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.
Harsh Mahaseth is currently pursuing a specialised LL.M. in Asian Legal Studies at the National University of Singapore. A graduate of NALSAR University (’19), Harsh shares his thoughts on the LL.M. application process, non-LL.M. options for law graduates and a whole lot more.
Let’s get right to it – the specialization you have chosen, Asian Legal Studies. What got you to apply for this? And were there any other schools that you applied to?
I have always been fascinated by International Law, the different Asian systems and how they interact. Most of my research as well had been around these areas of law. That is why I applied for the Asian Legal Studies programme at NUS.
My college search began with searching for the LLM (Public International Law) as well as MSc (Asian Studies) courses. It took me months and looking through hundreds of colleges to narrow down my list.
“It took me months and looking through hundreds of colleges to narrow down my list.”
I had applied and gotten accepted at NUS, the University of Oxford, the Graduate Institute Geneva, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. The programmes that I had applied to in these colleges were Asian Studies and International Law.
When it comes to the NUS application itself, any pointers that you think potential applicants should be aware of? More specifically, on the personal statement since they do give you a bit of space to jot it down.
I think the only thing that would be required in the Statement would be the reason for your application for an LLM and why did you apply to that particular college.
I think my application stood out because I honestly wrote whatever I thought about the course and the university and how I thought I could help boost the reputation of the University.
Given that you applied right after your undergrad, when it came to the LoRs did you seek out any professional LoRs that you may have gotten through internships? Or did you stick with academic LoRs?
My LoRs were from my professors from law school; however, I did work with them as well. Hence, I would say that my LoRs were a combination of academic as well as professional.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid of any kind?
I had applied for financial aid but did not receive any at NUS. While I had received scholarships, even full scholarships, at other universities I chose NUS as it had a better course structure for a combination of both Asian Studies and International Law, and NUS is one of the best law schools in the world.
Early days I know, but how is the LL.M. experience been thus far? Are there any aspects that you have found to be particularly enjoyable?
The courses are quite unique, not something that I have seen in many law school curricula. Also, there are a lot of events happening at the law school, as well as the other schools at NUS. There is never a dull day.
Not quite connected to the LLM application, but how easy or difficult is to get housing in Singapore? And how early should applicants start planning this out?
It is quite easy to find housing in Singapore but to find a good place I’d say that you need to start searching a couple of months in advance. NUS has some places but you cannot rely on it as not everyone gets it.
Lastly, what advice would you have for the Indian law grad who is considering a master’s abroad?
First, one needs to decide whether they want to pursue a Masters or not. I directly started my LLM after my bachelors and I chose the subjects that interested me and not just subjects that are relevant for my future work.
At the end of the day, this may be the last degree for nearly everyone so it doesn’t hurt to do a degree in say public international law yet take up a module in insurance law because it interests you. You never know, you may actually work in the insurance sector.
Also, there is no such thing that a law student has to do an LLM. I have seen many LLB graduates pursue a Masters in International Relations, Economics, an MBA, etc. There are several possibilities and career avenues that open up after doing a bachelors in law for branching out.
“I have seen many LLB graduates pursue a Masters in International Relations, Economics, an MBA, etc. There are several possibilities and career avenues that open up after doing a bachelors in law for branching out.”
All that one needs to do is to explore their options. I’d say that when one is certain about their decision to pursue a Masters, they must extensively research and shortlist their colleges well in advance.
One needs to prepare their CV, find referees, write a separate Statement of Purpose for each college, prepare for each scholarship application (if you plan on applying for scholarships) and extra application questions (depending upon the needs of each individual university). It is imperative to treat all these questions separately and write different answers.
There is no ideal time to set your mind on pursuing an LLM. I had decided to pursue one in my second year itself! As I stated earlier, I decided on NUS due to the best course structure combining my interests.
Most of the applications open up around October or November. There may be some that open in February as well though. I had received my Oxford and Geneva application decisions by January/February while I had received my other acceptances in April or May. Speaking about commitments I’d say that it’s more about the idea in your head that matters. I already had an idea of what to write for my SOPs so it did not take much time.
Equally important is to not leave things for the last minute. What significantly helped me with my applications was the fact that I had all of my applications ready around the start of the application procedures itself!
“What significantly helped me with my applications was the fact that I had all of my applications ready around the start of the application procedures itself!”