The Fordham Law Securities Litigation and Arbitration Clinic won two recent arbitrations, representing clients whose brokers invested them in a single, extremely risky investment, winning a total of over $120,000 in the process.
“The students worked incredibly hard and did a tremendous job,” says clinic director Professor Paul Radvany. “The clients were incredibly grateful and very complimentary of the work the students did. Even the arbitrators and opposing counsel complimented the students.”
The first case was a two-day arbitration for a client who was nearing retirement but discovered that his broker had placed all of his retirement savings into a single extremely risky and illiquid real estate investment. The client, an immigrant from Haiti, wanted to access his savings in order to help family members in his home country, but was unable to do so.
“One of the best parts of the Clinic was working so closely with our expert, Ron Heakins. Without his help, it would have been much more difficult for our team to understand the intricacies of our client’s case and our legal theories would likely not have been as compelling. Determining how to best showcase his vast knowledge during his expert testimony was a challenging part of the case, but ultimately incredibly rewarding because it was evident that his testimony contributed to our success,” said Emma McGrath ’22, who worked on the case for two semesters. McGrath, alongside fellow clinic students Alejandro De La Torre ’22, Chris Haughey ’22, and Okeya Smith ’22, successfully argued the case and their client was awarded $27,000.
The second case involved a couple who had also trusted a broker with their retirement savings, only to find that a large portion of their savings had been lost. The couple, immigrants from China with limited ability to read and write in English, had relied on their broker to responsibly manage their savings. Instead the broker used the funds to invest in one speculative biopharmaceutical company that did not have a single approved drug on the market.
Fordham Law clinic students Ashley Abrankian ’22, Dominic Conoshenti ’22, Christoper Halm ’22, Larysa Kern ’22, and Jacob Sievers ’22 were able to win their case over a five-day arbitration process. After closing arguments by Conoshenti, the clinic’s clients were ultimately awarded approximately $96,000.
For these clients, said Conoshenti, the arbitration process also helped them understand what had actually happened with their savings and gain closure in the process. “A major goal that they shared with us throughout this whole process was just trying to figure out what went wrong, where the money went, and why the broker did what he did,” says Conoshenti. “Hopefully, it brought them some closure to have arbitrators agree that the broker did something that was unjustifiable.”
On both teams, students were involved in all aspects of their cases, including the direct and cross examinations of clients and experts, opening statements, and closing arguments. Professor Radvany, who has led the clinic since 2007, closely supervised their work and provided feedback, guidance, and comments as students prepared for the arbitrations and during the arbitrations.
“Student’s take ownership of the case and we work as a team,” said Radvany. “They participate in every stage, from interviewing the clients, to drafting the complaints, to conducting discovery, to prepping for and conducting the arbitrations. They did such a good job that anyone observing the arbitrations would have thought they were seasoned lawyers.”
The arbitration process was a valuable learning experience, said Conoshenti, and allowed him to see the real-world impact that legal representation can have on people’s lives. “Getting close with [our clients]over the course of the several months that we worked with them reminded me—and a lot of the other students that I was working with—why we came to law school in the first place, which is to try and resolve real problems for real people,” said Conoshenti. “Here we were, presented with a real problem that real people had. To have the opportunity to actually work on solving it was really amazing.”
For McGrath, who has since been offered a job in international arbitration at a large law firm, the process was an exemplary first case in a field she’ll be continuing to work in after graduation.
“I think it was really exciting for all of us not just to win … but also for our client to finally receive the compensation that he had been waiting for so long,” said McGrath. “I’ll remember it as my first legal win for a client.”