Scholar gives LLM application tips
I’m Russell Campbell from Trinidad and Tobago and I’ve put together three useful tips that I found useful in my experience for persons applying to study law. I hope you find them useful to!
Placements/Experience: I qualified as an attorney at law in 2013 and gained three years’ of work experience before applying to the scheme. I spent two and a half years’ post qualification working in the government service, specifically at the judiciary. I found working in the public service was particularly helpful because it gave me the opportunity to directly interact with the public and gain insight into to the main issues facing the general population. Moreover, working in the public sector exposes you to the leaders who are tasked with solving those problems. There are two benefits to this, the first being is that the placement provides a context for any course of study at the master’s level.
It provides you with practical experience which you can then relate to the abstract theory and concepts you get exposed to during your course of study. Being able to link legal theory to problems the scholar has witnessed first-hand fosters a greater appreciation for what is learnt. Secondly, exposure to the leadership styles of senior civil servants in the legal field will help the scholar reflect on their own understanding of their purpose and strengthen their ability to discern between effective and ineffective leadership.
Referees: It is important for all young professionals to identify a mentor in their chosen field of work. In the field of law, I think it is a good idea to spend some time working with a senior legal mind who actively works on solving the kinds of problems that you find intellectually stimulating. Working together with this person will give them an opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses and craft a detailed reference as opposed to a superficial list of your accomplishments. A strong referee should know how you work and understand how your personal attributes make you suitable for the Chevening Scholarship. It is also a good idea to select someone who is held in high regard in the legal community, whether they work in the private or public sphere. Not only will this person form a template for you to imprint, but they will also help you to understand your personal motivations and purpose which is essential to sustaining interest over a challenging academic programme and career.
There are several opportunities to develop relationships with mentors through volunteer work, which may be unpaid, but will pay dividends in terms of long term professional development. It is also important to have a strong academic reference. An easy way to cultivate this relationship is to do mooting or work in a pro bono legal aid clinic. These opportunities are usually supervised by academic staff and will give that person an opportunity to assess how your academic skills in the class room are translated into real world problem solving. It is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your classmates and to build a relationship with someone who will have a genuine interest in your career and will more than likely be happy to provide a strong reference.
Experience and placements: It goes without saying that the Chevening programme is competitive. I would argue that it is even more so for lawyers, since the legal profession tends to produce persons with significant leadership potential. It is important to have some substantive experience in the area of law you choose to study. In my case, my chosen field of study was international law and international criminal law. My background as a criminal law research assistant in the public sector allowed me to make a two-fold argument in my application. First, it was easy to identify specific problem areas in the criminal legal system in my country that also existed in the realm of international law.
My experience with these areas helped me to select a specific area of study that would equip me with the skills needed to address these problems. The key benefit of having previous experience in your chosen field of study is that it allows you to form a precise idea of your motivation for doing the LLM which you can articulate clearly to the interview panel. Secondly, having worked in the public sector, I was able to give examples of projects I had led to completion which had a direct impact on the lives of a broad section of society. By demonstrating the impact of your previous work, one is able to make a strong argument for further training which would increase your potential to create benefits for your country through leadership.