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!

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.

Investor Advocacy Clinic: My Home Away From Home

By Geoff Hafer, Spring 2017 Student Intern

My final semester of clinic and law school…what a journey.  I can honestly say my experience over three semesters in the Investor Advocacy Clinic was by far my favorite part.  The opportunity to practice our soon to be trade in a firm-like environment with real clients is completely invaluable.  I had no idea what to expect my first semester of clinic.  We had all made it through the first year of law school but had zero experience with actual client interaction.  On the first day of clinic we were all assigned several client matters and were expected to begin work immediately.  It was a bit overwhelming at first.  What if I say something wrong to the client or miss some major issue in the case?  Reflecting back now after three semesters, this is the reality that we must all face at some point no matter where we ultimately end up.  Lawyers have an enormous responsibility to their clients and themselves and it can often times be rather daunting.  But the clinic allowed me to face that reality early in my journey.

Working on a team with fellow colleagues allowed me to see that those initial fears were not my own.  We were able to work through them together, ask questions, seek advice, and share concerns.  It instilled in all of us the confidence needed to hit the ground running when we finally get into practice and are on our own.  Furthermore, we were all able to utilize the advice and guidance of a professor who had real world experience and expertise.  Professor Iannarone acted as a mentor to myself and the other student interns and helped shape us all into the kind of attorneys we aspire to be.

By my third semester, I had handled multiple client matters from start to finish, conducted settlement negotiations, worked with opposing counsel, drafted countless legal documents, but more importantly gained the confidence in myself and my abilities to be the kind of attorney I know I can be.  Although the substantive courses we all have to take in law school are much needed for a general understanding of the law, there is no substitute for the kind of experiential learning you will get from a clinic such as ours.  I would recommend the Investor Advocacy Clinic to anyone and can’t thank Professor Iannarone and my fellow colleagues enough for their support and advice throughout my journey.  The Investor Advocacy Clinic has been my home away from home the last three semesters and the team like a family.  I will miss you all and wish you all the best.

Becoming More Comfortable in my Lawyerly Skin

By Majda Muhic, Spring 2017 Student Intern

I returned to the Clinic for a second semester looking forward to deepening some of the knowledge I’d gained in the previous semester and becoming more comfortable in my lawyerly skin.  As I leave only a few months later, I realize that the Clinic has given me both – and much more.

Over the course of this second semester, I negotiated on behalf of a client with seasoned attorneys on the other side, drafted multiple demand letters, edited and re-edited agreements, and conducted an in-depth evaluation of a potential case. This evaluation taught me not only about possible legal claims harmed investors may bring against their brokers but also about the – at times frustrating and at times exhilarating – mental acrobatics of identifying legal claims in light of real-life factual scenarios. While this exercise resembled a legal writing course, it was real and taught me a lot more about what lawyers actually do – about the inevitable judgment calls lawyers must make in face of factual uncertainties that ultimately affect real people and their lives.

Over the course of the semester, I also had the opportunity to assist the Georgia Secretary of State Securities Division with investigating an investor complaint and with researching the cutting-edge issue of regulating robo-advisors. This regulatory perspective complemented the advocacy angle of my other Clinic work and provided a glimpse in how the different pieces of the legal system puzzle work together to define and enforce the law.  I used this knowledge to draft a comment letter on behalf of the Clinic and its clients in response to a proposal by FINRA to change one of its rules. The impact of our work at the Clinic is felt far beyond the insular walls of the school, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this effort.

I am probably most grateful for the relationships I have formed working with my teammates – for getting to work closely with other student interns who I now get to call not only colleagues but also friends.  The Clinic taught me about the value of open communication and collaboration for both effective legal practice and learning. Neither the amount and quality of the work we all did together nor the depth of our learning would have been possible without the supporting environment we all worked together to create.  I feel infinitely more prepared to embark on the next step of my legal journey and enter the legal profession in the fall than I did before joining the Clinic last August – and for this I am truly grateful.

Medical Student Perspective VI

My name is Melina Zúniga, and I am a fourth-year medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine and am originally from California. I first heard of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic from my resident during my pediatric rotation. We had a child patient with a complex medical history that affected all systems of her body. Given her family’s financial situation, she had difficulty paying for all the specialists she required. My resident, an alum of the Law and Medicine elective, recommended the HeLP Clinic to our patient for legal advice as to how to apply for disability benefits. It was then I discovered that Law and Medicine was an elective course during which fourth-year medical students work alongside Georgia State University law students in the HeLP Clinic. Once I heard about the HeLP Clinic again during my Fundamentals of Medicine class in my third year, I knew I had to learn more.

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My Clinic Story: Embrace the Challenges

By: Hector Rojas, Spring 2017 Student Intern

Have you ever told yourself, “I can’t do that” or “that’s too hard” or even “I am not good enough?” I have…

My Clinic story began in the fall of 2015 when I attended my law school’s experiential learning fair. During that fair, I learned about the various clinics my school offered to help students gain practical experiences prior to graduating law school. Because I was most interested in business law, I inquired into the Investor Advocacy Clinic. I was given the opportunity to speak with current student interns of the clinic and to the now director of the clinic, Professor Iannarone. During my discussions with the interns, I learned what the Investor Advocacy Clinic was all about. I was very interested; however, I was hesitant to join because I knew nothing about securities arbitration. So, I left the experiential fair that day with the thought of “I can’t do that.”

Even though I thought I could not be a part of the clinic because I did not know about securities arbitration, I decided to take the pre-requisite class, Business Arbitration Practicum, which is required prior to becoming a student intern of the clinic. Throughout that class, we were given various assignments that would simulate the work that was done in the clinic. There was not one time I did not think “that’s too hard” or “I can’t do that” when I was given these assignments.

To overcome those thoughts, I did the only thing I know to do in these situations, work hard. I solicited feedback from my professors, discussed the assignments with my classmates, and did individual research to learn about the subject matter. I repeated this process with every assignment I was given, and at the end of the semester I ended up sharing the highest grade of the class with another classmate.

The purpose of that story is to tell anyone who is reading this that it is okay to be intimidated, scared of failing, or even think you are not good enough to do whatever it is you wish to do. What is not okay is not trying because of those thoughts. If I had let those thoughts take over, I would have never been a part of the clinic. I would have never had the opportunity to work and help real clients. I would have never had the opportunity to work with great colleagues and receive feedback on my work. And most importantly, I would have never developed into the person I have developed into because of the clinic. The clinic was great, and if you want to hear my story pertaining just to the clinic, click here.

For this post, however, I thought I try to inspire anyone out there who wishes to do something new, but are afraid of failing. I am here to tell you that based on my experiences, the only way you will fail is if you don’t try. If you try, however, and put in the time and hard work, then there is no way you can fail. And even if you do find yourself “failing,” at least you know you had the courage to try and gave it your very best. At the end of the day, I believe that is how success is measured, which is by your individual effort.

I have no regrets with my decisions to join the clinic. Nor do I have any complaints about the clinic. The clinic does something really special in that it helps investors who have been harmed by their brokers and cannot afford to seek the assistance of counsel because of the size of their claim. I have grown as a person and as a professional because of my time in the clinic. I recommend to anyone out there who wishes to try something new but are afraid they cannot do it, to just try. It may not be easy, but going through the process will make you a better person and teach you valuable lessons that you can use in any future endeavors. The clinic has been a wonderful experience for me and I recommend its services to any investor which meets our qualifications, and to any Georgia State College of Law student who wishes to gain practical experiences prior to graduating.

Medical Student’s Perspective on Medical-Legal Partnership Part V

My name is Amber Allred and I am a native of Atlanta! I will soon be graduating from Morehouse School of Medicine and will then continue my training in Anesthesiology. I have also completed a Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy and Management from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I have a great interest in health policy and patient advocacy. Before starting medical school, I worked as a project coordinator in several quality of life studies and really learned the importance of an interdisciplinary team-based approach to patient care. Although I had not directly worked with lawyers, I knew they served an important role. This was the catalyst for me to take the Law and Medicine elective course, during which fourth-year medical students work with Georgia State University law students in the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic.

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