Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Editor-in-chief Janhavi KM interviewed Atreya Mathur, who enlightened the audience about pursuing LLM in IP Law from New York University.
(Find the interview here)
About the Guest
Atreya is an extremely motivated IP enthusiast. She has a BBA LLB Degree from Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore. She was awarded the academic merit scholarship as well. She has also been a part of the WIPO Summer School and is currently pursuing her LLM in Competition, Innovation and Information Law with a specialization in Intellectual Property Law from the New York University. Additionally, she is a student mentor at the University of Leiden, Netherlands as well as the Staff Editor of the New York Journal of IP and Entertainment Law. In addition, she is a Judith Bressler fellow at Centre for Art Law, New York. She has also co-founded an organization called Meraki Consultancy.
Firstly, why did you choose IP?
I have always been interested in Intellectual Property Law, especially Copyright law. My love of Movies, TV Shows, books and pop culture drove me towards IP Law. But getting into my new specialization which is art law was actually because of this incident back in 2018 when I was in New York and I was at the MoMA and I saw this blank canvas and I kept thinking about is how it is protected and that drove me to research on contemporary art and copyright protection around that. It inspired my dissertation back in Christ University as well. Further, in 2016, I got a chance of working at Spicy IP which was life-changing in terms of what I wanted to do. I worked on the DU Photocopy case and that’s the first time I found the link between education and copyright and that interested me because now I was to get into research academia. The thing about Copyright specifically is that you can show that you’re more than just a Law student because it is inspired by everything around you. And even when I first came to New York, just this art piece in the MET drove me to write an article about it for the IP Journal.
Even the topic of your specialization, it’s so niche and interesting and I have never come across anyone pursuing Art Law within my circle.
Back in India, last year when the Covid break-out happened, I was researching to find out some art institutes to intern or work at and I realized that in India, there just wasn’t a lot going on which is quite sad because the culture in India is so vast and even because of the personal laws, the idols and statues in India are given a legal personality which shows a lot of scope for art law in India because that’s not something that happens in other countries.
True, I think that’s a great research topic for anyone who is interested in pursuing it too. Why LLM though, what drove you towards that?
Obviously, after 5 years in law school doing another year is crazy but I don’t want to stop there either, I want to get my Doctorate in Law. I really enjoy studying and learning and I want to ultimately get into research academia and teach law so getting LLM was the direct way to get into academia. But apart from that, I think if there’s something you’re passionate about, there is nothing better than doing LLM in that subject because you get to really go in-depth into the subject. I have learnt that here it’s much more complicated than I expected and it’s the first time I have learnt something in a while and it’s been really fun.
Why did you choose New York University? What criteria did you consider?
So, the first thing to consider is to see where you want to learn the law. And you also must take into consideration factors like visas, work permits and the feasibility of getting a job. I was very keen on studying in the US because the education system is a little different and I like the rapport you can build with the professors here. So, I knew that I had to go to the US. I applied to a lot of universities and had enough backups because I was a little paranoid. But when the acceptances came in, it was overwhelming and it became a real issue to decide and I’ll still say that you should always apply early. Anyway, so I had a list of universities with my preferences and one of the major deciding factors was the specialization itself. And being in New York itself became an important factor because of the museums and the galleries, in fact NYU became the only place where the course was exactly as I wanted. Along with this, I really admired one of the professors and by the time I came here, I secured a research assistant position with her as well. And the scholarship offer was also good. NYU seemed like a very student-centric place and they were really considerate about the pandemic situation as well, so the choice became apparent.
What are the basic eligibility criteria?
So the first thing they look at is your academic grades, but I feel like that your SOP is a huge deciding factor. Then, the universities will look at n the stuff you have done during your LLB and they might even accept people who don’t have their first degree in law. English proficiency is also another thing they consider so they ask you to give the TOEFL or the IELTS which is more common in the UK. You could get a waiver as well but it isn’t too tough to get the required score.
A question we get too often is that if students aren’t academic achievers, can they make it up in some other way?
So while the grades do play an important role to go for a graduate degree, but there’s a lot more going on. Something that I would say will help push your application forward is if you have a lot of publications and if you show that you’re trying to get your research out there, I feel like that will be beneficial. The truth is the universities aren’t going to go through your CVs in their entirety but if you hyperlink the blogs or articles that you have written, they’re going to acknowledge the effort you are making. Apart from that, you can always show your interest through online courses as well as work experience. I honestly think that a couple of years of work experience is beneficial before you apply for LLMs but if you have just graduated, it is beneficial to put across the relevant internships. And if you have research assistantship positions, that also helps. If I had known this earlier, I would have talked to these professors from different universities much earlier because a lot of the professors are actually very helpful and they will consider your interests.
What kind of Internships did you have?
I worked at Spicy IP thrice. It’s something I really enjoyed. I think a lot of people keep going back to the big law firms but I have always enjoyed smaller offices. I think it’s important to try out things that you may not like. I think I only did one litigation internship before I knew it wasn’t for me. I also ended up working on a lot of research topics and I would publish these articles on their websites.
When you go for these Internships, I think instead of getting swayed by the big names, I think you should rather focus on firms or companies that interest you. The key is to really research instead of just applying everywhere sending a general CV hoping to get any position.
The issue which plagues almost everyone is whether you should gain some work experience before going for LLM and we hear arguments about this from both sides. What do you think about that?
This is a tricky question because it depends on the person and what they want to do. I think you should do a cost and benefit analysis and ask if you’re really interested in doing an internship right now. The pros are that it is very easy to transition from LLB to LLM because the classes and the schedule is very rigorous. And it’ll also give you an edge in the exams because you’re already used to it and I think if you have started working first, you may not be as motivated. But a lot of my friends who have some work experience are doing great because they have their work experience to add to it. It also depends on what you want to do and where you want to apply because, for me, I wanted to get into academia so it worked better to directly go for an LLM. It also depends on the university, as some of those require minimum work experience. But either way works alright. Personally, I’m biased towards just finishing my LLM with my LLB and go from there towards my next goal.
How do you think the education system differs between India and the US? And how does one prepare for that?
So, I have to say, I wasn’t entirely prepared for being thrust into this education system. Back home, the teachers are doing their own thing while teaching, there are some questions and it works okay, you don’t have prior readings or anything. But here you have to prepare yourself beforehand with readings and when I did that, I thought it was manageable but when the actual classes started, I was very taken aback because you have to interact with the professors for at least 5-6 minutes so you have to be completely prepared and know your readings entirely, which was completely different than in India. And if you don’t prepare, you’ll fall back. Even the assigned readings are different and they cover a lot of content here within just one semester so I would suggest that you should get used to extensive reading by your 4th and 5th year.
I also want to point out this concept called making an ‘outline’ which is supposed to be a succinct version of what you studied and that itself is over 40 pages and it’s just a brief which you can refer to in your exams. Even the exams here are open book and last longer than normal but it’s still very difficult to comprehend the questions and practically answer them.
One of the important things we wanted to ask was how did you keep your sanity for the entire year while you were applying for colleges?
So, it is definitely a stressful time and it revolves around certain things. First is the SOP because I remember I wrote mine and showed it to my parents and they told me that I needed to rework this and it made me really upset. but I realized that no one else was going to do it for me so I just sat and got to work. So, I think you have to learn how to take it easy sometimes, you can’t be hard on yourself and you have to be able to take constructive criticism. And you need to surround yourself with positive people who are supportive and always encouraging you. And more than anything, you need to make sure that you strike a balance between your work life and social life or your free time. Obviously, you must work hard but balancing it out and taking a break is really important. Also, you might not realize it but when you talk through your application with others, you keep improving it and trying to make it better.
On the same lines, how do you face any rejections?
It can be heartbreaking but you have to realize that there are a ton of other people also applying who might be more qualified. I didn’t have any work experience which was a requirement for certain universities and you just must realize that it’s okay to celebrate the wins that you did get. And you can always try again the year after with more experience and by dedicating more time. I feel like having a positive mindset is the way to go through it.
Did you receive any support from any undergrad teachers?
I had really encouraging professors and I was very lucky there. They were invested in where I was applying and told me about the good IP universities. Of course, there wasn’t a lot they could do but they were always supportive. Sometimes I would just go and talk to them about my applications and they were sweet. Unfortunately, there was no mentorship and guidance about university applications, but they were always there for moral support.
How do we find scholarships and how do we go through with the process?
So, there are multiple types of scholarships. One is which the university offers itself, these are the academic merit scholarships. And the good thing about these is that they are linked to the application process itself and it can cover up to like 50% of the tuition. So, you should try to get up your grade because it would really help with the scholarships. From Christ University standards, I would say an aggregate percentage of 70-75% would be good for a decent scholarship. But you can get other scholarships with maybe 60-65% as well which would cover around 20% of the tuition. You could always apply for multiple sources of scholarships because the tuition for these courses are ridiculously high. Apart from this, you have more specialized scholarships which may be based on your co-curriculars. I think, to be eligible for those, a bit of work experience helps. Finally, you have financial need scholarships based on your income and things like that. For these, you usually have to send in another application and write an essay as well. You also have third party scholarships which can be from the government or other organizations as well. You could also get grants which won’t be a high amount but it keeps adding up since there is no restriction on how many scholarships you get.
Apart from that, you could also take student loans which have very low interests or you could opt for a payment plan provided by the university. But one thing that is important is that you need to make sure you meet the deadlines.
What is the probability of Part-time jobs in the US to cover up some costs?
With a student visa in the US, you’re technically not allowed to do any part time jobs but there still are some on campus opportunities, like research assistantships, etc. You can also work at the libraries or the front desks to earn a comfortable amount for your daily expenses. It’s a good way to do it as well because it’s not too much pressure as well and they try to make sure that you have a work-life balance.
Does LLM improve your Job prospects?
Again, you have to ask yourself certain questions for thi,s like if you want to go back to India to work or not. You also have visa restrictions to consider. But once you get your LLM, here at least, the opportunities are really good. But you have to do a lot of research on your own and find out places that would fit your requirements instead of picking up jobs from these job fairs. They offer a lot of opportunities but you have to make sure you find something that works for you. Even though it is tough being an international student, you will still get opportunities if you really show your passion and dedication. One of the important things to consider is that you’re writing to get an interview and not the job so you have to pique their interest. But LLM is the only way to get a job opportunity wherever you want to work. You might also have to give the State Bar Exam to make sure your prospects stay strong and the LLM makes you eligible to give it.
Now, if you want to go back home, some places do appreciate a LLM degree from a well-known university because at the end, if you don’t have the degree from a recognized university and you go back to your home country and they may not know about the university you attended, it might not help at all but you would have learnt a lot so that counts. In a couple of places, you do have better income if you have a master’s degree but there is no guarantee. It all depends on what you do during your LLM and what experience you have gained.
Could you tell us more about Meraki Consultancy?
So, Shilpa (my classmate) and I began Meraki last year. it all began with a phone call. during that time I was pretty upset and I thought I would work before my LLM but I wasn’t really passionate about it so I decided to do something that I do want. So, I called Shilpa and we came up with the name and a plan and that’s how it got going. We decided on it because we had no guidance and we experienced the lack of it. I remember I had to read so much during that one year to make sure my applications had everything that was needed and to make sure that I was doing things on time. I was very paranoid about the applications and it was stressful and I don’t want people to go through that and get as overwhelmed as I was. It takes a toll on you and I thought that we could really help others by giving them advice about what’s happening and what they should and shouldn’t do. So, we had specialized sessions for each component of the process of application, how you present yourself and all the other factors that do make a difference. And with Meraki that’s exactly what we’re trying to do by making sure that they’re motivated and that their applications are at par by giving them tips and advice which are personalized to the clients. We make sure that we only take the number of clients that we can handle because there is a lot of dedication that goes in the process. So, you can apply through our Instagram page and there is a google form and we just want the clients to give us as many details as they can give, along with their CV. And only after we go through the CV and the google form, we send them a follow-up email with a date and time to have the first meeting along with a payment plan. But we do want to get the clients who are really interested and they’re serious about it because we spend a lot of time and effort on each person to make sure that the client gets the best possible application.