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St. John’s Law Students Take Investor Issues to Capitol Hill

L-R: Michael Manzo '18 and Melanie Lee '17
Monday, March 20, 2017

St. John’s Law Students Take Investor Issues to Capitol Hill
When Michael Manzo '18 skillfully advocated for the passage of the Senior$afe Act last week, he wasn’t sitting in a St. John’s Law class or arguing in the Moot Court Room. He was presenting to U.S. congressional staffers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as part of the annual Hill Day sponsored by the Public Investors Bar Association (PIABA).

St. John’s Law students have many opportunities to learn by doing. By experiencing the real world of law—and successfully joining thinking and acting—they’re able to carry forward St. John’s tradition of exceptional leadership and service.

Students in the Law School’s in-house and partner clinics, for example, receive invaluable training and build practical skills by representing defrauded investors, by prosecuting defendants accused of domestic violence, by serving as guardians for abused and neglected children, by seeking asylum for refugees, and by providing legal assistance to elderly New Yorkers. As advocates for those in need, students see how hard work and selfless service can effect positive change, uplift people, and benefit communities.

Manzo and fellow student Melanie Lee '17 participated in PIABA’s Hill Day as Securities Arbitration Conference Fellows, an honor awarded by the Law School’s Securities Arbitration Clinic. Both students are in the clinic this semester, helping to represent underserved investors in securities arbitration claims before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  

“Melanie and Michael joined me at PIABA’s annual meeting in October,” says Professor Christine Lazaro, who directs the clinic. “They sat in on sessions and interacted with claimants’ attorneys, defense counsel, mediators, FINRA dispute resolution professionals, and other experts in the field. The students were then given the opportunity to accompany PIABA members on their annual Hill Day.”

Lee and Manzo helped to prepare materials and talking points for Hill Day presentations in support of the Senior$afe Act, which offers financial firms a safe harbor for reporting suspected financial abuse of the elderly, and the Department of Labor’s new Fiduciary Rule, which the finance industry is trying to delay or repeal. During Hill Day, they joined 30 PIABA members in meetings with 120 Senate and House staffers.

“Attending Hill Day was an eye opening experience,” says Lee. “I was able to spend time with attorneys from across the country and to watch them use their advocacy skills to advance an agenda that was in the best interest of their clients. In addition, I was able to get an inside look at how congressional offices operate and how accessible they actually are.”

Manzo says that Hill Day was “a highlight” of his time at St. John’s Law. “Preparing for and advocating at Hill Day enabled me to draw connections between the black-letter law I learned in the classroom and broader policy implications. Spending time with the most talented advocates in the field was a motivating and invaluable experience."