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.

Hemaxi Shah shares her experience as an international LLM graduate at Syracuse University College of Law. 
Hemaxi Shah

In this edition, Hemaxi Shah shares her experience as an international LLM graduate at Syracuse University College of Law. Hemaxi graduated with an LLB degree from Rizvi Law College in 2018, and enrolled for the LL.M. that very year.

(Edited excerpts)

When it came to the LLM, when did you start thinking about going abroad, and did you ever plan on working for a few years before applying?

Honestly, there was no plan as such to go abroad for studies. In 2017, I realized that I need some international perspective of the legal field.

While perusing my bachelors degree I knew I wanted to do masters in law but by 2017 I decided to do it abroad for multiple reasons, namely:

  • Interest in International Business, Corporate and Commercial Transaction
  • International view point.
  • I wanted a master’s degree.
  • It was a 9-months course.
  • Working in Multinational company in future.
  • International study culture.
  • Independency.
  • Education progress (national and Internationally).
  • Developing Strong personality and
  • Self growth.

I started working on my applications in October of 2017, it was quite unplanned till then.

How did you go about selecting where to apply, and how did you narrow down on Syracuse?

I did not have any seniors or experienced persons to guide me on this. It was a google search as to the top listed Universities in US with their rankings and other information.

I applied to seven universities in all, four in New York, two in California and one in Texas. I was lucky enough to be admitted in all seven. It was a hard choice to decide but Syracuse had the very course structure which I was interested in studying. Secondly, it was in NY so that was a plus and of course, they offered a good amount of scholarship.

Any advice on how to go about the application process, more specifically the personal statement, and the recommendation letters?

This totally depends on each individual’s application preference.

You can apply to a University according to the following preferences:

  • Location
  • Ranking
  • Course duration and structure
  • Field of interest
  • Scholarships offered
  • Internships or full time opportunities offered by the university.
  • Success rate of the students
  • Professors ability and experience.

For the SoP, I would say the first paragraph should consist of the reason behind choosing the particular field you are in. Then, you can move on to your educational background, why you chose this particular university etc. Write the smallest detail you can read about that university and lastly, state your interest in the course you are willing to take in that university along with your high skills of organization and ability to succeed.
The recommendation letters are  usually given by your Under Grad College and is usually mailed to the university by the college. The LOR consists of all the years you have spend in that college and your overall behavioural and educational performance. You should get it at least from three of your professors who has better understanding of teaching you and having your progress records.

How was your LLM experience at Syracuse? Any highlights along the way?

It was a roller coster ride. Of course it was extremely difficult at the beginning, but time is the best way to change things for the better. The LLM study was worthwhile, the time spent on readings and the lectures were quite fruitful. The professors are highly educated and always ready to answer your questions.

One of the highlights was a Civil Procedure course which was breadth taking. The professor cold calls and sitting in his class each day of my first semester was a task. Also, the court visits and the way they made us understand the court proceedings.

Then, the events happening almost every alternate day at the University was refreshing. The most interesting aspect of this was that I got to meet people from 24 different countries and got the opportunity to be their friend and understand their culture closely. And how can I forget my graduation day! I  will miss this year and cherish it all my life.

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

According to me, the US legal market is extremely competitive for international students. It is only the internship, mostly unpaid, which has been offered to us easily.

To get a full-time Paralegal or Legal Assistant position for an LLM student is still a task. Only if you pass the bar exam, you could have better or can say little more opportunities in US legal market. It is way too difficult to put your foot in just nine months and prove to the people around that you are worth it.

And lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering an LLM abroad?

For the freshers, I recommend you consider all the aspects before applying. You need to compromise and adjust yourself in many ways including the American culture, food, lifestyle, behavior and the level of maturity. Things are not that easy as you hear them. Experiencing them is a whole different story.

Lastly, if you plan on studying abroad stay very very determined, strong, ready for the challenges and the excitement! It will be a once in a life experience. Make it count.

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