The Amicus Interviews are meant for broader discussions on legal education, and the legal profession at the global level. One of the goals of this series of interviews is to get the views of Indian academics on legal education, both in India and abroad.
Which is why I ended up reaching out to Vismay Shroff who not only happens to be a practicing lawyer, but also teaches at the Government Law College in Mumbai, an institute where he himself studied law. Furthermore, Vismay has also completed an LL.M. from Duke University apart from a number of shorter courses at different US universities including Harvard Law School, and Georgetown University Law Centre.
Given that you have experienced GLC Mumbai as a student, and now a faculty member, what do you think are some of the positive aspects of the teaching experience at GLC?
Firstly, we have a very bright, diverse and ambitious student body. Secondly, our heritage and physical location in Mumbai.
What prompted you to take up an LL.M.? You had already done a number of certificate course at different top-ranked law schools in the US – why the LLM then?
I was motivated by a desire to be more educated and saw the LLM also as a natural progression, career-wise.
Back in 2006, how did you go about selecting where to apply? And why did you narrow down on Duke?
I selected seven schools based on their Program Details & Rankings and three, ‘Safety Schools’. I was admitted to some of the programs and chose Duke for two reasons. My best friend’s elder brother was a graduate of the then, ‘Sanford Institute for Public Policy’ and spoke very well of the University and Durham, NC, as a place. I valued his opinion. It was also the highest ranked school that I was admitted into, from those that I had applied to.
Did you apply for financial aid of any kind?
Yes. I did apply for Financial Aid and received offers of acceptance, but did not choose to avail of them.
How was the LLM experience? Looking back, how do you think the LLM shaped you as a legal professional?
My LL.M. experience was exciting and instructive. It was a great opportunity for me both personally and professionally. I tried to be as engaged as I could in the activities of the law school community.
The LL.M. taught me the importance of brevity in legal drafting and the economy of the spoken word. Everyone has something to say, but not everyone can hear all that you have to say. It also taught me about other cultures and legal systems and opened my mind to a world on the outside of the Common Law and it’s legacy systems, around the world.
You also got the chance to work as an Associate in the US – how was this experience, and was coming back to India, always part of the plan?
My experience was short and different from what I had anticipated, based on my previous interactions. It taught me a great deal.
Yes, it was always my plan to come back to India although I did intend on working in a U.S or U.K. based law firm with the aim of making Partner. The idea was to then, either continue as a lawyer in India or proceed to gain a more broad based education in law, policy and international relations in the U.S.
For prospective LLM applicants, when do you think is a good time to apply for an LLM – fresh out of law or with work experience? Any advice on how to approach the application process?
The answer is different for students in different jurisdictions. From my perspective and from what I can see as a general Indian perspective, you must work for at least 2 years and a maximum of 5 years, before applying for an LL.M. in a foreign country.
I think your strengths and weaknesses are best known to you, as an applicant. My general advice would be, aim for the best schools while making sure that your choice of applications, makes provision for you to actually continue with your degree in
the time frame you intend to devote to it
And lastly, always curious to know this from academics – what do you think makes for a good legal education?
Firstly, a good set of Professors. Secondly, an academic environment which is inclusive, nurturing and values the pursuit of scholarship in all its forms. Lastly, an institution must inspire its students to live up to its’ legacy and that of its alumni.
If a law school has served you well, you will be a better person along with being a law graduate.
“If a law school has served you well, you will be a better person along with being a law graduate.”