Amicus Interviews: Priyasha Corrie on QLTS Geek, foreign practice & more

Priyasha Corrie on the QLTS Geek app

Priyasha Corrie

The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is a great way to seek a foreign, professional qualification, and has become quite popular with Indian lawyers looking to move out of the country.

Priyasha Corrie, an Indian law graduate currently working as a corporate lawyer in the UAE, has not only taken the QLTS but has also set up QLTS Geek, a website and app meant to help those who are looking at taking up the QLTS.

In this interview with Amicus Partners, she talks about the journey behind QLTS Geek, her own experiences with the QLTS, and a whole lot more.

QLTS Geek – how on earth did you find the time for this? Also, when did you start planning the site? 

When I was preparing for the QLTS, I longed for a mobile app which would help me with the QLTS subjects.  After I cleared the QLTS, I thought to myself – why not make this a reality?  But I was in two minds because taking this initiative required commitment and time and I wasn’t sure whether I had it in me to give the project my dedication.

In any event, I started blogging about my experience on LinkedIn. I then started receiving a lot of LinkedIn messages from QLTS candidates asking for advice and I felt that it would be good to follow through with what I had in mind because there isn’t much guidance out there on the QLTS (as against, say the New York or the California Bar Exam).

QLTS Geek’s objective is essentially two-fold. First, I’ve created a mobile app with flashcards on OSCE subjects, which is for the whole ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning experience. Second, I have created a website with a blog and guidance on the QLTS – I hope to create a discussion forum and a way to review prep schools on the website soon.  I still don’t know whether this initiative is going to be a success, but when I receive feedback from candidates saying that the blog or my app has helped them, it really makes my day.

Working on a side project outside of work is tedious and I spend my evenings and weekends on QLTS Geek. I don’t party much and so basically don’t have a life! But I’ve always loved challenges and working hard towards a goal.  I am a geek myself and so the name ‘QLTS Geek’ is apt, I guess!  Perhaps I could call QLTS Geek a ‘labour of love’.

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I don’t party much and so basically don’t have a life!  But I’ve always loved challenges and working hard towards a goal.  I am a geek myself and so the name ‘QLTS Geek’ is apt, I guess!  Perhaps I could call QLTS Geek a ‘labour of love’.

How did you go about the “non-law” part of it like website design, the proposed app etc?

I might have been into computers had I not chosen to be a lawyer, and so I still like to keep myself at least a bit technologically savvy. Thanks to Google research, I was able to make the website myself on WordPress. Unfortunately, creating an app is complex and requires one to depend on developers and that’s what I did. I googled developers and engaged one in India to help me out.

It was expensive, but I’ve learned a lot through the process. I look at it as an investment in my learning – an alternative to spending thousands of dollars on an MBA course for theoretical knowledge.

Do you think the QLTS is becoming more popular amongst Indian lawyers? What prompted you to take the QLTS?

An Indian qualification is often not perceived on equal footing with a western qualification and you will realise this once you start practising outside India.  This is one of the reasons the QLTS is popular amongst Indian lawyers practising abroad. As such, the idea behind taking the QLTS was to make myself more marketable. And like I said above, I love challenges and taking this one on made sense.

The QLTS may not be that relevant for those lawyers who do not intend to move outside India. But since a large part of Indian law is based on English law and the assessments place a strong emphasis on practical skills, there is a lot to learn and gain in the process.

In addition, there is a significant focus on professional conduct in the QLTS assessments and I appreciated that because I believe ethics are important for a lawyer.

Apart from the obvious advantage of admission to the roll of solicitors, do you think the QLTS provides any other skill sets for international lawyers?

What I loved about the QLTS assessments was that the OSCE focussed on the practical skills of a lawyer — interviewing a client, advocacy, research etc. I don’t think any other bar exam in the world tests these practical skills. I learned a lot of soft skills in the process and have emerged a better lawyer.

I don’t think any other bar exam in the world tests these practical skills.  I learned a lot of soft skills in the process and have emerged a better lawyer.

Also, the SRA is very organised and sends regular newsletters for solicitors to be updated about the profession and elicits feedback on the admission process and assessments. It just made me realise how much catching up our Bar Councils in India have to do.

As a starting point, we need to have an online roster for lawyers in India and lawyers from corporate law firms should be represented in the Bar Councils.

In terms of prep time, you do write that to each his own. But looking back, what is the minimum amount of time one should look to devote to QLTS prep?

For the MCT, I would advise about 3-4 months (with the aid of a prep school) for a working lawyer, in order to feel confident taking the assessments. For the OSCE, I would suggest 4-6 months for a working lawyer.

The QLTS is a significant financial investment – are there any ways at all in which an international lawyer could lessen this burden (Do employers offer financial aid, are there any waivers or bursaries of any sort?)

It sure is an expensive process and I paid for all of it myself – that’s where my credit card came to the rescue! Many lawyers are sponsored by their firms, particularly if one is working for an international firm. I’m not sure whether there are any fee waivers though.

What is your view on the Indian legal market, specifically when it comes to smaller, transaction-based firms? Do you see space for more breakaway firms? 

The Indian legal market does look like it’s on fire.  There are a lot of opportunities and I think firms have risen to the task.  Looking forward, I think there will more breakaway firms because the millennials and Gen-Zs will not be able to gel with those having traditional mindsets. Firms evolving and adapting to a flexible approach to work will do well, in my view.

Lastly, any predictions on international law firms (somehow) making it to India?

It is hard to predict international law firms making it into India because the subject does seem politicised. I see no harm in allowing international law firms in India – it would only make the market better and competitive. I also don’t believe that they would eat up the share of local firms. In fact, international law firms will most likely outsource many of the smaller matters to smaller boutique firms or collaborate with local firms.

I see no harm in allowing international law firms in India – it would only make the market better and competitive. I also don’t believe that they would eat up the share of local firms.

I can go on but I will end up digressing. Again, we need corporate lawyers in Bar Councils who would be able to add more dimensions to the discussion. For instance, in the UAE, both international and local firms thrive together and the market is better because of it.

Final question – You have had quite an interesting career so far. A mid-career break, shifting jurisdictions and jobs, acing the QLTS – what keeps you motivated?

Thanks for your kind words, although I don’t think my career has been that interesting!  I look at everybody else’s career and fret about mine — I’m still learning the art of not comparing myself with others.

I have a passion for learning and that’s what keeps me going. I don’t believe in the theory of ‘Work hard now, enjoy the rest of your life’. I believe one should always work hard on all spheres of one’s life, and enjoy the process (including seeing the merits of the tough times). There’s a still a lot more I want to do although I think I need to be clearer with my vision and chart out the map to get there.

Studying the preferences of Indian law students with respect to foreign LLM’s

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Over the past few months, we have been conducting online surveys for Indian law students interested in an LLM abroad. Broadly speaking, there are two goals behind this exercise: one, to understand just what the client (in this case a law student) has in mind, and what her future plans are. The other, and I think this is more important, is to help measure just what do Indian law students look for in terms of higher education opportunities.

The survey has nine questions in total, ranging from where the student wants to study, the criteria for choosing a particular university (at the master’s level), and how the master’s degree is going to be funded. Thus far, we have managed to elicit just under 100 responses (96 to be exact) from six different law schools across the country. The law schools that have participated thus far are NUJS, GLC Mumbai, Jindal Global Law School, KIIT Law School, NLU Delhi, and the School of Law at Christ University in Bangalore.

Admittedly, the survey has been a tad rudimentary, though I hope to change this as time goes by. Ideally, I would like the surveys to be taken offline, and also include a descriptive section where one can really understand the motivations behind wanting to pursue a master’s degree.

Anyway, this is what we have managed to find out so far.

1. Where do Indian law students want to do an LLM? 

In a lot of ways, this was largely unsurprising. The US and the UK have traditionally been the favoured destinations when it comes to an LLM, and I don’t see this changing in the near future. And even within these regions, the commonly sought after law degrees were the ones offered by Harvard Law School, Oxford University, Columbia Law School, LSE, and Cambridge University.

We did see something similar in the EU region, with a number of students expressing interest in the MIDS programme in Geneva. What I did find surprising is how close Canada and Australia were in terms of percentages; I also expected “Asia” to be more popular given the cost benefits, as well as the fact that both Singapore and Hong Kong have some highly-ranked law programmes.

2. How do they go about choosing the law school?

This is where things get a little interesting, with expertise in a particular course or faculty are the most compelling reasons for choosing a law school. This factor pips both employment prospects, and tuition costs although not by much. Why I found this particularly interesting is that it leads to questions on how students judge domain expertise, and faculty quality.

3. How will the LLM be paid for?

Tuition costs are an inevitable part of any consultation on LLM applications, and a very, very important one. Nearly half of all respondents say they would opt for some sort of financial aid, while the remaining are equally split between self-funded and student loans. One of the things I would like to do here would be to map the responses to this particular question over the next 5-10 years and see whether there is any change in proportions.

4. What do they intend on doing post the LLM? 

And finally, what is the post-LLM plan of the Indian LLM student. The leader here, again not by much, was working outside the country as a transactional lawyer. In other words, using the foreign LLM to land a job outside the country. The only other finding I would like to highlight is that 30% of the respondents were looking at joining academia, be it in India or abroad. This, to me, is reflective of a trend that will become more noticeable over the next decade or so.

Indian law schools and the rankings game

After the previous article, a kind reader (one of twelve I might add) sent me this link to a speech given by Associate Prof. Rahul Singh of the National Law School of India University. The speech, made by Singh as the chair of the undergraduate council at NSLIU, is interesting for a number of reasons – a push for greater interdisciplinary studies, a focus on financial aid for law students, and raising the quality of academic publishing.

All this was spoken in the larger context of “breaking into” the QS World Universities rankings or “similar international rankings”. Which is an interesting statement to make primarily because I can’t recollect Indian law schools paying much attention to rankings. Apart from the NIRF rankings of course, but even there, participation levels have been quite low.

The yearly ones published by India Today, Outlook and a couple of others are also not really taken too seriously. Most institutes, at least the private ones anyway, prefer taking out full-page adverts in the rankings specials. Others either pretend to be above it all, or simply don’t bother to share the information asked for.

While I was at Bar & Bench, we did try to come up with a ranking scheme but eventually pivoted to the “Law School Darshan” series – this involved personal, first-hand accounts of different law schools. A few years ago, we did make another attempt at comparing different law schools through their faculty profiles. Again, not an ideal holistic comparison. But what has stuck with me since then has been the great reluctance of law schools to share information.

Which is why I will be very interested in seeing how NLSIU approaches the rankings. It is a long term process for sure, one that will require significant amounts of investments in faculty, research, and physical infrastructure.

But it is also a “game” in the sense, and this has been written by far too many people to be ignored, that one can always exploit the methodology to move up the rankings table.

Over all though, Singh’s speech is one of the few times I can recollect where a “national” law school has publicly declared a tangible, measurable goal. How, when and if it all NLSIU does achieve it will certainly make for a great study.

These are some interesting times for legal education. Of this I have little doubt.

Career trajectories of Indian law graduates post a foreign degree

A few months ago, Priyadarshini and I started compiling information on Indian law graduates who have pursued a master’s course outside the country.
Thus far, we have (some) data on about 150 law grads. Given that the data is quite scattered, I would not want to really draw any conclusions. Not yet, anyway.
But what has struck me during this exercise is the sheer variety of careers embarked upon post the master’s course.
And the variety in the courses themselves.

 

Although an LLM is, by far, the favourite, there are more than a few who have chosen non-law specific courses.  Which is particularly interesting to me because it goes back to the notion that legal education is meant to be an inter-disciplinary affair. That the (true) study of law cannot be done in a silo of sorts.
Or, perhaps the lines above are a classic case of confirmation bias.
Perhaps.
Anyway, to get greater feedback, we have compiled a 12-question survey that can be taken here.