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.
Sindana Ulaganathan is a 2019 graduate of the Institute for Law & Finance (Goethe University Frankfurt) where she completed the LL.M. Finance. She enrolled for the masters about four years after completing her law from ILS Pune.
In this FPA, Sindana shares her experience at the ILF, what prompted her to enrol for an LL.M., and a whole lot more.
How did you come across the Institute for Law & Finance? When you were looking at postgraduate studies, what were the other schools/programmes that you shortlisted?
While I was working as a Manager at the Corporate Legal Group of ICICI Bank , I grew to enjoy working in the field of banking and finance law. Therefore, about four years into my stint at ICICI Bank, I was actively on the lookout for LL.M. programs that specialised in banking and finance law.
During the course of my research, I learnt that the LL.M. in Finance program at the Institute for Law and Finance was ranked highly, and was designed to incorporate a practical approach. I had also shortlisted the Advanced LL.M. in Law and Finance program at Leiden University, Netherlands and the International Financial Law LL.M. program at King’s College, London.
The timing of an LLM is quite interesting – was there any specific instance that convinced you it was time for an LLM? Or was it just a series of incidents?
As far as I was concerned, an LL.M. was not necessarily to be seen as a means to an end, but an end in itself. This was purely because of the personal and professional development invariable to an LL.M. from a reputed institution. Therefore, an LL.M. was always on my mind right from when I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in law in India.
However, immediately after undergraduate studies, I had to choose between accepting a full time position at ICICI Bank and pursuing an LL.M. While I was sure of my intention to pursue an LL.M., I was still unsure of the exact field that I wanted to pursue my LL.M. in and so I chose to work at ICICI Bank.
Looking back now, I believe it was a good decision to work for a few years before pursuing an LL.M. program since one gains greater clarity on the area of law that one is interested in.
“Looking back now, I believe it was a good decision to work for a few years before pursuing an LL.M. program since one gains greater clarity on the area of law that one is interested in.”
After a little over four years of gaining some work experience, I decided it was time to start applying to universities.
What were some of your expectations from the LLM itself? And, looking back, were they met?
From a first reading of the description of the courses offered and based on the fact that only about 60 students are admitted each year, I expected the LL.M. Finance program to be competitive and challenging.
I also expected the course to be practically oriented since most of the courses were being taught by working professionals and the course structure included a mandatory internship.
One of the prime reasons I chose this program was its interdisciplinary structure with the option to choose from both law and finance subjects. In retrospect, my expectations were well and truly exceeded. The program helped reinforce my learnings, and acquire a more comprehensive understanding of various aspects of banking and finance.
Given the relatively short nature of the course, how do you think international LLM graduates can make the most out of the nine odd months?
Some of the most fascinating experiences of an LL.M. program are the classroom lectures and discussions. It is helpful to keep up with the course readings before class in order to follow the lectures and participate in discussions.
And of course, it goes without saying that the best experiences are had outside classrooms. The exposure to different cultures from across the world that you receive by making new friends and travelling is unparalleled. I believe these experiences are just as important as the studying itself.
“The exposure to different cultures from across the world that you receive by making new friends and travelling is unparalleled.”
It is important to have fun amidst all the readings, exam preparations and theses writing.
Could you tell us a bit about how the internships are set up in the LL.M. programme?
Since the LL.M. Finance program requires students to complete a mandatory internship, there is a specific team dedicated to helping students finding an internship of their choice.
We were required to choose the type of internship – in a law firm or a bank or a regulator – and provide three choices from amongst a list of firms willing to offer internship opportunities.
Thanks to this process, although I had to wait quite a bit to hear from the firms I had applied to, it was relatively easier for me to find an internship. Since these internships could lead to potential employment opportunities, I would advise future applicants who are interested in pursuing a career in Frankfurt to think prospectively and apply to teams and firms/banks that they would like to secure a job offer at.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering a master’s abroad?
I believe a master’s abroad is an investment in itself and it is important to determine one’s personal interests and reasons for pursuing it. This helps choose an LL.M. program that satisfies these individual interests.
For example, one may wish to pursue an LLM abroad to dive into policy making or enter the elite field of academia or like in my case, simply to gain more exposure and insight in one’s area of interest.
Therefore, it is essential that one is aware of the specific reasons for pursuing an LL.M. abroad.