This post was first published on December 31, 2019.
Anupama Sharma is an Assistant Professor, Assistant Dean (International Collaborations) and Fellow Centre for Penology, Criminal Justice and Police Studies at O.P. Jindal Global Law School, India.
She has completed B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata in 2014 and LL.M. from the University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom in June 2015.
She is currently on study leave for pursuing PhD in criminal law at the University of Hong Kong.
How was your law school (ug) experience?
I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to study at a premier law school in India. National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) is among the top-ranked NLUs in India. Studying under one of the best law faculties in India was an exhilarating experience.
Interacting with peers from different backgrounds is always beneficial. NUJS provided us world-class opportunities in terms of internships, moot court competitions and job. Overall, the experience was enriching and helped create a strong base for future endeavours.
What are the activities/internships that you did in law school (ug)?
I was always interested in research so I participated in a lot of research-oriented projects especially in criminal law and was also a research assistant for two professors. I did a mix of internships with NGOs, research organizations, law firms and Supreme Court lawyers and Judges
When and why did you decide to pursue LLM?
I have always loved research and been fascinated about teaching. I was clear since the beginning that I want to pursue academia. Even while doing corporate law firm internships, I was clear that I want to go for LL.M. at some stage of my career and join academia.
What were the reasons behind choosing an LLM abroad than India?
I am fortunate I got an opportunity to study at the University of Cambridge and get an international exposure which was my prime motivation behind going for LL.M. abroad.
Since I was clear with my area of interest, I searched for LL.M. both in India and abroad which offered interesting criminal law and family law courses. The courses offered in universities abroad had a more international and comparative perspective compared to courses offered in India. This, however, cannot be generalized as course structure keeps changing.
How was your application experience? How important is approaching a consultancy?
Application process can be very daunting. Without proper guidance, it is very difficult to shortlist colleges, prepare SOP and apply for scholarships on time.
I did not approach any consultancy but I do realize the importance of good guidance and how important the role of a good consultancy can be. I applied to 6 universities abroad and got through 4 of them. I started the process of shortlisting university 1 year in advance. There is a lot of information on the internet and it takes time to process and plan. I gave myself 6 months to prepare the Statement of Purpose and complete other application formalities such as approach referees for Letter of Recommendation and collect documents for submission.
What are the major things one should keep in mind for a foreign LLM application?
One should be very clear with areas of interest and why does one want to pursue LL.M.
At times we are not clear about our career goals and fancy foreign LL.M. just for its brand value. It is wrong to assume that just by doing a foreign LL.M., one would get a job abroad. It is also important to shortlist colleges as per one’s requirements and start preparing well in advance to avoid any last-minute delays.
Did you secure a scholarship? What are the requirements to secure a good scholarship for a foreign LLM?
No, I did not secure a scholarship for my LL.M. but from my experience of securing a scholarship for other courses, I can suggest that good grades and work experience in the area of interest are one of the most important factors for securing a good scholarship.
In addition, there are few scholarships with specific criteria such as leadership skills, social service, etc.
What differences did you find between law schools in India and abroad?
The differences cannot be generalized as different schools may follow different teaching strategies. However, the emphasis on self-study is more abroad. An elaborate list of reading is provided in advance and students are expected to study them on their own followed by an interactive classroom discussion.
What are the job prospects after a foreign LLM in India and other countries?
It would be wrong to assume that by doing a foreign LL.M., it is easy to get a job abroad. Similarly, in India, if one is looking for a career in academia, a foreign LL.M. surely helps.
What is your specialization? Should students pick a general or specialised LLM? Pros and Cons of both?
If a specialized LL.M. is offered in the area of interest, it is good to opt for that but this does not make a general LL.M. disadvantageous. Specialization is self-created.
If I go for a general LL.M. but for the next 10 years work diligently towards one area, I end up creating a specialization. On the other hand, if I do a specialized LL.M. but do not continue research and writing in that area, I lose my specialization.
What is your advice for students who want to pursue LLM abroad but have financial limitations?
They should first earn some work experience and keep trying for scholarships. It is not advisable to take an education loan unless there is a job security post-LL.M. to re-pay the loan.
Parting advice to our readers.
Follow your interests and be very clear on why you choose a particular career path. In each path, there is a lot to learn from.