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.
Aarushi Bhatnagar recently graduated with an LLM from New York University’s School of Law (’18) her second post graduate degree after an LLM from NLU Jodhpur (’16). In this FPA, the Christ University graduate discusses her reasons for opting for a second master’s, the NYU LLM experience, and a whole lot more.
Quite an interesting career trajectory you have had there – you enrolled for your first LLM a year after your undergrad. What were the reasons behind this move?
Since the time of joining the law school, I had been interested in pursuing a career in academia. However, I wanted to start from teaching at the grassroot level. Also, the possibility of serving the society by educating children from underprivileged background motivated me to apply for the Teach For India Fellowship. The fellowship helped me to contribute towards filling the education equity gap in India as well as to gain valuable teaching skills.
Post the fellowship, I wanted to finally try my hands at teaching at the university level. Since post-graduation is an essential requirement to enter academia in India, I appeared for the CLAT Exam (for LL.M.) during my time at TFI. I got through NLU Jodhpur wherein I decided to specialize in International Trade & Investment Laws.
Looking back, taking a break of one year post law school was a good decision as that gave me the time to think about the career choices I wanted to make. Besides, I did not want to jump into the race of getting one degree after the other as I believe that getting some real life work experience makes a lot of difference in widening one’s perspective about several things in life.
“I did not want to jump into the race of getting one degree after the other as I believe that getting some real life work experience makes a lot of difference in widening one’s perspective about several things in life.”
How was your LLM experience at NLU Jodhpur? What were some of the highlights of the course?
The LL.M. experience at NLU Jodhpur was rewarding in its own ways. I received my first law degree from a private university and had always wondered how different the NLU experience would have been.
Hence, I decided to make the best use of the one year that I got at NLU Jodhpur.
Secondly, the interaction that one has with faculty during the undergraduate years is quite limited as compared to that during a graduate program. I utilized the LLM program to closely interact with the faculty and understand what really entails a career in academia.
“I utilized the LLM program to closely interact with the faculty and understand what really entails a career in academia.”
Thirdly, my area of specialization was International Trade and Investment Laws. One advantage of studying such a policy-oriented course is the opportunity to see academic principles being applied in practice. To observe the process of research-backed policy making, I participated at the BRICS convention (as a convener). It not only helped me in appreciating the practical bottlenecks that are often ignored in academic discussions, but also honed my soft-skills which are handy in the job-market.
You followed this up with another stint in academia – how do you think the LLM helped you in this position?
After completing the LL.M., I worked as an Assistant Professor at Banasthali University in Rajasthan.
A master’s degree in law is a prerequisite to enter into the world of legal academia in India. Hence, first and foremost, the LL.M. degree made me eligible to apply for teaching position in law universities in India. Additionally, it also polished further the required skill-sets in me that are essential in academia – such as, legal writing, research, presentation, time management.
And then an LLM at NYU – how did you go about selecting where to apply? What attracted you to NYU?
I had my personal reasons for having to relocate to the New York. Hence, I was particular in selecting universities only in NYC.
Deciding to go for another LL.M. was a tough call to make having a master’s degree already in hand. The investment cost was quite huge and the job market scene in the US was, of course, not appearing to be very promising.
Nevertheless, I applied to NYC universities. I shortlisted four universities of different tiers and got through three of them. Two of these three universities offered me attractive scholarships (NYU not being one of them) but NYU was undoubtedly the best one.
The global nature of the university, the flexibility of choosing subjects from such diversified areas of law, the superstar profiles of professors, amazing location, and of course the reputation – these were some of the many reasons that attracted me to choose NYU.
How was the LLM experience? Looking back, what were some of the highlights along the way?
The LL.M. experience at NYU has been extremely rewarding. NYU is truly a global university. There is so much to do in so little time. NYU has tons of surprises and experiences to offer – the networking opportunities, constant guidance and mentorship, studying amongst the best from the world and by the best professors.
“There is so much to do in so little time. NYU has tons of surprises and experiences to offer”
I learned so much about the American standards of legal writing through a year long seminar course titled ‘Research Seminar for Future Academics’ and through another course named ‘Graduate Lawyering’. I was so fascinated by the wide range of subjects to choose from. Another course that I thoroughly enjoyed was a simulation course in ADR.
Both NYU and NYC have taught me numerous life and professional lessons.
What is your reading of the employment prospects of international LLM graduates in the US?
Frankly speaking, the legal job market is quite challenging to penetrate in the US for foreign trained attorneys. There are various factors to be taken into consideration such as the area of work/interest, the corresponding job opportunities, immigration matters (visa, work permit), prior work experience in a field of relevance, and so on.
Therefore, it is extremely common for people to have several years of work experience before applying for a foreign LLM. Such people have better framework to utilize the course as consequently, they have (usually, but not always) a better job market performance. It is also important to note that the job market opportunities depend crucially on the area of specialization. Areas like corporate law, taxation, etc. have substantially different/better opportunities for foreign-trained lawyers as compared to arbitration, family law, etc.
“It is also important to note that the job market opportunities depend crucially on the area of specialization.”
I am not saying that it is impossible to get a job in the US after an LL.M., however, it can be an extremely tiring, frustrating and challenging process (of course, rewarding for some at the end). Candidates must do a good amount of research about all of these factors and talk to as many people as possible who are in the same field – in order to better equip themselves before entering the US job market (and even before finally deciding to go for an LL.M. from abroad).
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering a master’s abroad?
Do your ground research work properly – no one else can do it for you. There are numerous online resources available that one should make full use of. Remember that the most important questions to ask oneself are the why and what of LL.M. – ‘Why do I want to do an LL.M.?‘ and ‘What do I want to gain from the LL.M. experience?’ Never go for an LL.M. thinking that it is an extended foreign vacation or a cake walk – because it is not.
“Remember that the most important questions to ask oneself are the why and what of LL.M. – ‘Why do I want to do an LL.M.?‘ and ‘What do I want to gain from the LL.M. experience?”
Start your ground work well in advance so that you don’t miss any deadlines (both for universities as well as scholarships), shortlist the universities in different tiers depending on your area of interest, go through the website of each and every university that you are applying to, connect with the people already studying there as well as the alumni of such universities to get to know of their experiences and ask them questions so that you are better prepared to make an informed choice.
Remember that it is always better to be over prepared than being under prepared for something this big. If done the right way, an LLM from a good university abroad can be a really rewarding and life changing experience.
If you would like Amicus Partners to provide some personalised advice on your LLM applications, please fill up this form and we shall get back to you as soon as possible.