The result of a Teaching Innovation Grant, Georgia State Law’s new Business Arbitration Practicum teaches students real-world skills in client representation, case management, negotiation and arbitration by working through simulated securities arbitration problems.
Nicole G. Iannarone, assistant clinical professor and Investor Advocacy Clinic director, developed the course to offer more experiential opportunities for students interested in the subject area. The course builds upon and expands the former seminar component of the clinic into a standalone course.
The additional, and separate, time focusing on arbitration from start to finish also enhances the Investor Advocacy Clinic, for which the new course is a co- or pre-requisite, and offer students an opportunity to practice law before working with clients.
“The practicum is an interesting way to present the material and practice a challenging area of the law. Students handle every aspect of the case, so they are able to better understand how the rules and laws apply,” she said. “With the practicum being separate from the clinic, students are able to get their feet wet before diving in head first into client representation. Because we offer the course in the evening, part-time students are able to participate and gain experience as well.”
Upon receiving a hypothetical case, students conduct interviews, research claims, initiate and answer proceedings, prepare for a final hearing and represent their clients in a live negotiation. During the entire process Iannarone, adjunct faculty and practicing attorneys provide substantial feedback on the students’ lawyering skills and professional development.
“We’re holding our students to high standards, and they are exceeding them,” Iannarone said. “I enjoy seeing their work improve week to week and how they transition from student to lawyer through the course of the semester.
Professors Iannarone invites expert attorneys and regulators to share their experiences and critique students’ work. Guest lecturers share best practices, outline common mistakes and help students understand how to respond and best represent clients. Guest lecturers include FINRA Executive Vice President and Director of Dispute Resolution Richard W. Berry and Southeast Regional Director for FINRA Dispute Resolution Manly Ray, as well as prominent lawyers, mediators, and arbitrators.
Students have found the course experience invaluable.
“I have grown as a student and as a lawyer as a result of the practicum. It forces me to challenge myself. Traditional doctrinal classes do a great job at teaching the law, but their focus is not on teaching students how to practice the law. The practicum teaches students invaluable practical skills,” said Hector J. Rojas (J.D. ’17). “Professors Iannarone and Doss are experts in the material and do an excellent job in explaining it in class.”
Rojas plans to use the skills he’s learned to become a better advocate on behalf of future clients. After graduation, he plans to specialize in tort and commercial litigation.
“This course has definitely helped me prepare for my career. I now know what it’s like to take a case from beginning to end, through the lens of an arbitration proceeding. I’ve also gained confidence to execute the skills I have learned in a real-world setting,” he said.
Michael Williford (J.D. ’17) enrolled in both the practicum and Investor Advocacy Clinic for the experiential aspect.
“It’s enlightening to approach a class from the perspective of filing, prosecuting and defending an action. It gives some real-world texture to academic material that feels like exists in a vacuum,” he said. “You realize you haven’t mastered the subtleties of pleadings and motion practice when you’re asked to do it based on a set of facts you’ve never encountered before. It forces you to stretch and grow—to get outside of you comfort zone.”
Alumni with experience in business arbitration or securities arbitration who are interested in potentially working with the practicum can contact Professor Iannarone.