2020 Lessons From the LL.M. – Jorge Fernández

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 Jorge’s nomination, he was described as “a bright light even in the darkest of situations,” “a true friend,” “passionate about equality for all and the greatest activist alive.”  Here’s what Jorge had to say:


Jorge (left) and fellow LL.M. Modong Taban


Name: Jorge Fernández


Hometown: Quito-Ecuador



I was working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Quito. Ecuador welcomes a high number of refugees every year, mainly from Colombia and Venezuela, but also from far away countries like Russia and Syria. My job consisted of training local grassroots organizations in refugee law and helping them build their capacities.

What’s next?

Studying for the New York Bar and visiting all the places I was too busy to see in New York while I was attending classes. And then, I will be a fellow in an organization in Thailand, working on refugee law and human rights issues.


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

1) This was a very particular LL.M. year, because of how COVID-19 changed our lives. From this I learnt that I should never take anything for granted, not even my own health, or a meal at a restaurant, or that spot at the library where you find yourself focused or being able to be close to your friends and loved ones. Life changes fast, and you will be forced to change with it.

2) Did you know Amelia Earhart used to wander around the roof of Low Library when she attended Columbia University? After I learnt this, I used to imagine her on top of the library every time I passed by.

3) I learnt what the impact of a well-equipped school has on your legal training.


Jorge with Tina Fey.


New York Moment:

Running into Tina Fey and asking her husband to take a picture of us, unaware that this was her husband.


Favorite Class:

The Gender and Sexuality Law Clinic. It was intense, but the Clinic offered me incredible resources to succeed. You get access to an exclusive library where you can just sit down 24/7, have as much coffee as you want, and go over the cases you are assigned with your teammates. The Clinic partners you with local organizations and lets you immerse yourself in handling their cases or projects under supervision. It is a lot of responsibility; it is like you are playing the role of a lawyer in New York, but with real people that depend on your professionalism.


Best Coffee Spot: Being honest, I come from a country where coffee is given to us in our baby bottles (I am not joking), so the coffee in New York did not really impress me…Unless it was provided for free by GLS at one of their breakfasts/events, in which case I have no complaints. 🙂


Best Place to Study: The library on the ninth floor of JG, where only Clinic students can study.


LL.M. Protip:

Do not take too many credits. I know it is tempting because you are missing out on so many classes that seem so cool, but do not do it. Less is more.


Would you change anything? 

Yes, I would stop myself from graduating with 30 credits under the belt and being exhausted. 🙂