The Admission Interviews, are meant to provide insights into LLM admissions right from the law school itself. The primary idea behind this series is to provide that little bit of extra information that may not be available on the law school’s website.
In this edition, I get to speak with Anitha Cadambi who is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law at USC Gould School of Law. She also happens to be a graduate of ILS Pune, as well as a USC Gould Law alum (LLM ’11). In this interview, she talks about her own experiences as an LL.M. graduate at USC Gould, the US recruitment market, what law schools look for in personal statements, and a lot more.
Looking back, what were some of the highlights of your time as a law student in India?
If I had to choose a highlight from my time at ILS Pune, it would be the people I met, many of whom have gone on to become partners and senior lawyers at national law firms.
I found them to be engaging, smart, and extremely knowledgeable. My classmates and their many achievements inspired me to learn and ultimately teach at USC Gould School of Law.
And having studied law in India, how do you think an LLM abroad (in the US or otherwise) complement one’s learning of the law? What got you to enrol for an LLM?
I had always planned to move back to Los Angeles to pursue a career in law, as I had previously lived and worked in California. With that being said, I looked at the LLM as an investment in my future.
During my LLM, I developed a solid network of international and domestic attorneys, which created opportunities that would not otherwise have been possible without the LLM.
“During my LLM, I developed a solid network of international and domestic attorneys, which created opportunities that would not otherwise have been possible without the LLM.”
Also, with respect to learning the law, the LLM helped me specialize in business law (through the lens of a practitioner) and then pursue a career in that space. As a matter of logistics, the LLM helped me prepare for and pass the bar exam.
One of the more common questions we get is when to apply for an LLM (fresh out of law school or after a few years of work experience) – thoughts?
It depends on your goals for pursuing an LLM. You will appreciate the knowledge and exposure you get in the US more after you’ve practiced for a few years.
So, if enhancing your knowledge-base and specialization is what you are looking for, then, I would get some work experience before applying for an LLM. However, if you plan to pursue a career in the US, in general, you are likely to start as an entry-level associate, whether that’s as an intern or law clerk.
For those with many years of experience, this might seem like a downgrade, but, a necessary evil. I think it just depends on perspective and what you want to accomplish.
“However, if you plan to pursue a career in the US, in general, you are likely to start as an entry-level associate, whether that’s as an intern or law clerk. For those with many years of experience, this might seem like a downgrade, but, a necessary evil. “
Besides, it would be helpful to understand what employers in India are looking for before making this decision.
Another common question is difficulty in choosing just where to study. Any advice on how to navigate this question? A lot of applicants rely on rankings (US News, THE, QS etc) – do you think this is a good idea?
Yes. I would look at a few things outside of rankings including faculty, scholarships offered, career and professional support, and bar exam preparation (if you plan to take the bar). Some schools have an Online LLM option if you are more comfortable learning in an online classroom.
When it comes to the application itself, how do you think applicants should approach the personal statement? What are the things a law school looks for in the statement?
As much you want to tell the law school you are applying to why they should admit you, I think it’s equally important to tell the law school why you picked them. You will represent the law school as an alum, and that’s something the committee considers during the admissions process.
“As much you want to tell the law school you are applying to why they should admit you, I think it’s equally important to tell the law school why you picked them.”
Also, showcase academic and non-academic strengths. Instead of listing ALL of your achievements, provide the most impactful. Lastly, tell a story that includes how you will use the LLM in the future.
You have also experimented with new means of increasing legal awareness – such as audio books. What has the response been to such endeavours? Do you think law schools are also experimenting with new pedagogy methods?
Certainly. More law schools are taking their classes online, like the Online MSL that I teach for, and/or considering hybrid options. Technology enhances legal pedagogy and makes learning “fun!”
What is your reading of the US legal recruitment market for international LLM graduates?
It is a challenging market to enter. Students have limited time to develop a network, take the bar exam, and get an employer to sponsor them. It’s not impossible but requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, and creativity. Unlike in India, law schools do not offer placements, and this is something Indian students should consider.
“Unlike in India, law schools do not offer placements, and this is something Indian students should consider.”
There are Indian law graduates who are looking to join academia outside the country – any suggestions on how they can go about meeting this goal?
This may sound counterintuitive, but the best way to join academia is to “get your feet wet” and to start teaching, whether that’s as a guest speaker or by making presentations for small private groups/clients.
I would also consider taking on a mentorship role at your law firm where you are responsible for training new associates or interns, as these are the types of law students you will likely be teaching.
Lastly, consider publishing articles in your area of practice and become an expert on a particular topic, ideally one that you would like to teach on!
What advice would you have for the Indian law graduate who is looking to pursue a master’s abroad?
My advice is that if you decide to pursue a master’s abroad, look at it as an opportunity of a lifetime. Be willing to do things differently, to come out of your shell, and to work hard.