Aakshita Bansal is an Indian law graduate (Amity Law, ‘14) who enrolled for the Juris Doctor at the Indiana University Robert H McKinney School of Law (’19). She has also completed an LLM from the Wiliam & Mary – Marshall Wythe Law School.
In this interview, she discusses the reasons behind choosing Indiana University, the JD experience itself, and some advice for Indian law graduates who may be looking at moving to the US.
Very, very interesting career path you have had – you enrolled for an LLM right after your undergrad, then worked for one year before enrolling for the JD at Indiana University. What prompted the decision to go for an LLM, and then a JD?
Yes, it was a tough decision to come to the US for my LLM, but I wanted to experience and gain further knowledge in the area of intellectual property law and William & Mary’s LLM program was just the right fit for that. It gave me enough flexibility to choose the courses to my liking, I could attend JD classes too and overall, it turned out to be a fantastic learning experience.
After working for one year, I wanted to give the Indiana Bar Exam but was unable to as the state required a JD degree. At that moment, I was also considering to further my knowledge of the American legal system.
Additionally, for personal reasons I was looking at staying in the US for a long term and thus having a JD made perfect sense as it would open up doors for me in any state in the US. IU McKinney had a transfer program where I could transfer credits from my LLM degree and it fitted my needs perfectly.
When researching on where to apply for the JD, what were the factors that you considered, and how did you narrow down at IU’s Robert H McKinney School of Law?
One of the main factors in my search was the proximity to great law firms and companies. Since IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law is located right in downtown Indianapolis and surrounded by the big law firms, companies and even the Supreme Court of Indiana, it really made the decision very easy for me.
This helped me later during my JD as I was able to complete two great externship experiences at Justice Mark Massa’s chambers at the Supreme Court of Indiana and Cummins Inc., a global diesel engine manufacturer.
Also, IU had a very attractive transfer program where I could transfer credits from my LLM degree into JD.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid of any kind for the JD?
I did not apply for financial aid for my JD, but in lieu of that, I was able to transfer one year’s worth of academic credits from my LLM program and Indian Bachelor of Law degree towards my JD. I appreciate IU McKinney’s flexibility in this scenario as it helped me save one year from my JD.
How has the JD experience been at IU? If you could compare this with your undergrad experience at Amity, what were some of the bigger changes you noticed?
I would describe my JD experience at IU to be a very practical one that has helped me become a practice-ready attorney, rather than one with only theoretical knowledge.
In other words, I was able to apply what the professors were teaching in the classroom to real-world scenarios. Some specific examples would be the mock moot court exercise in Prof. Dr. Frank Emmert’s Commercial Arbitration class exposed me to a real-world dispute resolution environment via arbitration.
In terms of changes compared to my experience at Amity – one notable difference was the teaching style of professors, which was highly application of the law-oriented at IU McKinney and more theoretical and learning the law at Amity.
Also, the system of cold call is an integral part of the American law schools which helped keep me on my toes in terms of staying current with my reading assignments and being active in the classroom which in turn helped me learn better.
As a JD student, how does IU help with externships and career development? Are there any aspects of IU in particular that prospective applicants ought to know about?
IU goes beyond than just providing opportunities for externships and career development. The career fairs were held all year round and attracted a variety of legal experts to the campus. This gave students exposure to such experts and have a meaningful interaction about career development and interests, and seek guidance.
Additionally, IU’s mock interview program connects students to attorneys outside of the law school as per their interest and background, which helps in developing interviewing skills and also grow their network.
For example, my mock interview helped me to create a lasting professional relationship with my interviewer, who then also introduced me to the CEO of one of Indiana’s leading non-profit organizations seeking to enhance trade between India and Indiana. My connection with the CEO then landed me an excellent externship opportunity at the Silicon Valley in California.
Looking back, what have been some of the highlights of your time at IU?
One of the career fairs at IU McKinney helped me to get a meaningful experience as a Guardian ad Litem at Kid’s Voice of Indiana. It was a fantastic way for me to give back to the community. I assisted the court in resolving a child custody case while keeping the best interests of the child in mind.
Another highlight was IU McKinney’s ABA Pathway Mentor and Mentee program – IU McKinney has partnered with American bar associations diversity and inclusion entities to create a pipeline for under-represented students to legal education and profession.
As a law student, I mentored an undergrad with an aim to broaden my mentee’s understanding of the legal professions and provide access to networking opportunities.
What is your reading of the recruitment opportunities for international JD graduates in the US?
In my experience, there are definitely job opportunities available for international JD graduates at many big law firms and companies. However, the issue arises where the JD graduate would need H1-B sponsorship from the employer and almost all employers are not willing to do that in the current immigration scenario in the US.
If this hurdle can be overcome, then there are abundant employment opportunities present for an international JD graduate, no matter the state in the US.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian graduate who is considering a JD in the US?
A JD in the US is a fantastic experience in my opinion if an Indian law graduate wants to stay in the US for the long term. JD provides a wholesome experience of the entire American legal system and adds a lot of confidence.
Also, JD is a professional degree in the US and a very challenging endeavour. An international JD graduate stands out as he/she is equipped with the knowledge of the legal systems of two countries. Employers in the US are cognizant of this fact and do pay attention to this.
Another significant advantage is that JD helped with the preparation of bar exam which is a significant milestone in any US attorney’s legal journey.