This post was first published on Dec 25, 2019.
Gauraan is an advocate practising majorly in the Supreme Court, High Court of Delhi and High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan.
She studied her 5 year integrated B.A.,LL.B. (Hons.) from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab in the class of 2008- 2013 and LL.M. from University College London, UK in 2013-2014.
She also taught law at Delhi University for 2 years from 2015-2017.
1. How was your law school (UG) experience?
I did my undergraduate from RGNUL, Punjab and was there from 2008-2013. It was a five year integrated course and and admissions were through CLAT. College is considered to be best time in one’s life and though we might find ourselves cribbing and complaining about numerous things while in college, we come out cherishing those times quite a lot.
I had a wonderful experience in college. I remember the admission day as that of a bit of confusion and running around – with all those documents, various forms and files, going to various desks, submit the originals, get certified copies etc. etc. The same evening happened to be my very first in the hostel. Many ‘firsts’ happened for me in college, like a completely new field of study, managing your own expenses, food habits, working manners and many more, and, as much as I loved living at home, hostel was liberating in many ways.
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I guess learning law is quite a liberating experience in itself – one gets to know so much of what we all – as citizens – are expected to already know. Reading bare acts and case laws, together to understand how law works is certainly intriguing. Not to forget the many incidences of reading long judgments, with the bare law, discussing the possible permutations and combinations, of how the law would lay out, amongst ourselves, only to find out that the impugned judgment has been overruled by another long judgment. The pain was real. All the memes on this one, are real story of possibly every single law student.
2. What are the activities/internships that you did in law school (UG)?
I used to moot, debate, write articles, and assist in organising events. I interned with an NGO(s), lawyer(s), Hon’ble Justices in both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India, and in Law Firm(s).
3. When and why did you decide to pursue LLM?
It were, primarily, my academic interests which furthered me towards pursuing a masters degree. Somewhere around my 3rd year, I was convinced that I wanted to pursue LLM. After which my research about colleges, subjects and more began. I believe my interest in academic readings catered well to me studying further.
4. What were the reasons behind choosing an LLM abroad than India?
One major reason was the excitement of having a highly diverse peer group and of course, of going to the world’s best places and reading with the world’s renowned academicians.
By the time I reached my final year in the law school, I was already very appreciative of the teachings which an environment with people with different cultural backgrounds can teach. As lawyers, it is important to be able to attribute varied interpretations to the same sentence; so as to be able to have a good understanding of the bare words from more than viewpoint. And what place could be better than a class with academicians from all across the world i.e. to say from as diverse backgrounds as known in the world.
Such a gathering of brilliant academic minds that work differently from each other, coming together for a discussion on common topics, with their own inputs, undoubtedly lead to a wholesome learning experience which, in my humble opinion, is crucial for a major expansion of one’s ideological horizon.
The experiences of living completely on your own, in a foreign land, and being surrounded with the world’s best brains is an experience worth living. It not only has the capacity to make one more confident, but also aware of your own abilities to hustle, progress and survive.
5. How was your application experience? How important is approaching a consultancy?
My application experience was rather lengthy. I had friends and family to help me but even then it took considerable time and effort to figure out everything. I did not approach any consultancy myself, so I do not think it is absolutely necessary. However, a consultancy can certainly make things easier for you especially in terms of maybe choosing a college, or giving a direction or two about how to proceed about the requirements of the application process etc.
I personally took nearly 6 months to do everything on my own.
6. What are the major things one should keep in mind for a foreign LLM application?
Your SOP (or Personal Statement, as required) will be the most important document you write throughout your application process and though writing an SOP may seem like an easy task at the first go, it is definitely not a piece of cake. You must keep ample time to write and re-write your SOP a number of times. A good SOP can take 2-3-4 months depending on various circumstances.
You must also try to apply as soon as possible as a lot of colleges grant admission on first come first serve basis and therefore applying early can sometimes be very fruitful.
7. Did you secure a scholarship? What are the requirements to secure a good scholarship for a foreign LLM?
I did not get a scholarship so seems like I am not in the position to answer this question much. However, as the number of years of your work experience increases, the chances of getting a scholarship, do, as well. But that it is if you continue to maintain a decent enough CV throughout.
8. What differences did you find between law schools in India and abroad?
There is major difference in the style of teaching and studying. In India, we follow a completely taught system, there are few reference books at best and maybe some class room discussion. Majorly, India has a text-book study kind of model of education. In UK, there are both taught courses and discussion based courses. However, formation of opinion and your own evaluation of concepts is encouraged a lot.
The professors in my LLM did not expect me to recite what I read in some prescribed book. In fact, not even once was there any discussion about text of any book. It was presumed that if a reading is expected to have been done before the class, every student has done it. The professors expected us to begin discussing the criticisms and evaluations straight away. I found this exercise, though strenuous in the beginning, but one of the most beneficial and rewarding lessons for life even outside of college as it enhances and quickens the process of understanding.
9. What are the job prospects after a foreign LLM in India and other countries?
In India we require LLM as an essential qualification only for working in the academic field. One can work on the academic posts, in colleges, only after clearing NET, which in turn lists a masters degree as an essential qualification to become eligible for taking NET. For all other jobs one could take as a lawyer, an LLM is not a necessary qualification.
With a foreign LLM, there are bright chances of one getting a job in prestigious educational institutes. Certain private institutes prefer, to a great extent, a foreign LLM.
Other than that, the preferential treatment you get in job, due to this foreign LLM degree would depend a great deal on the job requirement. However, in litigation, the name sells and hence, a foreign LLM, added next to your name is a good selling point as well.
In other countries it becomes easier to get a job after you show familiarity with the understanding of how law works therein. An enhanced degree is pretty much a certificate of your competence.
Nonetheless, all of these benefits can accrue to you only at the initial stage and after that it is purely your merit in the concerned space which could and hopefully would render you recognition and fame.
10. What is your specialization? Should students pick a general or specialised LLM? Pros and Cons of both?
I knew the subjects I wanted to study before I officially started with my classes and reading the subjects to my interest and those which aligned well with my academic side, was important for me; therefore, I did a general LLM because it gave me a wider and more diverse options to choose from.
Students can pick and choose from amongst doing a general LLM or a specialised LLM depending upon either their present academic choices or their future career choices. A general LLM gives you a wider choice board and you can make your own combination of subjects which could lead to you studying solely as per your interest whilst a specialised LLM will earn you an edge in your area of study.
The relevance, however, of a specialised LLM would stand only if you ultimately do choose to pursue your career in the same area of Law. A lot of business specialisations or IPR specialisations facilitate your better understanding of these contemporary and quickly evolving pieces of legislations. With globalisation, it is seen that countries try to align to a standard approach towards contemporary subjects so that the laws have a universal similarity, thereby making it easier for especially the multi-nationals to operate in the world with diminishing boundaries.
11. What is your advice for students who want to pursue LLM abroad but have financial limitations?
There are numerous scholarships and funding opportunities available for students, by the Government, other organisations and even other countries, but due to immense competition, most of them become easier for you to get, with the increase in work experience. You also have the option of working while pursuing your masters. There may also be many arrangements for helping students with financial strain in the university as well though that could be found out from the specific university only.
You could try any of these options!
12. Parting advice to our readers.
If you have even the slightest of an academic bend of mind, do try for a good masters course. You will evolve and come out very polished with an enhanced skill set which could further any of your causes that you may later choose. But do not expect this degree to be a magic wand which could take all your troubles away and let you sing merry without having to work hard.
This degree can help you to a certain extent, which I believe is major, but neither is this the only way of achieving that, nor is this the last thing you’ll need to do to achieve your future goals. This is a path you may choose to walk, with the awareness that this is not the end.