Daria Levina

My Education

Harvard Law School

LLM | Law

Lomonosov Moscow State University

PHD | Law

Lomonosov Moscow State University

LLB | Law


Career

Noerr LLP (Moscow, Russia and Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Associate

Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague, the Netherlands)

Assistant Legal Counsel

Daria Levina completed LL.M. at Harvard Law School in 2018. To pursue her studies, she received grants from the Harvard University Committee on General Scholarships, the HLS Graduate Program, and the Russia - United States Legal Education Foundation. Over the years, Daria has been awarded scholarships for studies and research in the USA, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK, Belgium. Her professional experiences include working as an attorney at major European and American law firms, as well as in academic and public sectors. Currently she is an assistant legal counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In spare time, she likes to dance salsa and film short movies.

3 Tips to Secure Funding for Your Studies

Daria Levina, LL.M. - Harvard Law School

Often enough, prospective students have to refuse an admission offer because they cannot find sufficient funding for it. Here are some tips on how to avoid it and go to a university of your dreams.

Tip 1: Apply to As Many Scholarships As You Can

Apply to every single scholarship you can find. Scholarship search by itself can be daunting, but it’s definitely worth it. There are tons of scholarship search engines out there, but you don’t need to go through all of them - usually their databases are more or less the same. To maximize potential, apply to as many scholarships as you can. I know people who applied for up to 60 scholarships, covering the entire four years of college in the United States.

Often scholarships seem like they have very narrow eligibility criteria - and they sometimes do, sometimes they don't. Try interpreting eligibility criteria inclusively, rather than exclusively. In my search, I came across the Russian - United States Legal Education Foundation (RUSLEF) fellowship; usually, they select their fellows first and afterwards secure them placement at one of their partner US law schools; Harvard was not one of them. Nevertheless, I reached out to the Foundation; they looked at my application, said they were impressed and would be happy to make an exception and award a fellowship to me.

Also, don’t limit your search to sources directly related to your program. For example, for my LL.M. degree, I looked not only at resources related to funding graduate studies in law but also other scholarships related to my nationality, residency, profession, and gender. On Harvard College website, in the undergraduate funding section, I found a scholarship that applied to the Russian LL.M. candidates (R.H. Douglas scholarship).

Tip 2: Source Information Through Your Connections

To gather information about available funding options, use every single connection and acquaintance you have. Sometimes all that is needed is to reach out to people and ask for help. For my LL.M., I contacted every single person I knew who studied in the US to make sure I did not miss a single piece of information. After exhausting all the remedies, I started a crowdfunding campaign - and here too, I reached out to every person whose contact I had, asking them kindly to support the campaign. I was amazed by how many people responded.

Don't forget to reach out to your employer. Often employers (law firms especially) agree to fund their employees on the condition that you come back to work for them, or they may give you a loan at lower interest rate. When I mentioned my admission to Harvard LL.M. at my firm, a partner offered me a personal loan on the terms more favorable than any Russian bank ever would. At the time, I was about to close my crowdfunding campaign and had to refuse, but having this option provided a phycological safety net till the end of my funding search.

Tip 3: Use unconventional methods for funding search

Try contacting companies who support educational projects and NGOs, even if their focus is not necessarily your program. A friend of mine secured funding for a British LL.M. from a venture capital firm that usually funds MBAs; she simply reached out to them and inquired if they could extend their offer to lawyers as well.

When I searched for alternative means of funding, I came across several successful crowdfunding campaigns, and decided to try. Eventually, I closed my campaign within three weeks after I asked my PhD supervisor to spread the message to his network; when he did, one of his contacts, a Russian NGO, decided to cover the remaining part, even though they generally do not fund lawyers. 

Best of luck!

Best wishes,

Daria

Q:  Why are you passionate about your academic field? When and how did you discover your love of your subject?  
A:

My journey to law started in high school. I was taking part in various All-Russian competitions ("olympiads"), including the All-Russian competition in law. My high school did not offer an introduction to the law, as some other schools did, and I had to prepare on my own. As I made my way through the maze of legal doctrines and rules, I got hooked – hooked to the analytical rigor and the immense variety of ways I can change the world around me using the law. I believe that’s what attracts me the most in law. I am convinced that the mission of a lawyer is to live a life of values by providing leadership, rather than mere advice.

  
Q:  What are your three top recommendations for a student targeting a masters in your field? What if they are preparing to switch their major to your field?  
A:

First, consider requirements to work as a lawyer in the country of intended study. Legal world is conservative, and there are still national limitations in place. Demand for international lawyers varies from country to country, and your native language and nationality will play a role in your employability. Cities like London, Paris, Geneva, New York, Shanghai, Singapore have high demand for international lawyers but differ when it comes to regulating the practice of law. In New York, law firms have positions for foreign lawyers, and usually you may stay and work there after completing your LL.M. The admission to the bar in New York is comparatively straightforward. In contrast, in law firms in Paris are less open to foreign lawyers, and to move up the ladder as a proper attorney you would need to pass the French bar.

Second, choose very carefully and pay attention to the university rankings. On legal market, there is more supply than demand, and an LL.M. from a low-ranked university simply won’t pay off.

Third, choose a place you feel comfortable living in. If you can, go and see the university for yourself before you apply. There is no sense in spending a year of your life in a place you don’t like.

  
Q:  What resources can students use to educate themselves on your subject?  
A:

The law is an extremely difficult subject to learn, especially on your own. Enormous body of literature has been accumulated over the years on various aspects of the law. You might want to start by reading biographies of famous lawyers like Oliver Wendell Holmes or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They will inspire you and give you a sense of purpose.

I also suggest reading books on comparative law, regardless of the specific area of law you are interested in. While most of legal systems remain national in their nature, they are closely intertwined with other systems of law. You will understand your own system of law much deeper when you also know what's going on across the borders.

  
Q:  What are your top tips to showcase an applicant  
A:

Be as specific as possible in your application. Start with facts and examples, and draw abstract conclusions afterwards. Specific examples will help you "hook" the reader, draw attention, and make your application stand out. This is especially important if you apply to the UK and the US.

  
Q:  Any pitfalls or mistakes an applicant should be aware of as they apply to your program?  
A:

Don't be afraid to showcase your personality; the grades, although important, are not everything. Universities look for human beings with personal histories, not just a bunch of scores. When I applied to the US law schools, I thought the academic part was the only one that mattered. I didn't even mention my background in singing and dance. In retrospect, I believe showcasing these experiences could have made my applications stronger.

  
Q:  Why did you apply to your university and program? What other universities and programs were you admitted to?  
A:

I was admitted to Harvard Law School, New York School of Law, University of Cambridge, and Geneva Centre for International Dispute Settlement (a leading European LL.M. in dispute resolution, which is my field). I chose Harvard, frankly speaking, because of its brand value. Additional factors were flexibility of the curriculum – at Harvard, you can choose any subject taught at the HLS, and cross-register for any other Harvard school and MIT; the faculty – there were specific professors I wanted to work with; common law jurisdiction - I have a civil law background, and getting an insight from the opposite legal culture was my goal; class of 185 students - big enough to meet tons of extraordinary people.

  
Q:  What are the common career paths for graduates in your field?  
A:

Quite often, after the LL.M. lawyers enter the foreign legal market, working in big law firms. This is possible primarily in corporate and dispute resolution fields where the knowledge of national law is not strictly required. Some join international organizations, like I did, or start PhDs and pursue academic careers. Others prefer to go back to their home countries and continue the work they've been doing in private or public sectors.

  
Q:  What aspects of the campus culture are your favorites? Which aspects surprised you? Which would you change if you could?  
A:

I absolutely love the tradition of lunch talks at the HLS. During the week, students and professors would arrange for a talk or a lecture held on campus by a prominent lawyer. Usually, there always would be food served during the talk. The atmosphere is usually quite informal, and it’s a great opportunity to learn something new and catch up with your classmates. Also, several times a year, the campus cafeteria would serve breakfast in the evenings - usually to kickstart the exam season - and the entire school would line up at 9 p.m. to get some pancakes.

  
Q:  What is your favorite fun fact about your university? Any special events or traditions or legends?  
A:

My favorite Harvard fun fact pertains to the statue of John Harvard located in Harvard Yard. Among students, it is called the "statue of three lies," because (1) it does not actually portray John Harvard: at the time of its creation, there were no living representation of John Harvard, which is why the sculptor used a different model; (2) while the inscription reads "the founder," he wasn’t; he was the first major benefactor of the university; (3) while the inscription refers to 1638 as the year of Harvard's founding, in truth Harvard was founded in 1636

  
Q:  How did you spend your summer vacation during university? Any advice for making the most of summer?  
A:

In summers, I usually went to various student festivals, summer schools, English and German courses abroad - a great opportunity to learn new things, practice foreign language, and make wonderful friends.

  
Q:  What makes you smile? Share more on a favorite hobby.  
A:

I love dancing. Over the years, I’ve tried different styles of dance, such as ballroom, salsa, American hustle, kizomba, hip hop. My favorites are partner dances as they teach you to connect with another human being on a whole different level.

  
Q:  Why are you excited to mentor Dyad Scholars?  
A:

Over the years, I've applied to countless degree and non-degree programs, internships, fellowships, summer academies, festivals, and more. I was awarded scholarships for studies and research in the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Cuba.

I've accumulated substantial experience in these matters and would love to share it with prospective students. I believe DYAD is a great platform to do this and spread the values that mean so much to me.