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.
Spriha Bhandari is an 2018 graduate of Cornell Tech, completing the Master of Laws in Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship degree. She enrolled for this course two years after graduating from Guru Gobind IP University, and is currently working on “Just”, a project to introduce the use of technology in the justice delivery system. In this FPA, the third-generation lawyer discusses the fairly new LL.M. programme at Cornell Tech, her expectations from a foreign LL.M., and a whole lot more.
The Cornell Tech LLM is a fairly new programme – what drew your attention to this course?
Yes, it is a fairly new programme, and in fact, I hadn’t heard of it until July 2016. At the time, I was clerking with a Judge at the Delhi High Court and I also had the opportunity to do pro bono work as an outside general counsel/legal advisor for a friend’s startup (Pravaig Motors).
It was my stint with Pravaig Motors that brought me to the realization that I wanted to be in the space of law for technology, which eventually led me to stumble upon Cornell Tech’s LLM.
“Cornell Tech is the only post grad school that allows one to pursue an LLM which is completely centred around technology.”
Cornell Tech is the only post grad school that allows one to pursue an LLM which is completely centred around technology. In other words, at Cornell Tech, one would study law from the standpoint of technology and entrepreneurship, making one a startup lawyer, technology lawyer, or in some cases, a legal tech entrepreneur like what happened in my case.
Given the specialised nature of your interest, what were some of the other schools that you applied to (if any)?
Oddly enough, I only applied to Cornell Tech. Other schools, like NYU, UCLA, and Stanford etc. have a specialized LLM in technology and other related subjects too, but what really hit home for me was Cornell Tech’s Studio which was unique only to Cornell.
Cornell Tech’s Studio is honestly where 50% of the magic of Cornell Tech happens (rest 50% is of course in one’s LLM classes).
The Studio caters to one’s entrepreneurial side, where I picked up skills of product management, product design, and top of the industry methods like sprints, lean and agile prototyping etc.
Looking back, what were your expectations from this particular LLM at Cornell Tech? And were these met?
To be honest, almost a year and a half after graduation, there is nothing I can say that I expected which was not delivered by the school. In fact, I gained some lifelong mentors – my professors, who are experts in their fields, and I gained the right skillset that one needs to have as a legal tech entrepreneur/innovator.
The Studio, I should mention, especially in the Spring Semester, when students are supposed to team up for taking forward their own ideas, is a ground for very intensive learning.
All in all, I think I gained much more than I even could have expected from the school.
When it came to the application process, any advice you would have for prospective applicants?
I firmly believe that although the application process can be very taxing, I have urged, and will continue to urge every applicant to just follow one principle- be honest about what you want and who you are. I say this because no matter who the applicant is and who the reader is, the real personality shines through every sentence that one writes in the application.
“I have urged, and will continue to urge every applicant to just follow one principle- be honest about what you want and who you are.”
Also, from my experience and from that of others that I have heard, is that the application process is cathartic and that is sure to benefit the applicant in unimaginable ways.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid?
I received a 20% fee waiver.
How was the LLM experience itself? May be difficult but what were some of the most memorable memories made along the way?
The experience of Cornell Tech was very unique because it had so much to offer, from design thinking to computer programming, startup lawyer-ing, we did everything. I personally came in touch with the latest trends that will define the future of the world, the future of banking, law, basically any and every field we can think of.
Be it the experience of being taught by the best tech and startup lawyers from WSGR and Cooley, the best venture capitalists like David Tisch or the opportunity of having conversations with entrepreneurs who slept only 4 hours every day, 4 years in with billion dollar companies, for instance, were all unparalleled. I had the pleasure of working with brilliant engineers and MBAs and we created a chatbot for peer to peer cash to digital to cash transactions.
If I had to pick the most memorable experience, it would be the genesis of the idea behind my products today, which happened at Cornell Tech. I pitched the idea before around one hundred VCs and I made it to the top 10 in the Startup Awards, 2018.
Of course, I cultivated some very beautiful friendships, and gained some lifelong mentors, which remains incomparable to any and everything else.
What is your reading of the employment opportunities of international LLM graduates in the US?
I believe that a barometric reading of the market without clarity of one’s mind and aim is futile.
I know of no better market personally than the US for legal tech, technology law and startup law, and from my experience, it is not too hard to land a good offer.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law grad who may be considering a master’s abroad?
Again, one needs to be clear about the aim, so that would be one piece of advice to bear in mind whilst choosing a course and university. I also believe that living and studying in a country like the US helps one grow like nothing else.
Having said that, I do believe that we need good talent in the country for impactful change to happen, so I do tend to urge people to give back to the country for sure at some point in their careers at least.
“I do believe that we need good talent in the country for impactful change to happen, so I do tend to urge people to give back to the country for sure at some point in their careers at least.”
If you would like Amicus Partners to provide some personalised advice on your LLM applications, please fill in this form and we shall get back to you as soon as possible.