LSE will be visiting India (Sign up)

LSE-logo-and-signage-on-building (1)

In case you are thinking about enrolling for the LLM (or any other degree) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), here is a good opportunity to find out more. LSE’s Will Breare-Hall, the school’s Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Manager, will be in India and hosting sessions throughout the country.

This is the e-mail I received recently, links for the registration are available below:

Mr. Will Breare-Hall, LSE’s Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Manager, will be in India in November and December 2018, visiting Mumbai; Bengaluru; Chennai; Kolkata, and Delhi. He will be meeting prospective students and delivering presentations on applying to and studying atLSE.

 

These will be followed by question and answer sessions and the opportunity to speak with Will on an individual basis.

 

If you have questions about undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate or study abroad programmes at LSE, please reserve a place at one of Will’s presentations using the relevant online booking form. Attendance is free of charge and does not form part of the School’s selection process.

The dates are as follows:

Mumbai (28 Nov, 2018)

Event Page &  Register here

Bengaluru (3 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

Chennai (6 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

Kolkata (7 Dec, 2018)

Event Page & Register here

New Delhi  (11 Dec, 2018) 7.00-9.00pm

Event Page & Register here

 

(Lead image courtesy LSE)

“Demystifying the New York State Bar” by Brooklyn Law School

One of the more common reasons that Indian law graduates, or rather law graduates from around the world, choose an LLM in an American law school is to be eligible to write the Bar examinations in the United States of America.

Brooklyn Law School

And of these examinations, the New York State Bar examination is one of the most popular among LLM students. There are multiple reasons for this, including eligibility norms, but that is not relevant for this post.

A few days ago, Julie Sculli from Brooklyn Law School, gave a short presentation on the NY Bar examination that I thought was quite insightful.  She has been kind enough to share the presentation, which I have uploaded below.

 

Image from Brooklyn Law School

The Admission Interviews: Elizabeth H. Woyczynski, School of Law at CWRU (Part II)

 

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski

You may remember Elizabeth H. Woyczynski from her previous interview here at Amicus Partners. In the second part of the interview, we go a little deeper into the LLM programme, the Bar exam, and what can students interested in academia look out for.

What do you look for in LLM applicants?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: We start with just getting the completed application on time, everything that we ask for is important, as are the deadlines. At CWRU, we do not look at TOEFL or IELTS scores from our Indian students so our main focus, and the most important one, are the marks that students get in their undergraduate law degrees. I think that where the student studies law as an undergraduate is not that important to us.

When you mention marks, is there a range of marks that you are looking at?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: We are looking for students who are in the top 30-35% scoring bracket. Sometimes we get questions from students who think they need to have graduated with their bachelor’s degree [before applying]. But, as it works with our JD applicants, we are really just looking for all but the last year of marks.

Apart from the grades, how important are things like moot courts, publications etc?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: I think where extracurriculars really help is when the grades are not strong enough. Especially where they show that the student is really motivated and focused on a career in law. So, moot courts and internships would be helpful. Also, activities that show they are interested in activities beyond their own country, and are open to [different] perspectives – these would be helpful especially if the grades are not the best.

Publications, I think, are a little too much to expect from students completing their bachelor’s degree but certainly if a student did have that, that would be outstanding.

What do you think is the value of the LLM experience?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: It is great to see students coming from another country, and just figuring out how to get things set up here. It seems like a small thing, but it is, in a way, one of the most endearing values of a LLM degree – to come to another country and set up your life here. That is a great experience in and of itself.

In the classrooms it is great to see, what is very often, a different way of teaching. Our professors use the Socratic method, and class discussions are important.

And of course, students should definitely take advantage of meeting people from all over the world. This is your chance to discuss culture, politics, law and make the enduring friendships that often last a lifetime.

In terms of jobs, we have an advisory board of lawyers who work in regional and national law firms, and MNCs based in Cleveland where they try to offer opportunities specifically to international students in the LLM program. They are not easy to get, our best students (the top 10-15%) are most likely to get those jobs. So, that is a great experience to get before the students head home.

We have had Indian graduates, with their LLM here, start careers here in Cleveland. One of them is now a Partner at a national law firm, another one does immigration law here in Cleveland. But I would say most our Indian graduates return back to India and they find the LLM degree to be very helpful in finding jobs back in India.

How does Case Western help students prepare for the Bar Exam?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: We advise our students on how to take either the Ohio Bar or the New York Bar. The New York Bar is the most popular for LLMs all over the country.

We tell students what classes these exams require during the LLM; you have to be careful to choose the correct classes. Usually, we advise students to take the general LLM which is the most flexible, and take as many Bar tested subjects as possible. But some students are trying to balance – they may really be interested in subjects that are not on the exam. So, you have to decide what is important for you.

And then we definitely help students with our Bar prep class. It is one thing to take the right classes to qualify, but then of course you have to do the right things to pass the exam.

How long does exam prep take?

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: It is most common to start in the Fall, although we have students in January too. If you start in the Fall, you can take the July Bar exam. I do let the students know that if they are interested in the exam, they have to get all their paperwork in order by the first of October. This can be hard to do if you are just arriving in August.

So, either you take the July exam, or with the OPT, get some internship time and then study for the exam that is offered in February. I think if the student has the ability to stay that extra time to prepare, that helps. Especially on subjects that they haven’t had time to take while as a LLM student.

A lot of Indian law students are now thinking of a career in academia. 

Elizabeth H. Woyczynski: We have a larger LLM program than the SJD program. Honestly, we do favor our own LLM graduates, so it will be harder for those with a LLM degree from another university. We do accept LLM degrees from common law countries, but I think we prefer an LLM from the US, and from the Case Western in particular.

Students interested in the SJD, don’t really have to indicate their interest until the second semester of their LLM degree. And by then we also have a sense of their marks in the LLM degree, and this helps us advise them whether the SJD is the right choice for them.

 

Want your law school to be featured on Amicus Partners? Reach out to us at contact[at]amicuspartners.co.in

Four great resources for writing a good Personal Statement

Personal statements are never the easiest things to draft. Nor, for that matter, are statements of purpose. In fact, when it comes to LLM admissions in particular, I have found that apart from actually selecting where to apply, it is these documents that can often take the most amount of effort.

But, not to worry. Help (via Google) is at hand. Well, sort of. Before going into the list below, there are two riders I would like to add here. One, all of these cater to individuals  who are, typically, US graduates interested in the JD degree. Cultural, educational and other differences will certainly exist.

Two,  if you listen to too many experts, you may find yourself more confused than when you started off. Like most types of advice, the one on LLM applications is often given away for free. The difficulty is in knowing which pieces of advice are  worth your time.

Anyway, enough of that. Here are four great resources you can use if you are applying struggling with the personal statements and/or statements of purpose.

1. Chicago Law School for some inspiration

Chicago Law School has a page dedicated to the SoP’s of some of their JD students. Admittedly, these are American students who have already completed an undergraduate degree. But you could pick a few pointers from the site.

Some of my favourite lines are from the application written by Osama Sandy (Class of ’13) who writes,

Osama, my name is Osama. I went from having a unique name that served as a conversation starter to having the same name as the most wanted man in America. The stares and the comments were just the beginning.

2. Spivey Consulting for some (useful) pointers

Spivey Consulting, an educational consultancy that has been in business for, well forever, also has an interesting blog that provides plenty of useful advice.

The one post I liked best was this one that has a list of ten words that are “most overly, wrongly, and (at times) annoyingly” used in applications.

A sample:

Unique. The singularly most overused word in law school admissions. Things are rarely, truly one of a kind across law schools. “I am applying to your school because of your unique international law program” is about as painful as it gets. Actually, there is a higher level of pain. If you qualify unique such as “my extremely unique background.” Nothing anyone has ever done is more unique than just unique.


3. Yale Law School for some great guidance

They may be a decade old, and addressed to the JD crowd (once again), but these blog posts by Asha Rangappa, former Associate Dean at Yale Law School contain some wonderful advice. Search out the “P.S. Boot Camp” ones where she explains into what works (and what does not) while writing a great personal statement.

My personal favourite is this one where she writes,

You want to reveal as many facets as you can about what makes you who you are. And let me be clear: I don’t mean that you should show that you are superficially “well-rounded” by listing a bunch of activities that you aren’t really involved in. You can be completely immersed in one particular idea or activity—you just don’t want that one thing to define you as a person. Presumably, you do spend some time in your day thinking of or doing other things, and you need to let those come through in your application as well.

4. Berkeley Law and UCLA for some tough love (and a PDF too!)

This page on Berkeley Law School’s website has some great words. The advice may seem slightly harsh words here but I still consider this to be mighty helpful.

For instance,

“The statement should avoid simply summarizing what is in the resume. It should avoid simply asserting how able, accomplished, and well suited for law school the applicant is. It should avoid uninformed attempts to ingratiate oneself through exaggerated claims of one’s interest in Berkeley. For instance, more than a few applicants stressed how much they want to work with named individuals who are at best passingly related to a Center or the like and aren’t even members of the faculty; these claims make one doubt the applicant’s due diligence.

Oh and here is a PDF from UCLA on understanding the differences between a personal statement, and a statement of purpose, and a whole lot more.

Three costs that LLM applicants should keep an eye out for

The fact of the matter is that LLM programs can be prohibitively expensive, especially when you look at the offerings of the top US law schools. Of course, this is a well-documented feature, and by now, most LLM applicants have a rough idea of how much the master’s in law is going to cost them, and what they should  budget for.

Having said that, there are still a few “hidden” costs that can often lead to a ballooning of the final cost of the degree. The three mentioned below are some of the more commonly overlooked ones.

  1. Application fees

    Most, if not all, law schools will charge you an application fee; the quantum of this is usually around the hundred dollar mark. Now if you are only going to apply to one or two law schools, than this may not be a significant expenditure.

    However, if you are looking at multiple options spread over different continents, than the application fees can often touch the thousand dollar level. Which, if you think about it, is a cost that you can largely avoid by simply spending some more time deciding just where to apply.

  2. Living costs

    Very often, the only figure that will catch your eye is that related to tuition fees. Which can be misleading. Because, even if you have shortlisted courses on the basis of fees charged, you may end up paying a lot more for living costs. The general rule is that big cities are far more expensive than rural or university towns.

    But then, cities very often come with cheaper public transport, something that smaller towns may not offer. Hence, while drawing up the initial budget, do keep such factors in mind.

    Lastly, include the costs of social events (formal dinners, travel excursions etc) under this heading.

  3. Healthcare and insurance

    Very often, the health insurance will have to be sourced through the law school and the costs for the same will be spelt out in the “Tuition and costs” page. If not, then you should do some research on the insurance options available to you, and their costs.

    Once again, this may by itself seem like a minor cost, but put together with the above two, it can add up to a significant amount.

 

First Person Accounts: Bhavya Mahajan (Pepperdine University)

Bhavya Mahajan

Bhavya Mahajan

First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of lawyer’s who have pursued a post-graduate course from different schools across the world.

Not necessarily restricted to an LLM, the FPAs should serve as some guide as to which is the ideal law school for you.

Bhavya Mahajan recently completed an LL.M from the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University.

In this FPA with Amicus Partners, the Panjab University graduate (Class of ’16) talks about choosing the ideal LLM, internships at law school, and a whole lot more.

Amicus Partners: At what point in time did you decide to pursue a master’s degree? What did you want to get out of the LLM program? 

Bhavya Mahajan: I wanted to pursue a master’s degree from the very beginning of my law school. Initially, there were no expectations, and I just wanted a master’s just for the sake of it. It was during the 4th and 5th year of my law school when I started giving it a serious thought.

I then wanted to get a specialization in an area of my interest which, I was clear by that time, was not litigation or corporate law. I also hoped to getting more exposure and experience in a different and better academic setting.

AP: How did you go about university selection? 

BM: My application process was very haphazard. I was not looking to apply to the States or any other country rather I was preparing for my CLAT entrance. One thing that I was clear about was that I wanted to specialize in a field that had other prospects than litigation.

It was a complete coincidence that I found out about Pepperdine University and their ADR programs, and it interested me a lot. So, I went ahead and applied.

However, I still was not sure about going abroad, and did not apply to any other university. Besides, I was a little late with my applications and some universities had stopped accepting applications by then.

AP: Also, was it your internship at the State LSA that prompted your decision to study dispute resolution? 

BM: Partially, yes. I briefly interned at the State LSA and had some exposure to mediation. When I was considering various specializations, dispute resolution was on my mind. There were other factors at play too.

AP: Did you apply for any sort of financial aid/scholarships?

BM: Yes, I did. So, all the applications submitted to Pepperdine University are, by default, considered for partial scholarships. The amount awarded by the university generally varies but can go up to 50% waiver in the tuition fee.

I also applied for the JAMS scholarship which sponsors the education of one student. Unfortunately, I could not get the JAMS scholarship but I received a 50% waiver as the Straus Merit Award.

AP: What were some of the biggest learnings during the LLM? How demanding was the course?

BM: The course itself was very fulfilling and challenging. The biggest difference there was the focus on research and analytical learning which, sadly, I missed out on during my LLB. I had never realized my strengths at legal and academic research before this. Simultaneously, I had a chance to get hands on experience in mediation as well as arbitration.

The course load can be very demanding as we are required to balance our academic requirements whilst doing our mandatory internship(s). But the best thing about the course structure is that it is flexible. As an international student, you also have an option to complete your degree in more than one year or two semesters.

AP: You also managed to secure a few internships, as well as a Research Assistant  (RA) position. Any advice for how one can go about this process?

BM: The procedure for hiring an RA varies from university to university. I had applied for the position in the very beginning of the program but got appointed after one semester. Pepperdine’s School of Law generally tries to evaluate the new students before offering them research positions.

The best approach here would be to stay in contact with your professors, and before applying for research positions figure out what would be the area of your interest. Also, RA positions can be demanding too. So, to start working as an RA and then be unable to focus on academics is a bad idea.

As far as the internships were concerned, the key was networking. Most of the universities in the States have a culture for promoting communication. Pepperdine especially, was very proactive in organizing meet-ups with professionals from the field, host guest lectures or interactive sessions and seminars.

The first internship that I secured during my masters was with a guest lecturer who was a family law attorney and mediator. I liked her lecture and ended up talking to her after the class. I expressed my interest in interning with her and she was kind enough to offer me a position.

AP: How did the United Nations Funds and Programmes internship happen? What is the kind of work that you did there?

BM: I stumbled upon the opening a few days after my graduation and decided to apply. The position requirements were specific and they wanted someone with an academic background in mediation. I thought I was a good match for the position. Their selection procedure included a review of academic writing samples and course transcripts. The final decision was then based on a Skype interview.

The work, initially, focused on office’s outreach and mediation advocacy. The Office catered to five different UN agencies and conducted various training programs and conflict management seminars on a regular basis. I was actively involved with this and simultaneously assisted the Ombudsman with the cases.

This included communicating with the visitors, follow-ups, participating in intake and mediation sessions. Most importantly, I was given the responsibility to research and draft articles for the Office’s annual report. I was also actively involved in the editing of the report, which came out during the last week of my internship.

AP: Looking back, anything that you would have done differently with respect to your LLM applications?

BM: Yes, definitely. I would have planned things more thoroughly and researched more about different universities and the programs that they offer. Also, I would have researched the scholarship programs better. I did not know about the Fulbright program until after I started my LLM. Had I known about it earlier, I would have definitely given it a shot.

AP: Any advice for law students considering a master’s course?

BM: I would say that plan ahead of time. Keep exploring different options. Choose a field based on your interest or experience, and not because it will pay well in future or someone else said it was good.

AP: Last question, what do you think a good legal education should provide?

BM: I strongly believe that a good legal education should focus on analytical learning. The legal education system in India is designed to ask the students ‘What the law is’ rather than ‘How to apply this law’. Experiential learning is important too and requires equal emphasis but the former can help the students prepare better for the latter.

The Admission Interviews: Andrew Horsfall, Syracuse University College of Law

 

 

Andrew Horsfall

Andrew Horsfall

Andrew Horsfall is the Assistant Dean of International Programs at Syracuse University College of Law. A lawyer by training, Andrew spent a few years as a legal profession before working for his alma mater. In this podcast, he tells me how admission officers view applications, how scholarships can be negotiated, and what are the best ways to identify the law school (and post-graduate course) that will offer you the most value.

 

Amicus Partners: We often get asked about the pros and cons of a specialized LLM versus a general LLM. Thoughts?

Andrew Horsfall: It really depends on the goals of the student and what they are looking to get out of the program. In a general LLM setting, you are getting more exposure to a variety of different subjects, perspectives and professors.

That can be very valuable to you.

If you wanted to take an IP class, human rights class or a general business law course, you can position yourself later in job interview as someone who is a generalist and has had broad exposure to a number of different subjects. That can be valuable to certain employers.

On the other hand, a specialized degree provides more comprehensive exposure, a deeper knowledge to a subject, and you can carve yourself out as an expert in some field.

This needs to be something that is really researched. If a school is offering a specialization in IP or in human rights, go further than that and take a look at the curriculum.  Take a look at the requirements that are needed and see if it is truly a specialization.

Is the school just sort of cobbling together all of its human rights courses and saying, “Now we have a specialization”? Or have they actually created new classes or new academic opportunities for students specifically in this track or in this program to pursue?

Another common query is when one should apply for an LLM – right after the undergraduate course or with a few years of work experience?

I get this question all the time!

I have to say that here at Syracuse, and I think with most admission professionals I have worked with, there is no preferred pathway to an LLM program. I think having come directly from an undergraduate program, it is an easier transition into an academic setting.

But also, there is value in taking some time away from your studies, getting some practical experience, and then coming back into an academic setting maybe with a more focused goal.

So those are sort of the personal factors to think about.

From an admissions perspective, we don’t prioritize either. What we look at is how you have spent your time. So, if you are just coming from a bachelor’s program, we are focusing specifically on your time [as an undergraduate]. Have you volunteered? Have you taken leadership roles in certain organizations? Have you done internships?

Likewise, with your practice – have there been gaps in your professional experience that we might need to talk about? Have you had an upwardly mobile progression in your career pathway? Have you been promoted year after year?

How are admissions applications vetted?

 Every admissions officer has their own formula that they have developed along the way. Let me just walk you through mine.

When I get an application, the first thing I do is skim through the resume. That gives me a basic chronology of what the student has accomplished either in law school or in their profession.

So, while the resume is not the most important piece, it is that first look into what that application will reveal later. I will say that for me, a resume has never made or broken a decision.

The next thing I read is the personal statement because I am most interested in hearing, in your own words, what you have accomplished, what you have done in the past and why the LLM program is that next, natural step for you.

That opens a window into your motivation, and what you are looking to accomplish. From there I go into the more technical details – so I will look through your transcripts, not only looking at the final CGPA but also taking a look at the courses you are taking, semester by semester.

And lastly, I will take a look at the recommendation letters either to confirm [what you have written] or reveal something new about you that I had not picked up yet.

Any suggestions on how to go about writing the personal statements?

In terms of the personal statement, I wouldn’t over think it and I wouldn’t make it too long. I have read personal statements that are one and a half pages (double spaced) – you can say a lot with very little space. I would not exceed two pages, just as a general matter.

I would advise the student to really take the space to tell her story. So, walk me through a little bit of your past. Talk to me about what got you motivated to study law [as an undergraduate]. Maybe talk about some of the things you have done during your time as a law student.

And then, end it with a paragraph or two about why this LLM program is the next thing for you. I am looking for information about what is motivating you to apply.

AP: You mention that you should engage with the schools. Do you think professors are also open to the idea of being contacted?

AH: Yes, definitely. Any law school’s website will also have information on professors and the courses that they teach. And if they have a specialization in a subject that you are interested in, you should absolutely feel free to reach out to the faculty members. The admissions office can help make those introductions for you.

I think most foreign students coming to the United States will find that, and this is not to denigrate any other country, our professors tend to be a bit more accessible, a bit more approachable. They really want to know who our students are, they want to know if you have concerns, and just to make sure that everything is going well for you.

AP: By and large, LLMs can be quite expensive. Oftentimes it is a question of whether one should make that kind of financial investment.

AH: Without a doubt. The first or usually the second thing that students are concerned about is the cost. And that is completely reasonable; LLM programs are expensive. I know that, I live in this world, and I talk to students all the time.

I wish they were more affordable, I wish they were more accessible and I know that my colleagues as well share that sentiment.

With that said, I also consider LLMs to be highly valuable in terms of the credentials that they give. There is a way of looking at LLM programs as expensive or valuable, and I think those are two different things.

The reason I look at them as valuable is for what they can unlock in terms of opportunities.

For example, in the US, if you are foreign educated and you come to do an LLM here, you can unlock the ability to write the NY Bar exam or the DC Bar exam. So, having that LLM on its own is certainly great – it is a master’s credential, gives you more exposure, more expertise.

I think it is important to mention when we talk about scholarships, it is very rare for students to pay the full price [of the LLM] as published on the website.

It is quite common, and quite acceptable, to open a conversation with the school and ask for scholarships, and also ask about appealing scholarships. So, if you are offered maybe ten or twenty thousand dollars at the first pass, may be a month or two later, you evaluate and say that you really need or deserve more scholarship funding.

AP: This is common across US schools?

AH: I would say, yes. I think that the trend for scholarships in the US are that schools are giving more and more scholarships. It is becoming increasingly competitive for schools to attract quality candidates. Scholarships are just part of what it is to do business in this field right now.

[Awarding scholarships] is something that schools are willing to do, because they are willing to make that investment in their students.

AP: So, you would encourage applicants to have that conversation on scholarships?

AH: Absolutely.

It is a very fair question to ask. As part of my admission process, I have a Skype conversation with every applicant and it is usually during that conversation that I ask about scholarships, about funding process. And that opens a conversation for students to talk about what their level of need is.

I think most admission professionals will welcome that conversation.

AP: Any final piece of advice?

AH: I touched upon this earlier, but I can’t understate the value of connecting with the school.

So, beyond just going to the website, filling out the application and then waiting for a decision, I really think [applicants] should engage with the school. And that’s not just e-mailing them back and forth. Look for them on their social media channel, start following them, engage.

Ask them if you could speak with current students, with alumni, not only from your own country or your own city, but also in the practice area that you may want to work in later.

I think the best thing you could do is to be informed. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and really make sure you are engaged with the school.

Four web resources every #LLM applicant should utilise

As we have mentioned in our first post, researching on which law school to apply to can be a decidedly exhausting process.  Right from deciding which course to study, to law school identification to scholarships, the LLM aspirant can often feel overburdened by these tasks.
However, there is help at hand. What with the advent of technology, a lot of information that may have been difficult to access is now (comparably) easily available.
Given below are four web-resources that all LLM aspirants are advised to take advantage of.
Yes, we have mentioned it in our first post, but I just want to underline the usefulness of this particular site. Not only does LLM Guide have a comprehensive database on LLM’s from across the world, but most of the information is up to date.
A definite plus are the Discussion Boards that act as an effective medium to reach out to those in a similar boat as the one you find yourself in.
Much like LLM-Guide, this website’s most useful feature is the database of LLM courses that are on offer across the world. You can also register for the newsletters for updates on open days, and scholarship applications.
Run by law graduates and law students, SuperLawyer is a fantastic resource for those seeking first-hand accounts of Indian lawyers who have pursued post-graduate degrees outside the country.
There is even a University-wise breakup of interviews conducted.
Conducted by law graduate Bharatendu Agarwal, the #ProjectLLM interviews will provide some extremely useful information to potential LLM aspirants.
Even if the interviews do not cover institutes that you are interested in, the advice and insights are really applicable to the LLM application process in general.
A little bit of planning always helps

Three questions you need to ask if you are thinking about a master’s degree after law

It is not always an easy decision to make, of this I have little doubt. In all probability, this is the first educational choice you are making after your decision to study law. And, if you decided to study in the five-year program, that decision was made a while back.
So here you are, scoping out LLM-guide or LLMStudy, speaking with peers and seniors, and (probably) wondering whether it is going to be worth all the effort in the first place. Like I said, this can be a difficult decision to make.
Fear not, there are some ways in which the decision making process can be made easier. There are a few questions you can ask that may just help you in reaching the final goal.
Of course, these questions only work if you are being honest with yourself. Which is not particularly easy (insert “lawyer liar” joke here). But is it worth it if you don’t have to try hard?
Anyway, here are three questions I think you need to ask yourself before thinking about an LL.M. (or any other master’s degree) outside the country.
Question One: Why?
The first one, and often the hardest one to answer, is “why”.  Why do you want to do a master’s course? What value do you see in the course, how does the degree fit into your career goals? How do you foresee the course helping you?
Those italicizations above are no coincidence.
No matter what people tell you, and there are more than a few people who will want to selflessly share their thoughts, the final choice is yours to make.
At Amicus Partners, some of the more common answers we receive to the “why” question are gaining specialist knowledge, a career in academia, or a desire to practice in non-Indian jurisdictions. Then there are the less common, but equally valid, ones such as a desire to take a break after a few years of the grind. Which is fair.
Lawyers are human after all. Well, sort of.
The point that I am trying to make is that you need to be honest with yourself here. And as long as you do that, you will be fine. Trust me.
Question Two: Where?
If you are reasonably sure of your answer to the question above, you can then start narrowing down on the “where”. Or maybe you don’t have the answer right now, and you want to think of something else. Perhaps take a peek at the “where” question?
So, one of the more common ways of going about the selection process is relying on rankings. A few of the more popular ones are USNews, QS World Rankings, the THE rankings – all three of these have rankings for the study of law. Given our love (hate?) of rankings, this is a particularly easy way out.
Without going into the problems associated with rankings, and I think there are many, the only rider I would add here is that you should use rankings as a starting point for your research at best.
Another way of identifying your graduate school is by focusing on the faculty profiles. Often, experts within a particular field of study will be part of the faculty. Or you may have practitioners offering courses – both of which can make for deeply fulfilling learning experiences.
A third way of going about the selection is to list the criteria that are important to you. Say, you want to study closer to home. Or you want to study in a cosmopolitan city, or perhaps a truly remote location.
As long as you can identify what matters to you, you have a starting point.
Question three: Who will pay?
This is a factor whose importance should simply not be underestimated. And yet, it very often is. The costs of the LL.M./master’s course will, or rather should, play an important role in your eventual decision.
The reasons for this are many, the one that is often overlooked is that the fees will determine your financial health at the end of the course. This in turn will play a pivotal role in your career choices after you graduate.
On average, an LL.M. at a top tier US law school will cost more than seventy lacs, while one in the UK will set you back by about half that. These are no small figures, more so if you are planning to take a loan.
There are a number of ways and means to reduce your financial liabilities, the most popular one being scholarships and/or bursaries. These range from course-specific, to university-specific, to general scholarships. Information on the first two are quite easy to locate – you will find them on the websites of the educational institution. The third category requires a bit more research, but that should not dissuade you.
In addition to this, there are philanthropic organizations which offer interest-free loans with a generous repayment schedule.
And if you will need to apply for a loan, apart from the banks, there are a couple of online lenders in the education market. For instance, both Prodigy Finance and MPower Financing claim to have a simplified application process (with no collateral requirement), and competitive interest rates.
But, like any good lawyer, make sure you read the fine print before entering into any agreement.
Final thoughts
The questions listed above are just suggestions. They may work for you, they may not. Nine times out of ten, you are not going to arrive at this answer immediately.
Nor is it going to be a completely linear process where one answer leads to the next and so on and so forth.
Which is just fine.
Trust us.