By: Matthew Haan, IAC Student Intern Fall 2018
Except for the four years I spent in college, I have lived in Atlanta my entire life. Most of my family has roots the Midwest—Michigan, mainly. Although other family members have joined us in Atlanta, my parents were the first in our family to lay roots in the Empire City of the South when they moved here from Michigan thirty-five years ago. Because of this, I sometimes joke that I am a first-generation Southerner (my grandmother, who grew up in North Carolina, would disagree with me). The underlying point in this brief biography is that I have a strong connection to Atlanta. I love this city and everything it has to offer, and I am proud to call it my home.
Growing up, I started noticing some pretty neat things about Atlanta and all the opportunities it presents. When I was five, we hosted the Olympics. Not just any Olympics, but the Olympics that celebrated the one-hundredth year anniversary of the very first games. Even though I was young, I still have memories of watching the torch go past my church, trading Olympic pins in Centennial Olympic Park, and sitting in Olympic Stadium watching the flame burn in the rain, mesmerized by the fact that it still burned through one of those classic mid-afternoon summer storms. As I got older, I noticed how many of the world’s most recognized and loved companies conduct business in Atlanta. The Home Depot, SunTrust, and Coca-Cola not only have headquarters here, but they all also started here. Other companies, like Mercedes-Benz, have chosen to relocate here. The film industry has also relocated here. In the last couple of years, Atlanta has become the Hollywood of the South. It is not uncommon to see things like Spiderman hanging from a helicopter, or a red Subaru racing through the downtown streets for a shot in Baby Driver, or cast members from the Walking Dead filming near the Capitol Building. Wherever you go, you are almost guaranteed to see one of those school-bus-yellow signs with black lettering directing casts and crews to another movie or television set.
It is not just business that Atlanta does well. We have some of the best hospitals in the world in our backyard, where national television hosts choose to have groundbreaking heart surgeries pioneered by some of the world’s best doctors. Our city is home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, placing us at the forefront of revolutionary medical research. In 2014, the whole world watched as Dr. Kent Brantly arrived at Emory University Hospital, making him the first person with Ebola virus disease treated in the United States. Most of the country feared what would happen when a patient with such a contagious disease stepped on American soil. But in a metaphorical display of our city’s Southern hospitality, Emory’s doctors, nurses, and the entire medical team decided to care instead of fear.
I have always thought about how cool it would be if my legal career allowed me to represent some of those well-known companies that call Atlanta home. In some ways, I believe that doing so would not just allow me to represent The Home Depot, for example, but also to represent Atlanta. Working in the Investor Advocacy Clinic has given me a glimpse of what it is like to represent my city. The Clinic works with harmed investors with small claims who could not otherwise afford legal representation. To be sure, this is quite different from working with The Home Depot, or Coca-Cola, or SunTrust. But, working in the Clinic has allowed me to be involved in something that possesses many of the great qualities that make Atlanta, well, Atlanta. The Investor Advocacy Clinic is one of just a few clinics in the country that focuses on representing investors through the arbitration process, placing it at the forefront of a unique type of pro bono representation. Just like Atlanta, working in the Clinic provides students with unique opportunities that are not available elsewhere. In the same way, it gives people a shot at legal representation that might not be available elsewhere. It is often the case that the people we talk to have already tried to get help from an attorney. We welcome the claims of harmed investors with nowhere else to go. By no means am I drawing a direct comparison to the work we do, and the outstanding work done by Emory’s doctors, nurses, and medical team. But I find it apropos that both of us work in the same city. A city that, despite the traffic on 285, the sometimes‑unbearable heat indexes, and Sunday closures of Chik-fil-A, willingly helps others. Whenever I tell people that I have lived in Atlanta my entire life, one of the first reactions is usually some sense of surprise that I did not move here from somewhere else. Although it is generally true that Atlanta has its fair number of “transplants” (not just people, but companies, too), this never seems to matter. It’s this “come on in, y’all, we’re glad to have you” attitude that makes Atlanta’s people and institutions so great. From Michigan to Germany, you are welcome here. This is my lasting image of the Investor Advocacy Clinic. No matter where you have come from, no matter what your story is, we are going to try and find a way to lend a hand.
In many ways, the Investor Advocacy Clinic is a microcosm of all that Atlanta represents. Atlanta is awesome. The Investor Advocacy Clinic is awesome. And I am proud to have such a strong connection to both.