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.
Angela Dsouza is a 2019 LL.M. graduate of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) where she opted for the Intellectual Property LL.M. In this FPA, she discusses why she opted for an LL.M. right after her undergraduate degree from Christ (Deemed) University, the differences in the learning experiences, the LL.M. application itself, and a whole lot more.
At what point in your undergraduate program did you decide to do a Master’s? And how early did you begin the application process?
My decision to pursue a Master’s in intellectual property law largely stemmed from the experience that I gained from internships in the third year of my law school program. During the third year, I had the opportunity to intern with an IP law firm as well as the Centre for Intellectual Property Research and Advocacy, National Law School of India University Bangalore.
Both these internships not only enabled me to acquaint myself with intellectual property law but also allowed me to gain an insight into the plausible career options that one may opt for through the pursuit of intellectual property law, in this case, legal practice and research respectively.
My experience, therefore, sparked my interest in the subject, and the same was only bolstered by IP law and optional subjects such as copyright law being a part of the undergraduate curriculum. This resulted in me wanting to pursue a career in intellectual property law, thereby motivating me to pursue a Masters in the same.
The application process began in the penultimate year of law school by actively researching about plausible universities, the courses offered by them, the course structure, and the pedagogy. In pursuance of the same, I attended several university/ education fairs that were conducted by various organizations.
Participation in these fairs proved to be extremely beneficial; not only did they enable me to gain further information about prospective universities and have my queries answered, but they also allowed me to interact with the members of the admissions team of different universities. This in turn allowed me to gain a better insight into the admission process as well as learn about life at the university.
This was then followed by the drafting and submitting of applications and other necessary documents, including but not limited to the Statement of Purpose, writing samples, etc. (as the case may be).
I chose to apply early and was able to secure a conditional offer in November 2017 (almost nine months before the start of the course).
Given the specialized nature of your LL.M., what were the other schools that you applied to? What got you to narrow down on QMUL?
Apart from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), I chose to apply to the University of Leeds, University of Glasgow, University of Kent, Trinity College Dublin, and King’s College of London. I was able to secure an offer from all of them, except for King’s College of London.
While each of the universities that I received an offer from had an excellent curriculum backed by a highly-qualified faculty, the subjects offered by QMUL played a key factor in my decision to narrow down on QMUL. The University offers a plethora of courses under the gamut of intellectual property law; the courses range from traditional subsets of IP law such as Geographical Indications and Trade Mark Law to contemporary areas such as Music Industry Contracts, Intellectual Property Taxation, and Digital Intellectual Property Law.
The course options, therefore, not only present an exciting meld but also allow students the opportunity to opt for a bespoke course by choosing subjects that align with their interests and career motivations.
Besides, the events conducted by the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) which include guest lectures, visit to a law firm, etc. not only allow students to better hone their skills but also provide many networking opportunities. This too played an important factor in narrowing down to QMUL to pursue my Master’s.
Did you apply for or receive financial aid?
While I did apply for financial aid, I was unable to meet the requisites for the same and therefore, did not receive it.
Looking back, what were some of the bigger differences between your undergraduate and postgraduate learning experiences?
At the outset, I wish to state that the following answer is solely based on my experience and it does not, in any way, intend to undermine the curriculum or pedagogy of any specific university or Indian universities in general.
My postgraduate experience has been very different from my undergraduate learning experience. For instance, as previously stated, the postgraduate course offered students to choose from a variety of subjects per their interests and career motivations. On the contrary, while certain subjects were mandatory during the undergraduate program, the optional subjects offered were rather limited in number and at times, did not cater to the interests of the students.
The greatest difference, however, lay with how classes were conducted and the examination structure/ process. The lectures were always interactive with the professors constantly encouraging discussions on the topic for the day. Further, since the class comprised of students from different nationalities, discussions often entailed glimpses of the law from the respective nations, thereby allowing students to garner a global outlook on the different aspects of intellectual property law.
The examinations entailed one of the following methods – a traditional examination (open book/ closed book), a take-home test, or a paper submission. All these methods allowed for students to think outside the box (through problem-based questions and contemporary topics), thereby encouraging them to draw from their experiences and respective national laws to present their opinions and further their research and discussion on the topic in consideration.
How do you think the LL.M. helped you in your personal and professional growth?
The LL.M. experience proved to be pivotal to my personal and professional growth. For starters, traveling to London for the course happened to be the first time that I was traveling alone. As a consequence, it enabled me to gain confidence and not be fazed in case of eventualities. Further, living in London allowed me to hone my skills in managing time and finances.
Considering professional growth, the course was vital in bolstering my research and writing skills. Also, the varied nature of the subjects offered allowed me to acquaint myself with the diverse areas of intellectual property law, thereby expanding my knowledge on the subject. Lastly, the events organized by the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) allowed me to partake in different activities and network with people from different areas of the legal industry.
What were some of your expectations from the LL.M. and were these expectations met?
My expectations from the LL.M. program were largely centered around the course and its wide range of subjects, and I must say that the program surpassed my expectations. Not only did the program allow me to choose from a wide range of interesting subjects, but the experience of studying the same was also noteworthy.
For instance, in the second semester of the course, I opted for the subject titled Music Industry Contracts. As a part of the course, we had guest lectures from various members of the music industry, including but not limited to artists, artist managers, and even lawyers working with Warner Brothers. This not only allowed us to gain an insight into their perspective and concerns with respect to contracts that form an integral part of the music industry but also allowed us an opportunity to network with them.
Likewise, in the Law of Geographical Indications class, students of different nationalities presented on the prevailing GI laws of their nations while also sharing traditional food from their nations that have acquired a GI tag.
To put it succinctly, I expected the course to be engaging and intellectually stimulating, and it most certainly was.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a foreign Master’s?
I would say that the first thing that a future applicant or candidate should be mindful of while considering a foreign Master’s is to introspect and have a clear idea of their career motivations and the course that they wish to opt for.
While an LL.M. is indeed valuable, one cannot deny that the same is a costly affair and therefore, adequate thought must be put into considering the course of choice.
Second, it is essential that one conducts proper research of the prospective universities and narrow it down to a select list of universities to apply to. Very often, to have a back-up plan, students tend to apply to a wide number of universities. This proves detrimental for several reasons; not only does it increase the labor through the submission of multiple applications, but it may also result in a decline in the quality of applications that are submitted by an individual.
Therefore, I believe that it is ideal that one has a select list of universities and ensure that the applications and necessary documents submitted to the same are well drafted. In light of the same, it is also essential to note that the Statement of Purpose submitted to each university should be customized according to the university and one should avoid having a general Statement of Purpose that applies to all universities. The Office of Admissions does read the Statement of Purpose and it is, therefore, vital that one clearly express their intent to study in that specific university.
Lastly, I would say that it is ideal that one apply as early as possible to avoid last-minute hassles, delays, and to leave ample time to choose between different universities in the event of multiple applications and offers.