The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was created in 1934 in response to the Wall Street crash of 1929. The SEC’s mission is to protect investors and maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. With six divisions all working towards the SEC’s mission, I had the pleasure of being a legal extern in the Chief Counsels Office (CCO) of the Division of Investment Management at the SEC. The Division of Investment Management develops regulatory policies for investment companies and investment advisers using the Investment Company Act of 1940 and Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The responsibilities of the CCO include liaising with the Division of Enforcement and responding to interpretive and legal questions concerning the laws that apply to investment companies and investment advisers which may involve drafting letters that provide legal guidance and issuing no-action letters to organizations or individuals active in the securities markets.
This externship was truly one of the most insightful experiences that I engaged in during my time in law school. Working alongside seasoned attorneys provided valuable hands-on experience while dealing with complex legal issues. The attorneys made a concerted effort to ensure that I had all the information that I needed to be a successful extern. My mentors would always take time out of their schedule to answer questions, explain complicated assignments, or detail the SEC’s interest in a particular field.
A highlight of the program was the SEC’s intent to allow externs the opportunity to listen in on roundtable discussions and participate in workshops. This feature underscores the SEC’s effort to ensure that the externs are obtaining valuable skills that extend far beyond the externship. The roundtable discussions allowed externs to hear insightful opinions on pressing matters. These workshops helped develop legal skills that I think will be invaluable as I begin my legal career.
The most valuable piece of this externship was the ability to work on relevant issues. One of the hottest topics in the financial world is the emergence of cryptocurrency. The very novelty of cryptocurrency makes it extremely complex in regard to the federal securities laws, which made it a fascinating topic to research. It was extremely interesting to listen to the testimony of SEC Chair Gary Gensler in front of certain congressional committees. His testimony offered real-life context behind the assignments that I was given. It was great to see the testimony that Chair Gensler gave, news coverage of these comments, and the assignments we worked on all come together. Ultimately, it proved that all the assignments that I worked on could be traced back to the SEC’s mission of protecting investors.
The opportunities that the SEC provided me during the course of my externship are irreplaceable. I had the opportunity to listen to seasoned lawyers explain relevant topics in great detail and will be able to use the skills that I learned as I begin my legal career. Based on my experience, I would highly recommend any student that is interested in securities law to apply to be an extern at the SEC.