The Investor Advocacy Clinic: Our Little Law Firm

By Qudsia Shafiq, Spring 2017 Student Intern

I entered the Investor Advocacy Clinic with the naïve goal of mastering securities. While I may not have “mastered” securities, I certainly achieved my goal of learning about securities and securities-related laws – but surprisingly, I left with much more: lifelong friendships, mentors with professionally diverse backgrounds, experiences with clients at different stages in the client relationship, and ultimately, a sense of accomplishment that I could not have achieved in another class.

Helping a client obtain a favorable result within the first few weeks of the clinic was a rewarding start to the semester and reinforced the clinic’s primary goal of helping clients with securities-related issues through arbitration. This set a positive tone for what was yet to come. But the clinic’s flexibility in selecting topics and issues to address, determining which cases to take on, accepting a variety of clients, and being open to collaborate with other organizations to address relevant issues is what allowed it to be an invaluable experience.

This flexible approach directly resulted in students having the opportunity to participate and learn about a variety of issues. How many students can say they researched cutting-edge issues in the financial industry, addressed the current administration’s stance on fiduciary duties, participated in phone conferences with leading lawyers across the country, and did so all in one semester while independently handling cases from intake forward?

In retrospect, joining the clinic was one of the best decisions I have made in law school thus far. Unlike my externships, internships, and jobs, the Investor Advocacy Clinic has provided me the opportunity to undertake the assignments I would be given at a law firm, exposed me to the variety of issues even a niche-practice encounters, all within the comfort of an in-house clinic. This little law firm enjoys abundant resources, strong bonds within and with other clinics, where advice and input is always kindly offered and receiving feedback is the norm. And this is exactly why I can’t wait to come back for my second semester of IAC Clinic II in the fall!

Investor Advocacy Clinic Joins Comment Advocating for Financial Support of Clinics

FINRA recently requested comments on its engagement initiatives, which include investor education and outreach.  In response to the request for comments, the Georgia State Law Investor Advocacy Clinic joined with twelve other clinical professors to request that FINRA ensure its engagement programs support clinics that offer investors free legal services in disputes with their brokers.

The comment letter, available in full here, advocates for financial support of law school securities arbitration clinics.  The clinics began twenty years ago after regulators recognized that investors will smaller claims were unable to obtain legal advice.  Securities arbitration clinics fill this gap in representation.  In addition to representing investors in FINRA proceedings, securities arbitration clinics engage in important investor education work and collaborate with regulators to identify and solve problems unique to small investors.  Securities arbitration clinics are not able to ensure that all small investors receive assistance, and additional funding is necessary for them to help the investing public.

My Clinic Story

By Robert Noens, Spring 2017 Student Intern

Where to begin? My time as a clinic I intern is coming to an end, and I can honestly say that my time spent in the Investor Advocacy Clinic was my most valuable experience I had in law school. I entered the clinic wanting two things: First, I wanted a better understanding of commercial litigation after having participated in the Business Arbitration Practicum. Second, I wanted a better understanding of what it takes to be a practicing attorney. I can now say, I accomplished both tasks, and the clinic far exceeded all expectations.

To the extent of furthering my understanding of commercial litigation, I have now seen just about every step of a FINRA claim short of an arbitration hearing. I can read financial statements, calculate net out of pocket losses, read contracts, look at a portfolio’s risk distribution, figure out different claims, and proceed to incorporate all the information into a statement of claim. My holistic viewpoint has even given me the confidence that I need to go into my summer job, at a small business litigation firm, knowing that I can get the job done. Moreover, I attribute my clinic experience to ultimately leading to my summer employment.

Finally, the clinic allowed me to achieve another large goal of mine – becoming as practice-ready as possible. When I entered law school, I did not want to eventually leave school and bumble over myself when I finally got into practice. The clinic has single-handled given the edge I wanted. While I do not think that I am ready to handle a full case start to finish without any supervision, I know I can ask the right questions, get my work done, make recommendations, and be a valuable asset to any employer. Personally, that confidence and that skill are the most valuable things that I will take away from the clinic. It gave me a taste of what it is like to be an attorney. For that reason, I am extremely grateful, and I will return as a clinic II intern.

Opening Your First Brokerage Account: Am I Picking the Right Account Type for My Needs?

By Geoff Hafer, Spring 2017 Student Intern

In the last edition of the five-part series “Opening Your First Brokerage Account” we addressed the question “Do I really know all the fees associated with my account?”  Today, we will attempt to answer the question “Am I picking the right account type for my needs?”   To begin with, most brokerage firms offer at least two types of accounts, a cash account and a margin loan account (known as a margin account).

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Opening Your First Brokerage Account: Did I Ask the Right Questions?

By Geoff Hafer, Spring 2017 Student Intern

In our last edition of the five-part series “Opening Your First Brokerage Account” we addressed the question “Am I Picking the Right Account Type for My Needs?”  In this final edition, we will consider the question “Did I ask the right questions?”   Asking the right questions will help you to invest wisely and avoid potential pitfalls.  No matter what your level of investing experience, don’t be too quick to sign, after all it’s your money!

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Alumni and Faculty Recognized at Atlanta Bar Association Awards Luncheon

Georgia State Law alumni and faculty were recognized at the Atlanta Bar Association annual meeting and awards luncheon on May 24.

The association swore in Margaret Vath, senior lecturer of law, as president; Nicole G. Iannarone, assistant clinical professor, as vice president/president-elect; and A. Craig Cleland (J.D. ’92) as treasurer for the 2017-18 term.

Vath and Iannarone’s prominent leadership positions prompted Lisa Liang (J.D. ’08) and Jessica Wood (J.D. ’94) to also serve on the 2017-18 board.

“I value the Atlanta Bar’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and I look forward to collaborating with Maggie, Nicole, and other board members to make a positive change in our profession,” Wood said.

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Opening Your First Brokerage Account: Do I Really Know all the Fees Associated with My Account?

By Geoff Hafer, Spring 2017 Student Intern

In our last post in this five part series on “Opening your first Brokerage Account,” we tackled the question “Who will be managing my account?”  This week we will be addressing the question “Do I really know all the fees associated with my account?”  Investment and brokerage fees can quickly eat into your investment returns.  Whether they’re tied into the funds you’ve selected as an expense ratio, added on as a brokerage commission when you buy or sell, or charged by an adviser who is helping you sort through it all, it’s important that you know what you’re paying.  Here are some of the more common fees to be aware of:

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