First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.

Vanya Rakesh is currently enrolled in the LL.M. in Law & Digital Technologies at Leiden University. A graduate of the Institute of Law, Nirma University (’15), Vanya worked at the Centre for Internet and Society, and then Infosys before enrolling for the LL.M. course from which she will graduate in 2020.

Were you ever considering a master’s right after graduation? Or was the plan to always work for a bit before applying? 

I always intended to work and acquire some field experience before applying for a Master’s specialization. Though I was very sure about pursuing masters at some point in time, undertaking 12 legal internships with varied legal experts, law firms, and organizations during the course of 5-years made me realize the importance of having work experience before embarking on LL.M.

How did you go about selecting just where to apply? What were the schools you shortlisted, and what eventually got you to narrow down on Leiden? 

Right after graduation I ventured into the field of technology law professionally. That opened a lot of avenues for me, and became a starting point as a selection criterion to look for a suitable course as well as university offering a specialization in this field. Since the field is comparatively still in its nascent stage, it was challenging to be able to find and further shortlist reputed universities offering an exclusive course covering the intersection between technology and law.

Though a couple of top-ranked U.S. Universities offered the specialisation, the exorbitant tuition fees made me decide to look for options in different geographies. Interestingly, a handful of European universities offer a technology law specialisation and does not mix it with courses on Intellectual Property law, like many universities across the world. This made me apply to 5 Universities across Europe, namely- Edinburgh, Tilburg, VU Amsterdam and Oslo, besides Leiden University.

“Interestingly, a handful of European universities offer a technology law specialisation and does not mix it with courses on Intellectual Property law, like many universities across the world.”

I was extremely lucky to have received offers from all 5 Universities (with full tuition fee waiver from 3 of them).

However, after spending substantive amount of time before deciding and narrowing down on one University, I narrowed decide to go ahead with Leiden due to several reasons:

  • The comprehensive curriculum it offered was exactly what I was looking for.
  • Leiden Law school is ranked amongst top 30 law schools in the world. The global ranking for that matter could not be overlooked.
  • Netherlands as a country offers an amazing quality of life, so moving continents for studying had to be decided on that factor.

Any advice on how to go about the application process itself? As well as the LexS scholarship? 

It is important to keep a tab on the dates concerning the application window. Leiden University accepts applications on a rolling/FCFS basis. Hence, it is advisable to apply as soon as the application window opens sometime in October. This will help you decide (based on the response from the University-affirmative or negative) your next step.

In order to be able to send in your application as soon as the window opens, have a plan in place-starting from which course/specialization you intend to opt for, whether the university requires a IELTS/TOEFL score, working on the SOPs on the basis of requirements called out by the University for your program of interest, working on getting the right Letter of Recommendations (if required). It is vital to remember that your SOP can take months together before taking a final shape, where you may to rework on a single draft numerous time, to the point of exhaustion.

“It is vital to remember that your SOP can take months together before taking a final shape, where you may to rework on a single draft numerous time, to the point of exhaustion.”

So, the earlier you begin the process of shortlisting a university, the better. Also, make sure to abide by the specific requirements mentioned by the University regarding what they are looking for in a prospective student. This will help you draft your SOP and articulate your motivation to apply in a clear manner.

Similarly, keep a tab of the LExS scholarship deadline and work on the application accordingly. Stick to the word limit and write your motivation letter based on the selection criterion mentioned by the University (and not rely on any sample letters available online). It is important to remember that you do not repeat the content that you have stated in your Motivation letter, and you keep the letter original and concise.

What are your expectations from the LL.M. course? 

I am looking forward to explore the multi-faceted curriculum that the Advanced LL.M. program in Law and Digital Technologies at Leiden University has to offer. I am hopeful about developing a strong base in the field and learning immensely.

It will be great to pursue a course like this in Europe, which has sort of become the heartland for this field when it comes to driving legislations and policy initiatives in technology law matters.

Also, it will be an extremely fulfilling experience to interact with a class encompassing students from across the world, ranging from all possible continents. Drawing from the experience of the professors as well as the students will be highly rewarding.

“Also, it will be an extremely fulfilling experience to interact with a class encompassing students from across the world, ranging from all possible continents. Drawing from the experience of the professors as well as the students will be highly rewarding.”

Early days I know, but how has the LL.M. experience been thus far? What are some aspects that have surprised you about the course on the whole? 

Yes, as rightly pointed by you, though it is early to comment on the LL.M. experience, however, the approach is worth mentioning. The curriculum encompasses class-room discussions and group activities, following a fun-while-learning approach.

Also, since the course is advanced in its nature, one is expected to read a lot for every lecture. However, you are also given ample time to study or work on your self. In addition to this, the professors are extremely friendly and approachable.

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad? 

Two things which in my opinion matter a lot for every student who intends to pursue LL.M. abroad are: firstly, though not a necessity, but gaining some work experience before taking a plunge will help you to be sure about your plans and the direction in which you want your career to proceed. Practical insights gained at work contributes immensely towards your profile.

Secondly, spend some quality time to research the course you wish to pursue and the university(s) you intend to apply to. Keep a tab of deadlines for sending in applications (including for scholarships) and start very early. This will give you enough time to work step-by-step on every requirement.

Applying early saves you time for everything that will follow- visa process, scholarship decision, arranging for accommodation, etc.

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