This is an interview of Angshuman Hazarika, an RGNUL Patiala graduate, who is presently working as a Research Assistant in the field of Trade and Investment Law at the office of Prof. Marc Bungenberg, one of the prominent international experts in the field, who is the Chair Professor of International Law and European Law at the University of Saarland and has a number of projects in the field of International Trade Law and International Investment Law with which Angshuman assists him.
He is not sure about his long term career goals but he does have a plan to pursue a
Ph.D in the future, possibly in the field of international investment arbitration.
Interview taken by Aryan Babele, our campus leader from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala.
1. Give us a brief overview of your life in law school in India.
Life in an Indian Law School was a great learning experience both in terms of academic learning as well as practical life lessons. It surely taught me that there are opportunities for the taking, but you need to have your basics strong.
I was a student who came into law as a second choice. But, after joining RGNUL, there was no looking back. I had a number of interests while at University including participation in MUN’s, Mooting and of course debating. I was also a student ambassador for Westlaw India.
In academics, I had an interest in the study of International Law and we were privileged to be the last batch of the University to be able to select it as a specialisation. This later helped me immensely in my applications for an LLM.
I was also an active member of a number of committees in the University including the Debate Committee, the Internship Committee and was also a curator for TEDX RGNUL, the first TEDX event in a National Law University in India. But, in every step, I was lucky to be supported by excellent friends and faculty members at the University.
2. According to you, what are those things which helped you in getting admission in the University of Saarland?
The LLM Program at the University of Saarland was my first preference when I filled in my Application for the Angela Merkel DAAD Scholarship and securing the scholarship was the biggest step towards the admission.
For securing the scholarship, I think the following factors played a crucial role: my above average grades, specialised study in International Law and internships at a number of reputed organisations in varied fields including the UIDAI, Reuters, Verus Advocates and also under Hon’ble Mr. Justice M.B. Lokur, Judge, Supreme Court of India.
Especially, for an admission into the course, I think my grades, excellent recommendations from my mentors and my interest in International Law which reflected through my academic pursuits, helped a lot.
3. Is an LLM necessary for a career in law?
We were privileged to be taught by a number of excellent Professors at our LLM Course and one of them Prof. Dr. Stefan Weber, a renowned arbitrator, said that as a lawyer, the answer you will use most often is- “It depends.” And to this question, my answer would be the same, “It depends.”
I have come to realise that an LLM is a great knowledge multiplier and is normally a mid career degree for a number of lawyers who have determined which field they would like to work with in the future. For others, who do it fresh after their graduation, it is a degree which helps them to determine the area that they will specialise in the future.
But, for a career as a lawyer in India, an LLM is by no means an absolute necessity and work experience can easily be considered as equally important, if not more important than an LLM.
An LLM can be acquired by a practising lawyer after a few years, probably after determining which field he would like to specialise in the future and then it would act as mid career professional knowledge enhancement.
However, if you would want to work as an academician or a researcher, an LLM is absolutely essential and is probably the first among many academic degrees that you will acquire in the future.
The same can be said if you want to pursue a career in international organisations. Most of them would require an advanced degree like an LLM with a few years of work experience.
4. What kinds of internship did you engage in as a student of law which you think are valuable?
I interned in a number of organisation in a variety of fields. I followed the crowd and was also a part of trend which says NGO’s or Government offices in the first year, Lower Courts in the second year, High Courts in the Third Year and specialised internships in the fourth and fifth year.
Contrary to many, I believe that among the many trends in law schools, this pattern is definitely helpful.
I started off with an internship at the Assam Human Rights Commission, followed by an internship at a District Court. The next year, I interned at the Assam Industrial Development Corporation which provided me an insight into civil and commercial litigation.
I then interned at Thomson Reuters at their office in Delhi and dealt primarily with business development and certain legal issues. Following this, I was fortunate to intern at two prominent law firms- JSA and Verus Advocates, Delhi.
The internship at Verus Advocates was particularly enriching as I learnt about a variety of subjects including Competition Law, Company Law, Arbitration, Electricity Laws, Industrial licensing and many others.
In between, I also interned at the office of Hon’ble Mr. Justice M.B. Lokur, Judge, Supreme Court of India. Later, after completion of my studies, I was privileged to join Verus Advocates as a trainee and later as a full time associate.
5. Which is the ideal time according to you for LLM: right after undergraduate studies or after practising for some years?
The ideal time to start with an LLM would depend upon your career goals and would vary from person to person.
As I have stated before, you can choose it as a knowledge multiplier after acquiring a few years of practical experience or you can use it right after graduation to choose a field of your choice for your career ahead.
If you are into practice, there might be a scenario, that you may never feel the need to acquire a Masters degree. So, ultimately it depends on your career path and your desire to be a student again.
6. How important are grades, in your opinion?
This is another question with the reasonable answer ‘It depends.’ For acquiring an admission into many universities and securing a scholarship, grades can be very important.
But, at the same time, I have seen people who have bridged the gap with excellent internships and extra curricular activities.
I have realised that in Europe and particularly in Germany, people place a high emphasis on grades and few employers even shortlist candidates for interviews on the basis of the grades. In fact, I was offered the job here in the University primarily because I secured the second rank in the batch and good grades help you stand out in the crowd.
But, on the other hand, if you want to pursue a career as a practising advocate, your grades may not be as important. Rarely would you ever discuss the grades acquired by a successful practising advocate.
It is his knowledge and practical experience that counts. So, grades are not the all important crown that we should aim for, but if you want to pursue a career in research and academics, good grades will be helpful in providing you with a head start.
7. Final message to all those 10,000-15,000 students which visit Lawctopus every day?
I do not think that I am qualified to provide a message since I consider myself a student who still has loads to learn.
But, from my experience, I can request you to use your time in University well particularly to acquire a strong fundamental knowledge in the subjects of your interest.
I have realised during my Masters course and also now in my employment that Study them in detail while you are in college because you are already studying them for your exam and time would be in short supply later in your career.