In this interview Suzann Dinu, a fourth-year student of Law at The National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS) gets in conversation with Ms. Sheerene Mohamed, who graduated from NUALS and went on to pursue her LL.M. from the prestigious New York University School of Law. Shereene is interested in Academia/Human Rights, and talks about LL.M. admissions and her experience in NYU.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself and your college life in India?
I graduated from The National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS) in 2019, with a B.A.LL.B. (Hons.). I tried my best to maintain a GPA above 9, because I was told that that was essential to get into an LLM program. I graduated with an 8.9. I can tell you that though important, it is not essential to have perfect grades, if you can show that you have other qualifications. In my last year, I was the Chief Editor of the NUALS Law Journal and also a Student Council representative for the graduating batch. I also interned with a Supreme Court judge, Justice Malhotra. I had three publications, all in civil/human rights fields. I had also participated in several moots and won one. I was also a part of IDIA.
- Can you walk our readers through the application procedure to get admitted in a foreign university? What tips would you give from your personal experience as a student, to stand out amongst thousands of applicants?
As stated above, develop your unique personal narrative. Are you an academic type? Be on a journal. Write papers or blog articles. Are you an activist? Do volunteer work, moots or conferences in your area of interest.Internships and moots which highlight this are also important. Though between moots and papers, papers are more impressive in an LLM application, something I only learned after coming here. If you are part of a society or begin a club, that is also impressive. They are interested in you as a person, and want to see that you will also enrich the lives of the other students.
- Are there any particular things that you did/wish you did in your UG years which helped with securing an LL.M. admission? When did you realize that you’re interested in pursuing further studies?
One thing I am glad I did was write the journal exam and wrote papers. Another thing is to build good relationships with teachers, since their recommendations are vital to the application. I wish I had focused less on moots, since they are time consuming and the risk/reward ratio is high. (I took part in Jessup and IMLAM) I knew I wanted to pursue higher studies because I wanted to pursue a career in academia in the future. Though I will say to anyone who is interested in doing an LL.M., a year or two of work experience is preferred and I regret not applying after doing that.
- What difference have you found between the curriculum and teaching approach in Indian Law schools and that of Foreign Universities?
The teaching style is quite different. You have to complete the reading daily, else you will be lost throughout the classes and worse, risk fumbling a cold call. Exams are open book and are extremely taxing since you are given little time to think through a complex issue which would not likely have occurred in real life.
- What was the deciding factor behind choosing an LL.M. program outside India?
I knew that doing an LL.M. in India would give me more of the same style of teaching, more emphasis on output and less on exercising my creative and critical mind. In that sense, the American LLM does give you the depth to explore and learn more about things without worrying about the end result (your grade).
- How has the NYU experience aided in your growth and exposure as a lawyer and a person?
The connections you make here with professors and peers is unmatched. They are all at the top of their game and realizing that you are one among them is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It keeps you hungry. To some extent, the NYU students are much happier than those in the Ivys, and that is because they are more free- spirited. I think it has to do with the city itself and how many things there are to do and explore. It has also shaped my personality so much in such a short time.
- Can you tell us a little about the job opportunities awaiting Indian Law students who wish to pursue LLM abroad?
Regarding the American LLM, it is extremely difficult to get a job here, unless it is with an international organization. Law firms are usually interested only in hiring American JDs (the American law degree holders) and a specific profile. Some people I know have leveraged their work experience from India to a job here, provided it is in the same field.
- You must have chalked out goals and plans for your career post your graduation, can you tell us a little about it?
After COVID-19, all my plans have been derailed. I did the LLM with a view to get into academia/human rights work back home, but am finding it difficult to return.
- Lastly, has the COVID-19 situation affected the plights of foreign students in NYU and how has the university handled it?
I was very lucky. NYU supported us throughout, and was one of the few colleges to not evict students from their dorms. Harvard and Penn Law immediately asked their students to leave, leaving them without accommodation. The university also stopped in person classes before the situation escalated further.