2020 Lessons From the LL.M. – Johannes Liefke

We asked the Class of 2020 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.

In Johannes’s nomination, a peer described him with these words: “His stamina and motivation to discover New York City always inspired me. Without his enthusiasm, the LL.M. simply would not have been the same.” Here’s what Johannes had to say:



Name: Johannes Liefke


Hometown: Hamburg, Germany


Pre-LL.M.: I worked as a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law and finished my Ph.D. in Capital Markets.


What’s next?

Improving my racing bike skills, studying for the New York Bar (whenever it will take place), and finding an exciting spot where it’s possible to spend this year’s vacation.


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

1) Remember Milton Friedman: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

2) Everybody puts his pants on the same way as you… Don’t be intimidated by others. You’re here for a reason.

3) Life is short, and time is flying… Don’t miss out on any opportunity while you’re in NYC.



New York Moment:

Having one of the last Porterhouse Steaks at Park Ave Wolfgang’s before all restaurants had to close for a very long time.


Favorite Class:

American Jurisprudence with Judge Richard Sullivan. No other class taught me more about American (legal) culture while giving me a treat every single week.


Best Coffee Spot: Ole & Steen at Bryant Park. If you’re stuck with your assignments, take a bite of the Cinnamon Social. It transforms any lengthy case into an exciting read.


Best Place to Study: Drapkin Lounge at Jerome L. Greene Hall—allows you to watch what’s happening on Amsterdam Ave and to enjoy silence at the same time



LL.M. Protip:

Be curious and open-minded. Make plans but stay flexible. Have fun, live for the moment, and never forget to be grateful.


Would you change anything? 

I would have taken more classes at other Columbia Schools, e.g. at CBS or SIPA. Not that CLS classes aren’t great, but cross-registration is a unique opportunity to broaden your horizon. There’s still so much out there I haven’t got to know yet!