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.

Shiv Sidharth recently graduated with an LL.M. in International Law from The Fletcher School, Tufts University. 
Shiv Sidharth (LL.M. ’20, The Fletcher School)

Shiv Sidharth recently graduated with an LL.M. in International Law from The Fletcher School, Tufts University.  In this FPA, the 2018 graduate of CNLU Patna discusses the reasons for choosing this particular programme, the LL.M. experience itself, and a whole lot more.

The Fletcher School is a very, very interesting choice – what got you interested in International Law? When did you start considering a foreign LL.M.?

Indeed, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is undoubtedly a very interesting choice for me as it is the oldest IR (International Relations) School in the United States and International Law (IL) and IR are closely linked with each other.

Further a successful implementation and enforcement of International Law is very much dependent on comprehensive understanding of global affairs and international relations as well as crafty use of diplomacy. You can build a strong foundation in public and private international law, while deepening knowledge in political science, history, business or economics.

I always took interest in global affairs and my interest for international law and relations solidified in my third year of law when I got the opportunity to study Public International Law. As a law student I always was inclined towards the legal aspect of international relations and diplomatic tradecraft, so gradually I started taking interest in IL including Int. Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, Comparative laws, etc.

I started planning for a foreign LL.M., when I was about to complete my fifth semester (third year) at Law School.

Coming back to the first question, why Fletchers? Did you also consider applying for the MALD?

I think it’s a very interesting question that why I chose Fletcher, specially when it’s not even a proper law school (per se) as recognized by the American Bar Association. Fletcher is basically an IR School and in the previous question I partially answered the question.

Further, the reason for choosing Fletcher is the flexibility in choosing courses from the three main divisions, namely International Law and Order; Diplomacy, History and Politics; and Economics and International Business.

Also, you have the option of cross registration with the Harvard University, where you can study one course per semester (for the LL.M.) from any of the schools of Harvard, whether it’s Harvard Law School, or Harvard Kennedy School, or Harvard Business School, and so on. Fletcher is really a good option for international law and related studies. But always mind, it’s not a recognized law school.

Actually, I didn’t consider for the MALD (MA in Law & Diplomacy) as I never intended to invest 2 years for a Master’s degree and MALD is not a law degree. But I would suggest to the prospective students who want to get expertise in law, IR and diplomacy with a bachelor’s degree in law, or a public policy degree they can consider the MALD degree program.

I must say, it’s one of the best as well as an unique degree program in the world because for the 4 semesters who can literally design your program and area of specialization, whether you want to go for public relations, policy research, environmental studies, law & politics, gender & religion studies, international relations and use of force in international politics, or a mixed degree with different smaller specializations.

But don’t get confused in the MALD program where you have plenty of specialized fields available to study and get expertise, because many students get confused in-between.

Any advice on how to approach the application process at Fletchers? How much time do you think one should spend on the application itself? 

To the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive rule to approach the application process. I would suggest, just go through the whole process and practice once before making a final application because Fletcher has a different application process (different from the law schools).

As far as I can recall one needs to furnish atleast 3 letters of recommendations (2 – academic and 1 – professional), along with an updated CV and descriptive essays (not typically SOPs), e.g. one general essay outlining your interest and motives, etc. for the course. Further you need to furnish two short essays, like in which city you’re born and why it matters to you most? Why you want to join Fletcher? ….. etc.

I think it’s difficult to answer that how much time one should spend on the application process as it’s very subjective thing – it depends on the candidate. But I think one month is enough (when you have all ideas about your future prospects, and you’ve done your homework regarding School selection).

It could be even less than a month if you’re applying to similar schools as you’re only required to get the specific recommendations and sharpen your expressions and clarity for the SOP or the application essays in a particular way.

Did you apply for/receive financial aid? 

Yes, I applied for the financial aid. This is separately from the program application. You have to opt that whether you want an aid or not. I got $9,000 as aid. But it is needs based and varies with the financial conditions of the students. You have to furnish your financial condition while applying for the aid.

Although, there are some other Fletcher scholarships or aid available where they fully waive the tuition and, in some cases, the entire expense.

Previous Fletcher LL.M. grads have benefitted from the “multi-faceted faculty” at Fletchers – what would you say were some of the highlights of your LL.M. experience? 

I think the greatest asset to Fletcher is a very strong alumni network, which is only possible due to the multi-faceted faculty. Fletcher has really a great pool of faculties, which are at par with any other elite institution around the world, in terms of academics and professional expertise.

I just not benefitted from them, rather I learnt a lot of things from them in a holistic way including academics, professionalism, loving the subject-matter, legal etiquettes, etc.

I really had a great experience in my LL.M. program because I got the guidance of the highly equipped faculties. They just didn’t help me in academics, but they also guided me for course selection, thesis/research topic selection, career opportunities, future course of action, higher study prospects, etc.

I always felt that I’m studying in a top Law School. I still remember how I always bothered my law professors particularly with my questions related to US politics and laws particularly the Trump Impeachment Trial, US Supreme Court rulings, US foreign policy, Massachusetts State laws, etc. and they happily answered my queries and at the same time encouraged me to ask more deeper questions.

How did the Covid pandemic affect your LL.M. studies? 

Undoubtedly, the Covid pandemic has negatively affected my LL.M. studies, particularly the career prospects in the US. I immediately came back to India at closure of my school campus and also faced some logistical problems.

I didn’t find much difficulty in transition to online classes in the last two months of my LL.M. program except some technical problems. The professors were super flexible with the students’ needs.

But I must say that online mode can never substitute the real classroom experience and I personally felt that online classes are not enough for an overall learning process, especially when you’re on the verge of completing your program.

Looking ahead, how do you plan on using the LL.M. for your own professional growth? 

We all are facing a difficult and uneasy time and I’m not an exception. As I mentioned previously this pandemic has totally changed my career plans.

After my LL.M., I wanted to work in the International Organizations e.g. the UN, the ICRC or IGOs. Further I want to continue my studies and pursue a PhD or SJD. But I must say these things are contingent and depend upon the coming 4-5 months. I’ve also applied for some foreign fellowships in Human Rights. I have inclinations towards academics and research.

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

Again, it’s a very difficult to answer this question because now-a-days, the Indian law graduates have plenty of options to consider for a master’s abroad. Every legal sub-field has a different approach process. So, I’ll limit my self to answer the question in a generalized way.

The most important thing according to me is to ask ‘WHY’, why you want to pursue an LL.M. from abroad – what you want to learn, what professional benefits you want to reap from it, how you’re going to build your career based upon that degree, and so on.

Then obviously you’ll have some other pertinent questions related to (sub) area of interest, school selection, how you’re going to finance your study, etc.

I’m saying so because I personally know some of foreign degree holders who are still confused as to what to do with their degrees or what professional recourse they should take.

You cannot afford to make mistakes at a crucial juncture of your professional life.

In a nutshell, please do your homework – consult your professors, talk to your parents, friends, alumni, LL.M. degree holders, etc, do extensive research on courses and schools, consider contingencies (e.g. Corona pandemic). Just don’t get confused (also please don’t take advice from everyone) because if you’re going to take a decision out of hundreds of options, aim for the best.

 

 


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