LL.M. Speaker: Nemuun Gal
Friends, families, distinguished faculty,
Sain baitsgaana uu (“good day to you” in Mongolian),
We came here from all over the world, from places as far away as my country Mongolia to Colombia (with an ‘o’) and Nigeria. Now, we are about to become members of a single community: We are about to become graduates of Columbia Law School.
For us LL.M.s, this past year passed in the twinkling of an eye. It is almost as though some supernatural force fast-forwarded time itself and brought us to this moment instantaneously. We worked through the heaps of daily reading assignments and exam periods together. At all times we stood hand in hand, or more accurately, sat laptop to laptop. We marched through exams and classes with our eyes set on the next day as every exam was followed by another and each class led to the next. We only looked forward and now all of a sudden we have time to look back.
We had fun and lots of it. We had ethnic parties and dinner parties and parties just for the fun of hanging out together. We ran into each other in the Metropolitan Opera and explored the Williamsburg nightlife. We have had birthday parties, and many of them, as we are more than 200 students in the LL.M. class alone.
Before you start doing some simple math and calculating all the precious study time spent celebrating the coming into this world of yet another remarkable individual, I must make a disclaimer and say that the birthdays were combined and most of the time we actually studied and studied hard, which proved to be no less or even more fun than any activity I just mentioned.
We indulged in constant “underlining” and “outlining”— I will miss the sound of markers scratching on paper and fingers tapping on keyboards that filled the air in Jerome Greene Hall. I hope that some entertaining soul out there will one day make a sleep machine with those sweet sounds of learning.
I will miss reading status updates on Facebook by our standing library population, who seemed to have grown roots into their usual seats in the Arthur W. Diamond Library. Despite their busy schedules they never failed to post their comments about the next Frank Sinatra singing his heart out outside the library windows or, in his absence, pigeons cooing as intensely. Guys, I don’t know how you will survive without your natural habitat!
I will miss the long hours discussing the cases and doctrinal points while cracking a case-specific joke or two. I will miss that all. But most of all I will miss you, my friends, and I will miss Columbia Law School!
This school is a special place. Columbia was everything that I expected from a great U.S., in fact, a global, law school, and it proved more—much more—than that. The study of law at Columbia was among the most intellectually stimulating experiences I have had in my life and has definitely added quite a few wrinkles to my brain.
The strength of any great institution lies in the people who form it. Of course at Columbia it is first and foremost its outstanding faculty, our professors, to whom we owe so much. My fellow students were also an integral part of what makes Columbia what it is. I have seldom met so many bright and hardworking individuals in one place, and it was a privilege to have studied alongside you.
Ius est Ars de Juste et Bono (Law is the Art of the Good and the Just) reads the inscription on the front of Kent Hall, the former Law School building. Indeed, if law is an art then I met true artists here. As for goodness and justice, I will describe it in the words of Judge Cardozo in Meinhard v. Salmon that it was “not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive” that was the standard of behavior here.
Anyone who says that the grade curve brings out the worst in people and leads to cutthroat competition has never studied at Columbia Law School. We competed, but did so as friends, not as foes. The knowledge was shared, not concealed. We shared our notes, worked on combined outlines and formed study groups, we learned together and learned from one another.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention everyone else at the Law School, who is crucial to making it such a special place, and I thank, in particular, Dean Sylvia Polo and the staff of the Graduate Legal Studies office for their help and friendship.
Our experience here at Columbia was nothing less than life-changing. We forged true friendships and discovered a treasure trove of knowledge. These riches shall stay with us forever. I conclude by saying that wherever life leads us, no matter what happens to the economy or Wall Street or anything, the graduating class of 2009, we are bound for success. There is no other way. After all we are Columbia Law School graduates and this is a distinction that matters.
In Profile: Nemuun Gal
The son of a Mongolian diplomat, Nemuun Gal ’09 LL.M. spent his childhood in New Delhi, Prague, and Moscow, with brief periods in Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bataar. A scholarship to study international law at MGIMO University in Moscow—Russia’s leading center for the study of foreign relations—had a significant effect on his career path.
“MGIMO has some of the best legal minds on international law in Russia,” says Gal. “My studies have helped me combine two careers in one: legal and diplomatic.”
Gal’s first weeks at Columbia introduced him first-hand to the dramatic difference between an academic study of civil law he encountered in Moscow and America’s case law system.
“The majority of exams in Russia were oral and closed book. At Columbia, they are open book and based on fact patterns,” he says. “There’s nothing as scary as to encounter a fact pattern on an exam for the first time!”
Gal’s LL.M. studies, however, were not his first exposure to U.S. law. Previously, he served for three years at the Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the United Nations. One duty involved working with U.S. lawyers—including one from Columbia Law School—on a case that was eventually heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, which challenged the constitutionality of New York City’s efforts to sue to recover on tax liens placed against the Indian and Mongolian missions in Midtown Manhattan.
One of Gal’s ambitions is to make sure that Mongolia’s 2.6 million people benefit financially from the nation’s rich deposits of cold, copper, uranium, and other minerals, which are of great interest to mineral-hungry nationals in Asia and elsewhere. “I would like to work with foreign investors in negotiations and arbitrations,” he says.
Whatever path his career takes, Gal is well positioned. “I am quite possibly the first Mongolian with a Columbia LL.M.,” he says.