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.
Maitrayi Jain completed an LLM from Georgetown University Law Centre in 2023, a program she applied to after working for about four years in India. In this FPA, she discusses why she chose GULC, the LLM experience itself, and a whole lot more.
So, one of the more interesting bits about the foreign LLM is the “when” – at what point should one apply for an LLM. In your opinion, what is a good time to apply, and what got you to look at an LLM at this specific point in your career?
I think there is no right or wrong answer to this. People have different reasons for pursing an LLM, and when to apply is completely dependent on that. If pursuing an LLM is a step towards a career in research and academia, one can go immediately after graduating from law school.
But if it is meant to help you enter international legal market, then getting a few years of experience (4-5 years) would be helpful.
My motivation to apply for an LLM was dependent on my own ability to cover the cost of the programme. Studying abroad is expensive and I wanted to make sure that I will be able to cover a major chunk from my own savings.
Covid also gave me some perspective on life and since an LLM was on my radar when I was in law school, the pandemic pushed me to actively take steps towards it.
Once you had decided to apply, how did you go about shortlisting schools? Why narrow down on GULC?
Shortlisting schools is the hardest part and I took a lot of time doing it. Several factors go into shortlisting schools:
- Courses offered
- Ranking of the university
- Cost of education and living.
I had worked as a transactional lawyer and I was looking for universities with good business law courses, who are generous with their scholarships.
I used the QS World University Ranking list as the starting point and read up on the universities mentioned in the list. I reached out to people in my network who had graduated from foreign universities.
Once I had all the information I needed, I made a list of schools I wanted to apply to.
Choosing GULC wasn’t hard. It is a prestigious law school, offering diverse courses. The one thing about GULC I absolutely loved was its roster of adjunct faculties. The opportunity to be taught by industry professionals with practical experience was exciting.
All these factors helped me narrow down on GULC.
At GULC, you managed to work as an RA and then a Research Fellow – could you tell me a bit about the steps involved for each? Was it difficult to balance the RA-ship and the course load?
I understand that most universities advertise open positions on their internal job portal. So if someone is interested in being an RA, they can always apply through the portal.
My experience was a little different. I got my first RA position through networking. I was attending an event and a friend introduced me to the professor who was looking for students to work for him.
The second was through writing cold emails to professors expressing my interest in working with them. I wrote to 40 professors, who I knew were taking courses I found interesting. A few of them responded and asked me to interview with them. Finally, Prof. Zytnick offered me a position. I worked for him through the year and it was an amazing experience.
The Centre for Transnational Law and Business was looking for Research Fellows and considering the kind of work they had done in the past, I applied for it and got selected.
In the Spring semester, Prof. Zytnick had put me on a big project which required me to work everyday. There was no pressure from his side and he let me decide the pace of the project but I enjoyed it so much, I made an effort to take time out everyday. Some days were tricky but I enjoyed what I was doing so it never felt like a burden.
Looking back, what have been some of the most rewarding aspects of the GULC LLM? Conversely, was there anything about the LLM experience that you wished you had known before applying?
GULC made learning really fun. The classes were interactive and required us to use class learning and common sense to solve problems. The professors were more than happy to guide and help. Also, the cohort was diverse and interacting with people from different jurisdictions and culture definitely expanded my horizon.
I wish I had a better idea of how fast paced and power packed the whole year is. There was always something happening and some days it felt impossible to keep up. But I was lucky to have found like minded people who helped me sail through the year.
I am sure you get asked this a lot but what is your reading of the employment opportunities in the US when it comes to the foreign trained lawyer?
It is an uphill task for a foreign trained lawyer to get a job in US firms, especially if you are an Indian. People are unaware about the Indian legal system and visa process scares everyone off. Networking is the key, and even after networking extensively things might not work out.
You need to decide the objective of your job search before you start it. If the objective is to find ‘a’ job in the US, and practice area is not something you are really fussed about, I would suggest exploring job opportunities in taxation, policy space and international organisations.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
If you wish to pursue master’s abroad, please go ahead and do it. It is an investment in your future and the experience is unparalleled. Do reach out to people who have done it before to get an idea of what it actually entails and have realistic expectations from the year.
Your LLM year is what you make of it. So do not follow the herd and do what works for you.