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.

In this edition, Labdhi Jhatakia (Pravin Gandhi College of Law ’16, UNSW ’20) talks about her time as an LLM candidate at the University of New South Wales, how she went about the application process, studying in Australia, and a whole lot more.

(Edited excerpts)

After graduating in 2016, you worked for close to 3 years and then opted for the LLM. Did you ever consider enrolling for the LLM right after your undergraduate degree? Or was the plan to work for a few years and then apply?

Well, I would like to correct you there. Post-graduation I worked for about two and a half years (a combination of litigation as well as corporate law) and then chose the path of doing my Masters.

I always knew I wanted to achieve the highest qualification of degree as a matter of prestige as well as out of personal desire. In my opinion education is the highest asset an individual can ever own.

“In my opinion education is the highest asset an individual can ever own.”

The plan was to work for a few years, see how the local market functions and get a fair idea of how you fit into the working culture of your own birthplace first and then upgrade yourself to a masters degree so that you can relate what you are potentially going to study with what you have practically experienced.

How did you go about selecting just where to apply? What were some of the schools that you applied to, and how did you go about narrowing down on UNSW?

Well quite honestly, I always wanted to opt for a University that would offer me a scholarship as I was a candidate with decent work experience and a good legal profile back in India.

Not everything always works in your favour (I would blame the Mumbai University’s low marking system for losing out on that one though)

The University of New South Wales had good rankings, it was standing somewhere on the 14th rank (QS law school ranking I suppose) last I checked.  They were offering a very good combination of courses, especially subjects like Financial Technology, Regulatory Technology, Principled Negotiation (The Harvard Negotiation Project) etc – these subjects are a very relatable in today’s fast-growing so-called techie world and therefore lawyers cannot escape understanding or risk being less acquainted of developments and legal issues and challenges flagged by these know-hows. UNSW is one of the most renowned Universities in Australia and therefore I finally came down to proceeding with UNSW.

I had also applied for the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney and QUT amongst others in Australia. Some observations on these:

  • Melbourne Law School – Apparently doesn’t accept Mumbai University Students due to their low scores in the degree as they have a minimum cut off 70 % which no Mumbai University student got ever)
  • University of Sydney – The subjects could not match the innovation level that UNSW was offering me.
  • Queensland University of Technology – I had applied specifically for IPR courses but was always more inclined towards Finance Law or Commercial Law subjects.

Any advice on how to go about the application process, in terms of time management, written requirements etc?

As far as the application procedure is concerned, they are usually pretty standard and typical. However, I still know some people who have been rejected too. I suppose most students come off a bit lazy in putting their heart and soul into the Statement of Purpose and the Letter of Recommendations to be submitted to the Uni’s while being considered for admission.  I recommend they be written truthfully and not a copy paste from your counsellors’ template or internet.

Also make sure that you spend as much time on the website of each of the University and shortlist things like – what courses are they offering; compare the subject being offered by two different universities, do not only go by the title of each of the elective but go through the entire course description and choose wisely etc.

These universities always have very detailed information on every aspect very easily spot able and systematically displayed. Just spend a lot of time on their website.

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

I did try for every source like scholarships, bank loans etc., but unfortunately couldn’t succeed with any. I ultimately had to make temporary arrangements from family members internally, however I see that positively,  to an extent that my attention towards my course holds more seriousness as there is a self-built responsibility to return the favours someday coupled with a realisation that I have finally landed up with an opportunity not many get due to various circumstantial issues.

How has the LLM experience been thus far? How have you used your practical work experience in your LLM classes? 

The study experience has been out of the world, I feel wonderful about having to apply a lot of energy and mind behind choosing assignment topics, taking care of the stringent university plagiarism policies and finally working towards some original piece of research topics that you can rightfully own and declare as original unlike the Indian educational system (against mugging up study material).

The University also had an option of taking up an internship as a part of credits towards my course which made it possible for me to gain practical exposure of how not for profits/community legal services function internationally.

The subjects taught here demand a lot of opinion, personal perspective and observation, class discussion, group participations and class engagement which mandates wider application of mind and enables you to express your opinion about the happenings in the world. I am also interning at a prestigious Community Legal Center as a practical legal trainee to add more value to my profile and make the most of my time here in Australia.

“The subjects taught here demand a lot of opinion, personal perspective and observation, class discussion, group participations and class engagement which mandates wider application of mind and enables you to express your opinion about the happenings in the world.”

What do you think are the greatest benefits of studying at UNSW?

I don’t think it would be right for me to say that one university benefits more than the other except of course that the rankings are better, reviews are better and that the subjects offered are more relatable to recent trends. Without having studied at another university, there is no basis on which I can openly compare two universities.

They all maintain excellency in their delivery of program. It basically depends on what university suits your needs the best. For me, UNSW worked the best due to the combination of subjects I was looking at like I already mentioned above.

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

My advice to potential LLM candidates would be stay back after your law course, gain some work experience understand how the market works and then go for your masters. Don’t rush into it immediately after graduating from law.

I find myself in a better position to understand the excellency and superiority with which the law courses are designed as I can relate it to the post qualification experience I have gained back in India. Basically, it helps you find the link and interconnectedness between practical implementation and development in academics in the legal profession.

On the flip side, ensure you lower your expectations with respect to stay back options abroad, as most abroad LLM courses are just one year, which does not automatically give you a post graduate work visa and that may be seen as a challenge in terms of recovery of money invested in the Masters program. Research with respect to the processes of your law degree getting recognized overseas in extremely essential. These are not things you can leave to your agent/counsellor. You need to research this yourself.

“Research with respect to the processes of your law degree getting recognized overseas in extremely essential. These are not things you can leave to your agent/counsellor. You need to research this yourself.”

As far as the curriculum is concerned be rest assured it is a complete new world of study methods and time you start using your brains, deep thinking methods and evaluations, looking at things from larger perspective and above all a very high quality elevated educational experience.

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