After working for years in the politically violent terrains of South Africa and Zimbabwe, arriving in Manhattan to attend Columbia Law School was a culture shock for Teddy Nemeroff ’09. “After what I saw over there,” he says, “at first everything seemed a bit…abstract.”
Fortunately, Nemeroff’s law school education turned out to be quite the opposite. The Washington, D.C., native grew up breathing the air of public service and always had law school in the back of his mind. After college, he moved to South Africa to set up a program in “Sustained Dialogue,” a new methodology in conflict resolution used to help community groups converse with one another to resolve political or economic tensions.
Although his experience was invaluable, after a while Nemeroff started to feel there were limitations to what he was learning in the field. “I wanted to gain general analytical skills about problem solving,” he recalls. “I wanted a sense of the bigger picture about political development—largely legal questions.”
Nemeroff’s experience at Columbia Law School has enabled him to develop precisely these skills. He focused his studies on international and constitutional law, and greatly enjoyed courses taught by Professors Gillian Metzger and Pistor. He also gained insight into effective decision-making. “In conflict resolution, you see everyone’s perspective, but you don’t necessarily develop the skills to make hard decisions,” he says. “The legal process is all about making decisions.”
After graduation, Nemeroff plans to clerk for Sandra Lynch, Chief Judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In August, he will get married to a woman he met while in South Africa; they plan to hold a series of cross-continental celebrations.
Nemeroff hopes to eventually merge his two experiences--democracy-building and law school. He would like to head back to the field one day, this time better equipped. “Law school helped me put names on the problems I saw out there,” he says. “It gave me the language to connect the challenges facing everyday people with larger legal and policy debates.”