Becoming More Comfortable in my Lawyerly Skin

By Majda Muhic, Spring 2017 Student Intern

I returned to the Clinic for a second semester looking forward to deepening some of the knowledge I’d gained in the previous semester and becoming more comfortable in my lawyerly skin.  As I leave only a few months later, I realize that the Clinic has given me both – and much more.

Over the course of this second semester, I negotiated on behalf of a client with seasoned attorneys on the other side, drafted multiple demand letters, edited and re-edited agreements, and conducted an in-depth evaluation of a potential case. This evaluation taught me not only about possible legal claims harmed investors may bring against their brokers but also about the – at times frustrating and at times exhilarating – mental acrobatics of identifying legal claims in light of real-life factual scenarios. While this exercise resembled a legal writing course, it was real and taught me a lot more about what lawyers actually do – about the inevitable judgment calls lawyers must make in face of factual uncertainties that ultimately affect real people and their lives.

Over the course of the semester, I also had the opportunity to assist the Georgia Secretary of State Securities Division with investigating an investor complaint and with researching the cutting-edge issue of regulating robo-advisors. This regulatory perspective complemented the advocacy angle of my other Clinic work and provided a glimpse in how the different pieces of the legal system puzzle work together to define and enforce the law.  I used this knowledge to draft a comment letter on behalf of the Clinic and its clients in response to a proposal by FINRA to change one of its rules. The impact of our work at the Clinic is felt far beyond the insular walls of the school, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this effort.

I am probably most grateful for the relationships I have formed working with my teammates – for getting to work closely with other student interns who I now get to call not only colleagues but also friends.  The Clinic taught me about the value of open communication and collaboration for both effective legal practice and learning. Neither the amount and quality of the work we all did together nor the depth of our learning would have been possible without the supporting environment we all worked together to create.  I feel infinitely more prepared to embark on the next step of my legal journey and enter the legal profession in the fall than I did before joining the Clinic last August – and for this I am truly grateful.

Wednesday’s Word: Discovery

By Majda Muhic, Spring 2017 Student Intern

Rather than a single moment of learning something new, “discovery” in litigation and FINRA arbitration is a longer process during which opposing parties exchange information relevant to their case. While a eureka moment rarely follows the legal process of “discovery” and “smoking gun” evidence isn’t nearly as common as courtroom dramas on television made us all think, the information gathered during this process allows the parties to establish facts necessary to support their claims and defenses in a case.  Information discovered during the process guides any settlement negotiations, frames the arbitration hearing, and often shapes the outcome of a case.

Continue reading

Majda Muhic Returns to the IAC for a Second Semester

Hoping to continue “building lawyering skills, confidence and my professional identity,” Majda Muhic, JD ’17 rejoined the Investor Advocacy Clinic for a second semester in January.  Muhic says that the Investor Advocacy Clinic

“provides me with hands-on experience.  It is a way to provide legal services to those who may otherwise not have access to them, showing them that the justice system is there for them.  The Investor Advocacy Clinic allows regular people to seek redress for wrongs they have suffered.”

Upon graduation, Muhic plans to focus her practice on the litigation of intellectual property disputes.

My Clinic Story

By Majda Muhic, Fall 2016 Student Intern

I walked into the clinic my third year of law school clueless about securities law and eager to gain practical lawyering skills that, I hoped, would ease my transition from law school to practice. I will be walking out of my first clinic semester with a solid understanding of FINRA arbitration and an understanding of securities and securities law that only two months ago seemed insurmountable.  Perhaps more importantly, I will also be walking out more confident in my own ability to represent clients, stronger in my own identity as a young lawyer, and with a set of skills that are bound to make my impending transition to practice a whole lot smoother.

The time I spent working in the clinic – while at times challenging – has been fun, exciting, and surprisingly rewarding.  Receiving a phone call indicating that the other side may be willing to resolve a dispute informally after they received a letter my clinic team wrote was a uniquely rewarding experience – an experience that reminded me of our power and responsibility as young lawyers. This experience also reminded me of why I am in law school. Learning law between insular walls of classrooms often obscures the realities of why we do what we do. For me personally, keeping this perspective – keeping the end goal of client advocacy in sight – has been crucial to my success as a law student. The clinic nurtured this perspective in an environment that encouraged and pushed learning and was, at the same time, safe and supportive. With a combination of small and large team work, individualized attention, and work that ranged from interviewing clients to writing Statements of Claims, the clinic has been a sort of law practice incubator that pushed and nourished me at the same time. It has honed my skills while putting them in a practical and meaningful context.

Our collaboration with the Georgia Secretary of State office has been particularly exciting, as it has provided me with a more comprehensive view of securities law beyond merely representing clients in disputes. Working with lawyers at the Georgia Secretary of State office provided me with a glimpse into the regulatory side of securities law, a perspective that classroom teaching often overlooks. Again, this unique experience reminded me of our power and responsibility as young lawyers.

The clinic experience was illuminating in yet another way: it allowed me to recognize and appreciate some of my own strengths and weaknesses as a budding lawyer. Identifying strengths has been empowering. Identifying weaknesses and navigating them in a safe and supportive environment has been infinitely encouraging.  Both my personal and professional growth in such a short time span have exceeded any expectations – at least my own.

The SEC Cracks Down on Illegal Activity: Putting the Efforts Where the Whistle Is

By Majda Muhic, Fall 2016 Student Intern

Encouraging and protecting self-reporting has been key to the SEC’s efforts to uncover and prevent illegal activity. The SEC has taken this portion of its enforcement program very seriously in fiscal year 2016: its whistleblower program awarded over $57 million to 13 whistleblowers – more than all of the previous years combined. The SEC further charged several large companies with violations of Exchange Act Rule 21F-17 – the SEC rule that explicitly prohibits actions that discourage whistleblowers form communicating the with the SEC. The focal point of these violations is generally chilling language in separation agreements, often in the form of strict non-disclosure provisions that prevent employees from voluntarily communicating with the SEC about potential misconduct. This chilling language in turn only makes worse any other potential violations.  Continue reading

The SEC Cracks Down on Illegal Activity: Protecting Investor Securities and Cash

By Majda Muhic, Fall 2016 Student Intern

Among SEC’s most significant enforcement actions in 2016 were its charges against Merrill Lynch for its Customer Protection Rule violations. According to Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, “The rules concerning the safety of customer cash and securities are fundamental protections for investors and impose lines that simply can never be crossed.” The SEC’s Customer Protection Rule is particularly salient in times of financial crisis.

An SEC 2016 investigation showed that Merrill Lynch crossed these lines when it used customer cash to generate firm profits and failed to protect customer securities from creditor claims. The investigation showed that the financial giant’s misconduct occurred as early as 2009 – at the height of the financial crisis – and continued through 2015.

The Violations Continue reading

The SEC Cracks Down on Illegal Activity: Demanding Transparency from Investment Professionals

By Majda Muhic, Fall 2016 Student Intern

In fiscal year 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement activities targeted, in part, misconduct by investment advisers and companies. The SEC brought a total of eight enforcement actions related to private equity advisers in fiscal year 2016, for a total of eleven private equity-related actions in the last two years. While the range of SEC’s charges varied, all revealed a commitment to protect investors from self-interested conduct of investment professionals and to demand full transparency in their dealings.  Continue reading