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 Asmita Singh, who is currently enrolled for the LL.M. in International Dispute Resolution at the Humboldt University of Berlin. A graduate of Jindal Global Law School (BA LLB ’17), Asmita worked for a year as a counsel in the Delhi High Court before enrolling for the LL.M.
Were you considering a master’s even while studying law at JGLS? Or was this something you decided to do once you started working?
The study pattern at JGLS, was very integrative and versatile, so during the undergraduate studies I was exploring the various options we were offered. But, I was always certain that I wanted to do more than an undergraduate degree, so the exact choice of the field of specialization came after the completion of my undergraduate studies.
How did you go about university selection? And why Humboldt University of Berlin?
While I was considering universities that offer master’s in international arbitration and investment arbitration, I did consider the location of the university in terms of work prospects beside the academics. The primary reason I choose the International Dispute Resolution (IDR) LL.M. at Humboldt University of Berlin is because the course was tailor made for someone who wishes to study through a nuanced approach. The same course is taught by four different faculty members who offer insights from their own, separate professional backgrounds.
“The same course is taught by four different faculty members who offer insights from their own, separate professional backgrounds.”
Additionally, though the course is centred around commercial arbitration and investment arbitration, it offers affords the opportunity to learn about various domain within arbitration like sports arbitration, arbitration of cross-border M&A disputes, arbitration and block chain, energy arbitration, etc, by experts from all of over Europe. Furthermore, Germany is one of the biggest economies of Europe thus studying in Berlin allows one to explore more opportunities within the EU.
Did you apply for any sort of financial aid?
Yes, I did apply for financial aid but I was informed that Humboldt University is a public university, and especially IDR LLM is a self-funded Program, they do not have discretion to grant additional tuition waivers to every candidate on merit basis. The program offers a tuition waiver, one full or multiple partial waivers, to accepted students on a need basis.
Another aspect of seeking financial aid within European Union is that most organisations offer financial aid if the study program is linked to some aspect of European law or comparatives studies within Europe and other jurisdictions.
“Most organisations offer financial aid if the study program is linked to some aspect of European law or comparatives studies within Europe and other jurisdictions.”
Any advice on how to go about the LLM application, especially the writing requirements?
For the IDR LL.M. the application deadline is March 31st for the academic year beginning in October. The application are required to be sent through an online portal available on the University website.
Essentially the documents that are required are the Letter of Motivation (LOM), two Letter of Recommendations (LOR), and the application form.
In my opinion, the letter of motivation is the most important document. Other than the core content of the LOM, the format, and the structure are equally important. Prior to drafting the letter, one must read about the course structure, and the faculty of the program.
Every country has a faintly different practise for addressing the letter, for example in most cases ‘to the admission committee’ may be appropriate, but especially in Germany, one is required to specifically address the letter to the chair or the director of the program.
The first draft should certainly not be the document that one submits. Since German Universities are very particular about the structure, one approach that might be useful is identify the problem, illustrate the link between the program structure and the issue, and illustrate how you with your knowledge and skill contribute to the university and the program in the process of learning.
Secondly, it would be advantageous to provide the two letters of recommendation from different backgrounds, that is, academic and practitioner (or internship supervisor). The admission process is not solely based on the academic merit but also on the professional competence of the applicant. Providing two letter of recommendations from different fields present one as an academically sound and professionally enthusiastic candidate.
“Providing two letter of recommendations from different fields present one as an academically sound and professionally enthusiastic candidate.”
How has the LLM experience been thus far? What are some of the bigger differences that you have observed between your undergrad and postgrad learning experiences?
The LL.M experience, from the supportive batchmates to distinguished faculty, has been delightful! Jindal Global Law School was itself not very conventional in the way of teaching, so the reading and discussion teaching pattern followed here was not very new to me.
One of the major difference in the learning experience are the professional networking opportunities. There is a constant effort by the director of the program and the coordinators to provide the students with ample occasions to interact with professionals during conferences, lectures and less formal events, outside of the classroom.
“There is a constant effort by the director of the program and the coordinators to provide the students with ample occasions to interact with professionals during conferences, lectures and less formal events, outside of the classroom.”
Given the specialised nature of your LLM, would you recommend gaining some work experience before enrolling?
Indeed the IDR LL.M. at Humboldt University is very specific in a way as one can use legal internships to obtain study points in the second semester, and having some prior work experience is beneficial when looking for such internships.
Another major difference that arises after gaining work experience is that the outlook towards to the same subject matter changes from a purely academic perspective a to practical one.
“Another major difference that arises after gaining work experience is that the outlook towards to the same subject matter changes from a purely academic perspective a to practical one.”
However, for students who wish to pursue their master’s program would in no ways feel to be at any disadvantage because of the structure of the course. The current batch has students with 0 PQE to 17 years PQE, and everyone is equally comfortable with the readings and the lectures.
Lastly, any advice for Indian law grads who are contemplating a master’s abroad?
To make an informed decision one must start the research early, and weigh all the highlights and challenges before committing to the program. While contemplating a master’s abroad, there are various factor like the field of specialization, the job prospects, language, finances, etc. that one must consider.
An honest self-evaluation is important, analyse your profile and your interest; research the law schools not only for the ranking, and the name. If a school does suit your particular interest the best, and then apply.
“An honest self-evaluation is important, analyse your profile and your interest; research the law schools not only for the ranking, and the name. If a school does suit your particular interest the best, and then apply.”
A master’s abroad streamlines your interests and broadens your horizons. It is not a walk in the park, but the personal exposure, the learning, and the professional growth are extremely important lessons that one shall embrace as a part of the journey.