The financial services industry is in the midst of a major overhaul, with new laws and regulations transforming how business is being done on a global scale. Students at NYLS are learning firsthand what role lawyers play in the process, by participating in externships with financial services institutions. The externships are part of the Financial Services Workshop and Seminar, taught by Professor Ronald H. Filler. Participating students are placed in government agencies, exchanges, financial institutions, and asset management firms where they work 14 hours a week alongside seasoned lawyers. This hands-on training gives them the skills and experience they will need to build successful careers in this rapidly changing field.
"These externships give us a chance to increase our credibility in the job marketplace," says L. Austin D'Souza 3L, an extern in the general counsel's office of a leading international brokerage firm specializing in derivatives. His work focuses on responding to and implementing new regulations resulting from the Dodd-Frank Act, the sweeping financial regulatory reform law signed by President Obama in 2010 in reaction to the recent financial crisis. A highlight of the experience for D'Souza, who is interested in pursuing a career in litigation, was witnessing a case he worked on being argued in the Southern District of New York. "Seeing financial litigation, especially at that level, was very inspiring for me."
Melissa Ferraro 3L has also delved into derivatives through her position at PIMCO, a global asset management firm. Collaborating closely with her supervising attorney, she participates in industry calls in which the "buy side" interprets and recommends how the proposed regulatory changes can benefit their business. She credits the PIMCO attorneys with patiently teaching her the complicated details of derivatives—an area she never thought she would enjoy. "I started out wanting to practice securities law, and I can honestly say that this externship has completely changed my mind," she says. "There's no doubt that what I am seeking, at least for the first step of my career, is a job in derivatives."
Megan Hammer 3L has been learning about financial regulations from the enforcement side at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the government agency that regulates futures and certain derivatives. One of the most exciting parts of the assignment has been helping to investigate a fraudulent trading system.
"I recently sat in on an interview with a criminal investigator and an FBI agent discussing an individual's involvement in a trading scheme, which was very interesting," she says. "Having attorneys rely on you to find the case that supports their side or to draft a document affecting someone's life is extremely motivating."
A key component of the externship is networking—both on the job and in the classroom, where supervising attorneys visit regularly to share career advice. "That networking is a career-building opportunity because the connections students make today might help them with a career move or job opportunity in the future," says Professor Filler. Based on his own experience in the field, which includes 16 years at Lehman Brothers and more than 35 years in the futures industry, he has built the School's relationship with the financial services industry and developed an unprecedented number of courses and programs. "Between the J.D. program and our LL.M. in Financial Services Law Graduate Program, we now offer over 40 courses involving the global financial services industry. Students therefore can now graduate from here as experts in this highly complex and challenging area. That's what distinguishes NYLS from every other law school in the world."
Delivering the Latest
News in Financial Law
With all the changes underway in the financial services industry, it can be difficult for lawyers in the field to stay up to date. Professor Houman B. Shadab and students at the Center on Financial Services Law created a website, www.finlawupdates.com, to address this challenge. The site serves as a comprehensive source for the latest developments in financial law collected from the regularly updated feeds of policy makers and authoritative sources of news and analysis. Rolando Grillo 3L, the site's lead architect, calls it a "one-stop portal" for industry practitioners. "I helped research and determine which legal news sources were best for learning about recent events and changes in the financial services industry," he says. "It helped me learn a lot about the industry, and I now use the site often." Professor Shadab was inspired by his students' enthusiasm, and says they also learned "how to take the lead in managing a project, and how to work with each other—skills that will serve them well in law practice."
Imagine caring for a developmentally disabled child from the day he was born and then discovering when he turns 18 that you are no longer permitted to speak to doctors about his condition or make any health care decisions on his behalf. Many families find themselves in that predicament after their developmentally disabled or mentally retarded loved one becomes an adult, and they don’t have the means or information necessary to obtain legal guardianship. Students involved with NYLS’s Guardianship Project are helping families get through this distressing experience by providing pro bono representation to real clients applying for legal guardianship in Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court.
The project was developed in 2009 by Professor Carlin Meyer, Director of the School’s Diane Abbey Law Center for Children and Families, in collaboration with her friend and colleague, Surrogate Judge Kristin Booth Glen. Judge Glen had reached out to Professor Meyer for help, based on the number of distraught and impoverished clients coming to her courtroom under urgent circumstances. “We looked at each other and Surrogate Glen said, ‘You’re a teacher; what about your students?’ . . . And together we decided to start a project . . . so that students could represent this very needy population,” says Professor Meyer.
She launched the initiative as a project-based learning course and put together a team of eight students, including some enrolled in the School’s Evening Division. “I called [Professor Meyer] during the summer because I noticed the class was scheduled to meet during the day and . . . I asked if I might be able to take the class without having to attend all the day meetings,” says evening student Mary Herms 3L. “She actually changed the class to be an evening class. . . . so I was really lucky.”
After a series of training sessions provided by Judge Glen and two local advocacy organizations—New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and AHRC New York City—the team got to work. “We set everything up from scratch,” says May Wong ’10. “We researched everything on our own—case law, courts that we needed to go to, and forms we needed to look at. And we went to the [Surrogate’s] Court’s Web site to find out more information.”
Students worked on cases in pairs, coaching their clients in the processes and paperwork required to apply for guardianship. Along the way, they sharpened their interviewing and counseling skills, as well as their ability to think on their feet.
“There were times when my partner and I were stumped during [a] meeting,” says Herms, whose client was trying to obtain guardianship of her son. “But we took copious notes on the issues we had and went back and asked our mentors: ‘Now what do we do?’ So we had an ongoing conversation with our professor, mentors, professionals in the area, and our client.”
Wong represented a woman seeking guardianship of her sister, which involved tracking down the client’s other siblings overseas, and enabling them to waive their right to guardianship. One of the takeaways was learning how to establish trust with a client. “It’s very important to earn your client’s trust so they can reveal more information in order for you to help their case,” she says. And the experience is one she still remembers today as a graduate. “It’s something you take along with you the rest of your life. When you take an exam, that’s it—the next day you might forget everything. But when you help a real client, you remember that client forever.”
The Guardianship Project is an ongoing one, now taught by Adjunct Professor Randi Rosenstein of AHRC.
New York City is the global capital of fashion, as home to some of the most famous fashion designers in the world and more than 165,000 people working in the industry1. Beyond the catwalks and couture is a thriving field of fashion law that students at most law schools never get a chance to see. Students in NYLS’s Fashion Law Job Track Program have a unique opportunity to learn firsthand how lawyers shape the landscape of this multi-billion-dollar industry and to build the skills and connections needed to jump-start their careers.
The Job Track Program was launched in 2009 by Professor Dan Hunter and a group of students at the School’s Institute for Information Law & Policy. Fashion law is one of seven available tracks designed to teach students how to succeed in industries related to intellectual property law.
“We tried to create a program that could really professionalize the students and make them the best possible candidates out there competing for jobs in fashion law,” says Professor Hunter, the Institute’s Director.
Central to the training students receive is learning how to create a professional network and use it to advance their careers. Students conduct informational interviews with experts in the field and present what they learn to their classmates. Professor Hunter connects students with mentors and internships in a range of settings—from small boutique law firms to big fashion houses like Chanel and Calvin Klein. Lindsey Harriman 3L credits him with helping her get three different internships, including her current one at Stuart Weitzman.
“Dan has been a really good mentor to me. For the past two years, I’ve worked closely with him, and having that kind of relationship with a professor has been really helpful,” she says. “Now when I go to networking events at the School I know people. . . . It’s a really small community, which makes it super important for us to get our foot in the door.”
One project of the Fashion Job Track is a student-run blog called CaseClothesed, where students analyze fashion headlines and happenings from a legal perspective. Blogger Melissa Morales 3L says the site has given her a medium for honing her legal analysis and writing skills. “It has allowed me to stay up-to-date on the legal issues in the industry and apply everything I’ve learned in the classroom,” she says.
Through weekly postings on topics such as knock-off versus counterfeit products and the legality of banning certain types of clothing, Morales has created a portfolio of work that will be valuable in her job search. “It’s a great experience that shows prospective employers that I have an interest in fashion, I’ve been following it, I can write about it, and I have a legal opinion too.”
For Lawrence Winegrad 3L, the blog has provided a lens for looking at fashion news in a totally different way. “Trademark is everywhere you look—when you walk down the street, in your closet—so I try to find everyday items and stories that you might not realize have to do with fashion law and examine how all of the issues interact,” he says. A piece he wrote about Cynthia Rowley’s designer Bandaids was featured on Columbia University School of Journalism’s City Beat news site. And the blog as a whole has received many other accolades—in 2010, Law.com listed CaseClothesed as one of the top legal blogs online. The team hopes the blog will continue to serve as a resource, educating users about issues in fashion law.
1 NYS Department of Labor, 2009
Students can learn about international real estate law by reading a textbook—or they can pack their bags and head overseas to engage directly with professionals in the field. Last summer, a group of NYLS students got that chance when they traveled to Europe for an intensive three-week course called Real Estate Transactions in a Global Marketplace, taught by Distinguished Adjunct Professor James Hagy. The course is part of the Law School's summer study abroad program in London, held at The College of Law of England and Wales.
"Other schools have summer abroad programs, but New York Law School hoped to provide an experience that made more use of resources in that market," says Professor Hagy. "What we created was an experience much like what our students may encounter in practice if they work on international transactions."
After attending lectures by Professor Hagy and guest speakers at The College of Law, students embarked on an assignment that took them across the city of London, as well as a working trip to Paris. The project involved serving as coordinating counsel for a mock client in a series of simulated business transactions. In advising their client—a U.S. company interested in expanding its business to London and Paris—the team consulted with lawyers, investment bankers, real estate brokers, environmental engineers, and other professionals who treated the scenario as seriously as they would a real business transaction.
"At first it was somewhat nerve-racking," Sushma Rambaran 3L says of their meetings with experts. "The people we met with are partners at large law firms who are at the top of their business, so we had to be very prepared and our questions had to be well thought-out."
But the participating professionals immediately put students at ease. "Being able to work one-on-one with professionals at that level was incredible," says Rachel Logan 3L. "Everyone we met with was so helpful and kind that my nerves faded easily. I stopped feeling like a student and just felt like their equal."
The practitioners felt similarly and found the students' work to be on par with that of their colleagues in the field. "Many of the professionals . . . remarked how impressed they were with the NYLS students," says Professor Hagy. "They thought the students were performing at the level of mid-level, third or fourth-year associates, not entry level associates."
Informed by his extensive experience as an international real estate lawyer, Professor Hagy intentionally designed the scenarios to demonstrate the differences between U.S., English, and French law. The approach taught students to understand the environment they're working in and the complexities of that culture. "We were all speaking the same language in London but things are completely different there," says Logan. "So in the future if I have a client who wants to go into different markets I'll be prepared."
Students will also be able to draw on the relationships they developed in the process. "We made a lot of great contacts," says Leslie Franco 2L. "Each of the professionals told us to get in touch with them if we have any questions, even in the future." And for Franco, he knows he'll take advantage of those connections, since he plans to pursue a career in real estate law. "The course really sparked an interest in something I could see myself doing in the future. Since then, all I've wanted to do is learn more about real estate law."