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Hi
I have summarized information that I have gathered (after extensive research) about doing an LL.M from UK into one blog. I hope this blog helps the Indian students in taking the right decisions on whether or not to do a LL.M and also becoming aware of how things stand in general.

1. CONDITIONAL ADMISSIONS (Requirement of English Language tests) AND EXEMPTION: 

1.1 I got a conditional offer from my first preference college in London and had to submit my TOEFL/ IELTS scores to get an unconditional offer. Many colleges had given me an unconditional offer.

1.2 I spoke to the London college over phone and informed them that I had studied all throughout in English. After speaking with me, they informed me that if I submitted a certificate from my University (where I did my LL.B) stating that I studied the LL.B in English, they would waive the TOEFL/ IELTS for me and give me unconditional admission. Maybe others who have studied all throughout in English and have to fulfill the English language condition can make a similar request to the colleges where they have received conditional admission.

2. FINANCING YOUR LLM STUDIES

2.1 If you have a scholarship and only need to take a minimal loan, go by all means. The LL.M will add value to you as a person and academically. It would give you an exposure that you would not get here in India. In addition you would build up a worldwide network of contacts. Needless to say you would also end up making some really close friends.

2.2  If you're going to take a huge loan and finance your LL.M, then you should acquire significant, stable and highly specialized work experience in India to be able to pay off the loan in case you have to come back to India. At a lesser work experience level, it will be very tough to pay off a huge loan especially since your salary in India after the LL.M will not increase drastically.

2.3  If you're taking a loan and you think you can pay off the loan easily, then go by all means. But don't take a huge loan just from a foreign job perspective cause the risks involved are large. An important point is that a large loan puts a lot of pressure on you and gives you much less flexibility till you pay off the loan. In the present UK market it's next to impossible to get a job after the LL.M.

2.4 Another suggestion is to postpone your admission to the next year and earn some money to finance a major part of your studies/ living costs especially if you have age on your side. 

2.5 Banks in India have the highest rate of interest for an Education Loan unlike the UK and the US. The interest last year ranged between 12% per annum to about 13.5% per annum and for an amount of Rs. 7.5 lakhs and above most banks require a collateral of similar value and a third party guarantee. Even the housing loans are offered at a lower rate of interest than the education loans.

2.6  My calculation of taking a Rs. 20,00,000/- loan from Indian banks repayable over 5-7 years is that by the time you repay it, you would be paying back approximately Rs. 31,00,000/- lakhs or maybe more (my maths was weak so do the calculation for yourself too).:) Think about this figure because the repayment starts one year after you finish your course or 6 months after you get a job. The interest clock keeps ticking while you're studying, unless you're able to service the interest while studying. The expected EMI on the above loan of 20 lakhs is about Rs. 30000/- per month or more. This is a large EMI unless you're earning 1.5 to 2 lakhs a month (which you're unlikely to earn as a fresh graduate/ after only a few years of work experience or directly after your LL.B and the LL.M) and even then it’s a great pressure on you. 

2.7 If you/ your family can’t finance your studies, minimize the bank loan, even if you have to take one. Apply for all the scholarships available and take soft loans from parents, relatives, friends and well-wishers. This way, you don’t have the pressure of paying an EMI after your course or after you get a job.

3. REASONS FOR DOING THE LL.M:

3.1 Do the LL.M for the right reasons and not just from the perspective of getting a job in UK. The worst possible decision you can take in whether to do the LL.M or not is to decide on the basis of getting a job in UK. Do the LL.M only if you want to study further and become more specialized in the subjects of your interest and in areas of law where you already have some amount of experience in India and NOT for the job prospects.

3.2 For those of you planning to do the LL.M right after your LL.B, my suggestion is to work for some time and get some experience in India. The main reason for my suggestion is that after working for a while, you’ll be very sure about which areas of law really interest you. If you go for the LL.M at that stage where you know what you want to specialize in, it will help you much more than if you go without work experience. You might make the wrong decisions about the choice of the LL.M or the subjects you choose if you don’t have work experience.

3.3 The LL.M is really valuable from the perspective of widening your horizons, interacting with people from different countries, travelling to interesting countries/ places, experiencing different cultures and building up worldwide networks that would help you years later in an increasingly global environment. For me it was good to be a student again after so many years of working, apart from gaining specialized knowledge of course.

3.4 The course is tough and unless you do it properly you really won't benefit from it. There's enough scope for having fun provided you are regular with your studies. If you maintain a healthy balance you'll not only do well but also enjoy yourself. There's no point going for the LL.M, spending that much money, if you're not going to study seriously. Don't treat the LL.M as just another exam but try to gain as much knowledge as you can.  

4. JOB PROSPECTS IN UK AFTER THE LLM:

4.1 Barring a few UK law firms, most UK law firms really don't care if you have a LL.M or not. Their hiring decision is not made on the basis of the LL.M but on the basis of the LL.B and your relevant work experience.

4.2 By relevant work experience I mean a specialized work experience, which is related to the law firm's areas of expertise. Unlike India where you may need a more generalized experience and sometimes in a smaller law firm you're dealing with various areas of law, in UK the experience requirement is more specialized.

4.3 There's no point in having a general kind of work experience in India if you plan to work outside India. This is feedback that I have received from UK law firms and UK recruitment consultants.

4.4 Not one response from the UK law firms and recruitment consultants in 2008-09 had been positive about getting a job in UK after a LL.M, for persons with a LL.B degree from India. Things will be much worse now in 2010-11 with the present market conditions in UK. You'll also be competing with all the retrenched lawyers/ previous year LL.M students for jobs once you graduate. The LL.M may have more value in other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong etc. but even then you're not sure considering the present economic scenario.

4.5 Even after significant work experience in India, post the LL.M, you would probably start at a Trainee level or at best as a newly qualified solicitor (if you clear the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT). Your previous experience in India would be considered to a certain extent but will not be given a very high preference.

4.6 The more experience you have in India, the less the chances of getting a Trainee position as you would be then be over qualified for a Trainee position. Therefore for persons with more than 6-10 years experience in India, it becomes even more difficult to join a UK law firm in my view unless they are taken on as lateral placements (whihc is very tough).

4.7 Consider this point, why would a UK law firm hire you after a LL.M, when there are persons applying to them who have done a 3-year LL.B degree from UK and also have UK work experience in comparison to Indian work experience or no work experience. 

4.8 India is a choice destination now and foreign law firms were hiring Indian lawyers for their India Practices as well as other practices earlier, but those lawyers were being hired more for the purpose of being trained/ for their education in India and previous work experience than for their LL.M. The foreign law firms are hiring Indian lawyers because they hope that the market in India opens up for the foreign law firms in a few years and it is to their advantage that they set up "India Practices". Of course with the Mumbai High Court judgment things have become unclear once again. Ultimately it is now for the legislature to take a call. 

4.9 The foreign law firms definitely don't have an altruistic reason for hiring Indian lawyers but are doing it only for the reason that when the Indian market opens up for them, they can then send back those lawyers to work for their offices in India or advise their clients' on setting up in India. Further only a small percentage of the Indian lawyers who apply for jobs to foreign law firms get them. 

4.10 I also know persons from India, who have gotten jobs with foreign law firms without doing a LL.M, after about 5-6 years of transactional work, so a LL.M is really not that important for getting a job in a foreign law firm.

4.11 In the present recession a lot of Indian lawyers have been retrenched and have now come back to India, so think about that too before going for the LL.M. 

5. MY VIEWS (IF YOU HAVE TO COME BACK TO INDIA AFTER THE LL.M):

5.1 From an Indian law firm perspective, the LL.M really doesn't help you if you come back to India immediately after the LL.M. Senior persons in the profession have mentioned this to me.

5.2 If you plan to come back to India or are forced to come back for a job after the LL.M, then it's better that you get some work experience before you go for the LL.M. After 3-5 years of work experience in India, the LL.M may help a little bit but not much with Indian law firms.

5.3 Your salary with the Indian law firms will certainly not jump drastically after the LL.M. Yes, if you manage to get 4-5 years work ex after your LL.M with a law firm in UK and then come back to India, that would probably help you in the law firms in India.

5.4 Starting salaries in a lot of law firms in India have increased drastically in the past few years. India is growing and being a lawyer in India at this time is a good option. 

5.5 The LL.M may have also have some value for a MNC and a Legal Process Outsourcing Company in India but there also a lot will depend on your previous work experience in India.

Hope my views above help Indian students wanting to do a LL.M from UK. Please conduct your own research on the LL.M, job prospects etc. and let me know if there is any information above, which needs to be amended or is incorrect. I’d be happy to receive any comments and any additional information which persons on this forum may have to share.

I would be writing about my experiences in the LL.M in UK whenever I find time to do so. Keep checking. 

All the best and Cheers

Prash

Tagged in: legal education LLM UK
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