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.

Ramandeep Saini on the LLM at NYU School of Law

Ramandeep Saini graduated with an LLM from the NYU School of Law this year. With an Indian law degree from Panjab University (LLB ’21) as well as a BA from the same university, Ramandeep opted to work for a year before embarking on the LLM. In this FPA, she discusses her reasons for opting for an LLM, the LLM experience itself at NYU School of Law, and a whole lot more. 

Alright, let’s start at the start – what got you looking at an LLM, and was this something you had decided to do even as an LLB student?

Honestly, becoming a lawyer wasn’t on my radar as a kid. It’s not like I had this grand plan from day one. But there was always something about the legal profession that fascinated me. I mean, you look at history, and a lot of the world’s big shots were lawyers, right?

That got me thinking about the kind of impact law can have on society, whether it’s in the economy or politics. Also, I didn’t have a mentor or anyone to guide me through the whole legal career maze. So, I took a bit of a detour. I decided to go to grad school, taking courses which, I believed were related to law, because I wasn’t sure if I could crack it straight into a law school.

After that, I got into one of India’s prestigious law schools.

Being there, I got to mingle with people from all walks of life, and that really broadened my horizons. During my time in law school, I made it my mission to be at the head of the class and got pretty good at dissecting legal puzzles.

Plus, I did a bunch of internships that gave me some real-world know-how.

Then, the pandemic hit, and I helped a startup to set up their pharmaceutical consulting firm from the ground up – from paperwork to shaping company policies, I was the go-to person. Somewhere along that journey, I got drawn to corporate law. So, I thought, “Hey, why not take this show global?” That’s when I started eyeing an LL.M. in the USA. Their legal systems have serious worldwide impact, and it just made sense to dig deep into corporate law with an international exposure.

What were some of your expectations from the LLM program? And based on this, what were some of the schools that you shortlisted? 

When I was considering my LL.M., I had certain expectations in mind, and those expectations played a big role in my school selection. I made a list of things of what I was looking for from an LL.M. and based upon those expectations I shortlisted these schools. 

First, would have to have Global Exposure: I wanted a program that would give me a broad, international perspective on law. It was important to me that the program had a diverse student body and opportunities to connect with legal professionals from around the world. 

Second, I wanted to take courses taught by Industry Experts: I aimed to learn from experienced professionals, not just academics. Having faculty members with practical industry knowledge can really deepen your understanding of the subject matter. 

Third, an Interdisciplinary Approach:  Law often intersects with other fields like business, politics, and technology. I wanted a program that encouraged exploring these connections, as they can be quite relevant in the real world. 

Fourth, the Extracurriculars: Beyond the classroom, I was interested in schools that offered a variety of activities. This could include moot court competitions, legal clinics, or chances to do pro bono work. These activities provide hands-on experience and a chance to build practical skills. 

Last but not the least, the location: This was a big factor for me. Being in a legal hub or a major city can offer unique opportunities for networking, and exposure to different legal practices.

So, based on these criteria, I shortlisted a few schools: New York University (NYU) my dream choice, Cornell University, University of Southern California (USC), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

Why narrow down on NYU?

I chose NYU for my LL.M. because it was my dream school, and it aligned perfectly with my goals and aspirations. NYU offers an unparalleled wealth of knowledge, resources, and exposure.

The LL.M. program at NYU is like gathering of the world’s intellectual elite, and that’s an environment I’m eager to be a part of. I knew that my primary focus would be on corporate law, and NYU has some captivating offerings in this area.

The Transactional and Law and Business classes at NYU present a unique opportunity to delve deep into how business transactions create value across deal negotiation, financing, implementation, and client relationships. Courses like Cross Border Mergers and Acquisitions, Negotiating Corporate Transactions and Corporate Governance by Martin Lipton also caught my attention as they directly relate to my interests. 

NYU stands out with its exceptional faculty, and particularly I was excited about the interdisciplinary approach that would have allowed me to take business courses at NYU’s Stern School of Business and I believed that this cross-disciplinary perspective would be invaluable in understanding the complexities of modern corporate law.

Additionally, NYU promises an extraordinary cross-cultural experience. New York City is a melting pot of languages, legal systems, and cuisines from around the world. I was confident that this multicultural environment would offer me a unique chance to form lifelong relationships and broaden my horizons.

With the benefit of hindsight, what were some of the most rewarding aspects of the NYU LLM? Any pleasant surprises along the way?

Looking back on my time at NYU for my LLM, there were several aspects that stand out as truly rewarding and even some pleasant surprises along the way.

I had the opportunity to take some of the best courses offered by NYU. One that really stands out was the Corporations course taught by Robert Jackson, who also happened to be a former SEC commissioner. His energy and teaching style were out of this world. It was one of those classes where you couldn’t help but be spellbound and interested. I remember smiling through the exam because the material was just so fascinating. It made corporate law come alive in a way I hadn’t experienced before.

Another gem was the course on Negotiating Complex Corporate Transactions by David Pollak. It felt like I was working as an associate on a real deal. The practical skills and insights gained from that course were invaluable.

Beyond the classroom, the experience of being in New York City itself was incredible. The city has a vibe like no other, and it was a privilege to live and study there. I got to explore all the different neighborhoods and try amazing food.

One of the most unexpected rewards was the friendships I made. Being away from home for the first time, I had to do everything on my own. This forced independence led me to some fantastic people who became lifelong friends. We went through the challenges of law school together and supported each other along the way.

Overall, the NYU LLM program was not just about academics. It was a transformative experience that helped me grow as a person.  My time at NYU has to be the best year of my life.

I am also curious to know if you found your undergraduate BA degree of assistance as an LLM student? 

Yes, the undergraduate BA degree was an absolute asset during my LL.M. During my undergraduate years, I took courses in economics and political science, and surprisingly, they provided a solid foundation for some of the LLM courses that I took at NYU.

Understanding economic principles came in handy when delving into corporate law, where financial aspects play a significant role. Political science gave me a broader perspective on the regulatory and policy aspects of the legal field, which also proved valuable.

So, while my undergraduate degree wasn’t directly related to law, the skills and knowledge I gained from those courses did come in handy and complemented my LLM studies. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the interdisciplinary nature of education can be quite beneficial in unexpected ways.

Specifically with NYU – was finding housing a challenge? How early did you start this process?

Finding housing at NYU was a fairly straightforward process for me as I opted to stay in NYU housing during my LLM program.

NYU Law has two dorms available, and each has its own advantages. The process was well-organized and efficient. It’s recommended to start the housing application process early, typically once you get your acceptance you should register for campus housing.

This way, you have a better chance of securing your preferred accommodation.

Living in the dorms was a popular choice with NYU alumni, and I can see why. It allows you to live near your friends and classmates, which can enhance your overall experience. Plus, you’re right in the heart of the NYU campus and the vibrant Greenwich Village neighborhood, so you get the true New York City experience.

So, in a nutshell, finding housing at NYU for my LLM was quite manageable, and I found that living in the dorms added an extra layer of camaraderie to the whole experience.

When it came to the learning experience at NYU, what were some of the bigger differences between NYU and Panjab University?

The learning experience at NYU was quite different from my previous experiences at Panjab University.  At NYU, you have the freedom to choose your courses and professors, which allows you to tailor your degree to your specific interests and career goals. This flexibility was a significant departure from the more structured and fixed curriculum at Panjab University.

The teaching methods at NYU were also distinct. Professors often encouraged active participation and class discussions. They emphasized critical thinking and real-world application of legal principles and one of the most noticeable differences was in the style of examinations.

At NYU, exams often involved real-time problem-based questions that required applying legal principles to practical scenarios. It was more about testing your ability to analyze and solve complex issues rather than regurgitating theoretical knowledge.

Further, the level of class interactions and discussions was much higher at NYU. Students were encouraged to engage in debates, share perspectives, and challenge ideas. It created a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment that fostered a deeper understanding of the subject matter. 

Overall, the education systems in the USA and India are quite distinct, and my experience at NYU was marked by a greater emphasis on critical thinking, practical application, and active engagement in the learning process.

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad? 

For an Indian law graduate considering a master’s abroad there are a few things that I think, they should keep in mind. 

Before you make any decisions, thoroughly research the universities and programs that interest you. Consider factors like the location, course offerings, faculty, and the reputation of the institution. Make sure it aligns with your career goals and interests.

Define your goals for pursuing an LLM. Are you looking to specialize in a particular field of law, gain international experience, or broaden your legal horizons? Knowing your objectives will certainly help you choose the right program.

LinkedIn is a valuable resource for connecting with people who have already gone through the LLM application process or have completed their LLM abroad. Reach out to them, ask about their experiences, and seek advice.

If possible, connect with alumni from your undergraduate institution or law school who have pursued LLMs abroad. They can provide valuable guidance on the application process, writing a statement of purpose (SOP), and securing strong recommendation letters.

Pay careful attention to your statement of purpose. It should clearly articulate your reasons for pursuing an LLM and how it fits into your career aspirations. When requesting recommendation letters, choose professors or employers who know you well and can speak to your qualifications effectively.

It’s essential to be well-prepared, both academically and personally, and to make the most of this unique educational opportunity.

Good luck!