First Person Accounts: Soumya Shekhar (National University of Singapore)

Soumya Shekhar.jpeg

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.

Soumya Shekhar, a graduate of NLU Delhi (Class of ’13), completed her LLM from the National University of Singapore (Class of ’16). In this FPA with Amicus Partners, she talks about the things that worked, and those that did not, and a whole lot more.

Amicus Partners: At what point in your undergrad did you start thinking about a masters? Or was this something you chose, after you started working?

Soumya Shekhar: I always had a passion for academics. Since my fifth year, I had a plan in my mind that I would pursue a Masters degree after obtaining some work experience. Hence, a Masters degree was always the plan.

AP: What made you join Luthra & Luthra? Looking back, would you have done things differently?

SS: I had interned at Luthra when I was in my fourth year of law school. The work environment and the learning opportunities there were unparalleled. Hence, when I received an offer, I did not think twice before accepting. No, I would not have done anything differently.

AP: Two years at Luthra, you enrolled for an LLM. How did you choose the course and university? Apart from NUS, were there any other schools that you were looking at?

SS: Since law school, I have been extremely interested in corporate and financial services laws. A number of my publications and paper presentations were also on various aspects of corporate law. Hence, the subject in which I wanted to pursue a Masters was always to be corporate law.

NUS has a very good faculty in corporate law plus I had interacted with a few of its alumni before deciding. I did get through University College London but I chose NUS over that, primarily because I got offered a full scholarship from NUS.

AP: How was your LLM experience at NUS? Anything you particularly liked and/or disliked? If you could give any advice to law students who are looking to do a masters, what would it be?

SS: My experience at NUS was brilliant. The academic culture there and the quality of lectures are very different from the way we are taught in India. The stress on analytical thinking over rote learning was something which impressed me the most.

Students looking to pursue a Masters should do so for the right reasons. Do a Masters if you are genuinely interested in academics and have a passion for learning.

AP: Did you opt for any scholarship/aid for your LLM?

SS: I received the Faculty Graduate Scholarship from NUS.

AP: How were the recruitment prospects of your LLM cohort? Did you consider working in Singapore, or was there little scope of this once you graduated?

SS: At the time of passing out I had three offers from various top law firms in India. My cohorts too had secured good offers. I, personally was not inclined to work in Singapore, however, those who wished to work there did land jobs.

AP: You mentioned that you are now working as an independent consultant. How has that journey been?

SS: The journey has been amazing so far. Being a legal research consultant requires me to provide my clients with impeccable research and legal writing. The wide variety of legal research and the writing style picked up by me during my time at NUS immensely helps me in my current work profile and also adds to my credibility.

First Person Accounts: Hussain Somji (University of Hong Kong)

Hussain Somji speaks to Amicus Partners

Hussain Somji

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.

Hussain Somji is a Mumbai-based lawyer who completed his LLM from the University of Hong Kong (HKU). In this First Person Account, Somji shares the reasons behind choosing HKU, job prospects post the LLM, arbitration in India, and much more.

 

Amicus Partners: Why choose HKU? Were there any other law schools/universities that you were considering?

Hussain Somji: Since arbitration law was the area targeted for my study, I started looking at universities in popular arbitration seats such as Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Geneva etc.

Queen Mary in London was an option but I did not want a large batch size of 100+ students. NUS was not running the arbitration course that year. HKU had a good global reputation and the tuition fees were half of what is normally paid in London.

Since I had not studied in a school of great repute, I was keen on choosing a university that offers me a good standing with arbitration courses. MIDS was also an option but I did not make it considering my academics in law school were not that strong.

So the factors that led to my decision were:

  • lower tuition fee;
  • popular arbitration seat;
  • good global reputation for the its law school; and
  • a small batch size (30 or so students with a mix of full-time and part-time students).

AP: When did you decide to do an LLM? Was it while you were studying law or was this a decision you made while working?

HS: After four years of practising experience since I was then sure of dispute resolution as the area of practice to specialise in.

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

HS: Yes, I did apply for the financial aid offered by the University but later learnt that those (also student accommodation) are usually offered to students who choose non-commercial subjects such as human rights and so on.

AP: How was the LLM experience? What were some of the pros and cons of the course?

HS: Outstanding! I have no regrets.

The faculty, infrastructure, library, research opportunities and facilities are all top-notch. Without being biased, I am unable to think of any cons as of yet except that if you are interested in applying for work positions post your LLM, one could face language barriers as HK does a lot of China related work where language could play an important role.

AP: If you had any advice for those interested in this program, what would it be?

HS: Weigh your options wisely but you will not be disappointed or regret at all doing this program. Also remember, HKU offers CIArb courses as part of the its curriculum and so if you want a dual benefit of CIArb qualifications with an LLM, it is the right place to be at.

AP: Did HKU help LLM graduates in recruitments? 

HS: Opportunities are circulated on the universities job portals and dispute resolution specific positions are shared with LLM graduates. There is no dedicated desk or office for this purpose.

AP: How was the internship at the HKIAC?

HS: This was something that gave me a completely different perspective and an insight into how an arbitral institution works. I was very clear about my return to India and re-commencing practice but wanted to carry this experience with me.

AP: What were some of the benefits of the LLM when you resumed working in India?

HS: I was clear of commencing counsel practice on my return with a focus on arbitration related work. The depth of research conducted as also the fundamentals of arbitration law that remain same across the model law countries including India, the grasp in matters was almost immediate.

Recently, I was in fact approached by a Swiss Arbitrator to assist her in some research concerning HK law on arbitration. As with every course, you have a different way of looking at things and you try to bring in the international standards in your domestic practice which is immensely helpful.

AP: Anything else that you would like to tell Indian law graduates looking to do a LLM?

HS: An LLM is not a job creator. It is for those who wish to immerse themselves into a subject to apply it in practice. Be proactive as all universities offer ample opportunities to improve your academic profile that helps a lot in the professional world.

Be clear on what the objective is and choose a university and location accordingly.

In arbitration law, location matters as it gives access to a pool of lawyers and practitioners who will be helpful to connect with throughout the term either in their capacity as professors or just generally in conferences and seminars.