Few would dispute the ills of a sluggish economy, especially small investors. In recent years, millions of individuals — many of them with limited income or small dollar-amount claims — have lost money due to bad advice, unauthorized trading, or misrepresentation. A result has been the pressing need for pro bono legal services to otherwise unrepresented investors.
Enter the Securities Arbitration Clinic at Brooklyn Law School, a new partnership formed in September with Labaton Sucharow, one of the world’s leading firms in securities litigation. The program serves a dual purpose: to assist defrauded individual investors who cannot otherwise afford to pay for legal counsel; and to provide students with real-world experience in securities arbitration and litigation.
The announcement marks a rebirth of sorts at the Law School, which had operated a similar clinic in years past. Professor Stacy Caplow — insistent on reviving the program in light of the current economic climate — seized the opportunity to partner with Labaton Sucharow, which was looking to collaborate with a law school as part of its 50th anniversary. Renowned for prosecuting many of the leading cases resulting from the 2008 credit crisis, the firm’s Securities Litigation Practice has recovered more than $6 billion and represented some of the largest institutional investors in the world.
“We were one of the first law schools to respond to the invitation of the securities industry’s self-regulatory organizations to create a clinic that assisted defrauded investors,” said Professor Caplow, the recently named Associate Dean for Professional Legal Education. “Our students helped pauperized claimants recover their losses. Not only do clients welcome this assistance with open arms, but students with business and financial sector goals gain knowledge and experience in the field, while having the satisfaction of helping needy clients. We are excited to partner with Labaton Sucharow on a new model for clinical education that brings back securities arbitration to Brooklyn Law School.”
Leading the collaboration with the Law School are Joel Bernstein ‘75 and Mark Arisohn, both partners at the firm, who have designed a curriculum encompassing case evaluation, client counseling, trial skills, legal strategy, and hands-on training in settlement negotiation. Eight of the many eager students who responded to a mid-summer announcement about the new Clinic are enrolled for the school year.
"I'm excited to work with my alma mater and law students who have demonstrated an early commitment to pro bono work,” said Bernstein, a shareholder litigation expert who has recovered more than a billion dollars in damages to wronged investors. “Along with the program’s value to underrepresented individual investors, this Securities Arbitration Clinic will provide a valuable experience for students as future lawyers.”
Working with a team of Labaton Sucharow lawyers, students will assist in the representation of individuals at several stages of a case, from screening the merits of a case to developing evidence and case theory, to engaging in settlement negotiations and, in some cases, participating in mediation or arbitration proceedings. A bi-weekly seminar will focus on substantive law and procedures, as well as interviewing, counseling, fact investigation and analysis, negotiation, and written and oral advocacy.
"We are proud to partner with Brooklyn Law School on this very important endeavor, Arisohn said. “In a world where securities litigation tends to be more accessible to large institutional investors with dedicated legal teams, it is crucial for us to provide our services as legal professionals to underrepresented investors in order level the playing field. At Labaton Sucharow, we work towards market integrity and fairness, and that should not be limited to a select few.”
Read more about the Securities Arbitration Clinic.