Ashirbad Nayak is a graduate of the National Law University, Odisha and formerly worked in J. Sagar Associates, Gurugram. He has recently been granted two prestigious scholarships, the Justice Prathiba M. Singh and J.N. Tata Loan Endowment for the Higher Education of Indians abroad, to study a masters in law with a specialisation in data protection at the University of Cambridge for the year 2021-2022.
He has been interviewed by Tanya Sharma, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Amity Law School, Noida
- Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, I am Ashirbad, a current Master of Law (LLM) student at the University of Cambridge. I graduated in 2020 from National Law University Odisha. Thereafter, I had a short stint at the Gurugram office of J. Sagar Associates, following which I entered Cambridge for my master’s program. I had the best time of my life in law school. I loved to travel to all the restaurants in the city with my friends. Training in karate every day with my friends used to be the best part of my day in law school. And whenever I got time, I would sketch, paint, binge watch movies, or play eminem on a loop.
- In which year of your undergraduate studies did you decide to pursue LLM, and what was your motivation behind it?
I knew from my first year that I wanted to pursue an LLM. There was no rhyme or reason behind it back then. However, as I went through my years at college, I gave the idea some serious thought and decided it was the right path to choose. I would say the biggest motivation behind it was my visit to Oxford for the world rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition in 2018. Just being at that place humbled me, and then I realised that I actually wanted to be at such an institution. It was onwards from there.
- Do you have any pointers on how to approach LLM applications? When should one ideally start the application process? What factors should one consider while applying?
I would suggest that prospective applicants prepare a spreadsheet of various colleges and scholarships along with their relevant details such as admissions criteria and other requirements. This would help them adopt an organised approach towards the application. As regards the ideal start date, the earlier, the better, as that gives you more time to refine your application and get the letters of recommendations prepared, and so on and so forth. There are multiple factors to keep in mind: financial consideration being a big one, identifying the relevant university with the best faculty for the area you are interested in pursuing further is also another factor to keep in mind.
- Were there any interviews for the LLM? Could you also share with our readers the resources you relied upon for your preparation?
There are no interviews for the LLM applications in most colleges as far as my experience in this regard has been. As regards to resources, I would simply say that reach out to people for help, and they surely will respond. I did that and received a tremendous amount of help from a large number of people. Some of the people I reached out to help for actually became close friends of mine. So, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
- How did you come to the conclusion that Cambridge is the right fit for you? What other colleges did you consider for pursuing LLM?
Cambridge was an easy choice for me. I wanted to study data protection, and Cambridge has the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law which has done a tremendous amount of work in this field. Dr David Erdos also teaches at Cambridge, and his work was very influential to me back in my undergraduate program. So, Cambridge was a no-brainer for me. Apart from Cambridge, I also applied to Oxford and London School of Economics.
- What are the academic requirements for the Cambridge application, and are there any similar requirements for applying for scholarships?
There is obviously a high academic standard in your undergraduate program that Cambridge looks for. Apart from this, your curriculum vitae, references, and reasons for applying (statement of purpose) carry a great deal of weightage. The finer details regarding the requirements for scholarship and college applications can be found on their respective websites. I would strongly urge the applicants to go through them, as they are pretty exhaustive and clear in themselves.
- You have been awarded two prestigious scholarships, one from the Cambridge Trust and the other from the Tata Trust. Could you please reflect on the evaluation and application procedure for these scholarships? What was your experience like going through the same process?
I have received the Prathiba M. Singh Cambridge Trust Scholarship and the J.N. Tata Loan Endowment from Tata Trusts. For the former, the law faculty and Cambridge shortlisted my name for the interview based on my Cambridge application. And for the latter, I had to apply separately and clear an online examination prior to the interview. The respective interviews were quite in-depth, both in terms of subjective knowledge as well as personal assessment. The experience was unlike anything else. Intense, stressful, but extremely rewarding.
- How should an applicant go about writing their statement of purposes (SOPs)? What are your thoughts on the most frequent mistakes candidates make when drafting their SOPs, and what may have worked in your favour?
Just be honest in your SOP. Write your own story, your desires, your motivations, and why the university and you are a right fit for each other. Do not copy someone else’s; the admissions office will catch something that is not original. Take a bit of time, think things through, and then draft. What worked in my favour was that I was crystal clear in my mind about why I was applying and how Cambridge was the place for me. I think that helped a lot.
- What extracurricular or co-curricular activities did you do in your undergraduate studies that you think might have contributed to your selection? Could you explain to our readers how legal researching or writing research papers assisted you in strengthening your application?
I took part in every activity that I could back in my undergraduate days. Moots, debates, publications, college committees, volunteering for events, MUNs, competitions, I took part in everything. I enjoyed doing them, and fortunately, I was quite productive at most of the events, so the same was reflected in my application and my CV. Which I think helped my candidature. I would say while researching and writing helped me write my application better; it was the moots that gave me the ability to question, think, rationalise and criticise every aspect of my application, which helped me more.
- How has your experience in Cambridge been thus far? What are the few Cambridge students’ practices that you believe Indian students should emulate?
It has been fantastic so far. There are lots of events going on at all points of time, so you can fill your plate in any way you want. There are people from all over the world, all of them incredibly smart, making the experience all the more enjoyable. Plus, Cambridge is really pretty, so there is something magical about the place. That being said, the studies are intense, of course, but there is a great welfare and support system that helps you along the way. No practices as such that anyone should adopt. Just keep an open mind and learn as much as you can from everyone around you.
- How should law students construct their CVs to follow the same trajectory as yours and do you have any advice on why should one consider going for LLM?
First thing, do not follow anyone else’s trajectory; make your own path. Your experiences in life so far are different from other people. So, build on that. Ask others for help, take their suggestions, but always do what you feel fits you. Do not be worried about building your CV. Keep your academics as your first priority, go about exploring the world of law, and do whatever you want with all your heart. Your CV will automatically be built up through that. Evaluate your priorities while deciding to apply for an LLM. It can be really expensive without scholarships. Also, evaluate what role it may play in your professional and personal life while applying.
- Would you have any last words for law students?
Quite a few people that I have come across do not enjoy their time in law school for various reasons. This is perfectly understandable considering the peer pressure, academic pressure everything else that comes along with law school life. With that being said, those five years have the potential of being the most formative and eventful years of your life. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at law school, and to everyone reading this, I would urge them to try and make the most out of it. The friendships that you make during that period would last your entire lifetime. No matter where you go in life, the things that you did in your undergraduate program would be forever etched in your memory. Try to make the most out of it so that when it is all said and done, you can fondly look back on the time that you had in college.