Darshan Patankar, who is currently in his 5th year at GNLU. He has been admitted to Cambridge to pursue the LLM programme. He has been an avid mooter throughout his 5 years at GNLU and he was part of the team that broke into Top-32 at the the Vis Vienna International Commercial Arbitration Moot. The interview was conducted by Hrithik Khurana, EBC and SCC Online Ambassador.
- Please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello everyone. I am currently in my final year at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar where I am pursuing the B.A. LL.B (Hons.) course. At GNLU, I have particularly enjoyed studying and mooting. My hobbies include playing Table Tennis and I have also been a State Level Table Tennis Player. I am also an avid cricket fan and a foodie.
- Sinceyou are in fifth year and nearing graduation, what has the experience been like throughout the course of these 5 years.
The experience at GNLU has been brilliant. First, I have been extremely lucky to be part of a batch with some brilliant people. This particularly helped when during the classroom discussions, people would raise probing questions and open up a totally new perspective to a particular issue. If I had any doubts or concerns, I would discuss them with my peers and they would be resolved more often than not. Second, GNLU has an exceptional mooting culture and I was one of the beneficiaries of that. Right since my first year, I looked up to my seniors and learnt the nuances of mooting. The First Intra (Indian Law) and Second Intra System (Public International Law) of allocating moots is very competitive. But fortunately, I always got the moots I aimed for. Third, I am grateful to my friends for standing by me in the most testing times. At Law School, things can get difficult sometimes. And that is when my friends stood up for me. To summarise, I think I developed professionally as well as personally during my time at GNLU and I will dearly miss the place.
- What all co-curricular and extra-curricular activities did you pursue during your law school life and how did you manage those with academics?
Apart from Academics, I mostly participated and excelled in Moot Court Competitions. Further, I was also a part of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law, the GNLU Centre for Litigation and Advocacy other than being the Elected Student Representative of the Internal Complaints Committee of the University. In my final year, I was part of the GNLUMSIL, NHRC and GIMC’s Organising Committee. I also represented the University at various Table Tennis tournaments. I guess to pursue extra-curricular activities and committee work in addition to academics, it was always a question of time management. Since I had stayed at a residential school for five years (06th to 10th), I had learnt to manage time well and allocate time to various tasks in a given day. Time Management and planning helped me immensely to attend classes, moot, engage in committee work and chill at the same time. While pursuing extra-curricular activities, academics was always my top priority and I never compromised at academics.
- In the recently concluded 27th Vis Vienna International Commercial Arbitration Moot, your team became the first ever from GNLU to break into the knockout stages, how was the experience like and what do you think are the takeaways from the participation and your achievement at the competition.
Of all the nine external moots that I have participated in, Vis will continue to be my most memorable moot. This is because the problem is balanced, extremely well drafted and the competition is quite intense given that 400 teams (Vienna) and almost 140 teams (Hong Kong) participate at the Moot. At this year’s Vis, the primary challenge was to handle Online Rounds since the rounds were conducted virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, we also had to adjust since my co-speaker and I was in different cities and couldn’t communicate while the rounds were going on. So we had to be extremely patient and calm while tackling virtual rounds. In fact, in the very first round, my Internet disconnected five times during the round but the Arbitrators were very patient and that helped us. Third, I have believed that Vis is a life altering moot and this year was no exception. Our team worked extremely hard over the past year and we broke and could make it to the Top 32 teams. I share a very special bond with my teammates and they will continue to remain lifelong friends. At the Vis, one comes across people from all the countries over the world and learns the differences in approach to the problem. It is a great learning curve for any law student and a must do moot for any passionate mooter.
- From what we have learnt, you have been admitted to pursue the LL.M. programme at the Cambridge University, how did you go about applying for the same and what was the feeling when you got the information that you have been admitted?
First of all, your information is correct. I applied to the University of Cambridge and the applications were to be submitted in the first week of December, 2019. The applications involved writing a Statement of Purpose, submitting the CV and two Letters of Recommendations (Academic). The Statement of Purpose was the most challenging part since I had to introspect and think a lot of what I wanted to do in future. Regardless of the result, the application process by itself was quite satisfying since I got to learn a lot about myself as a person and at the end of the process, I was clear in my thoughts. My approach was to be extremely honest in terms of my purpose and display that through my experiences and achievements. When I learnt that I had been made the conditional offer, I was having dinner with my friends and to be precise, I was having a chocolate sundae dessert. I was overwhelmed at that time and I was extremely happy. I could not have handled the process without my parents, professors, seniors and my friends. I would like to specially mention Mr. Abhishek Vyas who also got admitted to Cambridge to pursue the M.Phil course for helping me during the entire process.
- Did you apply to other universities as well? Could you please briefly tell us the procedure for applying to these universities and what all aspects must be kept in mind before applying and during the application procedure?
I only applied to Universities in the UK and not in the US. Apart from Cambridge, I had applied to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and I was accepted. However, my application to the University of Oxford was unsuccessful. In terms of the procedure, for UK Universities at least, it is highly academic in nature. As per the calendar, the first application is for Cambridge and that is around the first week of December. For Oxford, the deadline to apply is usually in the last week of January. These Universities mostly require one to submit the CV, a Statement of Purpose and 2 letters of recommendations. Further, they also require one to take the TOEFL/IELTS exam as a part of the Language requirements. This is slightly different for Oxford since 3 Letters of Recommendations and an essay is required to be submitted. If one has maintained healthy grades, the chances of applying successfully increase manifolds. While this criterion is debatable, it is largely followed by these Universities while scrutinising applications. Further, in addition to grades, a well drafted and structured Statement of Purpose can set apart any candidate. Personally, I requested few people to review my CV and Statement of Purpose. That included my parents as well and all of their inputs were really vital for me. According to me anyone who wishes to pursue masters should start early i.e. at the end of the fourth year and prepare for their applications.
- What are your future plans, after completing the LL.M. programme?
Well, as of now everything is quite subjective and uncertain due to the prevailing situation. However, if all goes well, I would prefer to return to India and pursue my career. As of now, I have no intentions of settling abroad. Law as a profession has always fascinated me. I hope “I do what I love and I love what I do.”
- Lastly, if you have any advice for the students who are either looking to pursue law as a career or to those who are already pursuing but just like you want to pursue masters in law from reputed universities.
Law is a noble profession and it presents every lawyer or law student to make a difference in the lives of others. While our contributions might seem small, yet they are significant and important. At Law School, we often waste and undermine the opportunities that are easily available for us. My advice to students pursuing law would be to use one’s energy to the fullest and make maximum use of one’s time at Law School. One can do this by attending classes diligently, self-studying, playing a sport or learning how to play an instrument and working for committees and centres. To those who wish to pursue masters, I would suggest them to start early and introspect and speak to as many people as possible instead of waiting for the last week. Starting early for Masters Applications will prove to be quite helpful at a later point in time.