Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

Securities Arbitration Clinics: Commemorating 25 Years of Law Students Aiding Investors

Barbara Black Starts First Investor Arbitration Clinic

In the fall of 1997, professor of law Barbara Black led Pace University School of Law’s efforts to establish one of the first law school clinics to provide student assistance to small investors who have disputes with their broker-dealers. In June 2022, the Society sat down with Black to obtain an oral history about her experience.

Video: 1:32:50
edited transcript (pdf)

After Pace’s clinic got off the ground, and in hopes of providing guidance and assistance to other law schools contemplating establishing a securities arbitration clinic, Black wrote an article describing the clinic's educational objectives, an analysis of the initial organizational issues, and a report on the clinic's operation during its first two years.

The following excerpts are from her article, "Establishing a Securities Arbitration Clinic: The Experience at Pace," published in January 2000:

The Genesis of the Securities Arbitration Clinic

In March 1997 I received a phone call from the office of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Arthur Levitt. inquiring whether the Pace law school would be interested in establishing a securities arbitration clinic. The phone call reached a receptive ear; I thought the proposed clinic might meet both the SEC's and Pace's objectives.

The SEC's Objectives

At town meetings conducted by Levitt in various locations, small investors talked about their difficulties in arbitrating their disputes with their broker-dealers on a pro se basis. Many investors, already feeling taken advantage of by brokers, lacked confidence in the system's fairness. Levitt thought that law school clinics might be established to provide assistance to small investors.

Pace's Objectives

Like many law schools today, Pace wants to develop additional clinical offerings. The 1992 MacCrate Report emphasized the importance of developing the fundamental lawyering skills and the fundamental values of the profession within the law school curriculum'!' Current and prospective students, graduates, and the bar generally often articulate the desire for more clinical opportunities for law students. In addition, the Pace law faculty had previously expressed a desire to increase the school's offerings in the business law area. A securities arbitration clinic would be not only another clinical offering, but an offering that might interest a different community of students in an area targeted by the faculty for development. The proposed clinic seemed to be an attractive intersection between the business curriculum and the skills training urged by the MacCrate Report.

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Related Museum Resources

January 1, 2000
image pdf (Courtesy of Barbara)

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