In conversation with Sara Jain on LLM., SAM, and a Stellar Academic Record

Sara Jain is from the first batch of graduates, of 2020, from Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai. She is an incoming associate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Her LL.M. application was accepted by the University of Cambridge as well as the London School of Economics. She has had a stellar academic record and is currently pursuing the Company Secretary course. She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Shruti Dhonde who is currently pursuing her law from MNLU, Mumbai.

  1. You have a stellar academic record, standing first in class and having topped in 30 subjects. Although a lot of personal effort – hard work and dedication goes behind creating such a unique record, I’d still, venture to ask what was your study pattern was like and what studying tips would you give to your juniors?

Thank you so much for your kind words and appreciation. Quite honestly, I don’t think I have any tips or strategies as such! I just really like studying law and it is my passion to keep reading up on it. But I will still try to answer your question.

Firstly, I think it is extremely important to pay attention in class and make your own notes (no surprises here!). The simple reason is that it helps you revisit the class before exams and contextualise everything instead of cramming important questions at the last minute.

Secondly, as law students, I believe it is significant that we read landmark judgments thoroughly, if time permits of course. This serves particularly useful in answering questions where one is expected to argue for or against a case on the basis of given facts. Also, remembering case laws with their ratio decidendi is required many a times.

Lastly, I think teaching and explaining concepts to someone else is one of the best ways to study for any paper. It helps you get a deeper knowledge of the subject and increases clarity (in some cases, might even fetch you treats!!).

  1. You were pursuing a Company Secretary course along with your degree. Would you share with us your considerations behind pursuing an additional degree?

Being inclined towards corporate law, I believed that pursuing the CS course would complement my B.A., LL.B. degree and fulfil my aspiration of gaining in-depth knowledge of the subject. I realized that the course would enable me to link the disciplines of law and accountancy and understand the compliances required by companies from a regulatory perspective. Thus, my considerations were purely academic in nature.

  1. How did you manage your time? What are your key takeaways from your experience of juggling two degrees, if I may put it that way?

Along with academics, moots, publications, and other activities at law school, I was hardly able to devote time for studying CS during the term. However, I made it a point to practice accountancy subjects regularly. As for the law subjects, I had planned (to the maximum extent possible) to appear for those papers in CS that had already been taught in law school. Nevertheless, after appearing for my law school exams, I used to relentlessly study for the Company Secretary course to make up for the time lost earlier. I also had to plan my legal internships in a manner that they did not coincide with my CS exams.

Although quite a gruelling experience, I would certainly recommend it to all those who have an interest in corporate law. This combination enabled me to rationalize legal provisions by understanding their importance in accountancy and vice-versa. For instance, while my law degree taught me that buy-back can be done only of fully paid-up shares, I learnt its accounting implications through the CS course. Further, the CS course made me extremely comfortable with accounting and finance related technical jargons.

 

  1. Your application for pursuing an LL.M. was accepted by both Cambridge as well as L.S.E. Congratulations on that as well! Is there a certain trajectory in terms of academics and extra-curricular activities that these universities are looking at?

Thank you so much. While I am not aware of the exact dynamics that go into their decision-making, I understand that academics do play an important role, especially in UK colleges. I say so because my conditional offer at LSE highlighted that I need to have a 7.6/8 in my B.A., LL.B. degree (It might also be so because I had an average of 7.8/8 till my VIII semester- so can’t say for sure).

Having said that, I believe that ultimately everything boils down to the quality of the Statement of Purpose and Letters of Recommendation. I believe the Admissions Committee looks out for an inspiring story that ties in through one’s achievements and participations. The final decision is based on how passionately one has pursued his/her interests and wishes to do the same in future. So, for instance, my interest in corporate law was showcased through my academics, corporate internships, publications, Company Secretary course, research internships etc.

 

  1. When should one ideally start working on their application and what are the requirements of the process?

I would say: the sooner, the better. Ideally, applicants should start working at least six months prior to the application deadline. Given the time undertaken to think, draft and redraft documents, a delay might lead to unnecessary panic and undesirable consequences.

The basic documents required include a Transcript, Statement of Purpose, Letters of Recommendation and English Test Scores. The Transcript should be submitted in accordance with the directions of the potential University and thus, all such requirements should be intimated to the present college authorities beforehand. Almost all foreign universities require an additional English language requirement. Both Cambridge and LSE had a high requirement of 110/120 for TOEFL and thus, I had decided to leave enough time so that I could rewrite the exam, if need be (Luckily, I got 116/120, so was saved from that). Lastly, I cannot overemphasize on the significance of the SoPs and LoRs which require considerable time and effort.

  1. What would you say are your learnings from the application process?

The application process was indeed a great learning experience. While writing my Statement of Purpose, the amount of brainstorming I underwent gave me a better idea of who I am and what my goals in life are. I also understood the significance of time-management and constructive criticism by seniors and peers.

  1. What advice would you give to future aspirants?

As I have already highlighted, starting early is key to the success of an LLM application. Before writing their Statement of Purpose, applicants should introspect and ascertain what their traits, values and defining moments are. Thereafter, they should build upon these and reflect what their goals and aspirations are. There are several blogs, articles, and even books that can help in the process. Guidance provided by colleges like NYU on their official websites are also pretty useful. For Letters of Recommendation, apart from approaching the recommenders early, applicants can provide details of their interaction with them. This would make the task of the recommenders easier and ensure that they don’t forget important instances. Further, some amount of preparation for TOEFL/IELTS exams is also important.

  1. Congratulations on receiving a pre-placement offer from SAM! Given the variety of activities that law schools offer, what should one focus on, in order to develop a skillset that law firms are looking for?

Thank you so much! In my opinion, law firms value dedication, consistency, and willingness to work. While academics ensures that one is well-versed with the law; moot courts, ADRs and debates develop communication and presentation skills- that are all important for a law student to excel. Participating in moots and authoring publications develop research skills that can ultimately be used to impress seniors during internships, who would then go on for recommending you for a PPO.

In short, all activities offered in law schools contribute significantly toward building the personality of a law student. If one is equipped with superior legal knowledge, confidence and motivation to work hard- landing a PPO would not be difficult (maybe a little bit of luck too!).

  1. While you had applied for and had successfully received both opportunities – pursuing an LL.M. as well as joining SAM, what were the factors that influenced your final decision?

I am extremely grateful for both these opportunities. However, after speaking to the experts in the field and knowing my potential batchmates, I understood that an LLM would serve more beneficial after I acquire some work experience in corporate law. It would not only enable me to get more clarity on my interests, but also enrich my LLM experience. Further, it would enhance my chances of landing a scholarship! So, I am really excited about starting my job at SAM this October (which has been deferred from July due to the pandemic).

  1. What advice that you would like to give to current law students?

Work hard and follow your passion!

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