First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of law graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (an LLM or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
Prerna Deep has completed an LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice from the University of Edinburgh Law School, where she was also the recipient of the British Council GREAT scholarship.
In this FPA, she discusses her reasons for opting for a foreign LLM, the GREAT scholarship application process, and a whole lot more.
What prompted you to study law at CLC? And, looking back, was a foundation in English literature useful during your time as a law student?
Studying English Honours at the Miranda House, University of Delhi was the turning point of my life. My classmates and professors were terrific and supported my aspirations. I learned to be independent and understood what I wanted in life.
I became conscious that I never wanted to be a doctor but to work in a profession that would serve people and make a significant difference in their lives. I then chanced upon law.
My academic literature coursework included ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare, ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka, and ‘Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky,’ to name a few, which strengthened my profound conviction to study law.
Driven by my instinct for community service, I worked at the college unit of ‘Leaders for Tomorrow,’ an organization where I was in charge of conducting donation drives, analysing primary problems of society, and helping organise events with professionals across the nation. It drilled into me the ways and mannerisms of formal communication as I interacted with eminent lawyers and jurors.
I also spoke to some seniors from school and college who went to pursue law after graduation, and towards the end of my final year, I knew that law was my true calling, and I wanted to be a lawyer.
When did you decide to apply for a foreign LL.M.? What were some of the criteria you used to shortlist the schools to apply to?
After three years of law, I knew nothing piqued my curiosity like criminal law. I absolutely loved my criminal law coursework and internships and decided to study the subject in depth before taking a full-time legal role.
Hence, I chose to pursue LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
Applying for LLM abroad is a challenge in itself as it is a time-consuming and intense process. I gave substantial time and consideration to my University application and scholarship applications.
After multiple rounds of applications, tests, and interviews, I finally made it, and it was worth all the pain.
The destination of LLM location is subjective on many factors and one’s preference. However, one could narrow it down by considering some crucial facets like country, programme, university, finances, area of practice, and future career plans.
I primarily focused on University ranking, course structure and scholarships.
Could you tell us a bit about the British Council GREAT scholarship? Any advice on the application process?
GREAT scholarships are scholarships to study at UK universities across various subjects for students from 18 countries. Each Scholarship is worth a minimum of £10,000 towards tuition fees for a one-year postgraduate course.
Each Scholarship is jointly funded by the UK government’s GREAT Britain Campaign and the British Council with participating UK higher education institutions.
My Scholarship covered the total tuition fees for my LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Edinburgh. Here is a brief overview of my scholarship process.
I applied to the University of Edinburgh and received a conditional offer letter (since I was a final year law student) in February, which I accepted.
In March, I received an email from the University stating that they will nominate one candidate for the GREAT Scholarship to the British Council (only University nominates their best candidate, you cannot directly apply for it). If I would like to be considered for it, I should give my application which I did. After a month, I received a letter from the University that they had selected my application and were nominating me to the British Council for Scholarship.
I received an email from the British Council inviting my application for the Scholarship. Now, I was competing with all the best and all-nominated candidates across universities in the UK. I submitted my application.
A month later, I received a letter saying my written application was successful, and now I have to appear for an interview which is the final stage. The interview had a panel discussion and one-on-one chat, which I gave. Then about 15 days later, I received my scholarship result from the British Council and my scholarship letter. One of the best moments of my life.
Looking back, what were some of the most rewarding aspects of the LL.M. at Edinburgh? How different was the LL.M. experience from your LL.B. experience at CLC?
The law seminars and the interactive tutorial-based comparative academic approach is a unique teaching method that fascinated me about Edinburgh Law School.
The exuberant and diverse background of students that the University caters to and the lecturers and speakers of international repute further allowed me to gain a distinct outlook and put forth my analysis.
I tried to make the most of my master’s student life at the University of Edinburgh. I participated in many societies and activities. I loved my challenging roles, such as Chief Copy editor at the Edinburgh Student Law Review and Chair of Alumni and Community Relations at the Postgraduate Law Society. I absolutely adored my time dancing at the Edinburgh University Tango Society and participating in various workshops.
I also thoroughly enjoyed my dissertation time at the Law School. It was the first time I was creating a 10,000 words research piece. With the support of my Supervisor, I made a special request to the University of Edinburgh Law School to incorporate empirical research in my dissertation which is usually not allowed at LLM level but after some training my request was accepted.
It made my dissertation really interesting and allowed me to speak with legal professionals and academicians from around the world.
The universities in the UK and India are very different. It is not an abstract difference but an overall 360-degree change in how education is perceived. These changes cannot be brought solely at the university level, but the education system would need a lot of reformation.
There are minor shifts that Indian law universities could adopt for the overall development of the student. The professors should encourage more interaction in the classes, let students submit their arguments and opinions without the fear of being rebuked about it.
The tutorials should be well implemented and inspire a scholarly discussion. The university could provide better guidance about future career options, be it a job or higher education. They could organise quality lectures and workshops to teach the students more than just textbook knowledge.
There is often a gap between what students learn in the classroom and the applied knowledge in the workplace. Conscious steps should be taken to bridge the gap and support the students from an early level.
How has the LL.M. helped you in your professional career?
As part of my LLM, I worked on an empirical research-based dissertation on “A Comparative Analysis of Independent Legal Representation for Complainers of Sexual Offences.” in which I secured a distinction.
I interacted with professionals and academicians from eight jurisdictions (India, France, Australia, Canada, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) which gave me an in depth understanding of how policies are framed and implemented across the globe.
As someone who is deeply passionate about legal policies I wanted an insight into the mind of a judge, whom I believe to be one of the most influential individuals in the legal system. As a law clerk, I am assisting the Judge in filling the gap in research and reasoning.
The research I contribute is also used in writing judgments and framing legal propositions. I am also a qualified advocate in the Indian Jurisdiction.
In 2020, during my LLM, I attended an interactive session at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, UK on Reform Policies of Criminal Justice System. Sharing the platform with other respectable dignitaries gave me an opportunity to share my opinions. Now, I have the opportunity, the knowledge and resources to work on the reforms.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
It is really easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out as a young law student. Pause and think about your priorities and career goals. Even if you are not sure about what you want after law school, it is okay. Explore your options, talk to your professors, seniors, course mates but decide for yourself.
You need to elaborate the database of all these conditions to choose the best course in the best law school for yourself. It is challenging and time-consuming.
I would recommend starting at least 2 years in advance; you would probably need to give IELTS, the applications are sent a year in advance of the course, and every university has its own requirements and procedures.
Make sure you have read everything correctly. Consult your professors, seniors and reach out to alumni of the college you are interested in.
Give your best, and don’t give up!
(This interview was conducted by our intern, Swati Sabharwal)