I looked up for media and communications courses pretty much all over the world.
Whereas universities in the US were offering specialised programs on journalism or film and most of them even required work experience, UK universities offered exactly what I wanted. I applied to a bunch of universities in the UK and got through most of them, but LSE was always my first preference because the media and communications department at LSE is ranked as one of the best in the world.
And not just the rankings. LSE offered the flexibility to choose amongst so many different subjects taught by highly renowned professors.
Any advice on how to navigate the application process? More specifically, on how to draft the statement of purpose given your law background, as well as sourcing recommendation letters?
LSE and for that matter most universities that I applied to, had a very simple application process. LSE tends to focus strongly on academic grades, and fortunately I had a fairly good academic record, and a decent CV and an IELTS score of 8.5. While writing my Statement of Purpose I mentioned my interests in the Indian entertainment industry and eventual my desire to work there. I also mentioned about my dissertation which was on Legal Regulations governing the Indian Film Industry.
One of my recommendation letters from the Dean-Academic Affairs at GNLU highlighted my academic credentials while the other one from the Faculty Convenor Committee of Recruitment Affairs, GNLU highlighted my extra-curricular activities, more specifically my communication skills in handling recruitments for the university for three years.
Did you apply for financial aid of any kind?
I did apply to the LSE financial grants as well as for the Commonwealth Scholarship, Inlaks and the TATA scholarship. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any so my parents decided to fund my education.
How has the MSc been thus far? What have been some of the highlights thus far?
It has been an incredible experience and I have really enjoyed academics. Apart from key theories of media, culture, communications. I have tailored my optional courses according to my interests studying film theories, media economics, advertising, public relations.
One of the most interesting things I have learnt is analysis of audio-visual material using semiotics and linguistics, which literally makes me feel there’s so much more than what meets the eye. There are also compulsory quantitative research techniques which include statistics and data analysis. The professors are extremely approachable, and we discuss everything from academics to personal lives. The media department at LSE feels like home and I can never have enough of it.
“The professors are extremely approachable, and we discuss everything from academics to personal lives. The media department at LSE feels like home and I can never have enough of it.”
In addition to academics I was a member of the organising team of the LSE SU India Forum one of the biggest student run India focussed conferences in the UK and organising that was a fantastic experience as well.
Even outside of LSE, London has so much to offer.
In the last eight months I have worked on three film festivals, scheduled to work on another one next month. I have been rewarded by the legendary Shabana Azmi for being on the Young Critics Panel for the UK Asian Film Festival, 2019. I have also been working with a charity, teaching public speaking and debating to primary school children in London. All of these experiences have kept me really occupied and have helped equipped me with skills that will definitely help me in my future endeavours.
Have you found yourself using your law degree during the master’s? Is your cohort from a diverse range of backgrounds?
Law school conditions you to think like a lawyer and I believe that cannot be undone. My learning of the law has been constantly reflected in the way I structure my arguments in my essays or participate in classroom discussions.
“Law school conditions you to think like a lawyer and I believe that cannot be undone. My learning of the law has been constantly reflected in the way I structure my arguments in my essays or participate in classroom discussions.”
And my peers and professors have acknowledged how I bring a different perspective to the discourse. It has been extremely advantageous, to say the least. For instance, because there’s a lot of discussion on social media, I often find myself mentioning Competition Law, Information Technology Law, Elements of Constitutional Law including privacy and freedom of expression.
Then of course there’s a lot of references to Intellectual Property, more specifically copyrights and trademarks for films and advertising respectively. I have found myself using my law degree more often than I thought I would be.
The cohort is extremely diverse and most of them do not have a media and communications background. There are people who’ve worked as journalists, or with non-profits and are highly accomplished. There are people who are actors, Instagram influencers, bloggers etc. I am the only lawyer though! But yeah, it’s an interesting mix and there’s so much to learn from everyone around.
What plans after the MSc?
I am currently looking for jobs in the Indian Entertainment Industry, in Content Acquisition, Marketing or Strategic roles. I am also open to working in Public Relations, Advertising or Event management. If I get a role which lets me integrate my legal skills, that would be a bonus.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law graduates who want to pursue a non-law master’s outside the country?
A lot of people ask me, Why did you “switch” from Law to Media and I always say, “It is never a switch. I cannot stop being a lawyer.” The whole point of education is to make you a better person and not just get you a job. An undergrad degree in Law is extremely comprehensive gives you a diverse perspective which will help you in whatever you study.
And I am glad that I did a dual degree in Law and Humanities for my undergrad. Five years at GNLU were phenomenal and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Having said that, I chose to study media and communications because I always wanted to, and I had the passion for it.
So, my advice to people who’re thinking of doing a non-law masters would be, if you want to go ahead and study something else, do not hesitate. But it shouldn’t be because you’re bored of law and want to try something new. You need to be extremely sure of what you want to study, because if you lack the passion it will be difficult to keep yourself motivated.