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Clinic Students Gain Valuable Dispute Resolution Skills and Experience

Monday, December 5, 2016

Students in the Law School’s Securities Arbitration Clinic participated in a mock mediation and arbitration recently at the New York City office of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Arbitrators from FINRA's neutral roster volunteered their time to hear the dispute, running the hearing much like an actual arbitration.

The mock case involved the sale of a highly complex investment to a retiree by his long-time broker. Although the investment lost a considerable sum of money, the investor had an overall profitable relationship with the broker. At issue in the case was the suitability of the broker’s recommendation, as well as whether the investor suffered any damages. Playing the roles of the attorney for the investor and the broker and brokerage firm, as well as the parties, the students first mediated the case and then tried it in arbitration.  

The students came to the arbitration well versed in the matter. The clinic’s director, Professor Christine Lazaro, and assistant director, Professor Francis J. Facciolo, introduced the case file to them early in the semester through an interviewing and a counseling exercise in the clinic seminar class. The students continued to explore the case during a class on drafting claims and answers and, towards the end of the semester, through a mock mediation facilitated by guest lecturers and guest mediators from FINRA. Two weeks later, the students traveled to FINRA, and participated in the mock arbitration.

The clinic students are exposed to one part of the client representation because cases take several years to progress from intake to resolution,” Professor Lazaro says. “Through the use of a mock case file, they can see a case from start to finish. For a number of years, FINRA has provided support to the clinic, allowing us to hold the arbitration hearing at the New York City hearing location, so that students can have as realistic experience as possible.

The students say the experience made a lasting impact. “Participating in the mock arbitration, and receiving positive and constructive feedback from the arbitrators after I nervously presented my closing, encouraged me to pursue a career as a litigator,” says Keren Baruch ’17. “I could not be more thankful for this eye-opening opportunity, which significantly enhanced my clinic experience.”

Nicole Rende ‘18 is also grateful for the opportunity. “This was one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had in law school. Not many students are exposed to the arbitration forum. I think any exposure to arbitration will help a student become a better attorney in any field he or she chooses to practice in.”

Many thanks to the mediators and arbitrators who volunteered to make this an exceptional learning experience:

·       Brent A. Burns, Law Offices of Brent A. Burns, LLC

·       Joel E. Davidson, Joel E. Davidson Legal & Consulting Services

·       David M. Eskew '04,  Criminal Division, United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New Jersey

·       Kimberly A. Johns '97, Goldman Sachs

About the Securities Arbitration Clinic
The Securities Arbitration Clinic is one of the Law School’s three in-house clinics offered through our not-for-profit legal services organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program, Inc. Operating out of our state-of-the art Clinical Office, it is staffed by St. John’s Law 2Ls and 3Ls who help represent underserved investors in securities arbitration claims involving misrepresentation, unsuitability, unauthorized trading, excessive trading, and failure to supervise, among other claims before FINRA.