It would not be entirely incorrect to describe 2020 as a “learning experience” for those working in higher education. The fact of the matter is that in the midst of the mayhem, uncertainty, and financial and emotional stress that has been the very essence of the past year, there have been some learnings made. For the purpose of this short note, I will limit the learnings (and predictions) to those related to the international recruitment of LL.M. candidates from India.
Given the fact that Amicus Partners spends a considerable amount of time working with non-Indian law schools who are looking to build their profile in India, the year 2020 has provided a fair share of challenging and rewarding experiences. And it is on the basis of these learnings that this note has been made.
So, looking ahead, what does 2021 hold for international law schools who are looking to recruit from India?
Well, for one, I think there are a few things that are not going to change. For instance, there will be law schools whose requirements are greater visibility and awareness within Indian audiences. Typically, such institutions take up campaigns which last anywhere from one to three months and are able to meet their goals through banner campaigns and advertorial material.
Now, there is some real value here, especially for law schools which have low levels of recall in India. Or even law schools that have managed to generate some interest from India and are now looking to ramp up numbers.
Two, I think that there is going to be an increased push towards diversification of recruitment strategies in both, width and depth.
What I mean by this is that recruitment strategies are going to be directed towards new, emerging geographies. In the Indian context, this could either mean looking at new regions such as eastern India for instance, or law schools whose graduates have not traditionally applied for an LL.M. abroad.
At an international scale, and this is based on where our readers come from, it does make sense to look at countries such as Nigeria, Bangladesh and Indonesia; coincidentally all three countries have been witnessing economic growth
So that is the “width” argument.
By “depth” I mean an increase in the target age group – I do think that law schools have a lot to benefit from reaching out to younger candidates, those who may fall into the pipeline a few years down the road. I will come back to this towards the end of this piece.
Three, I see law schools joining together to provide a common platform of sorts to attract the foreign trained LL.M. candidate. For instance, this one comprising highly ranked law schools in the US; I think a fair few of these are banding together for the first time.
Now while I am no fan of such one-off, online events, I do believe that if they are worked into a more long-term plan, such events can indeed yield high quality applicants.
Which brings me to my final predication: the long-term approach. This is a particularly exciting development, where you have law schools who are looking at recruitments from a long-term perspective i.e. with a timeline of (at least) two years.
Here, the question is not, “How many applications can we get this admissions cycle?” but it is, “How do we build relationships that might lead to applications?”
At its core, or so I would like to believe, recruitment is essentially about having an honest, meaningful conversation. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think you will get applications merely by having full-page (or their online equivalent) advertisements, holding webinars on why anyone should apply to a particular law school, or through user-friendly and/or snazzy websites. (As an aside, more intuitive websites would be a great place to start)
Instead, law schools will need to engage with prospective applicants over a longer period of time, providing the freedom for a symbiotic relationship to be built. Such a relationship could be based on exchange of expertise (faculty/student exchange), or mentorship (online internships) or flagship events (like moot courts and the like).
And this is not as idealistic as it may seem. In fact, I have seen this work to great effect with Penn State Law and Nirma University with a number of ILNU graduates opting for their master’s at Penn State, with many of them receiving significant financial aid.
Now, will international law schools have the wherewithal, finances, and most importantly, the patience to start this conversation?
I certainly think so. Most graduate admission teams members instinctively know that recruitment requires a long-term investment.
And this, for me personally, is where the future really lies. Or rather, where the future of Amicus Partner’s consultancy vertical lies. Which, in turn, leads me to ask the following questions:
Can we at Amicus Partners get foreign law schools to invest long-term, in the Indian law graduate? Can we build mechanisms to facilitate exchange of knowledge, of expertise even before the LL.M. application itself? In other words, can we build a model of recruitment where the focus is purely on the means, and not the end?
I like to think we can.
And this year is the perfect time to start.