Published October 6, 2016
One of the Law School’s most distinctive and successful initiatives is hitting the 10-year mark with a return to its roots.
The New York City Program on Finance & Law, which takes law students to the heart of the nation’s financial capital for an intensive semester of hands-on learning, has welcomed a cohort of School of Management students into this year’s class.
That mix of law and management students was at the core of the program when it was begun by Professor Philip Halpern in 2006. But shortly after the program launched, changes in the management school’s core curriculum schedule prevented MBA students from participating, leaving the program to serve law students exclusively for most of its first 10 years.
Beginning this year, the New York City program is taking place in the fall semester in order to accommodate MBA student schedules, taking advantage of the enhanced learning they bring to the classroom.
“The business side of finance, of course, has always been a current in the program,” explains Lauren Breen, clinical professor of law and program director. “We have a terrific group of 18 students this year: four MBA, two JD/MBA and 12 JD students.
Although the semester is only several weeks old, she says it has been interesting to see the perspective that the MBA students have brought to the material. “Business students are already explaining finance concepts to the law students and the law students are sharing insight into how law affects business,” Breen says.
She also notes the students’ capstone projects are done in teams that include both law and management students — an experience that’s second nature to business majors, but not so much to future attorneys.
“We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact from the MBA students’ strong experience working in teams and are very grateful to the School of Management for moving swiftly to approve the program curriculum in time for MBA students to register for the fall 2016 semester.”
In the program, students spend the fall semester in New York City engaging with a series of experts presenting on their particular niche of the corporate finance world. In addition to law school faculty, this year the program includes School of Management faculty members John Dunbar, adjunct professor, and Sudhir Suchak, clinical assistant professor, both of the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics.
However, adjuncts and guest lecturers who are high-level professionals in the fields of corporate finance, capital markets, financial services, regulation and compliance form the backbone of the semester’s teaching. “This year we are very lucky to have increased teaching time from Erik Lindauer, ’81, a newly retired Sullivan & Cromwell partner who has also hosted the final project presentations since the program’s inception,” Breen notes.
It’s a heady mixt, and students need to be at the top of their game to keep up. Breen says she spends at least an hour with every applicant, looking for those with the maturity, resilience and initiative to engage the guest speakers and network effectively with alumni.
“It’s highly participatory,” Breen says. “We’re in the classroom Monday through Thursday and, when the speakers come in, the students need to have prepared with background reading on the topic they’re presenting so we can engage in a meaningful conversation. These are extremely busy, highly successful experts in their field, and they’re very generous with their time, so the composition of the NYC student group is critical. We need people who are well-rounded business and/or law students, who want to learn how to interact with people in a professional way.”
New this year is a placement program in which some students spend two afternoons a week, plus a full day on Fridays, in a professional setting, such as the New York office of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Besides the additional learning that results, Breen says the hope is that students will develop an even wider network of contacts toward their post-management or law school job search.
Another component to the program this fall is a trip to Washington, D.C., to connect with financial regulators and other alumni in the finance world. An important part of that experience will be a social networking event with UB alumni in D.C.
And no 10th anniversary would be complete without a party — so one was held on Sept. 28 at the New York City offices of Hodgson Russ. The event was designed to honor program founders Professors Philip Halpern, Jack Schlegel, Philip Perry, Thomas Disare, Bert Westbrook and Amy Westbrook, as well as the dedicated adjunct professors, guest speakers and alumni mentors who have lent their wisdom over the years.
David Franasiak, Law ’78/MBA ’79, a mainstay of the program as a donor, lecturer and final project team sponsor, gave the keynote address.