As most readers know by now, First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued, or are currently pursuing, a post-graduate course (be it an LL.M. or otherwise) from different schools across the world.
The FPA (International) is meant to broaden this scope somewhat, getting non-Indian law graduates to discuss their LL.M. experiences in different law schools from across the world. The idea behind the FPA(I) interviews is to help the Indian law graduate better understand her potential cohort, and also expand the LLM conversation in general.
Kavell Joseph graduated with an LLM from the American University Washington College of Law in 2016. Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago (where she is admitted as an attorney), Kavell has worked with a number of World Bank Group organisations over the years following her LLM. In this FPA, she discusses her reasons for opting for the AUWCL LLM, thoughts on finding employment in the US, and a whole lot more.
How early on in your life were you considering a foreign LLM? After completing the LEC, how did you go about selecting where to apply, and what were the schools you shortlisted?
Before attending Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) for my Legal Education Certificate (LEC) in Trinidad and Tobago, I had no plans to complete a foreign LLM. However, I have always enjoyed international law and succeeded in those areas of law during my three-year LLB undergraduate law program.
My goal was to be a practicing lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago, focusing on environmental, gender, and human rights issues. I was always passionate about raising the issues that affected my community and advocating ways to bring solutions. I was involved in several local environmental and social organizations in Trinidad and Tobago.
However, when I went to Hugh Wooding Law school to complete the final two years of my local law journey, I represented the school at the Stetson International Environmental Moot Competition in February 2015.
The Competition required my team member and me to travel to Washington D.C. for the regional rounds held at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL). During my attendance, I became aware of the LLM programs offered abroad and the opportunities they could lead in the international arena.
Soon after my final year law school exams in Trinidad and Tobago, I applied for the American University, Washington College of Law summer program. The program was held for about a month, between June 2015 to July 2015.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time during the program as I met experienced lawyers from all over the world and engaged with professors with a wealth of international experience. I also noticed the difference in the teaching style that existed in the American Law school system.
Upon completion, I applied for the International Legal Studies LLM program at WCL.
Simultaneously, I was admitted as an attorney in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2015. The staff members at the admissions office at WCL were helpful during my application process, guiding me along the way. I also received a partial scholarship from WCL and started my program in January 2016.
Since I was confident I wanted to attend WCL, I did not apply to other universities to complete an LLM.
Looking back, what were some of the most rewarding aspects of the LLM experience at AUWCL? How did the LLM help you in your professional career?
The most rewarding aspect of my LLM program was the wonderful people I met, from students to professors. I have gained access to a community of professionals practicing law and public policy across the globe.
Additionally, I got to learn about the unique cultures of my friends and colleagues, which is an experience I would not have had if I had stayed in Trinidad and Tobago.
Additionally, my LLM experience opened the door for me to enter the World Bank Group.
Were there any cultural differences that you took time to get used to once you started working in the US?
A significant cultural difference was the networking culture in Washington, D.C. Growing up on a small island, most of the opportunities that a person obtains heavily relied on your family’s social status and whom you may know due to that status.
I learned very quickly that applying to a job you are qualified for in Washington, D.C., also requires networking since most organizations receive many qualified applicants for employment. Networking enabled me to come out of my comfort zone. I felt it was a fresh start for the fantastic opportunities to come.
Since the LLM, you have undertaken a number of research and advocacy roles – how does one go about working in these spheres as foreign trained lawyer? Any words of advice for those who are looking to follow a similar pathway?
Since my LLM program, I have worked at the World Bank Group on several legal and public policy issues, from gender equality, refugees, climate change, and youth employment to digital technology.
It is advantageous to complete an LLM or a master’s in public policy at the location of the institution you would like to eventually work in as it is easier to network with colleagues in-person that may be working at these international organizations.
Additionally, being bilingual is very helpful to many international organizations’ work.
My words of advice for those looking to get into the international field are to find the areas that you are passionate about, never say no to any opportunity as you may not know where it would lead you in the future, and enjoy the current process no matter where you are in life.
How does one become a consultant to the World Bank Groups? Is there anything in particular that you think has helped you find these roles?
The best way to become a consultant at the World Bank Group, from my own experience and observations, is to complete a master’s program in Washington, D.C., or to have a wealth of experience in your respective country in the areas that you would like to work on eventually at the international level.
Networking locally has been helpful for me in finding different consultancy opportunities within the World Bank and outside of the World Bank.
Lastly, any advice for the law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
My main advice is that if you see an opportunity to study abroad, do not hesitate to take the chance. If finances are an issue, look for scholarship opportunities within the university or the many global programs like Fulbright, Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program, etc.
Additionally, once you start your master’s program, start networking immediately. Utilize LinkedIn to find people working in the fields that interest you and send out professional and unique messages to each person you are engaging.
Meet people for coffee or lunch and attend networking events. While it may seem tedious, it only takes one door to open for you to access new opportunities. Do not give up on your goals and dreams.
Prioritize living a balanced life by treating yourself well.
I would be happy to connect on LinkedIn if you have further questions.