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, Ashwathy Suresh talks about her LL.M. experience at the University College London. A graduate of the School of Excellence in Law (Class of ’17), Ashwathy worked in the chambers of senior counsel C. Natarajan for a year before embarking on the LL.M.

Were you considering an LLM right after your undergraduate course at the SOEL? Or was the plan to always work for some time and then apply?

Honestly, I was considering the LLM since my 3rd year of undergrad. I had to primarily decide whether I wanted to pursue it immediately after my graduation or if I was more inclined to work for a while. Although, I pretty much had all my documents ready towards the end of my under-graduation, I chose to work for a year because I felt like I needed more time to decide my course modules and topics for dissertation.

I would say this was the best decision because the final year in law school is incredibly hectic, which reduces the time you dedicate for your applications. I used to feel like taking a year off would reduce my inclination towards academics, but after getting to UCL, my perspective had changed completely. I have peers who have 5-10 years of work experience. So, it is completely an individual’s choice.

“I chose to work for a year because I felt like I needed more time to decide my course modules and topics for dissertation…I would say this was the best decision because the final year in law school is incredibly hectic, which reduces the time you dedicate for your applications.”

How did you go about selecting where to apply, what were the law schools that were shortlisted, and what got you to narrow down on UCL?

Personally, it was either a good school or no LLM. I started researching on schools and courses early on to stay ahead of the game. For instance, one would start by looking at the Law School ranking for that particular year. However, I recommend going a step further and connecting with the alumni who did the same course/module to get an actual feedback of the course & the school.

There is a trend to apply to multiple schools but I strongly advise against that. Instead, I made a 3-tier category – Dream School, Achievable School and Back up school. In the UK, I only applied to LSE and UCL and got accepted in the latter, which I very glad about.

I also got accepted to some good schools in the US, but I decided that the UK was a better bet both for my future and financially. Additionally, UCL allowed me to pick and choose my modules which was very appealing. UCL also conducts various workshops and law fairs where you can find representatives from leading law firms with whom you can interact and get an idea about the market scenario.

Did you apply for/receive financial aid of any kind?

No. I was looking to apply for the certain scholarships but they had specific clauses which did not hold my interest.

Any advice on how to go about the application process? More specifically, on how much time one should set aside, the written requirements and getting good recommendations?

Applications are the most important step as far as a masters degree is concerned. Unlike under-graduation where you have set subjects to complete every term, you tailor your LLM specialisation. Firstly, one must decide which area of law they are most interested in.

Then, all the ground work about different schools and their specialisation should be completed. In addition to meeting required grades, a good SOP (Statement of Purpose) is an absolute necessity.

Furthermore, law schools require a good score as a pre-condition in the IELTS/ TOEFL which are frankly not inexpensive exams. So, time has to be allotted to prepare for those exams, to make sure one achieves the required band. As for recommendations, depending on the school’s requirements, one has to get LORs from professors or employers but this doesn’t play too much of an importance for college admissions in my opinion.

How has the LLM experience been? Any highlights along the way?

The LLM at UCL has been extremely overwhelming. I have seen a different side to myself after moving here. There are so many things I had to adapt to – right from preparing well ahead for all the lectures to picking a topic for my dissertation.

The examination process is so different here where I started putting material together two months in advance. If I were to pick a highlight among the many, it would be the friends I have made from different legal jurisdictions; getting to know more about their judicial system and their country on the whole. Meeting some of the biggest legal luminaries, has to be another.

Your LinkedIn profile mentions that you are keen on becoming a solicitor – is this something that you plan on pursuing in the UK? 

That’s right. I am looking for new opportunities here in the UK, to translate whatever I have studied in theory to practice!

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering an LLM, or any other master’s, abroad?

Start early, do your research right and be excited to experience something like never before. Be open to new prospects and grab every opportunity to network and meet new people.