By Siri Yellamraju, Spring 2016 Student Intern
Like most 24-year-olds, I have very little to no experience with investments. The most investment experience I have is saving my beanie babies from the 90s in hopes that they’d appreciate in value. Other than two corporate finance classes, I really did not have exposure to the stock market and did not understand how it worked in real life. For those reasons, I never applied to the Investor Advocacy Clinic. Maybe it was the blues and spur of the moment decision-making from realizing this was my last semester before graduating law school, but I found myself applying for the Investor Advocacy Clinic the night the application was due. I spent a lot of time on the application, so I was really excited that I had been chosen for the clinic. I was apprehensive about working in an Investor Advocacy Clinic when I had no investing experience and had never taken a Securities law class. I quickly realized, however, that this was not a problem.
One of the great things about the Investor Advocacy Clinic is that even though the subject matter is confusing, the applicable law is pretty easy to digest. In fact, it is really interesting. The law is not built around the confusing technicalities of the products, but instead is built around the way people interact with the products. One of the main claims that the Investor Advocacy Clinic brings against Investment Advisers and Brokers is “suitability.” Brokers and Investment Advisers are required to suggest products that are suitable for the investor based on their age, investment experience, background, personality, wealth, etc. Although this does relate to the technicalities of the products, as long as you understand the basic risk profile of the product it is easy to do a suitability analysis. Surprisingly, the risk profile is easy to understand in comparison to weighing the personality and background facts of the client.
Working in a clinic is a great experience that can’t be matched by even the most “practical” of classes. The homework and problems presented in practical classes is all fake. The problems are in a controlled environment where variables can’t throw the entire process off track. There’s no way a class can reflect the feeling you get when a client visibly becomes nervous and emotional while you’re in a meeting with them. There’s no way a class can teach you what to do when your client refuses to send you documents you’ve asked for 2-3 times. Group projects are a staple in school, but working as a team on a real life problem is different than working as a team on a problem that was tailored for group work. The clinic provides opportunities that cannot be recreated in any class.
I am extremely happy with my decision to participate in the Investor Advocacy Clinic. I really enjoyed the work, making new friends, and exploring a new area of law. I am leaving with tangible skills I know my future employers will appreciate. Working in the Investor Advocacy Clinic is a great investment of a semester of law school. I am hoping that one day, when my beanie babies are finally worth millions, I will still carry these skills and knowledge.