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.

“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.

 

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