By Apoorva Mandhani, Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

LL.M., i.e. Legum Magister, is the recognized Postgraduate Academic Master Degree which is awarded for a course or program in law. The program can be undertaken by those who have successfully completed their under graduation in law. LL.M. is hence an opportunity to learn more, to gain an in-depth knowledge on a subject that suits one’s interests.

Every year National Law Universities conduct the Common Law Admission Test for admission to the LL.M. program.

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The reasons

In a survey of 25 overseas LL.M. students from India graduating between 2009 and 2011 carried out by Columbia Law School graduate Rohan Kaul with Legally India, 40% said they felt their legal education would be incomplete without an LL.M.[1]

The reasons has largely be attributed to the format of teaching and emphasis on rote learning at the under graduate level which negatives the presence of academic rigor in the undergraduate course.

According to this research published by Legally India in October, 2011, 68% of the sample said they went for an LL.M. “for the exposure, multicultural diversity and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and network with people from all over the world”. [2]

Well, it would be acceptable to say that a fair share of lawyers in India might feel at some point of time that they have reached a dead end in the graph of career progression; or they may feel caught up in a job with few opportunities to progress. An LL.M. Course hence offers an opportunity to tackle this deluge. The decision is largely a personal one.

Courses Offered

Most Universities in India offer specialization in Human Rights, Intellectual Property & Business Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Business Law and Criminal Law. Allocation of LL.M. subject specializations are usually done on the basis of merit.

NUJS and NLU, Jodhpur offers LL.M. in Corporate Laws, IPR Laws, International Trade Laws, Banking & Finance and Cyber Law & Cyber Security, MBA and MS in Insurance Studies. HNLU, Raipur additionally offers an LL.M. in Environment law as well.

NLUJAA, Assam offers specialization in Consumer Protection Law, besides other courses.

The course pattern in NALSAR, Hyderabad however, stands out. NALSAR has an attractive pattern for the one year LL.M. Courses, wherein the students would reach and not opt for a specialization. Thus if a student opted for four or more papers in a particular stream, then the student would be awarded an LL.M. degree in that specialization. However if that does not happen the student would be awarded a general LL.M. A student not opting to go for any particular specialization would be awarded a general LL.M. by the end of the course. Apart from elective courses, the three mandatory courses are: Research Methods and Legal Writing, Comparative Public Law/Systems of Governance, Law and Justice in Globalizing World.[3]

Such a pattern provides the much required flexibility in the LL.M. courses offered in India. However, just like the conventional LL.M. courses in India, this one too focuses on a career in academics by involving responsibilities such as helping the teacher in preparing reading materials, conducting the tutorials and providing consultation to the undergraduate students in the projects.

Two sides of the coin

Out of 118 LL.M. graduates from NLSIU, NALSAR and NUJS for the academic year 2010-11, a majority opted for academic careers, while only five got a job with law firms or corporates.[4]

It is widely felt that an LL.M. from an Indian university or law school is handicapped by lack of a structured curriculum, especially for the new and emerging areas of law. Although it would not be fair to make a generalization, LLMs offered by the majority of Indian law schools or universities are not at par with the LL.M. programs offered by top Universities of US and UK.[5]

In addition, law firms value the exposure abroad as the lawyers today need to represent clients both domestically and internationally in a variety of trans-border transactions.

The overall perception of pursing LL.M. from India has been that it is not a preferred qualification for law firms, the reasons being that the LL.M. curriculum in India is more focused on a career in academics and not law firms or corporates.

The introduction of one year LL.M. program by UGC has also been viewed with skepticism. It is being felt that this move may dilute quality of the post graduate programme in the country. As far as the quality of curriculum and instruction is concerned, law schools admit that Indian LL.M. programs need to be more industry-oriented offering a more ‘hands-on’ or practical approach so that the value and the demand for an Indian LL.M. increases.[6]

However, a career in academics is a noble one. Most LL.M. courses in India focus on this and provide a well-tailored course for this purpose. Pursuing an LL.M. from India should hence, not only be viewed as a medium to get a more appealing curriculum vitae, but be seen as an opportunity to grow, to learn and then impart.

Further, the Universities are innovating with the courses now, offering LL.M. in subjects such as cyber law and cyber security, environment laws, etc. Hence, it won’t be fair to say that the Universities are lacking somewhere when they focus their LL.M. courses on a career in academics. There is a dearth of people passionate about R&D and academics. The courses hence, carve out this essential feature into its students.

Conclusion

Obtaining a post graduation in law would certainly expand your powerhouse of knowledge, focusing all your vigor on one turf of your choice. In any case, opt for the programme by thinking it through completely, but then go further and understand how to get the most out of it. Decide which options to choose within the programme – the right courses, professors and outside activities like student organizations, career development series etc. will definitely supply you the highest payoff in terms of what you want from the programme.

References: 

[1]Ganz Kian, “Fascination with LLMs in India”, Available at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/H8pipHDB9aVr9fRZJ6PrQO/Fascination-with-LLMs-in-India.html

[2] Ganz Kian, “US job market remains in dumps; 92% of Indian LLM grads come home empty handed?” Available at: http://www.legallyindia.com/201201192506/Analysis/li-mint-us-job-market-remains-in-dumps-92-of-indian-llm-grads-come-home-empty-handed

[3] http://www.nalsar.ac.in/postgraduate-study-in-law

[4] Sayta Jay, “LM recruitments: Shunned by law firms top NLU LLM grads go in-house, teach”, Available at: http://www.legallyindia.com/Graduates-Bar-Exam/llm-recruitments-shunned-by-law-firms-top-nls-llm-grads-go-in-house-teach

[5] Kachhawaha Richa, “All about an LLM- Part I”, Available at: http://www.livelaw.in/all-about-an-llm-part-i/

[6] Kachhawaha Richa, “All about an LLM- Part II”, Available at: http://www.livelaw.in/all-about-an-llm-part-ii/

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