2019 Lessons From the LL.M. – Vincent Wong

We asked the Class of 2019 to nominate their peers — whether inspirational leaders in the classroom or a student group,  activists or artists around New York City, or simply great friends and pizza companions — to share what they’ve learned over the course of their LL.M. year. The result, Lessons from the LL.M. First up, Vincent Wong.


Vincent (third from left in back row) with alumni, current students, and Professor Crenshaw (seated on the right)


Name: Vincent Wong


Hometown: Toronto, Canada



Before Columbia, I worked as a legal aid lawyer helping low-income clients from Chinese and Southeast Asian immigrant communities. I did a mix of casework, impact litigation, law reform, public education, and community organizing in migrant and racialized communities. It was a life-changing and humbling experience and something that I will always be grateful for.


What’s next?

Optimally, after Columbia I would like to teach or be involved in politics, particularly in advocating for migrant and racial justice issues. I would like to engage in some alternative political imaginings of a world in which we are not strangled by the nation-state’s monopoly on sovereignty and citizenship – and the racist and colonial logics that accompany this form of political hegemony. If the current political order cannot steer us away from economic and environmental catastrophe, maybe we need to rethink the entire project from the ground up. I guess all this doesn’t sound very lawyerly, but that’s my long-term project.


Three things you learned during your LL.M. Year:

1) Community is really important. There’s nothing wrong with putting down roots.

2) Intellectual humility is really important. You should always be open to being wrong and changing your view when you encounter new information. We should also encourage and admire this characteristic in others. That may help us mitigate some of the problems with information siloing, political polarization, and fake news.

3) You don’t need to feel guilty about your privilege. But if you see that something is wildly unfair, you should do something about it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.


New York Moment:

My first conversation with Professor Kimberle Crenshaw when I applied as an RA. We had a really engaging conversation about a variety of topics and she was even more gracious, incisive, and charismatic than I had imagined. I left the room thinking, “That was crazy. Only in New York.” My Empire State of Mind moment.


Favorite Class:

They’ve all been great in their own ways, but I’ll say Refugee, Migration and Citizenship Law: A Comparative Perspective taught by Professor Seyla Benhabib. It gave me some new analytical tools to challenge some of the greatest injustices I encountered during my years as an immigration and refugee lawyer. Sometimes people cross borders, but at other times, borders cross people. In all these situations, they result in an immense amount of oppression, violence, suffering, and human misery that we need to start fighting against in an organized way.


Best Coffee Spot: Nous!


Best Place to Study: The 3 little booths with curtains in the back of the clinic space on the 9th floor of Jerome Greene.


LL.M. Protip:

Don’t bother comparing yourself to others. At this point in your life and development, everyone has such idiosyncratic experiences, interests, and goals that it’s both pointless and detrimental to waste time and energy comparing and competing. There is absurd amount of choice and opportunity that will open up to you at Columbia Law School. You do you.


Would you change anything?

Nah, I’m good. But I’m ready to go home. I miss the 6ix.