First Person Accounts: Ishani Dash on the LL.M. at NYU School of Law

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.

Ishani Dash is a 2016 law graduate from WBNUJS who is currently enrolled in the LL.M. programme at the NYU School of Law.  In this FPA, she discusses how she went about choosing just where to apply, the challenges of studying after working for a while, and a lot more. 

Ishani Das is a 2016 law graduate from WBNUJS who is currently enrolled in the LL.M. programme at NYU School of Law
Ishani Dash

You applied for your masters after a few years in the legal profession. Do you think this has helped you in the LLM program?

Yes, I think having a background where I have had first-hand experience of working as a lawyer helps, especially while writing applications for universities abroad. I also managed to get great recommendations from people I had previously worked with. Experience in the legal profession also helped in understanding the nuances of some of my courses.

In fact, I discovered that a lot of LLM students have had quite a bit of experience in their respective countries, with the average being around five years.

Having said that, I did face some difficulties in getting back into the student mode and reading for hours at a stretch. I found it hard to concentrate for a long time as I had lost that momentum after law school.

So, I’d suggest that whatever choice you make – it’s best to weigh the pros and cons, and do what’s right for you.

How did you go about selecting where to apply, and what got you to narrow down on the specific program at NYU?

I always knew that I was interested in laws like intellectual property, antitrust or technology – areas which are constantly evolving and would be worthwhile to study abroad. Having narrowed down what kind of programs I wanted, I checked out a lot of articles (especially on LLM guide) to see which were the best schools offering the programs of my choice. Then I prepared a list of schools with their deadlines and application requirements. Since even the application process can be expensive and time-taking, I wanted to apply to 2-3 universities per month, depending on their deadlines. 

I selected NYU for 3 main reasons: (i) NYU is one of the top universities in the world, particularly for the CIIL program that I am in; (ii) specific NYU professors I wanted to study under; and (iii) New York, and particularly the US is at the forefront when it comes to laws that I was interested in studying.

Another thing I did discover later was that NYU offered relevant courses which one could pass and be eligible to sit for the New York bar exam. Unlike California bar, in the state of New York, I have to take the minimum credits in certain courses to even apply for the New York bar.

This definitely helped make my decision easier. 

Any advice in connection with the application process? More specifically, sourcing recommendation letters, and getting the documentation in time? 

Well, like everyone else, I would suggest getting done with the recommendation letters way ahead of the deadline. I missed out on a couple of applications because of the delay in sending out the letters of recommendation. Sometimes, people who you have asked to recommend you may get unexpectedly busy or change their mind, so it’s best to apply much, much earlier. 

Separately, since I was planning to apply to European schools, I prepared and gave IELTS – academic (this is different from the immigration one). I think there is a requirement to score minimum marks in 4 different components, so I would suggest please do take it seriously. It’s also not cheap. 

With respect to the statements of purpose, I worked with a base draft, but made changes depending on the specific requirements of the university I was applying to. I didn’t really get my statements of purpose reviewed for my initial applications, but I think it’s a good idea to ask a couple of people to review it.

Ultimately, you know yourself best, so I would suggest make your statement as interesting as possible. Most people who apply to foreign universities are obviously very qualified, but you can stand out by making your statement both personal and interesting.

I feel simply highlighting all you have achieved may not be the best way to catch the reader’s attention – an anecdote or a heartfelt statement can go a long way. 

How has the LLM experience been? Any highlights that you wish to share? 

Before coming to NYU for my LLM, I had no idea it would be this hard! The experience of studying under professors who are the authorities in their courses is unparalleled.

We also have a number of guest lectures, a mix of different kinds of courses (seminar, doctrinal, clinics, etc.) and the environment is definitely much, much different from anything I had experienced during my law school years in India. It’s also rewarding to make friends with people from different parts of the world.

After having finished one semester at NYU, I would recommend one thing: do not take readings lightly. It’s so important to read the assignments in advance and participate in the lectures, to the extent possible. 

As for highlights, being in Manhattan has certainly been fun. I don’t think I need to sell New York to anyone, but yes, do keep your expectations reasonable. Studying abroad is tough, and will come with its own challenges and difficult periods of time.

Are you planning on taking the New York Bar? If so, do you have  any advice for LLM applicants on how to go about this process and effectively manage your time while studying during the LLM program?

Yes, I am planning to take the New York bar. I have not yet started preparing for the bar exam, but I have taken courses relevant to the bar exam. I think I will be in a better position to answer this question once I have taken (and successfully cleared) the New York bar.  

Also, sorry for veering off course, but how did you go about selecting where to stay – and any advice for prospective applicants searching for housing options? 

I decided to stay at the university housing for multiple reasons: (i) location (2 min. walk from both the law school buildings), (ii) safety and security (only residents and approved guests are allowed in), (iii) convenience (since it is a dorm, the University is responsible for repairs, so a lot of things get taken care of), (iv) NYU dorm-mate(s). It also helps that NYU charges a certain sum for wifi, water, electricity, etc. so I don’t have to calculate and pay additional fare. 

What is your reading of the recruitment possibilities for international LLM graduates in New York/the US in general?

Best to answer once I do get a job. From my current understanding, it really is very, very hard to get a job as an international LLM student in the U.S. Most places hire through summer internship programs, and the best possible way to secure a job is through extensive networking.

Sometimes, even if you have connections, they don’t always play out. Also, a lot of websites who want LLM graduates seek students with knowledge of Mandarin or Spanish, or those who have worked in international law firms.

However, the situation is not completely bleak and people do manage to get jobs. If nothing else, it should be easier to get jobs in India, or cities like London, Singapore, etc. 

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering an LLM abroad? 

The last piece of advice I would give is: if you have the finances, go for an LLM. If you don’t have the finances, weigh in all possible factors and make sure you are not digging a hole for yourself.

An LLM in the U.S. is really hard, so it is important to be completely sure before jumping in. 

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