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.

Rishabh Sheth is an LL.M. graduate from the University of Durham ('18), where he focused on competition law.
Rishabh Sheth

Rishabh Sheth is an LL.M. graduate from the University of Durham (’18), where he focused on competition law.

In this FPA, the ILS Pune graduate (’17) discusses the reasons behind choosing Durham, the job market in the UK, educational loans, and a whole lot more.

As a law student, when did you start considering applying for an LLM? And did you consider working for a few years after your LLB before enrolling for an LLM? 

Since I had decided to go for an LL.M quite early I had started looking for universities casually since my first year. However, at the same time I was also ready to wait, get some experience in profession and then pursue LL.M.

But since I had enrolled at Durham University and got an opportunity, I decided to go for my LL.M immediately.

How did you go about selecting where to apply, and what got you to narrow down on Durham?  

In terms of selecting a university, it is very important to consider the rankings of the department (in our case say Law) and then look at the name of the university. For instance, Oxford University might be excellent in terms of overall ranking as a university, but there may be an instance where a specific department has excellent reputation like Kings College or UCL for Antitrust.

I had received offers from Queen Mary, University of Glasgow, University of Nottingham, and Durham. I narrowed to Durham owing to its reputation, collegiate system, course (i.e., Corporate Law), flexibility in choice of subjects and last but quite important, the fees.

Any advice on how to go about the application process itself?

I read the process in and out and then approached a consultant to apply for my candidature. While applying to any university, I would request prospective candidates to attain clarity on what are their aspirations and reflect them in their statement of purpose. Avoid extra fancy and flowery language. Keep you statement of purpose “original”.

Did you apply for/receive financial aid?   

Yes, since I had budget constraints, I applied to a nationalised bank for education loan. I availed a scheme by Central Government, the “Pradhan Mantri Padho Pradesh” scheme.  In addition, I ensured that I apply to a university where living costs do not haunt me. And finally, I worked part-time during my term time and full-time during vacations.

How was your LLM experience? What were some of the more challenging aspects of the LL.M program?

There are several challenging aspects for an LL.M. For me it was difficult to juggle my part time job (which was from 11-4 at night) and ensure that I utilize the resources provided by the university.

The curriculum of a university might not be very challenging, but nothing stops a student from accessing the library resources and write a scholarly article. So it is imperative upon the student to have a greed in mind in terms of acquiring knowledge as much of the course is on research and academics.

What is your reading of the employment opportunities available to international LLM graduates in the UK?

An LL.M from abroad is not a ticket to a foreign law firm. The chances are very difficult. To give you some perspective, for the 80 training contracts given by Freshfields every year, more than 2,000 applications are received out of which 400 are called to the office and after several rounds of interviews and assessments, these contracts are given.

In addition, upon receiving a training contract the candidate is required to complete a graduate diploma course for a year, legal practitioner’s contract for 6 months, 2 years as a trainee solicitor and then begin as an Associate.

This is the reason why training contracts are given 2 years in advance. However, everything is sponsored by the firm and maintenance grant is also provided.

To conclude, the opportunity is less and time consuming, on the contrary upon gaining experience in an Indian law firm (say 4-5 years) a person may get an opportunity because it becomes easy for a foreign law firm to deal with transactions in India.

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

I request students to get clarity on thoughts. I have seen students burning their parent’s cash in London and then at the end of the course they are extremely worried about recovering the costs specially with the pay-scale in India. If you are granted an opportunity to work, please do so.

Get some experience and then go for an LL.M, because an LL.M is masters in a specific field of law and you can be sure of what you want to master, only after working in the profession.