The Embodiment of the Network

A Salute to Assistant Dean
Toni Jaeger-Fine typography
Over the 16 years she has led its non-J.D. programs, Assistant Dean Toni Jaeger-Fine has helped Fordham Law grow into an international power-house by never forgetting the power of connection.
By Elaine R. Friedman
THe innovator, architect, and “force of nature” responsible for creating and sustaining most of Fordham Law’s impressive roster of internationally acclaimed non-J.D. programs (including nine LL.M. programs, an S.J.D. degree, two M.S.L. programs, and eight certificate programs) is Assistant Dean of International and Non-J.D. Programs Toni Jaeger-Fine. Jaeger-Fine joined Fordham Law in 2006; she will be stepping down at the end of the 2021–22 academic year, but will remain a part of the Fordham family in the role of senior counselor. The author of five books, a gifted and magnetic teacher at Fordham and worldwide, and a sought-after speaker in national and global forums, Jaeger-Fine not only raised Fordham Law’s international profile to new heights, but also launched and advanced the careers of her many students and program participants.

Jaeger-Fine catapulted Fordham Law into a highly respected player on the international stage “through her sheer force of will,” said Dean Matthew Diller when presenting her with the 2022 Dean’s Medal of Recognition in May. Under Jaeger-Fine’s 16-year tenure, Fordham Law established new LL.M. programs, online degrees in Compliance and U.S. Law, the innovative M.S.L. program, the S.J.D. program, the Legal English Institute, the Summer Institute, the Pre-Law Institute, the Structural Issues in Law Firm Management program, and the RISE Leadership Academy for the Advancement of Women in Law. “None of these programs would exist without Toni’s leadership,” said Dean Diller.

She has a number of superpowers. She never forgets or loses track of a person, which enables her to be a hub for many communities.
Dean Matthew Diller
Toni Jaeger-Fine
“Toni had tremendous vision for expanding Fordham’s reputation internationally,” said Palmina Fava ’97, a partner and co-head of the Government Investigations and White Collar Defense Practice Group at Vinson & Elkins in New York. “What began as an effort principally concentrated in Western Europe and Latin America has expanded to include Africa and Asia. This has added to Fordham’s reputation and its wealth of knowledge, as students share global perspectives and learn from their colleagues’ and peers’ experiences.”

Making the Connection

Jaeger-Fine’s ability to connect people across the globe is legendary. Anecdotes of her essential assistance in bringing members from across her network together abound, from helping a lawyer in Brazil find a Chinese expert in intellectual property law to introducing a business lawyer in India to a lawyer in Korea who needed to form a subsidiary. “This year I had an LL.M. student on a Fulbright who had been a first-year law student at the University of Hanoi, where I visited eight or 10 years ago,” said Jaeger-Fine.

“Toni constantly connects people, because she never forgets anyone,” said Dean Diller. “She is a clearinghouse of connections. If you are a Fordham Law graduate and, for example, want to do a transaction in Latin America, Toni will give you connections. She has worked with top universities worldwide, and she knows and connects people on the academic side as well.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine giving a speech
Toni Jaeger-Fine with another student crossing their arms
Toni Jaeger-Fine with two other female students
Toni Jaeger-Fine with a group of students
Entrepreneur and best-selling author Alejandro Cremades, LL.M. ’09, recalls consulting with Jaeger-Fine when he was establishing his first startup after leaving his job at a law firm. She recommended he meet with a Fordham graduate who held a C-suite position at a Fortune 500 company. “Just like that, I was sitting in the office of one of the top professionals in financial services,” said Cremades. “She opened up many doors, even years after I graduated. This demonstrates Toni’s character and her deep commitment to Fordham’s community of current and former students.”

After working as director of global legal programs at New York University School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Jaeger-Fine arrived at Fordham with a mandate to expand the school’s global reputation and reach. Shortly thereafter, however, the global economy melted down in the Great Recession. Undaunted, she proceeded to add not only LL.M. programs geared toward international students, such as U.S. and Comparative Law and International Dispute Resolution, but also certificate programs, such as the Summer Institute and Legal English Institute, to introduce global participants to U.S. legal nomenclature and jurisprudence.

Toni Jaeger-Fine posing with a bunch of law students
Toni Jaeger-Fine posing for a picture with two others
“When a non-native English speaker comes here to study law, the legal terminology is baffling,” said Jaeger-Fine. “The idea is to demystify our system to get students ready for legal English terminology and the oddities of the U.S. common law system … so they can hit the ground running and make the most of their LL.M. program.”

Jaeger-Fine and her programs continued to thrive and multiply, despite curveballs thrown by the limits on international visas set in 2017 and global travel bans wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toni Jaeger-Fine talking to other faculty
Toni Jaeger-Fine with other people at dinner
“The pandemic put Toni’s students and potential students in an impossible situation,” said Professor Linda Sugin, associate dean for academic affairs from 2017 to 2021. “Many were stuck overseas. Fordham had to secure variances from requirements to sit for the bar exam and obtain other regulatory waivers. Toni was heroic in ensuring her students would get their degrees. She was constantly pushing so that the international students would get the positive experience they deserved.”

Many programs implemented by Jaeger-Fine are embedded with global networking opportunities. For example, the Leadership Academy for the Advancement of Women in Law, or RISE—Resilient, Inspired, Strategic, Empowered, which launched in 2021—has fostered deep connections for women worldwide. “RISE created connections among women at different stages in their careers to support and learn from each other,” said Fava, who, from her work with Jaeger-Fine’s programs, has established her own network of international female attorneys. “Everything Toni does has a ripple effect beyond the very impactful initial effect.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine being carried by a student for a funny photo
Toni Jaeger-Fine with a large group of students
Toni Jaeger-Fine hanging out with students at a table outside
Toni Jaeger-Fine posing with another female student

“Be Like Toni”

What is Jaeger-Fine’s secret? “She has a number of superpowers,” said Dean Diller. “One is her ability to bring people together. She never forgets or loses track of a person, which enables her to be a hub for many communities. She radiates positivity and a belief that individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve great things. That is part of the secret of why students are so drawn to her and why she is in such great demand.”

Amadeu Ribeiro, who first met Jaeger-Fine in 2016 while completing an LL.M. degree at Fordham after many years of practicing in Brazil, described her as “a shining light” and a person “you just want to be around.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine teaching a class
Toni Jaeger-Fine posing with students
Toni Jaeger-Fine posing with faculty
Now an adjunct professor at Fordham and partner in charge of Brazilian firm Mattos Filhos’s New York office, Ribeiro worked with Jaeger-Fine to create a course on global antitrust law and later collaborated with her on two highly successful programs on law firm management that attracted more than 150 participants from around the world.

Over the years, they became friends as well as colleagues. Ribeiro said he sees empathy as one of Jaeger-Fine’s greatest qualities. “She really knows how to put herself in your shoes and understand where you’re coming from,” Ribeiro said. “There’s a true exchange, whether it’s a work relationship or a personal relationship. That’s what I think sets her apart.”

Many people still wrongly feel that to be a good networker, you must be a larger-than-life character or enjoy public speaking, and you don’t.”
Toni Jaeger-Fine
Professor Michael M. Martin, dean of Fordham Law from 2011 to 2015, observed, “Toni looks after each and every one of her students. She has such incredible energy and warmth that it is no surprise about the depth of the network she builds. While our international students are conversant in English, she communicates with a combination of English and friendship.”

“Toni is the Michael Jordan of networking,” noted Cremades, who is based in New York City. “When I applied to Fordham, I was a 22-year-old studying law in Madrid. The first day I met her, I had never seen anyone work a Blackberry like she did. She believed in me and gave me a shot. I owe everything to Toni. I am just one of many students who are grateful for everything she has done.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine posing for a picture with a group of students
Sugin recalls being critically short-staffed when starting the online M.S.L. program in Compliance several years ago: “Toni swooped in and said, ‘We are going to get this program launched on time, and it’s going to be great.’ She used her network to figure out what the program required, who we needed to talk to, and who could help us. She was the most generous, upbeat, collaborative, and capable colleague. Working with Toni was one of the highlights of my time as associate dean.”

What is Jaeger-Fine’s best advice for effective networking? “Nobody used the word ‘networking’ when I graduated from Duke Law School in 1986,” Jaeger-Fine recalled with a laugh. “Many people still wrongly feel that to be a good networker, you must be a larger-than-life character or enjoy public speaking, and you don’t.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine front and center with a large group of students
Toni Jaeger-Fine with a group of students wearing all black
Jaeger-Fine believes that successful networking occurs organically, based on a genuine interest in people and on mutual benefits: “Many students and young professionals, however, mistakenly think of networking as strategic. This approach is bound to fail because it is readily apparent and completely undermines relationships.”

To build authentic relationships, Jaeger-Fine offers three pieces of advice. “First, you must listen. One well-thought-out question can really go a long way. There is nothing people like more than talking about their work, their practice, or their plans.”

Toni Jaeger-Fine at a graduation ceremony
Toni Jaeger-Fine with faculty members in the courtroom
Another approach is what Jaeger-Fine calls “networking through action.” “Join something and show what you can do,” she advised. “Help organize an event, take part in research or a white paper, participate in a project that demonstrates that, even if you’re not a smooth talker, you’re a person who gets things done.”

Third, “If you feel uncomfortable speaking, there is one solution: practice. Talk to people, whether it’s with friends or colleagues. Attend an event and say hello to someone or ask a question. This does not mean you must become an extrovert, but you need to feel comfortable speaking with people you do not know. Legal professionals really do need to speak. So, settle in and make up your mind to do it.”

Fordham Law Welcomes Cecilia Caldeira to Lead International and Non-J.D. Programs

Starting this fall, Cecilia Caldeira, the newly appointed assistant dean for international and non-J.D. programs, will lead the Law School’s efforts to grow its educational offerings and expand its reach across the globe. Caldeira arrives with deep experience in program building, having previously led international and graduate programs at both Brooklyn Law School and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

Read the full story

Cecilia Caldeira headshot

An Embarrassment of Riches

Jaeger-Fine attributes her success to the relationships she has built, both at Fordham and beyond. “At Fordham, I’ve enjoyed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to [having] mentors in the deans and associate deans to whom I reported. They all had confidence in me and enabled me to try new things. They gave me the space to make decisions and mistakes, which allowed me to grow enormously.” She credits Diller, Martin, and Sugin, as well as former dean William Treanor, current associate dean for academic affairs Joseph Landau, Professor Nestor Davidson, former faculty member and former associate dean Sheila Foster, and the late Professor Joel Reidenberg as significant supporters throughout her Fordham career.

Jaeger-Fine’s contributions to the Law School community have not gone unrecognized. At the Law School’s June 2022 European Reunion in Madrid, Dean Diller presented her with the Roger Goebel International Alumni Award. The award, named after a widely respected professor of international law and founder of the Center on European Union Law, is granted to members of Fordham Law’s international community who have given extraordinary service to the Law School.

Toni Jaeger-Fine at an event
Toni Jaeger-Fine taking a selfie with a friend
Although Jaeger-Fine is stepping down, she is not vanishing. In her new role as senior counselor, she will continue teaching at Fordham and working on select projects, such as developing new degree and non-degree programs and expanding Fordham Law’s global base. “I will miss engaging with all the people who walk through the door,” she said. “I want to be remembered as the person who made everyone feel at home, wherever they were.”

Jaeger-Fine and her wife will be based in Rochester, New York, where she looks forward to a more relaxed lifestyle: more cooking, hiking, gardening, fitness, and writing. She’s already at work on the second edition of her book Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona, the first edition of which put her in high demand as a speaker. She plans to consult on talent development and retention and attorney well-being, and continue teaching at law schools around the world. She also hopes to be a player in the field’s response to a recent American Bar Association mandate compelling law schools to provide students with opportunities for professional identity development.

“Everyone has a journey,” said Cremades, her former student. “You cannot be doing the same thing for the rest of your life. I do not know what Toni’s next chapter is, but I know she will be incredibly successful.”