Talk about timely.
The world is on the precipice of epic financial litigation – but first let’s get through Covid, ok?
But trust us, as night follows day, financial distress and fraud follow calamity. And the post-Covid world likely will bring financial litigation on a scale previously unknown.
Enter Bill Reid, founder of Austin’s Reid Collins and among the most successful plaintiffs’ lawyers in the complex financial fraud space, recouping billions from fraudsters and villains far and wide, whether from lawyers, insiders, accountants or bankers. A student at heart, he’s decided to school the next generation of plaintiffs’ lawyers with the help of his partners with a new course, “Complex Financial Litigation,” at the prestigious University of Texas Law School.
“My one criticism of law school in general is that so much of the knowledge you learn is siloed and compartmentalized – really almost spoon-fed to you within little slivers of substantive law,” he says. “This leaves students without the critical skill of synthesizing the substantive knowledge they learn in order to develop strategies to deploy in real-world litigation.”
After observing his colleagues in action (many of them UT Law alums) and talking to the people at the law school, he understood the potential impact of pairing great academics with real-world skills. “My idea for this class is to force students to think about and evaluate fact patterns the way lawyers in the real world do every day, by applying legal principles in creative ways to solve problems. Students will not only be taught to identify the potential claims, targets and theories of causation and damages that are typical in cases with complex financial frauds, but also to identify defenses and devise both legal and practical strategies around them.
“Students will learn to use legal principles and concepts that are generally taught in law school, like standing, damages, causation and venue selection as tools to develop claims and litigation strategies designed to maximize recoveries for their clients,” says Reid.
What is the claim? Who can bring it? What damages flow from the claim? What jurisdiction should the claim be filed in to maximize recovery? In short, according to Reid, he is “teaching a class on how to be a real-world plaintiff lawyer.”
The inaugural course, which is set to begin in the upcoming Spring term, will be relatively small at inception, to ensure a higher level of practice immersion and practice readiness. And while there are still some openings, it’s obviously a hot ticket. The course will take the students through various hypothetical cases involving financial fraud as well as real-world cases that Reid Collins has handled over the years. Reid has enlisted several of his fellow partners to act as guest lecturers to co-teach certain modules of the program, which will add to the student experience.
“The fact that my fellow partners were willing to pitch in and help teach the class is also exciting because it will allow students to gain a broader understanding of the material from a broader group,” Reid says. “Meanwhile, I think it will be more interesting to hear a group presentation of the material from the actual team that handled the case rather than a monologue from a single professor.”
Partner Joshua Bruckerhoff (UT Law ’07) will be among the partners teaching. “We want students to think critically about how to unravel a complex financial fraud, determine what losses were suffered, who has standing to sue for those losses (i.e., company versus investors versus creditors), whom can be held liable for those losses (e.g., directors, law firms, auditors), and the best strategy for pursuing the litigation (e.g., which forum is best),” Bruckerhoff says. He works closely with Reid on the drafting and strategy of some of the firm’s most complex matters. “In short, not just to know the law, but how to think like a practicing attorney,” he says.
Naturally, the students will also review actual cases – including the rather novel use of actual complaints, motions to dismiss, and court rulings in real cases to chart their path through the course material.
Reid has fond memories of his years at St. John’s Law School, including teachers who inspired him. His favorite class was Remedies. In that class, “one of the most brilliant people I've ever met in my life was Professor [Bernard] Gegan, who taught me to think like a plaintiff's lawyer,” he says.
The Remedies students worked through fact patterns to ascertain the best claim, whether legal or equitable. “What were the remedies that we can seek and how does equity help? All those things that really force you to take a fact pattern and think like a lawyer and really come up with a strategy aimed at a result,” Reid says.
And, fast forward to 2021, how does the financial reward balance with the cost?
“As with everything that I do in life, I feel like I have a different approach that I hope students will find valuable,” says Reid. “I feel like law school lacks a certain pragmatic approach. And I'm hoping to bridge the gap between the theoretical and the actual.
“It's incredibly flattering that such a premier law school had the confidence to allow me this opportunity, and frankly, I'm really excited about it,” he says. “But the reality is that anytime that I teach anyone anything, I myself learn. This is just one more opportunity to delve back into subject matter that I've been working with my entire career.”