Going for an LL.M degree after investing 5 years in your law school can seem like a big decision. Before deciding upon the same, what are some of the factors that a student should determine? How can one decide if it is the right path for them, or the most important question of all, would it be worth it in one’s career?
in conversation with:
An Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India & Aviation Attorney at Pachnanda Law offices with offices in New Delhi and Chandigarh, he is also the Founder & Managing Editor of India Law Journal (www.indialawjournal.org)
He completed his LL.M from Cornell Law School and an advanced LL.M in Air and Space Law from Lieden University.
When to pursue an LL.M degree
One of the challenging questions that most of the law student face is whether to pursue a masters or not, and if yes then what would be the correct time to do so? Would it be right after one’s graduation or after gaining some work experience?
And once a student decides upon these, another dilemma is how to get selected in a top tier institution and in the end, would it be worth the investment?
1. Gaining some work experience, why necessary?
The foremost reason is that most of the law schools in USA need you to have work experience before shortlisting you as a selected candidate. Even if a student secures admission without work experience, he/she can find the course really difficult to pursue because the professors teach assuming you have some experience in the relevant field. Pursuing a master’s degree is like being thrown in the deep end of the swimming pool. If you don’t already know how to swim, you will have to fend for yourself.
Initially I was planning to apply for an LLM in the my final year of law school however I didn’t even know whether to opt for litigation or corporate law related subjects and even if one does make up their mind regarding a particular field, even then in that particular field there would be 50 odd courses to choose from.
A master’s degree is not like your law school degree where you focus more on general subjects. In your master’s degree, you are required to study particular topics as an entire subject and to decide which subject you really need to specialize in, having work experience is very helpful.
2. Building a suitable profile
In order to build a good profile, you should have a first class degree from your law school, at least a couple of years of work experience and good recommendations from your employers and professors because what will matter more is the content of the recommendation rather than the name/designation of the recommender.
Pursuing a masters from a top tier institution
Once a student has made up their mind in regard to pursuing an LL.M, he/she is required to shortlist the institutes from where they plan on obtaining their degree. It’s a fact that every student dreams to secure an admission with a top tier law school and for that, it obviously requires a lot of hard work.
Another thing that matters a lot before going for a masters is how one chooses their subjects and whether in the long run they would benefit the student or not. Because in the end it’s not just an individual’s time that is being invested but a huge amount of money, too.
1. Securing an admission in Cornell Law School
Going through the regular selection procedure, my work experience, recommendations, publications, having a first class degree from GNLU and my CV in general helped me secure an admission in Cornell.
2. Choosing the right subjects for specialization
As far as choosing the subjects for specialization are concerned, one’s work experience can help an individual a lot in this regard, as it did me.
a. I took Anti-trust law, with a major factor being my interest in the subject. I was very keen to study this course as I felt that it would help get a better understanding of competition law related litigations because it is a bit more technical from regular litigation.
b. Another subject was Conflict of Laws which I took because while doing litigation one can always get involved in doing a cross border litigation so this subject helped me understand what laws would be applicable in different jurisdictions.
c. As for the subject on Client Counselling, I believe, it is very important to bring a different approach in counselling a client, how to make professionally handle depositions, how to interact with your client and so on. Therefore, this subject helped me understand the application of the basic principles involved in dealing with a client.
There were other subjects as well but to sum it up I chose my subjects based on how I would fit them in my field of dispute resolution practice and what seemed useful to my career in the long run.
3. Being a student at a top tier institute- Perks
As for my experience at Cornell, it was phenomenal. Other than academics, interacting with the professors, reading 100 pages everyday etc. helped us develop our skill set even more. We never really had to prepare for exams towards the end because attending classes regularly with attention coupled with the readings helped a lot.
It was a really practical oriented degree as most of the professors were practicing lawyers themselves so they used to engage us via different activities in the class like conducting impromptu trial advocacy on various problems etc.
Networking was another benefit not just with the professors but amongst the peers as well. All in all, it was a really fruitful and amazing experience.
An LL.M certainly increases one’s knowledge base, however, one of the other major reasons for pursuing a higher degree is to get an edge over others in terms of career and increasing one’s career prospects in the field in the subject of specialization.
1. Perks of an LL.M w.r.t career opportunities
a. In Litigation
As far as litigation is concerned, it’s true that a master’s adds some brand value, widens your thinking and knowledge but at the end of the day, you won’t be in a detrimental position if you don’t do an LL.M.
b. In Corporate law
In this field, it can be more helpful in terms of knowledge because if an individual is specializing in a particular field, say, project finance, then he/she can build up his/her network globally while also understanding the broad principles related to the subject. So in corporate work, I feel it is more useful as compared to litigation because litigation involves interpretation of local laws whereas corporate is more about transactional work.
During your placement at a particular law firm, an LL.M degree, even though, will definitely add some value to your CV but in the end what matters more is how you performed in the interview and how well suited you are for the position that is being offered at the firm.
Follow this mantra:
Always follow your dreams. Dreams are what keep you awake which in turn will help you work towards it in order to turn your dream into reality. In the end, patience and perseverance are keys to one’s success.