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.
Archa Rajeevi graduated from the VIT Law School this year, and is currently an LL.M. candidate at the National University of Singapore. Opting for an LL.M. in International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, Archa shares her reasons for narrowing down on NUS, the NUS application process itself, and a whole lot more.
When did you start the application process itself, and how did you go about selecting where to apply?
In August of 2018, I decided I wanted to study further. One of the last internships I had done in 2018, was at the Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Center in Chennai, where I was exposed to a lot of different kind of arbitrations and arbitral research. I also had the opportunity to meet a lot of reputed arbitrators. The whole experience piqued my interest in arbitration.
Hence, I decided I wanted to pursue an LLM inclined towards Arbitration or Dispute settlement. From August to September, I read about many universities offering an arbitration course, the kind of coursework they offer, the kind of modules offered in the course work, the faculty, the sort of non-academic work I could participate in and most importantly whether the university would offer me an environment to thrive in.
By the end of September, I had written down a small list of four universities that I wanted to apply to along with the application deadlines, the requirement to apply, and the available internal and external scholarships.
What got you to narrow down on NUS?
Out of all the four universities I had chosen, I eventually narrowed it down to two. I had to decide between the LL.M. in Dispute Settlement (MIDS) program at Geneva and the LL.M. in international arbitration and Dispute resolution at NUS.
I chose NUS because I felt the degree would expose me both to the arbitration and the dispute resolution. I also really liked the extensive list of modules offered at NUS. Some of them, for example, are mediation, negotiation, future of international arbitration in Asia pacific region, energy arbitration and so on. I did not find these modules offered by other universities I had chosen.
NUS also has a double degree program, where you can study MIDS at Geneva if you meet the eligibility criteria after starting study at NUS.
Other than that, Singapore is also increasingly becoming the global hub of arbitration. The Singapore international Arbitration Center is one of the most reputed global institutions of arbitration in the world. NUS also has a panel of top-notch faculty and some well-known visiting faculty.
“Other than that, Singapore is also increasingly becoming the global hub of arbitration. The Singapore international Arbitration Center is one of the most reputed global institutions of arbitration in the world. NUS also has a panel of top-notch faculty and some well-known visiting faculty.”
Also, since I hail from Chennai, I already know two of the official languages spoken in Singapore (Tamil and English). I felt it would be easier to connect and network in such an environment. These were my reasons for choosing NUS over the other options I had.
Did you ever consider working for a few years before the LLM?
No. I just finished the under graduate degree from VIT Law school at Chennai in the April of 2019. I always knew I wanted to study further even before I finished law school.
Upon discussions with my professors, friends and knowledgeable people in my circle, I decided I wanted to go on with the study flow and finish my masters before I entered the work arena.
Any advice on the application process itself, more specifically the written requirements?
The NUS application starts in the first week of October and ends in the first week of December. A piece of sincere advice would be to start your application process early.
- NUS Law faculty prefers the TOEFL IBT over IELTS. I booked a TOEFL exam in the second week of September. However, due to some technical glitch, I had to repeat TOEFL. I could do this only in October because I didn’t get proper dates. So, if you’re going to do it late and some error occurs, you might not be able to get it done by the application deadline.
- Statement of purpose – Again, start early. An SOP is not something that can be done overnight or in a few days. Write down a little list of why you want to study, how this will help you or your career, what motivates you to do this or how you will contribute to the country/ community etc. then develop it into a little essay. Keep it simple, short and precise. The admissions department receive a lot of applications. A crisp SOP will stand out and appeal to them.
- Letter of Recommendations- NUS does not accept physical hard copies of LORs. The LORs have to be directly uploaded on a link sent to the referees. So, chose your referees, have a discussion with them about the LOR and request them to get it ready before you start your application process.The link will be sent to your referees as soon as you submit your online application. It will expire within a few weeks after which the referees will not be able to access the link. Do what you have to, to remind them to get it ready and upload it as soon as you submit the online application.
- CV – A crisp and short CV highlighting your academic achievements, your extracurricular, leadership positions, skills, and interests.
- Application process- To apply to NUS, you have to submit an online application as well as post them the physical hard copies of the required supporting documents before the deadline in December. Plan, organize and have your supporting documents ready. The list of supporting documents can be found online on the NUS website.
- When will you know the outcome – NUS took 6 long months to let us know. My offer letter came on the 23rd of April 2019. The outcome dates vary every year, so do not worry if it gets late. You can always mail them your queries and they will reply almost immediately.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid of any kind?
Scholarships at NUS are very scarce. I did apply to the scholarship at NUS, but I wasn’t offered one. However, there are plenty of external scholarships you can apply to. For instance: I was a finalist in the Purvez Bilimoria global award for legal excellence Scholarship. But then again, research about the available scholarships in India and abroad before your application process.
Given the specialized nature of your LLM, what are some of the expectations you have from the course?
I expect to learn a lot more international arbitration and its specifics. I also hope to improve my research and analytical skills through independent research. Though I have chosen a specialization, the LL.M. at NUS gives me an option to explore electives from other specializations as well.
Only 24 of the required 40-44 credits need to be chosen from the Arbitration and dispute resolution specialization. So, I plan on diversifying my options as well.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering a master’s abroad?
One sincere advice would be to start the application process early. Also, do not apply to a bunch of universities. Choose what you want to study, where you want to study, talk to someone knowledgeable and decide exactly which university you want to apply to.
Second, Universities abroad appreciate extracurricular/non-academic activities as well as academic achievements. So, don’t forget to add in your volunteering work, community service, any non- academic skills or achievements you have in other fields on your CV and SOP.
“Universities abroad appreciate extracurricular/non-academic activities as well as academic achievements. So, don’t forget to add in your volunteering work, community service, any non- academic skills or achievements you have in other fields on your CV and SOP. “
Get your written documents vetted by someone knowledgeable before you finalize it.
Third, treat your LLM as a learning experience rather than as a gateway to working abroad or settling abroad.
Lastly, plan your financials early. Loan processes can be cumbersome at times and could stall the application process.