First Person Accounts: Akshay Aurora, JD student at Osgoode Hall

Akshay Aurora speaking with Amicus Partners

Akshay Aurora

Although certainly not as popular as an LLM, at Amicus Partners we do see some interest in the JD (Juris Doctor) programme amongst Indian law graduates. This three-year program is comparable to the LLB degree that Indian universities grant; both are post-graduate professional degrees.

In this First Person Account with Amicus Partners, we get Government Law College graduate Akshay Aurora to speak about the reasons behind his enrolling for the JD at Osgoode Hall Law School, at York University in Canada. Akshay shares his thoughts on the JD degree, his time as a law student thus far (he is currently a 1L), and why a JD might must make more sense than an LLM.

Were you considering a post-graduate degree while you were studying at GLC, or was this something you decided to take up after working?

I did consider doing a masters around my 4th year of law school. I dropped the idea once I started my job at Trilegal, but decided to take it up a few months into the job. I did consider an LLM, there were quite a few programs I was interested in actually.

Two questions on the JD itself – Why the JD, and two, why Osgoode Hall?

I chose to do the J.D. program because after a year of practising in India I did not think I would want to spend the rest of my life practising there. I needed to find away to move abroad but be able to litigate.

An LLM is considered to be an academic degree (at least in North America), and would not serve my purpose of wanting to practise law abroad. Throughout law school I have been confident that I would only work as a barrister, and so it would be pointless for me to do a 10-month LLM, only to be outdone by J.D. students who are considered to be more “practice-ready”. The J.D. program in law schools in Canada is based on a very interesting model – only the first year has mandatory courses, and the rest of the years are determined by you. I found this a lot more attractive than a ten-month LLM, which surprisingly, costs as much as the 3 year JD (purely in terms of tuition).

The J.D. program in law schools in Canada is based on a very interesting model – only the first year has mandatory courses, and the rest of the years are determined by you. I found this a lot more attractive than a ten-month LLM, which surprisingly, costs as much as the 3 year JD (purely in terms of tuition).

Career development offices are also geared towards J.D. students and do not put the same amount of effort for the LLM students, so finding a job, networking opportunities, volunteer work etc. are much easier to come by when you are in the J.D. program. The structured On Campus Interview (OCI) process is also available only to JD students.

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The library at Osgoode Hall (Image Source)

I chose Osgoode because it is undoubtedly Canada’s leading common law law school. It has an unparalleled reputation, particularly in the field of clinical and intensive education. Some of the professors I came across during research in India are now my professors, and they are all experts in their respective fields. Osgoode also places its students in great positions.

Did you look at applying at any other law schools, either in Canada or the US?

I applied to a four schools in the US, in Canada I only applied to Osgoode and UBC (Vancouver). In the US law schools are extremely expensive, and I was not keen in studying in that sort of political environment. The US was always a backup for me.

Fun fact: when I did get accepted to my US law school choices, even after scholarships, they were more expensive than Canadian law schools!

Early days yet, but how are you finding the learning experience thus far? 

I’d hardly call it early days, it has been three months of rigorous work and it feels like its been forever!

I can confidently say the Indian legal education system is far behind in understanding what it actually takes to be a lawyer. Our professors, while extremely qualified, were often tied by the various external issues like lack of funds/administrative issues etc. Its extremely saddening to see great faculty unable to teach well because our syllabi are simply too theoretical.

If you would compare it to your GLC days, what would be some of the bigger differences?

The larger differences appear to me between Canadian and Indian law – both former British colonies, but with contrasting views to the law. In India the judiciary is quasi-legislative when it wants to be, and paradoxically, sometimes very positivist in their application of the law. If the law is bad, it does not matter to Indian judges, they continue to apply it as is.

Canadian courts, on the other hand, take much advantage of the lack of codification – especially in the field of contract law. They are eager to find good solutions to previously decided bad law. In fields such as criminal law, they are more concerned about attaining social justice than blindly applying precedent.

Unlike in India where provisions are simply taught as is, or judgments are simply remembered for their ratios, that is not the case here. As one of my professors now says “A case is a solution to a problem, not a rule.”

From an education perspective, this is how law is taught as well. Unlike in India where provisions are simply taught as is, or judgments are simply remembered for their ratios, that is not the case here. As one of my professors now says “A case is a solution to a problem, not a rule.” We are constantly taught to challenge bad decisions, fight for dissenting opinions, and find solutions in common law for problems that people face. I feel like professors here start a process of making us excellent future human beings who happen to be lawyers. In India, the course is designed at making us great lawyers who happen to be human beings.

Lastly, any advice you would have for law students or law grads considering a JD degree?

If you have the willpower, it will change your life. Be very aware of what you want, your goals may be purely academic in which case an LLM works. But if you plan to practice abroad, a JD places you in a much superior position than an LLM, especially in fields like litigation or criminal Defence/Crown (Government).

I know it has only been a few months into my JD, but having spoken to many LLM students and having watched them go back to India after spending large sums of money, I am extremely happy with my decision. You must be cognizant of the monetary drain, but also aware that once you graduate the return on investment is very high, unlike India, there is not a culture here of making interns/junior lawyers slave away without minimum wages at least.