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.

Sujeet S. Karkala
Sujeet S. Karkala

Sujeet S. Karkala is a legal advisor at Sciaroni & Associates in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A 2007 graduate of Government Law College in Mumbai, Sujeet worked for a few years before enrolling for an LL.M. at the Duke University School of Law (’11).

In this FPA, he shares the reasons behind the LL.M., working in the US and then Asia, and a whole lot more.

(Edited excerpts)

I know it has been quite a while, but what got you thinking about an LLM? Was the plan to always work a while and then enrol for a master’s?

The purpose of L.L.M. to gain expertise in a specialized field of law, to gain advanced knowledge in your chosen field of law. It is strongly advise to do so obtain some legal training and then to apply for your masters program.

A master’s in law is similar to an MBA in the sense that we compete not only with the international students who are experienced in their field but also with local students who completed their Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor.

These students during the schooling and working experience have done a number of research papers also over the years have developed a good interpersonal skills and beyond moot courts.

And when it came to the LLM, what got you to narrow down on Duke?

I applied for various law schools in US however, the program at Duke consisted of a limited number of LL.M students i.e. approx. 80 students and most credits classes are with J.D students. So, as an LL.M you are interacting with the J.D students.

But, the most fascinating of the LL.M you are able to opt for credits classes with Fuqua Business School of Law where you are also learning not only the legal aspect but also the business model of doing business. Further, irrespective of your program you opt for, Duke encourages to engage with the Duke Community by taking parts in various sports on campus.

Right after Duke, you started working in New York. Given your previous background in India, what were some of the bigger differences between your Indian and US law firm experiences?

The work culture in U.S is very different. For that matter, the work culture globally is very different. In the US, you have to focus on your personal development, thought process and with the quality of work with clear and precise information. While in India, legal practice is different with every firm.

More importantly, how did you think the LLM equipped you to perform in this new role?

The LL.M helped me develop a lot it helped me groomed myself personally and also my mindset. As a lawyer we need to be proactive. With the world getting narrower and with the advancement of technology, we need to be updated not only for development of law within our country but also outside of India or at least South East Asia.

Pursuing, my LL.M did enable me to keep myself updated with changes and developments happening not only in India but also in the region.

“With the world getting narrower and with the advancement of technology, we need to be updated not only for development of law within our country but also outside of India or at least South East Asia. “

Am quite curious about your subsequent moves – what got you to SE Asia? Has it been easy to make the shift?

In India we always heard about countries like Singapore or HK. Singapore being the gateway to Asia and the western world while HK gateway to China and the rest of world.  For me, it was a similar thought.

However, during my research I came across this new market of ASEAN which is similar to EU. The only difference  is that most countries in ASEAN are emerging markets. This tempted me to venture in this market.

Now, even the Indian government is intending to focus more towards the east by adopting the “Act East Policy”. So, for me as an India qualified lawyer, I am very often advising clients from India on doing business in ASEAN.

And in this particular region, how do you think Indian law graduates can improve their chances of finding employment?

First, it is is not about looking for an employment but about what one really wants to do.  Presently, most trade and investments is from India and China where these two superpower giants are investing in ASEAN and South East Asia.

So, the focus should be more in terms of Asia. However, knowing your home country law is important and also whichever region you focus on, it is important to know their legal system.

In simple words, we have to be sure of the requirements. For a lawyer every day is about learning and gaining  knowledge.

Lastly, and don’t mean to put you in a spot here, but would you advise a foreign LLM to Indian law graduates?

Well, it should be by choice and desire not because everyone around or your best friend from your law school is pursuing a foreign LL.M. The purpose of LL.M  is to expand your knowledge and quality of work.