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.
Stutee Nag, a 2012 graduate of Panjab University, is currently working in New York City. After five years of working as a counsel in India, Stutee enrolled for the LL.M. in Intellectual Property at the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law.
In this FPA, she discusses the differences between working in the US and in India, her own LLM experience at Franklin Pierce, what prospective applicants ought to keep in mind, and a whole lot more.
Always interesting to learn about the Indian law graduates experiences of working in the US? How has the journey been thus far? What are some of the bigger differences you have noticed in the way in which lawyers work in India and in the US?
New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Naturally, it has a lot of scope for international lawyers. Unique challenges unfold at work every day and it is very stimulating to perform in a setup which is in stark contrast to the Indian legal system.
The primary difference between lawyers in India and the U.S. is that in India we still tend to be very “Victorian” in our ways. From our court etiquette to our drafting skills, one can still sense a lingering colonial impact. Lawyers in the U.S. operate in a relatively relaxed manner, which feels like a welcome change. However, whenever I get a chance to speak to lawyers back home, I do notice a shift in the overall demeanour and attitude of the younger lot.
The functioning of courts is very different here than in India, so that automatically sets American lawyers apart from their Indian counterparts. For instance, we do not have jury system in India. Discovery rules are way stronger in New York than in New Delhi. The amount of time that goes into preparation of one trial is significantly larger than that in India. Fewer cases move up to appellate level and very few cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Discovery rules are way stronger in New York than in New Delhi. The amount of time that goes into preparation of one trial is significantly larger than that in India. Fewer cases move up to appellate level and very few cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court.”
As a result, lawyers put their best foot forward at the trial level. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case with majority of the lawyers in India. Instead, we save our very best for the last.
However, the kind of workload that we, as Indian lawyers, are able to handle at a short notice and our ability to deliver even when under extreme pressure is something that I hope to retain for life.
Given the specialized nature of your interest, what were some of the schools you had shortlisted during the application process?
Franklin Pierce is the only law school that I applied to. Before starting the application process, I had various factors in mind and Franklin Pierce met them all:
- It offers a high-ranking IP program.
- It has a great alumni network in India and in the U.S.
- The length of the program is not tediously long.
- It is cost effective to live and study in New Hampshire.
- The faculty, the administrative staff and the students are extremely nice.
- New Hampshire is relatively closer to New York, where I eventually planned to go. So, it was likely for me to get more chances to visit New York even on a short notice.
Also, any advice on how one should go about the application itself?
Knowing what you want and sticking to it, makes all the difference. A strictly defined approach helps save valuable time, money and effort. Applying to ten different law schools and hoping to get through at least one is not the best way forward.
- Be thorough in your approach. Do the groundwork. Begin your homework at least one year before you hope to join an LL.M. course in the U.S.
- Narrow down your list of schools based on your requirements.
- Reach out to the faculty and/or the students of a particular law school. It will give you a chance to fairly assess the functioning of that school and help you take an informed decision.
- If possible, visit the campus prior to joining the school.
- Take the application process seriously. Make a sincere effort to write your statement of purpose. Be wary of silly grammatical mistakes.
How was the LLM experience at Franklin Pierce? What were some of the highlights along the way?
Franklin Pierce is a tight knit community of students and the faculty. So much so that at times it literally felt like one big family. I spent a very memorable time there and I learnt a lot from this whole experience (and not just about IP law).
I served as the Student Governor for the LL.M. class of 2018. I participated in moot competitions. I managed to reach out to some good law firms in New York through the faculty. It was a great networking experience altogether. In other words, I built the foundation of my career in the U.S. at Franklin Pierce itself. I made some great friends and I will always look back fondly at the time I spent in Franklin Pierce.
“I managed to reach out to some good law firms in New York through the faculty. It was a great networking experience altogether. In other words, I built the foundation of my career in the U.S. at Franklin Pierce itself”
Thanks to the international student advisor at Franklin Pierce, I found wonderful landlords. My house was just a stone’s throw from the law school and things went very smooth for me.
And lastly, what advice would you have for the Indian law graduate who is considering an LLM abroad?
Back home we often hear that there is no scope for an Indian lawyer in the U.S. That is not entirely correct. However, having said that, I would also like to add that it is not a cake walk either.
First of all, get over the notion of “limited scope”. Because what may be perceived as limited scope by some, is exactly what sets you apart. As a lawyer licensed to practice in another country you have rather unique credentials to offer in cities like New York. The key is to create your own niche in whichever field you choose to work in.
“As a lawyer licensed to practice in another country you have rather unique credentials to offer in cities like New York. The key is to create your own niche in whichever field you choose to work in.”
Secondly, don’t be in a rush to do an LL.M. as soon as you graduate from your law school in India. It serves more purpose to pursue a master’s degree after having gained some sort of credible work experience. It gives you a much better professional understanding of things and you are probably better placed to secure a job afterwards.
Be clear from the start as to what your future goals are. That is whether you want to pursue an international career or if you wish to go back to India once you finish your program. There is no wrong choice but a clear-headed approach will make things much simpler for you.
Don’t be afraid to network.
Be mindful towards all the immigration mumbo jumbo that you may have to master, especially if you choose to stay in the U.S. after finishing your course. Keep in mind that even after doing everything right there is a huge “luck” factor involved too. One such example is the H1B lottery.
Lastly, and most importantly, always keep a positive attitude towards things. If you are sincere and professional in your approach, one way or the other, things will eventually work out for you. The secret is to stay motivated.
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