The Amicus Interviews are meant for broader discussions on legal education, and the legal profession at the global level. One of the goals of this series of interviews is to get the views of Indian law graduates who are working outside the country. Another goal would be to track the educational aspirations of the Indian Law Graduate (ILG), especially when it comes to studying outside the country.
Lennora Crilov graduated from Amity Law School, Noida in 2016 and then enrolled for the LL.M. course at Penn State Law School. She is currently the Head of Department – Academic Mobility and Accreditations at the Narxoz School Law & Public Policy, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Her’s is an interesting story by itself, and so apart from knowing about her LL.M. experience itself, I was quite keen on learning about her opinion on global recruitment opportunities for the Indian Law Graduate, as well as some of the benefits of a post-graduate law degree.
Let me get the most pressing question out of the way first – what is the food in Kazakhstan like?
Absolutely mouthwatering-ly delicious! The best part of Almaty, Kazakhstan, other than its breath-taking views of the Alatau mountain ranges, is its multi-cultural cuisine. I recommend a visit just to pamper your taste buds!
Back to business, what got you thinking about an LLM, and why go right after your undergrad?
While doing my undergrad I worked with NGOs in Delhi and organized many women and child development programs in Noida. Post my two years working with these families, I realized that to get them out of the vicious circle of poverty they are stuck in is more complicated than just providing them free legal aid and educational and vocational opportunities. So, I turned to public policy. That’s why I chose to do an LLM – to get specialized in public interest laws.
How did you go about selecting where to apply, and what got you to narrow down on Penn State?
I researched on many universities around the world. While shortlisting schools I looked at four things: (i) tuition costs and scholarships (ii) the ability to customize the degree to my personal needs (iii) the cost of living in the university location (iv) the availability of good part-time job opportunities to add to my professional experience, as well as pay my bills.
Penn State fulfilled all my criteria. They offer great scholarships based on merit; they allow you to choose your own courses from a variety of disciplines and specializations; as it is a small quaint university town, the cost of living was affordable; Penn State provided many part-time job opportunities for students on campus (which was great for international students as we were allowed by law to only get jobs that were on campus),
“Penn State offers great scholarships based on merit; they allow you to choose your own courses from a variety of disciplines and specializations; as it is a small quaint university town, the cost of living was affordable; they also provided many part-time job opportunities for students on campus.”
I was fortunate enough to get a research assistant position with one of Penn State Law’s internationally renowned faculty-scholar in the field of arbitration – the experience was invaluable (not to mention the colour it added to my resume), and the pay enabled me to cover all my living cost (and holidays) during my entire year studying in the United States.
How was your LLM experience? Any highlights along the way?
Two words – LIFE CHANGING!
The LLM program opened my mind to a whole other side of learning and education. After being so used to the education system of rote learning, it was liberating to be able to dive into rationale erudition and questioning. During examinations there never was just one right answer – your score depended on how best you defended your contention and interpretation of the law.
We don’t realize the potential we can reach when we open our minds to questioning everything. That’s what the LLM did for me – I realized what my potential could be, and I have constantly worked towards reaching that since then.
“We don’t realize the potential we can reach when we open our minds to questioning everything. That’s what the LLM did for me – I realized what my potential could be, and I have constantly worked towards reaching that since then.”
The main highlights of my LLM experience was getting my research assistant position, working at the Center for Immigrants Rights clinic, spending my fall break volunteering on a beautiful farm in Maryland that rescued border collies, and getting to meet some really fantastic people (including my husband).
What do you think are the benefits of an international LL.M. for the Indian law graduate?
I could write pages on what I feel are the benefits of getting an international LLM – the list is unending.
But the main bits are,
- It expands the way you look at the law, your ordinary boring CPC gets brought to life in an inexplicable way;
- It provides you with great networking opportunities – I’ve connected with renowned scholars in law from all over the world through my research assistant job and clinic experience;
- It introduces you to the international legal playing field – internships, jobs, etc.;
- A much higher salary – firms/organizations prefer candidates with degrees from different countries as it shows capability, adaptability, experience and expertise, – and they pay you for that!
- Your resume stands out amongst the countless other job applications
- It prepares you into becoming a top legal professional in this highly competitive globalized world.
Overall, the biggest benefit of doing an LLM abroad is it ups your value – in India and around the world.
What got you to Narxoz University? Could you tell me a bit about the kind of work you are doing?
My love for teaching and working with students, coupled with my love for travel and experiencing new cultures got me to Narxoz.
I enjoy working at Narxoz’s School of Law and Public Policy as I get to do a bit of everything. I lecture classes on international and corporate laws, work on research projects and grants, develop curriculum for new law programs and ways to market them, establish partnerships with organizations and universities from around the globe, and provide students with opportunities to experience the world through education.
I know that you advise Indian law grads to look at non-traditional markets like Central Asia – any pointers on how they should go about it?
I strongly advise Indian law grads to look towards the non-traditional markets for three reasons:
- Getting legal jobs in Europe and the States is extremely difficult – to find an organization that is willing to do labor market tests on your behalf is nothing short of a miracle, they prefer to hire locally (they have their own million of local graduates looking for jobs).
- On that one-off chance you do find a job, and an organization willing to do it all for you, as a fresher straight out of law school you’ll be spending what you earn (and that’s if you’re lucky). For at least the first two years you wouldn’t be able to have any savings and will be living paycheck to paycheck as the costs of living are high.
- When putting yourself out in the international market, you’ll find scores of people who have either an internship or short-term job experience in either Europe or North America. Having exposure in non-traditional markets like Central Asia really makes your resume stand out from the entire bunch as its refreshing, bold, and shows that you are adaptable to different kinds of work environments.
I personally have not found much success in applying on job portals – millions of people around the world are applying for that exact same position you are currently looking at, and most of them with more experience or qualifications than you. After tons of experience on applying for jobs both nationally and internationally (and failing), I have two pieces of advice for freshers on the job hunt:
- Network, network and more network!
A few tips – attend international conferences that happen in your city and network; use LinkedIn and Twitter to follow organizations and persons in the field of your interest and make intelligent and informed comments on their posts; if you read an article you like, reach out to the author.The world is smaller than you imagine it to be – get informed, get heard, and put yourself out there.
- Apply for that lower paid job in your dream field/organization and work your way up from there. Work hard, take on more tasks, put in that extra effort and before you know it, you’ll be exactly where you wanted to be.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s course, law or otherwise, outside the country?
Know what you want and work towards it.
Doing a masters or doctoral program abroad is a huge investment – make sure you know exactly what you’re investing in. There is no such thing as the perfect school or perfect course, rather it is about the amount of effort you put into making the best out of the resources and opportunities you have.
One thing I can say for sure, even if you end up changing your career paths and never using that degree from abroad (cause life happens), what you learned during your short time studying abroad will always give you that added step in your profession.
“One thing I can say for sure, even if you end up changing your career paths and never using that degree from abroad (cause life happens), what you learned during your short time studying abroad will always give you that added step in your profession.”