For Indian Students planning to do a LLM from UK
By prashbez on Apr 30, 2008
I've been posting on this site for quite some time now and I finally took Mr. India's suggestion and decided to combine whatever information I have gathered (after extensive research) about doing an LLM from UK into one blog. I hope this blog helps the Indian students in taking the right decisions on doing an LLM and also becoming aware of how things stand in general. The purpose of the blog is not to discourage Indian students but to make them aware of the facts so that they can take the right decision on going for the LLM or not and how to fund their studies.
I've obtained admission for the 2008-2009 LLM in a number of Universities in UK and will probably go for the LLM but my reasons for doing the LLM are not really from the perspective of a job in the UK.
FYI, I have 10 years of work ex in India and my experience has been very wide and general ranging from litigation to corporate/ transactional work in law firms to working with MNC's and running my own law firm. I am now concentrating on corporate/ transactional work.
1. CONDITIONAL ADMISSIONS (Requirement of English Language tests):
I got a conditional offer from a college in London and had to submit my TOEFL/ IELTS scores to get an unconditional offer. Other Universities have given me an unconditional offer.
I spoke to the London college a few days back 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. JOB PROSPECTS IN UK AFTER THE LLM:
2.1 The UK law firms really don't care if you have a LLM or not. Their hiring decision is not made on the basis of the LLM but on the basis of the LL.B and your relevant work experience. 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 need a more generalized experience and sometimes in a smaller law firm you're dealing with various areas of law, in UK your experience is more specialized. There's no point in having a general kind of work ex in India if you plan to work outside India. This is feedback that I have received from UK law firms and UK recruitment consultants. In fact not one response from the UK law firms and recruitment consultants has been positive about getting a job in UK after a LLM, for persons with a LL.B degree from India especially as the market is also down in the UK at present. The LLM may have more value in other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong etc. but even then you're not sure. Even after significant work experience in India, you would probably start at a Trainee level or at best as a newly qualified solicitor (if you clear the QLTT). Your previous experience in India would be considered to a certain extent but will not be given a very high preference. Another point which I got to know recently is that 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.
2.2 Just to give you an example of how tough it is to get a job, there was a friend of mine who did his LLM a few years ago from one of the top UK colleges. Before he went for his LLM he was a salaried partner in one of the big Indian law firms in Delhi. After the LLM he didn't get a job for almost one year despite his 6 years of specialized work ex and finally managed to get a job with a UK law firm after a lot of struggle and after sticking on in UK for a couple of years.
2.3 Consider this point, why would a UK law firm hire you after a LLM, 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? Though India is booming right now and foreign law firms are hiring Indian lawyers for their India Practices as well as other practices, but those lawyers are being hired more for their previous work experience than for their LLM. The foreign law firms are hiring Indian lawyers because they see the market in India opening up for the foreign law firms in a few years and it is to their advantage that they set up "India Practices". They 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. I personally know some persons from India, who have gotten jobs with foreign law firms without doing a LLM, after about 5-6 years of transactional work, so a LLM is really not that important for getting a job in a foreign law firm.
3. QUALIFYING AS A SOLICITOR OF ENGLAND AND WALES (Please check the SRA website for more up to date info):
My understanding of the SRA Regulations is that if you don't have 2 years work experience in India then in order to qualify as a Solicitor of England and Wales, you'll need to do the LPC/ GDL and a training contract. But if you do have 2 years experience in India then you need to provide the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) with a letter from your employer certifying your 2 years experience and certain other documents. Once you get a Certificate of Eligibility from the SRA, you can then sit for the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT) in India itself or in UK and clear that to qualify as a Solicitor of England and Wales. For Indian lawyers with a LL.B degree from India, you need to clear the Professional Conduct and Accounts paper and the Principles of Common Law paper (you can get an exemption from this paper if you provide them a Certificate from your Law School stating that you did your LL.B in English). The decision to impose conditions in the Certificate of Eligibility is that of the SRA. The QLTT is not cheap, it'll cost you almost Rs. 80,000/- to Rs. 1,00,000/- and maybe more. But it will help to a certain extent, because after clearing it, you can apply to become a Solicitor of England and Wales. But please don't bank on getting a job in UK even if you have cleared the QLTT and have a LLM degree. Contrary to popular belief, clearing the QLTT and becoming a Solicitor of England and Wales does NOT guarantee you a job with a law firm in UK. The QLTT regulations will change from September 1, 2008. It will now be mandatory for foreign lawyers to obtain 1 year of training in English law. Those who apply for the Certificate of Eligibility after September 1, 2008 will now be governed by the new regulations for the QLTT.
You can check out the QLTT regulations here:
but please be sure to check the SRA website regularly as the rules may change.
4. MY PERSPECTIVE IF YOU HAVE TO COME BACK TO INDIA AFTER THE LLM:
4.1 From an Indian law firm perspective, the LLM really doesn't help you if you come back to India immediately after the LLM. This has been mentioned to me by the Managing Partner of one of the top 4 law firms in Delhi, India, a Senior Partner from another big law firm in Mumbai and a number of other senior lawyers. If you plan to come back to India or are forced to come back for a job after the LLM, then it's better that you get some work experience before you go for the LLM. After 3-5 years of work ex in India, the LLM may help a little bit but not much with Indian law firms. Your salary with the Indian law firms will certainly not jump drastically after the LLM. Yes, if you manage to get 4-5 years work ex after your LLM with a law firm in UK and then come back to India, that would certainly help you in the law firms in India. Starting salaries in the bigger law firms in India have increased drastically in the past few years. The reason for that is self preservation. :))) The Indian law firms have realized that they are losing good talent to the foreign law firms and have therefore had to increase their salaries to retain the good talent. Therefore working in India is now a good option too.
4.2 The LLM may 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.
5. FINANCING YOUR LLM STUDIES
5.1 If you have a scholarship and only need to take a minimal loan, go by all means. The LLM will add value to you as a person, academically and give you an exposure that you would not get here in India. Do it for yourself and to get more in depth knowledge in subjects of your interest and in an international environment.
5.2 If you're going to take a huge loan and finance your LLM, then you should acquire significant and highly specialized work ex in India to be able to pay off the loan in case you have to come back to India. At a lesser work ex level, it will be very tough to pay off a huge loan especially since your salary in India after the LLM will not increase drastically. I have 10 years work ex in India, so I'm really not worried about getting a job and paying off my loans if I come back to India. My reasons for doing the LLM are definitely not from a UK job perspective although it would be welcome if it happens, for the experience.
5.3 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.
5.4 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. J
5.5 Banks in India have the highest rate of interest for an Education Loan unlike the UK and the US. The interest ranges 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. Ha. I would personally prefer the Nationalized banks to the Foreign banks in India. But that's your decision. My calculation of taking a 20 lakhs loan from India banks repayable over 5-7 years is that by the time you repay it, you would be paying back approximately 31 lakhs instead of 20 lakhs. 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. This is a huge figure unless you're earning 1 to 2 lakhs a month (which you're unlikely to earn as a fresh graduate/ after only 2-3 years of work experience or directly after your LL.B and the LLM) and even then it’s a great pressure on you.
5.6 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.
6. REASONS FOR DOING THE LLM:
6.1 Do the LLM for the right reasons and not just from the perspective of getting a job in UK. I want to study further and become more specialized in the subjects of my interest and in areas of law where I already have experience in India. That’s the main reason I'm opting to do the LLM after 10 years of work ex in India.
6.2 For those of you planning to do the LLM right after your LLB, 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 LLM 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 LLM or the subjects you choose if you don’t have work experience. Of course if you come from a family background of lawyers, then you can go right after your LLB especially if you plan to work in your family practice. The other advantage of obtaining at least 2 years of work experience in India is that it enables you to try for the QLTT after getting the Certificate of Eligibility from the SRA.
Hope my views above help Indian students wanting to do a LLM from UK. Please conduct your own research on the LLM, job prospects etc. and let me know if there is any information above, which needs to be amended. I’d be happy to receive any comments and any additional information which persons on this forum may have to share.
All the best and Cheers
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