In this article, Radhika Misra discusses Important things to decide before you go for an LLM abroad.

I just want to write this post to help all the students/professionals who want to take a year off and pursue their dream of doing a Masters Degree in Law at a Foreign University. So the task is to the ‘get’ to their desired Law school.

Step One – Choosing the Course

The first step which most of the people in general miss out on deciding before they start their application process is which course should I specialize in! Most foreign Universities have a ‘General’ LL.M. Course wherein they permit Law students to take up a number of unrelated subjects like International Arbitration Law with Entertainment Law or Intelligence Law. However, my personal recommendation for all the students who want to apply for a Masters Course is to be very clear about which subjects interest them the most. It is an investment of one whole year, so be very wise with the Course you want to study because at the end of the day, your resume will have the specialization written on it and the same may either prove to be either a hindrance or a blessing for you at a later stage.

Step Two: Researching on the ‘best’ faculty for your Course across all Universities

Faculty plays a very important role in choosing the Law School. If the faculty for your Course is the best in an Asian University than an American one, I would personally recommend you to choose the Asian University because the end goal is to gather all the knowledge that is imparted to you by the faculty members who actually ‘know’ what they are saying, instead of blindly following the masses and choosing to go to an American, Australian or a British University. One must do a thorough research on the profile of the Faculty members before they shortlist the University.

Step Three: Figure out the ‘budget’

There are a lot of students who do not need any funding to go study at a foreign University, but at the same time there are many who cannot afford the same and take up student loans from banks. The first step is to sit with your family members and intimate them about the expenditure you will be incurring for the One year programme. Assuming that one has not been able to get a Scholarship from either the University or the Government, the Bank is the only place that one resorts to after he/she has exhausted all their options, and therefore you must identify the ‘budget’ and figure out your savings and only then apply for certain Universities. For Example: If you are applying for a University in New York, Geneva or even Singapore you really need to work out your finances before you even start the application process.

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If you are an Indian reading this post I would like to tell you that as a fellow Indian it really upsets me to pay INR 90 for 2 bananas in Singapore and INR 715 for one tiny bowl of French Fries in Geneva.

Therefore, I would request you to find out the cost of living for these nations before you apply.

Step Four – Getting the ‘right’ Letter of Recommendations

If you are a professional, most of the Universities will ask you for a Letter of Recommendation (LOR) from your current employer. Therefore, I would personally recommend you to NOT keep your current employer in the dark about your applications. The Employer is the best person to endorse your skills and you must try to get him/her to write your Letter of Recommendation for you. Some universities like Cambridge, Oxford, NUS, Leiden and NYU only ask you for professional recommendation after three years of work experience therefore, you can still apply without telling your boss about the application.

For all the students, please try to get recommendations written either from Professors who are really fond of your academic pursuits or from professors who have taught you a similar course at the under graduate level. For Example: If you are applying for an International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution specialization, then try to get your LOR written from professors who have either taught you a similar subject like Alternative Dispute Resolution at an Under Graduate level and make sure they mention how you are actually suitable for the course and how you have been a diligent student at Law School.

Please do not get LOR’s from your Tort Law professor or Political Science Professor if you are applying for a specialization in Business Law, try getting the LOR from your Company Law or Taxation Law Profs instead.

The other important aspect of LOR is choosing a Professor who is technologically friendly. Most of the foreign Universities will send a link to the e-mail id provided by you directly to the Professors. Therefore, please try to avoid choosing Professors who check their mail once in three weeks.

Also, keep at least four Professors in the loop. Many times the Universities ask for two-three Academic References, therefore please do not run to your Professors at the last moment because they can be out of town or even sick at the last moment when you expect them to write a two page document. (Yes, that is generally the maximum number of pages you must have).

Step Five – Writing the Statement of Purpose

Most students and even professionals wait until the deadline to start writing the SOP. A good SOP takes a minimum of two months. Not because you take so much time to pen down your thoughts but because you need to get the same reviewed by your Professors, Friends, Colleagues and even family if you want. Always get a friend who is great in English to review the SOP, then proceed to a person who knows you closely to review the same. Get a minimum of six people to review your SOP before you submit it.

Address questions like- Why the University should take you? Why have you chosen the Course? Exhibit all your skills in a subtle manner and do not flaunt the same. Be humble and only put in everything you have done in a truthful manner. The readers are very qualified individuals, they read a thousand SOP’s every day before they select you, so do not try to lie or be ‘cool’ about anything in your SOP.

You may wish to start with ‘where you come from’ and then proceed to ‘why the LL.M. at this stage in your life’ and finally ‘why this University’? Try to address these basic questions in your SOP. Do not say things like ‘I want to study because the University is prestigious’! They already know such things! Just be honest and simple.

Step Six – Deadlines

Universities in the UK like LSE and Queen Mary generally take students on a rolling basis, so you need to be ready with your applications and apply as soon as they declare the dates.

Cambridge, Yale, Oxford and NUS have a very early deadline. Most of the Law programmes have their deadline in End November (Example – for 2018-2019 Academic Year their deadline is in November end 2017). One needs to plan accordingly and apply at the earliest. Do not wait till the last day to apply, there are times when the server crashes and many other issues can crop up if you wait for the last date!

Step Seven: Taking TOEFL or IELTS is actually Optional in some Universities

Many students and professionals are not aware that they can choose to ‘waive’ taking the English Language Test. There are many Universities which allow you to ‘waive’ it and the best way to go about it is to get a letter from your Under Graduate University saying that the medium of instruction for the 5 year Law School was English. Further, try getting another letter from your School Principle stating the same. The English Language requirement is only for students coming from counties like China, Japan etc where the medium of instruction at the Under Graduate level is actually their native language and not English.

However, there are Universities which have a pr-requisite TOEFL or IELTS score that one must meet. Therefore, do thorough research but also try getting the test waived as you will save INR 10,000 (approximately).

Step Eight – Keep Focus

As a professional, one must realize that they are taking a huge risk by switching to the academic road. After practicing at the High court or working in a Law firm, one generally looses the ability to sit and take ‘exams’. Most of the Universities will have either ‘take-home’ exams or research paper submissions on a weekly basis. So one needs to be focused at all points of time. It is not a ‘break’ year as such because all the good universities are very strict with their plagiarism checks and marking criteria. Therefore, keep focus once you get through the University and for students who are applying, you need to be focused while applying, because the application process can get very tedious. Try maintaining a diary will all the deadlines and keep following up with your professors and employers for your letter of recommendations and transcripts.

Best of Luck! 🙂 


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