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.
Niyati Jigyasi is a ’20 LL.M. graduate from Georgetown University Law Centre, where she completed the Taxation LL.M. In this FPA, the ’14 NLIU graduate discusses ways her reasons for applying to Georgetown, the LL.M. experience itself, rediscovering the love for studying, and a whole lot more.
Five years into your career, you opted for the LLM. What were some of your expectations from the LLM itself?
Doing Master’s was something I always wanted to do, so when I came to Georgetown University Law Center for my Taxation LL.M, some of the expectation which I had were- to study international as well as U.S Taxation Laws from the amazing professors at Georgetown, meet lawyers from other countries, meet U.S Tax professionals, improve my networking skills, make new friends and more importantly improve my international tax knowledge and skills.
With an interest in tax law, how did you go about selecting where to apply? What drew you to Georgetown in particular?
The first thing I did was to finalise the country to pursue my Master’s. When it comes to Taxation, there are only few universities abroad, which are best known for their Taxation LL.M program. I did an online research and read about the Taxation LL.M programs at various Universities.
While doing this research, I focused on the courses which are offered at the Universities, the other opportunities which are provided to students during the LL.M program and what ranking does that program hold on various websites. After doing my research, I also spoke to few graduates who went to U.S. to pursue their Taxation LL.M. After considering all these factors, I decided to pursue my LL.M from U.S.
Once I had finalized the country, I applied to about five Universities and got offers from two.
When I got the admission to Georgetown, I was kind off sure that I would go there as Georgetown has one of most prestigious Taxation LL.M program in the U.S. Georgetown is one of the few universities with the Externship program which gives LL.M students the opportunity to work with an organization during the academic year and get academic credits for the same.
Apart from this, Georgetown offers specialization certificates in various areas of Tax Law which one can opt for along with the LL.M. However, it becomes difficult for Indians to get any of this certification, as we also end up taking subjects for Bar Exam, but if planned properly one can manage to get the additional certificate as well.
Moreover, Georgetown in collaboration with NYU organizes the Taxation Interview Program– a job fair specifically arranged for the Taxation LL.M students.
I considered all these advantages of Georgetown in comparison to the other universities and decided to go with Georgetown. Moreover, the fact that I will get the opportunity to be right in center of the capital of the country with walking distance to Supreme Court, White House and Capitol Building is also something which drew me towards Georgetown.
Any advice on how to juggle work and the LLM applications? How early should one start with the application process?
Ohh that’s a really difficult task. Good Luck to all those who are doing that or are planning to do that! I feel working on LL.M applications is itself a huge task and when you have to do that along with a full-time job, it is hard. But take it from someone who has been there done that, if you are really focused and determined to pursue the LL.M, it is very much possible and the LL.M is worth the hard work and sleepless nights.
I started working around September and I had my first deadline in end of November. Trust me those 3 months were not enough. I don’t think that I had any weekends free during those 3 months. Either I was busy with my office work or was working on my LL.M applications.
I used to try and work after office hours whenever I had time and on almost all the weekends when I was not working. Going through various statements of purpose (SOPs) to get an idea as to what and how one should write helped me a lot. Being in Mumbai I had to travel almost an hour to work, so I used to utilize that time in cab/train/bus to just write down the points which I want to include in my SOP or used to read my drafts and mark wherever I want to make changes. Also having someone to review your drafts really helps.
I would definitely advice everyone to start working as early as possible as it gives you more time to perfect your SOP and get it reviewed from your friends and family and makes your life a bit easy. Also, one needs to keep in mind the documentation which is required to be sent to LSAC so if you start to work early, you do not have to worry about the procedural issues.
But if you are not able to do that, it is okay! Start as early as possible and at least 3 months prior to your first application deadline as according to me you will need at least that much time to get your documents processed as well as have a decent SOP in place.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid?
I applied for all the possible financial aids. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any financial aid either from Georgetown or any other organization. I got approximately 50% tuition fee waiver from the other university where I did not end up going.
I would advise anyone who is looking for getting the financial aid to keep a check on the scholarship applications as some applications have deadline prior to the university applications. Further, as per my understanding, apart from your credentials and applications, the letter of recommendations might also play important role in getting financial aids. I would suggest do your thorough research about the organization giving scholarship and submit the letter of recommendation keeping in mind the value which that letter of recommendation will hold before the organization.
As we are speaking about financial aid, I would like to use this forum to put across the point that its completely fine if you don’t get the financial aid, don’t get disheartened about it. I didn’t have any. I believe that you should not let finances come in between achieving your goals in life.
If you can get admission to the best Universities, you have the capability to take an education loan like I did and pay it off after graduation. The experiences I had in this one year was definitely worth all the stress I took of continuously questioning myself whether does it make sense to take such a huge loan for doing LL.M.
Take it from me, it might not make sense initially but it will make sense later on when you complete your LL.M. I think this investment was worth the experience and I am saying this even when I completed my LL.M in midst of a pandemic.
How has the LLM experience been? Were the pre-LLM expectations met?
Even though we 2020 graduates weren’t able to end our LL.M year the way we expected, it was still one of the best decisions I made. My experience has been great and overwhelming. I never ever expected that I will have such an amazing experience at Georgetown. The LL.M experience is not only about the subjects one studies or the prestigious degree, but it is also about the people you meet, the professors who eventually become your mentors, friends you make, the opportunity to meet and learn about the different cultures.
Personally, for me this experience went beyond my pre-LL.M expectations. I think I have grown as a person and as a lawyer. I realized that I don’t just like, but love, working on Taxation laws. I always used to consider myself as an Indirect Tax Attorney as that is what all I practiced in India and was always skeptical that I might not like the International Taxation and Income Taxation courses at Georgetown. But to my surprise, I loved those subjects as much as I loved my Indirect Taxation subjects.
While working for five years in India, a question always crossed my mind that do I really want to work as a Taxation Attorney all my life and I never had a clear answer to that. But now, I can say with all clarity that I want to be only a Taxation Attorney all my life and can do anything under the roof of Taxation. This year also introduced me to my newfound love for studying.
One of the common refrains we hear is that it is difficult to make the switch from working to studying – thoughts?
I can completely understand that. This was one of the biggest doubts I had when I decided to pursue by LL.M. But by the end of LL.M, I realized that I just love studying Tax Laws. I had taken some subjects for the New York Bar Exam but studying those subjects was definitely not as interesting as Tax Laws.
Attending the Summer Experience program at Georgetown helped me to get into the routine of studying when there is less pressure of reading and less events to attend. I would say if you choose the subjects which you like and which is the core of your practice area, you are able to relate more which makes studying easy and interesting.
It definitely takes some time to get into the routine, adjust in the new environment and specially the socratic method of studying. But with time you get used to that and it will be same as work just that you are no longer accountable to your partner or client but to yourself. So, with self-discipline and clear goal in mind, one can without a doubt go back to studying at any point of time. I had people who had worked way more years than me and when you have friends who are in the same position, together you all can get through the studies.
In fact, I think after working for few years, we all are more prepared to sit for those long hours of studying and attending back to back classes. Most of us are already in the habit of sitting for extended hours in the office or working late nights. We don’t have a typical 9-5 job.
So after sometime, the LL.M also becomes as full day job for us and we are used to doing that. The added advantage that this job comes with lot of breaks and you can decide what you want to work on! I considered each day as a full-time law firm job and that made it easy for me to study as well as attend other events at University.
What is your reading of the employment opportunities available to international LLM graduates in the US?
I wish had an answer to this question! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one has any clue when and how the economy will open and hiring freeze would be lifted. I just hope it happens soon. International students anyways have a lot of issues getting jobs in U.S. due to visa restrictions and this pandemic has just added another level difficulty in getting jobs here.
In a pre-COVID or a normal scenario, there can be opportunities available for international LL.M graduates in U.S., specifically Taxation LL.M. But with all the visa issues, it is difficult to convince the employers to hire international students as the employers are not open to sponsoring the international students for work visa.
With a Taxation LL.M from Georgetown or few other universities which are a part of TIP/TARE program, the chances of getting a job for an international LL.M graduates becomes a little less difficult. A university organized recruitment event only for Taxation LL.M graduates for job opportunities in the U.S., gives international students an opportunity to compete at equal level with the U.S students. I know there is an International Students Interview Program which is also a recruitment event specifically for international students, but that is mostly for opportunities outside U.S.
However, either it is through these events or otherwise, getting a job in U.S depends a lot on networking and sending tons of applications. It needs a lot of hard work and patience to get a job in U.S for international students. It is difficult but not impossible. With correct approach and determination, one might be able to get a job.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
I personally feel that having some good experience in India before going for Master’s abroad is very helpful in deciding the area of law in which you would want to get your LL.M. Having experience also builds up your resume and develops good credentials for your applications as well as for looking for jobs after LL.M. So, I would definitely suggest go for your Master’s after having some work experience.
But I definitely suggest if you are thinking about doing your Master’s, you should go for it. Financial investment, taking a break from work, doubts about whether you will be able to study or not, etc should not hold you back.
An LL.M will give you the experience which you would have never expected. The entire process of applications is tiring and stressful, but the kind of exposure you get during your one year of LL.M, at a personal and professional level, will make it all worth it. So, if you are considering about doing your Master’s abroad just start working on it as soon as possible. There is so much that awaits you, and you might have never even thought about it.
An LL.M from abroad is that experience which I would say every Indian law graduate should have, even if they never want to settle or work abroad.
This is one experience which would definitely make you a better lawyer and a better person