Investor Advocacy Clinic Helps Develop Invaluable Skills

By Christopher Pugh, Fall 2015 Intern

I rejoined the Investor Advocacy Clinic this semester after having a great clinical experience the year before. My first clinical semester taught me the basics of securities law such as regulations, procedural rules, and other substantive lessons. My second clinical semester expanded my knowledge of those substantive aspects of practice, but it also developed some intangible skills I will need as a practicing professional.

On the substantive aspects of my second semester in the Investor Advocacy Clinic, I was able to achieve many first time experiences in my legal career. I helped draft two statement of claims for our clients and then filed their cases with FINRA Dispute Resolution. After filing, I drafted demand letters and communicated with opposing counsel on these cases. There is no replacement for the valuable experience gained by going through the entire process of developing your client’s story, putting it on paper with supporting evidence, and then working your way through the filing procedures. The skills I learned working on these cases this semester in clinic will be with me throughout my career.

Additionally, my clinical team worked with potential new clients and worked to educate investors through the clinic’s investor outreach program. We conducted several potential client intake interviews and evaluated the cases. We wrote two comment letters on proposed rules by NASAA and FINRA in an effort to protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. And we gave a presentation to law and business students on how to prevent investment fraud.

On the intangible aspects of my education in the Investor Advocacy Clinic, I was able to grow as a professional by engaging with experienced lawyers who helped me develop skills in planning, communication, and reflection. This semester I learned the importance of planning in the practice of law. Knowing what comes next before it arises and being able to anticipate opposing counsel’s responses is essential to practice. Of course, I understood this proposition before this semester in clinic, but I did not know how lawyers achieved this. This semester I learned that good lawyers are also good planners.

Working in a team of three interns, the importance of communicating effectively within our team was essential. With so much work, our team had to learn how to communicate effectively about each other’s work and prioritizing that work. By the end of the semester we were communicating and delegating work more efficiently. So, I learned that good lawyers are also good delegators.

Finally, my clinic work this semester taught me the value of reflecting on your work. Trying to learn from your past mistakes and applying those lessons to the next case will increase efficiency and improve the quality of your work. This semester I learned to apply my past experiences to present problems in a more meaningful way rather than just being thankful that the problem was solved and forgetting about it. As a busy law student, I sometimes have a tendency to not stop and reflect on what just happened, which can cause a repeat of the same mistakes. Clinic has taught me the importance of slowing down to allow for mindful reflection on my work.

My experience with the Investor Advocacy Clinic has taught me about practice in a particular area of law while aiding my transition from student to practicing lawyer. The skills and professional growth I have gained across both of my clinical semesters could not be replicated in a traditional law school class. I would recommend the Investor Advocacy Clinic to any law student who wants to learn a dynamic area of the law and develop certain intangible skills that lawyers need in practice.