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This article is written by Aditi Singh, from Department of Law, Calcutta University.

Guest speaker: 

Smrithi Mariam Punnoose, Associate Lawyer at Cargill, Amsterdam Area, Netherlands

Host: 

Ramanuj MukherjeeCEO of LawSikho, Co-founder of iPleaders

  • Applying for LLM right away after graduation or having some work experience before LLM. Which one is more suitable? 

It is really important to have some work experience beforehand. Doing internships in college helps to gain practical knowledge of works which are done in the law firms. After graduating working for some time to gain more experience helps to get more practical knowledge, the taste of the work you want to pursue, the workload exposure one gets while working at the firm, small or big. Moreover, when you work you will understand, which area of law you want to continue with.

But this doesn’t mean that one cannot apply directly after graduating from law school. It is just good to have some work experience before getting into LLM. Moreover, it adds up to the CV and after LLM, one can show some work experience and it acts as a bonus.

  • Is there any language difficulty for Indian/non-Dutch students while pursuing the course?

The LLM courses are divided into two categories. One is for the local students knowing Dutch and another is for the international students.

The medium of the courses in English only. The professors also communicate and teach in English. So, there is no difficulty while pursuing the course but there could be some difficulty once you have completed the course and are searching for a job. Most of the law firms prefer Dutch qualified lawyers as they know the local market. At, Leiden big law firms usually hire Dutch qualified lawyers.

But an English qualified lawyer can get a job at big firms, although it is difficult.

The language barrier is always demotivating. Your work area shrinks as you do not understand the language and by learning the languages of the area you are aspiring to work at, you must learn the language spoken there, it will open lots of work opportunities.

While pursuing the course many colleges provide the language course. It is comparatively better and cheaper than any outside course. So, one should definitely take that course up instead of thinking twice.

  • What are the possible areas or fields which one can pursue to work in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has some big companies like Shell, Nike which are really great companies to work at.

Three areas of work which provides work are:

  • Banking
  • Arbitration
  • MNCs.

Law firms also provide a lot of great opportunities. Learning a European language will add an extra advantage to grab a job in the Netherlands.

  • Is doing LLM the only way to get jobs in law firms in the Netherlands?

It is not the only way but it is one of the best ways. As you get yourself enrolled in a course and you meet new people you help you in networking yourself to more new people. You also get confirmed with your area which particular kind of work you want to pursue.

There are many firms which could provide you job opportunities but the main thing is that the way of communication matters. If you communicate face to face it will leave more impact. But if you communicate virtually sitting in India that could not leave the same impact.

  • How did one communicate or what was the process that you followed to get yourself hired?

Communication is the key. Networking yourself properly with the people having the same interest as you are, is important.

While doing LLM you meet new people, professors, basically, the people who know the market. So, you should communicate with them properly. Take the advice of the seniors. Never say never.

Participating in different kinds of events like conferences also helps to network yourself. You can mail or message formally to the people or companies about your area of interest and then ask them to meet on a coffee for further discussion or you can ask them their stories and then can know about the vacancies. Precisely know what you want to ask. Do not ask for jobs directly but you may ask about their work. And then you can share your work with them and ask their advice on the same. This way you can communicate properly with people and network yourself.

Just put yourself up for everything. Make connections, do not keep things for later, do it then and there. Just do it.

  • What are the areas of work available for Indian law students/lawyers?

Certain areas are really getting better in the Netherlands especially in Leiden. They are:

  • Privacy law
  • GDPR
  • Law in data technology
  • Banking
  • MNCs

In the law field particularly, Arbitration and Banking field is more available to Indian lawyers.

But one can definitely try for GDPR, Privacy law, etc, as new companies are starting to operate in Leiden specifically and there is a high demand for GDPR and Privacy Lawyers in these companies.

  • How is the quality of life in the Netherlands? How is it different from India?

Working life in the Netherlands is balanced. In the case of India, the work-life is really hectic. Here (Leiden, Netherlands), the working hours are balanced in such a way that every person gets their personal space. They are provided with a sufficient amount of time to do things of their own interest. It is not all about work and completion. Like today if I am at level 1, I need to get to level 2. It basically means that everything works smoothly and in a balanced way. Here work is not a race.

The work environment is really friendly. 

The people at work are really supportive. They trust every employee/associate. They do not review your work just to correct you. In fact, you are asked to review your work yourself and mend your mistakes yourself. They do this because, first of all, they trust their employees and they want to improve everybody in their respective fields.

There could be some difficulty regarding the accommodations. Getting a house for rent is a difficult task. But otherwise, everything is fine.

  • What are the cultures of law firms in the Netherlands which are different from India?

As already mentioned, the law firms here are not as hectic as Indian law firms. And also, as it is believed that Indian law firms are male-dominated but in the Netherlands, this is not the case. Female lawyers are at higher designations. The number of female lawyers is also not that less as compared to male. The work environment is really balanced and friendly.

For example, there are many firms which provide holidays to parents. Like one day of the week will be off for the fathers and one for the mothers so that they both could enjoy their family and take care of their children.

Because of this kind of environment women are encouraged to do work and not to sit at home to take care of the family. 

  • Can anyone get an internship in the Netherlands without doing LLM? 

One can definitely get an internship without doing LLM. Many UK law firms offer this but it is difficult to find such a Dutch law firm.

There are some law firms like the De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek which provides internships/jobs to the students who have not done their LLM from the Netherlands. So, a student could pursue his/her LLM in any other country and apply for an internship at this firm.

  • What is the monetary aspect of internships in the Netherlands?

There is mostly a paid internship here. The internships provide a sufficient amount of stipend. The stipend given to an intern can also be compared with the salary of a junior associate of a firm. Dutch qualified lawyers are paid higher stipend then normal lawyers.

Firms in the Netherlands provide with sufficient stipend and also some firms provide certain reimbursements. Like they could reimburse the travel cost of the interns. This happens to be a great help to the students/interns as transport cost in the Netherlands is not cheap.  

  • Long-term arrangements in the Netherlands. Process.

It is important to know the administrative process of the country you are going to. You must know the VISA procedure and everything that comes along with it. . In the Netherlands, you are given a short-term contract and then with three more extensions to the contract you are provided with a permanent contract. So, if you know that you can have a permanent contract, you may plan to work long term in the Netherlands. But again, the idea of working at the same place for a long period is not the same for everyone. 

While working you could also ask your firm for extensions, then your VISA could get linked with your working permit.

  • Is it necessary to obtain good marks in graduation to pursue LLM abroad?

Yes. As you will apply to a different country’s college and they would definitely not know your college, your marks will leave an impression on them and they would be able to know what kind of student you are. The marks are the way to judge a student. It is definitely not something good to hear this but this is true.

It is not like one not having good grades cannot get LLM abroad but it is advised to at least make consistency in the marks obtained during graduation. Grades are important. It also makes you confident about yourself.

  • Something you would advise to the students/audience?

It is okay to be unsure about things. You must work to make things happen. It is not necessary to always aim for big firms, there are many local firms which are really good and can provide you with your interest in work. Network yourself, meet different people.


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