First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of 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, Shezin Hussain shares her LL.M. experience at the Maurer School of Law in Indiana University Bloomington. With a law degree from WBNUJS (Class of ’09), Shezin also has an LL.M. from Southeast University in Bangladesh. Here, she discusses preparing the LLM applications itself, the US legal market for international LLM candidates, and a whole lot more.

(Edited excerpts)

This is your second LL.M. degree; in 2011 you completed the LLM course from Southeast University. What got you thinking about a second LL.M.?

After graduating from WBNUJS I wanted to pursue LL.M either in the UK or USA. My father wasn’t too keen on me pursuing LL.M abroad as I went to boarding schools in India and spent around 16 years of my life growing up in different schools away from family.

Therefore I decided since I won’t be able to pursue one in USA or UK, I might as well pursue LL.M in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I graduated with an LL.M degree in 2011 from Southeast University. Just after I passed the Bangladesh Bar Council Exam, my father passed away in a bus accident whereby my mother and me were injured too. After recovering from injury, my brothers and me had to take care of the family and fathers’ business. I went on to start my legal career with a bumpy ride. Eventually things were coming back to normal,

I discussed with my mother that I wanted to pursue another degree abroad. On the one hand, I didn’t want to leave my family behind after such a tragic incident, on the other hand my mother told me that if I wanted to grow professionally, I would have to get out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams. I wanted to do LL.M but I didn’t have the resources to support my education. I was looking for all the options where I could get the funds. It took me more than a year to research and find out the universities I wanted to go and a way to manage the funds.

“On the one hand, I didn’t want to leave my family behind after such a tragic incident, on the other hand my mother told me that if I wanted to grow professionally, I would have to get out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams.”

How did you go about selecting where to apply, and how did you narrow down on the Maurer School of Law?

After more than a year’s search, I narrowed down on the universities that I wanted to apply. While I was looking through most of the schools in US, primarily I was looking through the school’s rankings, the programs offered, and the scholarship amount.

I would like to specially thank Rubayat Islam Khan, Arafat Islam Khan (giving me overall insight of the US schools and the procedures), Vasudha Reddy, Anirudh Burman (Statement of Purpose and guidance with the LL.M scenario in US), Neha Bhatt and Souvanik Mullik.

A lawyer, a news anchor, coordinator with the Bangladesh Cricket Board – you have done a host of different things. Did you focus on any particular aspect while making the application?

While I didn’t focus on any particular aspect but concentrated on my skills independently with respect to every work experience I have gained and how it has helped in shaping my decision to focus on pursing LL.M in a foreign institution.

Any advice on how to go about the LLM application itself?

LL.M applications require lot of time, energy and perseverance to process. I have contacted the admissions office of each institution and gotten to know their requirements and criteria.

Even though the websites have a lot of information on how to go about it, I think contacting the admissions office gives more detailed information on what they are particularly looking for in an applicant.

“Even though the websites have a lot of information on how to go about it, I think contacting the admissions office gives more detailed information on what they are particularly looking for in an applicant.”

However, I believe those who apply or are applying should exchange emails and contact the admissions office on  a regular basis to understand what they expect from incoming students. I visited each schools’ websites separately and read up about their requirements with regard to curriculum, programs and scholarships. This helped me in narrowing down my list of schools that I finally applied to. I even spoke to students who have pursued different programs in various schools in the US.

Did you apply for financial aid of any kind?

I did apply for financial aid. Many schools offer financial aid in various amount and nature. While I was researching on schools to apply, I was focusing on financial aid as well.

How was the LLM experience? What were some of the big highlights along the way?

The LL.M experience has been enriching. Apart from the hectic coursework, readings, assignments and exam, it has been really enthralling. I participated in pro-bono work as volunteer for Tenant Assistance Project and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Tenant Assistance Project pro-bono work has helped me in understanding how the small claims court functions at a state level, the renters right, rent related issues.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance has helped immensely as I learnt about filing of tax returns for income earner’s in the State of Indiana. Both pro-bono work has helped me in relating as to how the state laws function with respect to the above-mentioned topics. Being a participant in a Cyber camp, I learnt about functioning of web cookies, computer data forensics, website penetration testing and few other security and technical issues.

I also had the opportunity to attend the ABA Tech Show in Chicago which was an eye-opening experience. Since my specialization area was Information Privacy and Cybersecurity, this Tech Show has helped me in identify how the US law firms and organizations are tackling various aspects of privacy and cybersecurity, AI, blockchain. Attending the speaker series organized by Maurer School of Law was very interesting.

Several speakers around the US who specialise in Cyber Security and Privacy visited Maurer School of Law where they discussed their field of work.  I learned a lot from these speaker series.

Being an Executive Member of International Students Association made me interact with students from different countries. This experience has been really interesting and different, as the Committee hosts several events.

What is your reading of the US legal market when it comes to recruiting international LLM graduates?

Currently, the legal market for LL.M candidates is challenging. Considering the immigration policies, most companies and organizations do not prefer students whom they have to sponsor. Sponsoring an H1B applicant is time consuming and expensive, hence many recruiters prefer US students over International students. However, the situation is different for other subjects. As my understanding goes, JD students have a higher preference than LL.M students.

“Considering the immigration policies, most companies and organizations do not prefer students whom they have to sponsor. Sponsoring an H1B applicant is time consuming and expensive, hence many recruiters prefer US students over International students. “

The belief is that JD students have stronger foundation with varieties of courses and exposures. One has to keep searching and applying. It is difficult to identify recruiters who would sponsor international students, however career service offices in universities have resources which a student should utilise. Also, I feel attending career fairs are important, which could help students in exploring their options.

Lastly, any advice for those who are thinking about doing an LLM abroad?

Well, my advice would be to do your research more on the specific LL.M program you want to pursue. Prior to investing in an LL.M, the school ranking, affordability, courses offered are essential to consider.

Gaining work experience prior to LL.M has helped me in understanding what I wanted.

However, if anyone wants to break through the US legal market, the JD is always a better option than LL.M. However, if you still want to explore the US market with an LL.M, it is still possible but there are several hurdles to overcome.

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