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.

Varaa Masood completed an LLM from UCLA earlier this year
Varaa Masood

Varaa Masood completed an LLM from UCLA earlier this year, her second master’s degree in law. In this FPA, she discusses her reasons for enrolling for another LLM, the UCLA LLM experience, and a whole lot more. 

The UCLA LLM was, in fact, your second master’s after the one at NMIMS. What made you consider a second LLM, and what were some of the factors considered while shortlisting schools to apply to?

Pursuing an LLM abroad has always been a long-held aspiration for me. However, I came to the realization that gaining work experience before embarking on this academic journey would enable me to make a more informed decision about my specialization.

Working in litigation exposed me to various facets of law, and during this period, I discovered my passion for Intellectual Property Law. Graduating with the highest GPA in my Master of Laws program in Intellectual Property Rights at NMIMS, boosted my confidence and inspired me to pursue a second LLM abroad.

Interestingly, the opportunity to fulfil my dream came when I got married and relocated to the United States with my husband, who was working in Los Angeles. Therefore, my primary criterion was to apply to law schools in Los Angeles.

UCLA, being one of the most prestigious universities, naturally became my goal due to its extensive range of LLM specializations. Their LLM program in Media, Entertainment, Technology, and Sports held particular appeal for me, thanks to its renowned faculty and industry experts. This program offered an extensive examination of both the business and legal dimensions within the US entertainment industry. 

Why narrow down on UCLA? What were some of your expectations from the UCLA LLM, and looking back, have these expectations been met? 

The curriculum at UCLA was very engaging with the best team of experts in Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law, ranking it the best in the world.

Reaching out to some of the professors at UCLA, I realised they appreciated foreign students coming in and learning about a new jurisdiction. One of my biggest goals coming to UCLA for an LLM program was to learn about a new subject matter in a different jurisdiction at the same time receiving guidance in preparation for the California Bar Exam.

I definitely feel my knowledge has broadened not only in terms of US jurisdiction but also acquainted me with the business practices of the US. The LLM program at UCLA made me more self-confident and outspoken. I will always cherish my experience at UCLA and the friends that I have made for life. 

How was the LLM experience at UCLA – what were some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the course?

The first month at UCLA was very challenging in terms of class scheduling and teaching methods. The faculty practices a socratic method of teaching which is very different from my previous law schools. One has to be prepared with the materials and be proactive in class.

The professors do value student participation and can sometimes evaluate grades on its basis. In my experience the class curve was the most challenging aspect for me, as most of my classes were with the JD’s or Juris Doctor Degree students, which put pressure of doing well and trying to stand out in classes.

However, the professors and American students love interacting and really help you out with outlines and paper writing patterns. In the US, all law schools use the IRAC method of writing style, which basically stands for I: Issue, R:Rule, A: Application and C:Conclusion, which is also the writing style if one is planning to sit for a US bar exam.

Going to law school helped me in grasping a good sense of writing style for the law school exams as well as the bar exam. Certainly the most rewarding aspects of the course was the experience of studying with International students and the networking events hosted by the law school. 

I am also curious to know how you would compare the two LLMs? What were some of the more obvious differences between the learning experiences at NMIMS and UCLA?

The LLM program at UCLA differed significantly from NMIMS. At NMIMS, the program was characterized by its rigor, involving continuous research paper assignments for all subjects and offering in-depth study of Indian IP laws, with a relatively cursory examination of international IP.

In contrast, UCLA’s lectures followed a more uniform U.S. framework, sparingly referencing the European laws. I would describe my LLM experience at NMIMS as predominantly focused on academia, while my time at UCLA provided a more comprehensive and well-rounded educational experience. 

One of the more common reasons for considering a US LLM is finding employment – what are your thoughts on this? How do you think foreign trained lawyers can increase their chances of finding employment in the US?

I agree with the common reasoning of considering a US LLM lays the eminent value of being a qualified US attorney and finding employment. However, considering the demographic of the Indian population in the US finding employment as a foreign trained attorney becomes extremely difficult.

A H1B sponsorship is needed to work in the US for any employer, which unfortunately happens through a lottery system. The chances of getting through the lottery and finding a sponsor are very slim but one should definitely try luck.

However, working for an NGO can definitely exempt you from the H1B lottery but one will have to find an NGO that can sponsor.

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

Indian Law graduates should keep the takeaways below while considering a masters abroad:

  • Purpose of applying for masters abroad to a particular university.
  • Research about the financial aid/scholarship provided by school or other private scholarships.
  • Get information about the law school or a specific program by reaching out to the current students or alumni through LinkedIn.
  • Reach out to the professors of the universities asking about the specifications of a course.
  • Lastly, you should not feel ripped off while pursuing the masters.