Raushan Tara Jaswal is an Incoming Candidate, Masters of Law
(LL.M), University of Cambridge & a Commonwealth Shared Cambridge Scholar,
2019-2020. Law students in India who aspire to pursue their masters from foreign
universities often struggle to find a one stop location where they can
understand and simplify this seemingly cumbersome process.
Here, Miss Jaswal explains in detail her own experience while she went about applying for various LLM programmes in some of the most prestigious institutions around the globe.
"So this post is my attempt to explain in detail the admission process for LLM Programs in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I am writing this post at this stage as many of you would have started the admission process for the LLM Class of 2020. I hope this post helps everyone and anyone who goes through it. I am writing this in hopes to be a beginners guide as well as offer some in-depth insight into some of the processes required by these colleges
I got accepted at the following schools but I will be discussing even those schools that I applied and I didn't get in and/or other schools that I researched for but didn't apply
1. Master of Law, LL.M. University of Cambridge, United
2. Master of Law, LL.M. (International Legal Studies) New York University, United States of America
3. Master of Law, LL.M. (General), Cornell University, United States of America
4. Master of Law, LL.M. (General), University of Pennsylvania, United States of America
5. Master of Law, LL.M. (General), Georgetown University, United States of America
6. Master of Law, LL.M. (Traditional Track), University of Berkeley, United States of America
1. Master of Law, LL.M. University of Cambridge, United
United States of America (USA)
The most important thing about applying to the US is that you need to have money to apply. Please make sure that you have an easy Rs. 75,000 (INR) to even start applying to these colleges. This is a fact that is not well advertised, but LLM Programs are highly expensive to simply even apply to. Since I am speaking from an Indian perspective, please keep that in mind going forward. Please read the following steps VERY carefully
As soon as you have decided to apply to the US Law Schools, (I will list the reasons why I chose to apply to the US and still chose the UK over the US later in this post) please visit LSAC - Law School Admissions Council (https://llm.lsac.org/login/access.aspx) and make an account. Make sure this is your Step 1. The sooner you do this, the happier and easier this process will be
After you make an account on the website, you will be prompted to pay 2 different fees. Please also do that immediately. One would be a Document Assembly Service (DAS) Fees- $85 (~ Rs. 6,000) and the other will be International Transcript Authentication and Evaluation (IAETS) Fees - $135 (~Rs.9,500). (https://llm.lsac.org/APPLY/CREDENTIALS/llm_Credentials.aspx)
As International applicants, for the majority of the schools, you need to pay both these fees. Columbia University is the only university (that I came across) that doesn't specifically require the IAETS - that is they don't specifically require an evaluation of your transcript. However, having said that, it is always better to opt for it
Once you pay for these services, a Transcript Request Form (TRF) will be generated for you with your unique LSAC Number and the details of the University that you have attended. After you receive your TRF, please make sure you get the following documents from the UNIVERSITY (and not the college that you attended - there is a difference in Indian Universities): https://www.lsac.org/llm-other-law-program-applicants/application-process-llm-other-law-programs/application-0?view=1
1. Transcript - this can be a consolidated mark sheet as well and preferably in the original
2. A photocopy/copy of your Degree Certificate - this can even be a Provisional Certificate. If it is a photocopy, please make sure that you get it attested from your University
3. A Statement of Rank - some colleges like New York University and Columbia University requires them. Even if your college doesn't officially rank students, make sure you get that on the letterhead stating that
4. English Language Proficiency - some colleges grant waivers in lieu of the TOEFL/IELTS. It should just say that your course was conducted in English. You might want to keep this handy, just in case
Make sure these documents are all assembled in one sealed envelope with a stamp across the flap along with the TRF which is counter-signed by your University officials. I would also personally advise getting multiple of such envelops ready from the University (without the TRF though) if you can, as you will not have to do this exercise ever again - even if it is for the New York Bar and/or after admission requirements in the United Kingdom
Now, every University has its own processes, however, I am going to explain in detail what I had to do for my particular college - Amity Law School, Delhi, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
Process for Document Retrieval - GGSIPU
Go to the University Campus - Sector 16C Dwarka to the Admission Block (ideally first to the payment counter and then they send you to Room 127) and ASK THEM IN DETAIL THE PROCESS. They are usually VERY HELPFUL and will repeat the process for you over and over again. Deposit the fees for the transcript in the local UCO Bank which is located inside the University Premises. Once you pay the fees for the transcripts AND the attestation, deposit it in the same counter. You will also need to get a photocopy of the receipt as they give it back to you as a 'Student Copy'. Without the photocopy of the receipt, they will refuse to accept your applications and you will have problems when you come back to take the documents. There should be 4 individual applications - one for each of the documents required. Your Enrollment Number should be on all of them. They should be addressed to the Registrar. Also, you will be required to attach the photocopies of your Provisional Certificate/Degree, Combined Marksheet and any other document that you may feel relevant - like the photocopies that you want to be attested, etc. After 25 working days (~1 month), they will contact you to collect your documents. They will put the documents in front of you - so make sure that one envelope has all the above 4 listed documents along with the TRF which is signed by the Assistant Registrar
Now, if you don't have your originals, they won't attest the documents. Being a lawyer, especially one who is enrolled in Delhi, please make sure that when you are waiting for your documents, you go to the Delhi Bar Council (Siri Fort Branch) and get your Provisional Certificate. This is obviously in case you haven't received your degree. (2017 batch onwards have not) All this requires is that you write an application stating the need for the Provisional Certificate to the Secretary and they are willing to give it to you. Once you have this, it will make the attestation process much easier
BONUS - Also, one friendly advise - please make sure you also put an additional application for them to process your actual degree on an urgent basis. You will need to go to your college (ALSD in my case) and get your application signed by the Director. You also need to write your name and your father's name in Hindi on the application itself and attach 2 photos with the application. You also need to attach the photocopy of your consolidated marksheet and provisional certificate for this. While this is not required at this stage, you will require it for your Visas and post-admission hurdles and you can easily get it done in one step
Once you have done this, please post these documents (in the envelope as mentioned above along with the TRF) to LSAC at the following address:
Law School Admission Council
LLM Credential Assembly Service
662 Penn Street,
Box 8511 Newtown,
PA 18940-8511 USA
You will need to physically mail these documents. The USUAL time taken is 2 weeks for them to process your documents from when they receive it. This USUAL time is when this is done BEFORE OCTOBER. So please please make sure that you do this well in advance. In my case, it took them approximately 3 months to process my documents. It was a nightmare. So please please take this step very seriously
After this, an additional cost of $30 (~ Rs. 2,100) is charged independently by LSAC for EVERY school you apply to. This is over and above the application fees of the college itself. My advice is to NARROW DOWN your schools and ONLY apply to schools that you actually want to go to. Every college will have an application cost of $80-$90 (~Rs. 5,600-Rs.6,400) and you will need to additionally pay $30 for every school, so please keep that in mind
You need to send your documents ONLY ONCE to LSAC ONLY for all US Colleges.
United Kingdom (UK)
The United Kingdom has a much simpler process. It is just uploading of your transcripts and documents online. There are no hidden things/costs involved
However, if you do manage to secure admission in any of the colleges, they will ask for a hard copy of your Transcript (Combined Marksheet/Consolidated Marksheet) along with your Degree Certificate/Provisional Certificate/Photocopies thereof as one of the conditions for your complete admission. So make sure you have it ready and don't have to run around at the last moment
BONUS - Try to make sure that you have scanned copies of all your relevant documents scanned and ready to go - including your 10th and 12th Standard Certificates. Helps the process a lot. Please do this in advance, before you start applying.
English Language Test - TOEFL or IELTS?
Now, this is a question that a lot of people have asked me. You require only one standardised test for your LLM Applications - no LSAT/GRE/GMAT/MCAT - nothing. Just a basic English Language Test
Depending on where you want to apply, your test requirements would change. I personally, would, however, recommend you to take TOEFL. The TOEFL is acceptable in the United Kingdom, whereas IELTS is not acceptable in CERTAIN LAW SCHOOLS in the United States of America
There are also certain colleges that are very flexible with their TOEFL Requirements and don't require a mandatory score for you to be able to qualify. Majority of the schools, including Harvard and Oxford, have a minimum score of 100 out of 120. However, even this is not a pre-requisite/minimum qualification for your application. The University of Pennsylvania has a flexible waiver policy. There are, however, some schools which are very strict with their TOEFL policies
1. Columbia University requires a minimum of 105 on your TOEFL with at least 26 in Reading and Listening and 25 in Speaking and Writing. (Please check their website before applying - they keep changing it)
2. The University of Chicago requires 104 as a pre-requisite. If you don't get a minimum of 104, they don't even consider your application
3. The University of Cambridge requires a minimum of 110 on your TOEFL
Usually, your TOEFL scores should be uploaded directly (for UK Universities)/sent to LSAC directly ON/BEFORE the application last date. Make sure you do so during the time when you are sending your transcript (ideally, beforehand only) so that it can be in your LSAC Report that is sent to all schools
You are allowed a free reporting of 4 schools in your TOEFL Cost which is $180 (~Rs. 12,500) - don't report directly to the US schools, instead get the reporting done to LSAC
UK Universities trust you enough and require simply you uploading the PDF once the score is out
It takes 10 days for your score to be visible. Around 12-15 days for the PDF to become available. So keep this in mind
Columbia University ONLY accepts TOEFL. So keep that in mind while applying and making the choice
Please study for the TOEFL - my advice is to take the practice test in one of the bundles offered by ETS only. (https://www.ets.org/toefl)
I had the following letters of recommendations while applying:
1. Prof. (Dr.) Arvind P. Bhanu, Director, Amity Law School, Delhi, GGSIPU - He was my mentor for my dissertation in my fifth year. I worked very closely with him and he was very fond of me. It was just by a happy accident that he got promoted to Director when I was applying
2. Dr. Kavitha Chalakkal - She was my professor in Public International Law and Corporate Law and the major focus of my future studies was going to be Public International Law. She was also my supervisor in many of the extra-circulars that I undertook in college
3. Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Former Union Law Minister, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court - I have worked with him for the past 2 years, ever since I graduated and he knows me in close proximity
4. Ms. Srivalli Velan, CEO, HigherKnowledge - I have worked for HigherKnowledge as the second in command for the past 3 years and worked in close proximity with Srivalli as well
PLEASE make sure that you have at least 2 Academic LOR's. This becomes extremely important when you are applying to UK Schools. UK Schools like Cambridge and Oxford ONLY accept a minimum of 2 Academic LOR's. In fact, even Columbia requires one of the 2 LOR's to be academic
Now, having said that, please make sure you ONLY ask people who know you very well to write/sponsor your LOR's. If you can just simply get a LOR from your Director, but he/she hasn't taught you in close proximity and cannot attest to your capabilities, it makes no sense for you to ask them. Also, even though a judge's LOR will look excellent but if it is based on just one month of internship, then again it doesn't carry as much weight
Every University has its own requirements as to minimum and maximum and they type of LOR's they are looking for. Most schools look for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4. You should, in any case, would not need more than 4 LOR's to apply to both countries
PERSONAL ADVICE - The University of Oxford requires 3 LOR's. I would personally advise that all 3 LOR's should be academic. A mistake, which in hindsight I would have rectified
You need to upload your LOR's ONLY ONCE to the LSAC portal ONLY for US Schools. LSAC will forward the LOR's - whichever you select to individual schools. For every UK school you apply, you need to upload them repeatedly.
Statement of Purpose (SOP)
What worked for me is that I took a Google Doc, kept my LinkedIn Profile + Resume opened and started writing everything in a paragraph format. Then you start editing and decide your story
Fundamental questions need to be answered through your SOP - (not particularly in this order)
1. Who are you?
2. Why do you want to do LLM?
3. What have you done in furtherance of wanting to pursue an LLM?
4. What makes you different?
5. What do you want to do post LLM?
6. What makes you, YOU?
7. Why this college in particular?
8. How will you contribute to the program?
9. What will you learn out of the program?
10. What are your hopes, dreams and ambitions?
UK Universities are often looking for a 300 word or so SOP (University of Oxford) and another 200 words each for your Career Goals and any other Additional Information. (University of Cambridge)
Most of the US Schools require a 2 - 2.5 page SOP which ideally should include the above 10 questions
Tips for your SOP:-
1. Use simple English. Don't overcomplicate the simplest of things.
2. Use simple words - no need to use fancy words either.
3. Get a maximum of ONLY 2 people's opinions - a) For English and b) A person who has done what you want to do.
4. Highlight only those achievements which fit in the course that you want to do. Not anything and everything.
5. Be consistent.
6. Have one base SOP and modify it accordingly for every college. Do NOT have multiple SOP's - you will lose your mind.
7. DON'T GET IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
8. Breathe - it is only the most crucial part of your application. :)
Not many colleges require it. In fact, only the University of Oxford requires a 2,000 word write up and it can be on anything that you want. However, having this write-up ready on a particular issue can help you a lot when it comes to your scholarship essays. So make sure it is consistent with your story, something that is well researched and not too off-topic from what you want to study.
Scholarship Essays - University Scholarships
Most of these Universities have scholarships. Their deadlines are with the application itself. Make sure you have a 2-page scholarship essay ready (different from your SOP) before you start applying. Every university has a whole directory of scholarship information available on their websites. PLEASE GO THROUGH IT. There are a lot of funding options available and even if it is a meagre amount, APPLY FOR EVERYTHING. No school is too giving, you have to make a convincing case as to WHY they should PICK YOU. Most of them are equal opportunity, merit scholarships. That means that they don't care about your financial background - which gives everyone an equal opportunity to compete for the same spots. However, it can't hurt to mention your financial incapacity in the scholarship and why you are well deserving of it
Scholarships are harder to get than regular admissions. Especially for LLM in these schools. Get ready to be disappointed - something I am letting you know in advance. But your duty is to try for everything. If, however, you are looking to for LLM ONLY on a scholarship - that may/may not be possible. So be prepared.
Scholarships - General
Apply for everything in India. Just apply. There are 2 scholarships that have their deadlines before/during the time of major college deadlines. Both are for the United Kingdom:
1. Chevening Scholarship - Early November. It is ideally for people who have
worked for 2 or more years.
2. Commonwealth Scholarship (Nomination by your country of origin) - Mid December.
Other scholarships that you should apply to, usually after your acceptances. (These also include the ones I didn't apply to/couldn't apply to) Keep in mind, some of these are also loan/scholarships which have a repayment attached to them
2. Narottam Sheksaria Foundation
3. Agha Khan Scholarship
4. KC Mahindra Scholarship
5. JN Tata Endowment
6. Lady Merabhai Scholarship
7. Oxford and Cambridge Society of India Scholarship
There are many others. You will need to scrounge till the ends of the Earth and this process is very daunting
I have received the Commonwealth Shared Cambridge Scholarship, forms for which were forwarded by the University itself after my admission. They got in touch with me stating that I was eligible since I was from a Commonwealth Nation and that I should apply. It was the University's job to nominate candidates to the Government of United Kingdom and they either accept/reject you. I was put on the Reserve List for almost 3 months. It is only in mid-July that they promoted me to being a Nominated Candidate and that I would receive the said scholarship. This is different from the standard Commonwealth Scholarship
PERSONAL ADVICE: If you are looking for an educational loan, please start the process AS SOON AS YOU GET EVEN A SINGLE ACCEPTANCE. The loan process is another daunting task. HDFC Credila is great - but if you are applying for the UK, they would require collateral. Any other State Banks - like Syndicate and SBI always require collaterals. No matter the amount. So make sure you have enough property to be kept as collateral. SBI and Syndicate give a lower rate of interest if you start paying the interest from Day 1 itself, but personally, I found the entire process with state banks very cumbersome and not worth the 0.5-1% drop in percentage
If you are looking for funding ONLY to pursue your LLM, it may not be feasible. So, it would be advisable to keep your expectations in check.
Why I chose Cambridge? (Also, UK over the US)
I have been wanting to go to the US for my Master's and preferred US over the UK. However, after I received my acceptances, I spoke to a lot of people both in the United States and England and these are the reasons why I chose the University of Cambridge over every other school:- (in no particular order)
1. Cost - My brother and I are pursuing our Master's together. He is going to the US for his Master's and the cost of an LLM in the US is (~) Rs. 1 crore. Either way, that cost made no sense to me unless it was Harvard/Stanford
2. Specialization - I want to specialize in Public International Law. The University of Cambridge has premier faculty and an amazing centre for the same. Something which is unparalleled and unmatched
3. Doctorate Degree - I hope/wish to pursue a PhD in law and that would be better suited in England and especially Cambridge over the US Schools
4. Ranking - Cambridge currently (last I checked) was Rank 3 as a law school and usually has the most Rank 1 fields. (https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings-articles/university-subject-rankings/top-law-schools-2019)
5. Job Opportunities - US and UK both are very saturated/closed markets for LLM graduates. If 2% of the students get jobs post LLM in the UK, 3% get in the US. Hence, it didn't add up to the cost-benefit analysis
PRO TIP - If you are applying to UK/US in the hopes to get a job after your LLM in the same country - even if you clear the Bar, there is NO GUARANTEE. Don't think you will for sure get a job. That is probably not going to happen. Don't hold your breath and no University and/or country gives you a better chance. So if this is your main criteria, please don't apply for LLM
NOTE: Consolidated Marksheet/Transcript/Combined Marksheet all mean the same thing. You might want to look into what your University provides
I made a Google Sheet when I was applying. I would advise you all to either write down on paper/do something similar
Hope this helps!"