From Helping Farmers to Helping Investors: My Clinic Story

By Dowdy White, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

As an undergraduate student who studied Agricultural Communication at the University of Georgia, it seems weird that I would be a law student interning in the Investor Advocacy Clinic and working to help clients navigate through their complicated investing schemes and work through the FINRA arbitration process, right? Well, maybe not as much as you would think. Though these two academic areas of study seem wholly unrelated, they are more alike than you could ever imagine.

When I was an undergraduate student, I was often asked if my Agricultural Communication degree was real or if I enjoyed talking to plants and animals. No matter how many times I was asked these questions, I always found myself laughing and trying my best to explain to people what my degree did for me. I always told interested people that my degree was in the area of talking and communicating with people who needed my help. Yes, I took copious amounts of journalism and public relations classes on top of a rigorous agricultural curriculum, but I also spent my time helping and listening to people who had a problem.

During undergrad, I found myself working for Georgia State Senator and Agriculture Committee Chairman John Wilkinson during Georgia’s legislative session. During my time in Senator Wilkinson’s office, I spent endless hours on the phone listening to farmers talk about problems they were having in their communities and how the Senator could help. I would take these concerns to the Senator and, through research, help him craft potential policies and resolutions that could give these farmers relief. In short, I was helping people in need of assistance every time I picked up the phone and every time I completed any research.

Fast-forward to April 2018. I currently work in the Investor Advocacy Clinic at the Georgia State University College of Law. My job includes picking up the phone and helping clients who have lost money through complex investing schemes or from dealing with brokers. My favorite thing about my job in the clinic is the fact I still talk to people who need help on a daily basis and I still perform research in order to help our clients get answers to their questions in order to give them relief. I even field calls from potential clients who live and work on a farm who find it crazy that a kid with an agricultural background is now listening to their investment problems. I love helping others and I am glad that the clinic still gives me this opportunity.

While working in the clinic, I have learned that investors come from all over the place. Our clinic has helped investors from all walks of life ranging from financially sophisticated individuals who carefully monitor the stock market on a daily basis all the way to people who have never invested before and only put money into an investment account because their stepbrother’s cousin told them to do so. Luckily, every intern in our clinic also comes from a different walk of life. I grew up in a small agricultural town in South Georgia where not many people have the means to lock their money up in investments while other interns in our clinic come from metropolitan areas where everyone in their community had their money invested one place or another. But it’s not important where we come from or what our backgrounds may be. The clinic has taught me that all that matters is that we have the desire to help others and we have the knowledge to figure out solutions to problems that people may have. I can attest that our clinic works hard to fulfill these requirements every single day.

As I finish law school in the somewhat near future, I plan to go into legal practice to litigate cases for people who need my help. From working in the clinic, I know that I will never face a problem that is too complex for me to handle as long as I have the drive to sit down to figure everything out. Before working in the clinic, I had minimal experience with investments or with FINRA arbitration. All I really knew came from what I read online and what I saw in the movies. As our clients come to the clinic with intricate problems that need our attention, we work hard to gain a full understanding of what our clients are facing and how we can help. You can bet that I will take this into practice with me too.

So – from helping people on a farm to helping people with their investments – it’s not all that different. As long as you keep your passion to help other people burning bright, you’ll find that there aren’t many obstacles that you can’t hurdle.