My Clinic Story

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

Like most law students, I had no idea what to expect when my semester in the clinic started. We are told that programs such as clinics and externships offer opportunity to get practical experience, and clinics also offer the opportunity to help people who cannot otherwise afford legal services. All these things are true, but only by participation in the clinic did I get a true appreciation for the experience.

What did I enjoy most about the clinic?

By far the most enjoyable thing about working in the clinic is the teamwork and comradery developed between the team within the Investor Clinic we are assigned to. Each clinic is organized differently, and the Investor Clinic assigns its student interns into small teams, working together on cases. Legal work is unique in that our ethical obligations prevent us from discussing what we do with outside people. For those of us without prior legal experience, being able to discuss our work is important to the process of improving our legal skills. The investor clinic has offered me a unique opportunity to go through that process, and with it came friendships developed from working closely together.

What have I learned from the clinic?

The clinic is a far more immersive experience than most people realize. Due to the requirement to bill seven hours of time per week to the clinic and the many deliverables due throughout the semester, there is always clinic work to be done. Through that experience, we learned one of the most important skills needed to succeed in the legal field: to always push forward. As someone new to the legal profession, law students are often paralyzed by indecision. Because we aren’t sure if what we’re doing is right, there is a tendency to not do anything at all. However, when there are real clients with real deadlines always looming on the horizon, that paralysis is trumped by necessity. The end result is we are forced to do what will hopefully become second nature to us, which is making the best educated decision that we can based on what we know and correcting our course as we go.

How will the clinic help me as I enter the legal practice?

My focus above on general problem solving skills and developing relationships is not meant to imply that we didn’t also learn the substance of securities arbitration. Throughout the semester, we had to draft, edit, and ultimately submit claims for our clients. That process, especially with the peer editing that comes from working together in small groups, results in better legal writing skills. The cases we work on involve arbitration through FINRA and offers us a unique opportunity to see how statutes and agency regulations intersect with the arbitration process. The iterative nature of the work product we create in the clinic allows us to efficiently hone our legal writing and analysis skills, through a process of constant feedback from peers and clinic professor.

Additionally, the relationships developed in the clinic, not only between students, but also between the students and the clinic professor, is part of my professional network. Our clinical professor is passionate not only about our work in the clinic, but also about our professional success as soon to be lawyers. Having a network to advocate for our success in practice is something every law student should seek to attain, and the clinic offers a unique opportunity to develop that network in a substantive way that is usually not available before one enters practice.

MyMoney Building Block – Borrow

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

Some of the purchases in our lives cannot be made simply by saving up to purchase them. Buying a home or car, funding an education, or other major expenses may require borrowing money. Making the right decisions when it comes to borrowing money can make a tremendous difference in our finances over time.

The final building MyMoney.Gov Five building block, Borrow, revolves around being able to make the best decisions possible around borrowing money. This includes maximizing and keeping abreast of your credit score, resources to find loans with the lowest interest rates, information around student loans and other financial help with education, and more.

The MyMoney.Gov website has cataloged over 200 resources to help people with borrowing money. Some of the highlights include an overview of credit and loans from the FTC, the FTC’s explanation of the Free Credit Reporting Act and where people can get free credit reports, an in depth explanation of everything contained in your credit report from the Federal Reserve, and a number of resources to help with paying for educational expenses from the U.S. Department of Education.

In Conclusion

The MyMoney.Gov website compiles information and makes it readily available. Without a central repository for financial information, citizens would have to research what is available at each individual agency. These resources are available not only to answer questions we may run into about financial decisions, but also to shore up weaknesses we may have within these various building blocks. By ensuring we have strong building blocks, we will be able to build a strong financial picture for the future.

MyMoney Building Block – Spend

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

Not only should people be concerned about threats to our financial stability from outside threats, sometimes, the biggest threat to our financial stability is ourselves. Our culture is extremely consumer driven and sometimes we make financial decisions without fully considering our overall financial picture. In some ways, what we choose to buy is the one area in which we have the most control over our financial well-being, making Spend an important building block in our overall financial picture.

More than half of Americans today live paycheck to paycheck. This is in part because we are still recovering from the recession of the previous decade, but also because our country’s culture has shifted from previous generations, and people are saving less than ever.

This building block is focused on helping people live within their means. Included in this block are ways to shop smart in comparing prices and quality, advice in how to properly track spending habits and develop a budget, and how to set short-term and long-term financial goals and create a strategy to meet them.

The MyMoney.Gov website has cataloged over 100 resources to help people with this topic. Of particular note is a primer from the U.S. Treasury Department about how banks work, a site created by the FDIC about how to use online banking resources safely to track your money, a template to create a budget from the FTC, and Money Smart, a podcast created by the FDIC with segments on banking, budgeting, and borrowing money.

MyMoney Building Block – Protect

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

In addition to maximizing the money we have coming in from our paycheck and developing a good strategy for where to put that money, we have to be able to protect those assets from people who may try to take that money from us, sometimes through illegal and fraudulent means. As we move into an increasingly digital world, there are new ways for unscrupulous individuals to attempt to take advantage of general public.

The Protect building block focuses on the various threats to our financial well-being and how to protect against them. Included as part of this block is information on how to keep track of your financial information and how to look for discrepancies, how to spot and avoid potential scams, how to prevent identity theft, and keeping abreast of your credit record and credit score.

The site has cataloged over 400 resources across various federal agencies with information relevant to this building block. In particular, visitors interesting in learning more about how to protect their assets should look to this article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on keeping and managing household records and this article from the Federal Trade Commission on how to deter, detect, and defend against identity theft.

The article containing information about household recordkeeping is a prime illustration of the value of the portal in serving as a single point of access to financial management information. It is unlikely that someone would go to the Department of Agriculture for advice about money management, and resources such as these would be lost without a site like MyMoney.Gov.

Clinic Comments on Proposed Rule to Prevent Financial Exploitation

On November 28, 2016, the Investor Advocacy Clinic submitted a comment on SR-FINRA-039, a proposed rule to prevent financial exploitation of vulnerable investors.  The comment, drafted primarily by student intern David Hsu, responded positively to several changes to the prior version of the rule, including changes that were suggested by the Investor Advocacy Clinic in December of last year when the rule was first proposed.

While continuing to support FINRA’s goals of protecting vulnerable investors, the clinic noted that the proposal would be improved with a few changes.  The clinic recommended that:

(1) FINRA require members to act on a reasonable belief of exploitation before placing a temporary hold on an investor’s account;

(2) FINRA oversee mandatory training to help firms and brokers identify financial exploitation and outline member responsibilities when it is present;

(3) a trusted contact be informed of their designation and be asked whether they wish to serve in that capacity; and

(4) the safe harbor provision not protect a member from violations of FINRA Rules 2010 and 2150.

The clinic’s full comment is available here.

MyMoney Building Block – Save & Invest

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

As the name of the Save & Invest block suggests, this building block focuses on becoming educated and developing good habits with regards to saving and investing. With savings, many people have trouble saving money for emergencies, and the site provides resources with tips and tricks to develop good habits with saving money. With investing, the site discusses what considerations need to be made before investing money, how to check the credentials of financial professionals before hiring them, and when and how much one should invest.

The website provides links to over 150 resources. Some of the highlights include an article about investing in bullion from the FTC, a Treasure Department initiative entitled “Ready.Save.Grow” to help people save money including using products offered by the U.S. Treasury, a primer on resources available through the SEC to check out brokers and investment advisers, and a presentation from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau about making the best financial decision when it comes to lump sum pension payouts.

Whether we are looking for help gaining discipline in saving for emergencies, wanting to find out how to best save for our kid’s college education, or simply want to maximize our financial picture for retirement, the resources provide easy access to much of the information available to us to help us make the best decisions possible.

This building block is in many ways the most in-depth and involved block, and someone interested in maximizing their understanding of the MyMoney five would do well to spend more time focusing on the resources available here.

Resources for Managing and Growing Your Money – MyMoney.Gov.

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

In 2003, Congress established the Financial Literacy & Education Commission, a collaboration between over 20 federal agencies with the purpose of strengthening the financial capabilities and access to financial services for Americans.

Since then, the commission has, among other things, created a website to help educate people about how best to manage and grow their money. The commission catalogs resources across all participating agencies and, over the past few years, has broken down the basics of successfully managing your money into five building blocks, which they describe as the “MyMoney Five,” which consists of the following: 1) Earn, 2) Save & Invest, 3) Protect, 4) Spend, and 5) Borrow.

Keeping these building blocks in mind when making day-to-day financial decisions will help you achieve the best possible results with the financial resources available to you.  Over the next five blog posts, starting with this one, we will go over each of the basic building blocks and the core themes in how they contribute to your overall financial picture.

MyMoney Building Block – Earn

The Earn building block focuses on making the most of what you earn by more fully understanding your pay and benefits. Most employees do not really understand or review the various withholdings to their paycheck. Additionally, there may be workplace benefits that you can take advantage of to maximize your financial picture, from making the most out of your healthcare benefits, to using the education and training benefits offered by both the government and your employer.

The MyMoney website provides links to over a hundred resources in educating people about these concepts. Of particular note is that not only are there resources for adults, there are also materials suitable for kids from K through 8th grade to help them to start understanding basic concepts about finances, to help both parents and educators prepare the next generation for managing finances.