Jennifer M. Fernandez ’13 on the Careers in Law Teaching Program
Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer in the Civil Practice Clinic, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Columbia Law School’s Careers in Law Teaching Program (CILTP) has a long history of preparing students and alumni for jobs in academia. CILTP provides comprehensive guidance, including one-on-one mentorship, job-talk training, moot interviews, and preparation for the annual Association of American Law Schools Faculty Recruitment Conference in Washington. We talked with six alumni whose experiences with the program helped guide them toward faculty positions at law schools across the country.
Jennifer Fernandez teaches and supervises students who represent clients from underserved communities in a range of civil litigation matters in state and federal court. Before joining Penn Law, she served as a staff attorney at Queens Legal Services in the Domestic Violence Family Law Advocacy Project and the Tenants Rights Coalition and at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem in the Civil Defense Practice. She also clerked for Judge Lawrence H. Ecker of the New York State Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District. Fernandez has a B.A. from Yale College and an M.S. from Pace University School of Education and is an adjunct sociology professor at Queens College, part of the City University of New York.
Why did you want to work in academia?
I’ve always loved the intellectual excitement of the learning environment: Before law school, I taught at a public middle school in New York City; during law school, I worked with nonprofit organizations that taught law to high-school students, such as Legal Outreach and High School Law Institute. A few years into practice, I began teaching law-related sociology courses to undergraduates. I really enjoyed being back in the classroom and was reinvigorated by the energy and commitment of the students.
What advice do you have for students or lawyers in practice who want to pursue academic careers?
Explore it! There are multiple paths within legal academia, including clinical work, externship supervision, legal practice, fellowships, research, and more. There are also multiple pathways to obtain these positions. I would encourage recent graduates to speak to individuals working in different positions within academia.
What is the best thing about teaching?
Impact. Law teaching provides the opportunity to help train the next generation of lawyers to problem solve and think creatively. In working closely with energetic law students, you also remain in constant conversation about current issues in the law and in law practice. Clinical teaching, in particular, expands the possibility of impact because you not only get to engage with students in the classroom, but you also can continue to represent clients in the courtroom.
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Published on March 21, 2019