Extremely capable and skilful, Mansi Sood from NLSIU Bangalore is a student from the batch of 2015. She has been recently awarded the Rhodes scholarship for pursuing higher studies at Oxford University. Interestingly, it has been offered only to a few students in India, Mansi being one of them. This is an interview about her success, outstanding academic records and highly polished CV. She has also provided insights on the application process for Rhodes for the benefit of readers. Needless to say, her accomplishment in the field is incredible, and she goes on to tell us about her drive and future plans. There is evidently so much to learn from her.
In this interview she talks about:
- Rhodes Scholarship
- Law school experience at NLSIU, Bangalore
- Mooting and Internships
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about your background and school life.
Well, I was born and brought up in Delhi and did my entire schooling at D.P.S. R.K. Puram. I was always involved in a wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities but my passion has been dance. I started learning Kathak from my guru, Smt. Vaswati Misra at the age of 5 and learnt for 13 years till I went to college in Bangalore.
What was the driving force behind taking up a career in law?
My parents have always encouraged me to follow my heart and do what gives me joy. One of my cousins went to law school and I used to hear a lot about it from her. So somewhere along the way, her stories inspired me and it seemed like I would enjoy the law. The law is very logical and structured and it’s also a great equalising force. Both of these things appealed to me and I decided to take the chance. I’m just glad it worked out!
How has been your law school experience at NLSIU, Bangalore? What are the best memories of your student life there?
It’s very difficult to compress almost 5 years into one answer! But frankly, NLS, Bangalore has been a wonderful, wonderful experience. There’s so much to learn, so many opportunities and so many people to inspire you, it’s quite amazing. It is hard work but it’s definitely worth it. The memories I’m taking from here will last me a lifetime, I think.
How do you give credits to your institution for being awarded the scholarship?
I think the institution, its people and most importantly, its environment, have had a huge role to play in shaping me as a person. Whether it’s professors, friends or peers, they are always so encouraging. And the diversity of interaction makes you broaden your perspectives a great deal. So yes, I would definitely like to thank my institution and all the people associated with it for their support.
You were adjudged the third best advocate at the South India Rounds of 55th Jessup and there are winning titles for your team in many other moots. You also have many publications to your name. How did you manage and what kind of skills did you acquire?
I have been involved in a variety of co-curricular activities but as you mentioned, mooting has been the one most dear to me. When I think what all of these activities have taught me, especially mooting, is that there are always two sides to every coin, multiple ways to look at anything. And I think that’s a very important skill for a lawyer. Other than that, they also obviously sharpened my research, legal writing and advocacy skills.
What was your first reaction on learning that you are being awarded the Rhodes scholarship? How was the application process?
My first reaction was a mixture of joy and relief. I couldn’t believe it for a while, in fact there are still moments of doubt! But to be honest, it’s a great honour and I’m very grateful to have been given the scholarship.
The application process involves two stages – the written application and the interviews. Once you submit your written application, there is a preliminary interview and then a final one. At each stage, the pool keeps getting smaller.
I wasn’t always sure that I wanted to study further but once that decision got made, Oxford was the dream.
How did you go about writing your CV and most importantly, your personal statement/essay/ SOP?
Writing the CV isn’t tough, you just have to write two pages about the things you have already done. It’s the SoP that takes effort because you have to express your dreams in words and make it sound convincing at the same time. It involves a lot of thinking and introspection, more than anything else. Once you’re clear about your goals, it’s just a matter of putting it down on paper.
Do you need to have recommendations as well? What kind of profile is needed while applying for the scholarship?
Yes, the Rhodes scholarship requires 6 recommendations – 3 academic and 3 personal. There isn’t a fixed profile that you need or a checklist that you need to have completed but broadly, they look for a well-rounded personality who has been able to demonstrate more than just an interest in the field he/she wants to pursue.
Was there any interview round? If yes, how were you prepared to face the panellists? What kind of questions did they ask?
Yes, there are two interview rounds. The first one is more ‘technical’, in the sense that it’s usually taken by people from your field who are interested in having a discussion. The final interview is more about you – who you are, what you want to do etc. I was a little nervous both times, more so the second time not just because there were a lot of luminaries on the panel but also because it was my final shot at the scholarship; but both the interviews were a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. They asked a variety of questions, ranging from India’s labour laws to my dance to Kashmir.
What kind of internships have you done? Did you ever plan out your internships?
I have mostly done litigation internships, aside from the Summer Vacation Scheme at Herbert Smith Freehills. I did plan my internships to a certain extent, but that was mostly in line with what the college prescribes. We have institutional support in the form of an Internship Cell that helps out with contact details etc. But more importantly, seniors and alumni have always been a huge support.
You are keenly interested in research as well. Tell us about it.
I think research and policy work is an important aspect of legal work in general because often, the changes that we seek to bring about in our laws, come about through that route. I have been involved in research on a variety of subjects, from arbitration to constitutional issues.
What are your plans after your post-graduation? What kind of career do you envisage after graduating from Oxford?
My interest lies in commercial law, with a primary focus on arbitration and intellectual property laws and that’s what I want to pursue. I haven’t thought about exactly what I want to do but it would be a mix of practice and academia/policy work.
What would be your advice to our young readers who would like to apply for Rhodes scholarship in future? What does it take to have a brilliant CV?
I am not sure I’m qualified enough to give advice but I’ll say this – Just be honest. Of course, there is work involved in the whole process but the most important thing is to be yourself and talk about the things that matter to you the most. The rest will fall into place.