By: Lynn M. Mckeel, Fall 2017 IAC Student Intern
As the semester draws to a close and I complete the first half of my Clinic experience, one aspect of the clinic stands out. The Investor Advocacy Clinic describes itself as a resource for injured investors who may seek recourse in FINRA arbitration proceedings. However, it is so much more than just a FINRA clinic. Throughout the semester the interns were exposed to a variety of instances of investor peril. Yes, we reviewed potential FINRA claims, but we also reviewed cases under investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State; participated in an SEC meeting; created educational tools for investors; and even participated in FINRA arbitration proceedings. This diverse smorgasbord of assignments made for a completely unique and ever changing Clinic experience.
At the forefront of our tasks was the analysis and evaluation of potential FINRA claims. Because of the Clinic’s limited resources we must use the utmost scrutiny in evaluating a potential client. In a perfect world with a more cushioned budget, the Clinic could help everyone who has been so selfishly defrauded. But with heavy heart we must apply a strict level of scrutiny to investors who have already been dragged through the ditches. Sometimes these evaluations may take weeks or even months before a determination of eligibility may be assessed. The time between intake and eligibility determination is a very intimate and personal experience. As Clinic interns we must discuss very private matters with eligible clients and review sensitive financial documents for hours on end. This process allows for a smooth transition from potential client to represented client. However, it also allows for a level of disappointment from both the investor and the Clinic if the grievance is deemed ineligible for our services. One thing is for sure, the students who participate in these evaluations are more educated, more experienced, and more prepared for the work and expectations of private practice.
One of my favorite aspects of the Clinic is the Investor Education component. Though tedious and complicated, creating a crossword puzzle booklet has one of my more enjoyable law school experiences. It’s not just the idea of creating and presenting puzzles (albeit a nice reprieve from the law school habits of only ever solving the problems) but also the enjoyment of knowing that normal, everyday people may benefit from a relaxing and challenging learning experience. The investor education products are something that can be enjoyed by the entire family. We believe it’s never too early or too late to begin investment education and presenting the material in the unintimidating and familiar environment such as a crossword puzzle or story book will bridge the gap between sophisticated investors and those new to process. I look forward to presenting the finished product to partner organizations and disseminating to the general public.
Working with the Georgia Secretary of State has also been an exciting experience. Bound by confidentiality, I am unable to discuss specifics. However, the issues presented by the Secretary of State shine a light on the vulnerability of even the most experienced investor. Even in the age of technology and surveillance it is shocking to see the amount of gall and arrogance con men and fraudsters incorrectly assume they can get away with. I am inspired by the work of the Secretary of State and have a new appreciation for their tireless pursuit of justice. Regardless of one’s view toward the role of government and private enterprise, everyone can agree that society has no patience for con men and fraudsters. We need individuals dedicated to pursuing the truth. The men and women at the Secretary of State fill this role and use their powers to shut down criminal and fraudulent activities so that normal citizens like you and I can be assured that the corrupt members of society face consistent and unwavering road blocks.
Though the semester comes to a close, I am so excited and motivated to come back to the Clinic fall semester of 2018. I look forward to continuing the representation of our great clients and tackling new and unique problems we all face in the world of investments.