By: Darius Wood, Fall 2015 Student Intern
My Investor Advocacy Clinic II experience proved to be vastly different from my first clinic experience. In Clinic II our professors assumed the role of a partner in a law firm, and we as students assumed the role of associates. At the beginning of the semester our professors assigned us cases and told us to go forth and develop a strategy. This approach proved to be very challenging for us at first. Like most students, we were accustomed to our professors guiding us through the actions we would need to take. It took us some time, but eventually it started to click for us and we began to take more and more ownership over our cases.
Working in the Clinic teaches you to take overship over managing the case development cycle from client intake to negotiating with opposing counsel. In the clinic we learned to develop a problem solving approach where we first researched and investigated each problem to determine the actions we could take. Then we learned to compare the pros and cons of each approach, and ultimately you recommend a given approach to the professors and then to the client. Concurrently, we had to learn to document the process and everything we learned along the way. This is the toughest part as it may seem tedious at first, but what use is everything you learned along the way if it not put into a format that anyone could understand?
I would recommend the Investor Advocacy Clinic to any student who is looking to develop lawyering skills that will be essential to them in their future legal practice (i.e., billing your time, working with a team of lawyers, document drafting, and client interactions) and to any student who wants to get a glimpse of what it will be like practicing law.
By Kelly Robinson, Fall 2015 Student Intern
Clinic was a great success for me. I really enjoyed being exposed to the firm environment and becoming acquainted with what will be expected of me in my career. I really enjoyed working with clients, as I had not had a chance to do that before and the clinic allowed me to practice with clients in a variety of different environments, such as performing an intake interview and preparing them for discovery. While it was an extremely nerve-wracking experience for me, it was also very valuable because I now have a frame of reference for future interviews and interactions with clients.
It’s hard to quantify all that I learned during my clinic experience, because it was a lot. Probably the most intense, however, was learning how to deal with the tasks that lay before me each week. While the tasks themselves were not bad (memos for correspondence with clients, weekly update agendas), ensuring I stayed current with them was. Learning how to balance these tasks with my other classes took some finessing, and more than once I found myself in an “uh-oh” moment, but once I found my rhythm, scheduling became second-nature.
Participating in clinic has greatly prepared me for my legal practice. I have never interned at a firm nor did I have anyone in my family who could tell me what to expect, so I think the most invaluable thing that I gained from clinic was confidence in myself. After this semester, I now know how to write a statement of claim, demand letter, and requests for production for discovery. I also know how to talk with opposing counsel, clients, and FINRA administrators, and the list goes on and on. I think clinic would be a great experience for anyone, but especially someone like me who is new to this whole experience. I highly suggest it!
By Bryan Rafie, Fall 2015 Student Intern
It was middle of the spring semester. No, it was the tail end of the summer semester. No. Wait. I actually can’t quite remember. The semesters are starting to run together, but I know that at some point early this year I made the decision to sign up for the Investor Advocacy Clinic.
I went back and forth. Did I really want to take this on? The argument went something like this. “I am a part time student. I really don’t have the time to dedicate to ACTUAL CLIENTS, ACTUAL CASES. I know very little about FINRA arbitration. I just got comfortable reading for class, being called on by professors in class, and studying for a 3-4 hour final. Did I really want to force myself out of my comfort zone, again?”
If you are having a similar internal debate, stop it. Go online and apply. I was told recently that I needed to get used to feeling uncomfortable. The practice of law, at least at first, is uncomfortable, and that is a good thing. It means you are growing and getting better. Not only will the Clinic get some of this heavy lifting out of the way early in a safe and controlled environment, it will also teach you things you could never learn in a classroom. There is just something different about working on a real case, talking to a real client. The intensity just seems to be turned up, and this will force you to work hard. It will pull the best out you.
There will be a moment near the end of your clinic experience when you take a step back from your work. You will find yourself inches away from a settlement, fighting seasoned attorneys at big firms on the merits of your case. You will look down at the paper, and realize that this whole attorney thing isn’t so bad. When you do, don’t thank me, just write a blog, and get someone else to join in behind you.
Investor Advocacy Clinic interns Christopher Pugh, Jason Robinson and Darius Wood recently filed a comment on FINRA Notice 15-37, a FINRA proposal to change several rules in an effort to protect seniors and vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.
The Clinic’s comment, available in full here, supported the proposed rule changes to the extent they aim to protect investors from financial exploitation. The Clinic suggested several changes to increase the proposal’s efficacy. First, the Clinic believes that if it is suspected that financial exploitation may occur, a firm should act and must not be given a safe harbor from liability unless it takes action to protect a customer. Second, we recommend that the obligation to act be expanded to include the front line representatives working with customers. Third, the proposal should require training created by FINRA and incorporated into its continuing education requirement for associated persons. Fourth, we believe that a trusted contact individual should not be named unless such a person agrees to undertake the role. Finally, we recommend that personal information disclosed to anyone other than a customer be limited.
The Investor Advocacy Clinic represents the voice of small consumer investors. In addition to providing legal representation of small investors who have claims against their brokers, the Investor Advocacy Clinic evaluates and comments on proposed rules that impact the small investor and engages in educational outreach for investors and professionals who work with investors.
By: Jason Robinson, Fall 2015 Student Intern
My time in Clinic II gave me the opportunity to practice the knowledge and skills that I learned as a Clinic I intern. Securities arbitration sponsored by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a specialized area of law with a steep learning curve. I am glad that I decided to do Clinic II because it allowed me to work with new clients and take on more responsibility. Over the course of the semester we filed two statements of claim, drafted two comment letters, wrote blog posts, and facilitated a presentation on how to recognize investment fraud. Our professor constantly challenged us to take ownership of our cases and dictate the direction that we thought best served the interests of our clients.
While working in Clinic II I also took a class in Securities Regulation and Advanced Legal Writing, both included subject matter that complemented my day to day work in the Clinic. As a law school student it can be difficult to make the jump from a student to being an actual attorney, and the Clinic allowed me to take those first steps under the guidance of experienced lawyers. I would recommend the Clinic to any student who wants to dip their feet in an interesting area of law and gain valuable practical skills in the process. Along with all I have learned in the clinic I also take away a great amount of satisfaction from knowing that I served individuals in the community who did not have the means to pay for legal representation on the free market.