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Fascinated by the dramatic pageantry of the O.J. Simpson trial, Michelle Tanney ’12, then about 10 years old, stayed home from school to watch the verdict. However, working in financial services at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange after earning her B.A. in political science and masters in political management at the George Washington University more directly prepared her to help in liquidating Bernie L. Madoff Investment Securities as an associate attorney at BakerHostetler in New York City.
“I decided to marry my experience in financial service with the law,” said Tanney, “and sought to practice securities litigation.”
Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Tanney was a teaching assistant in Professor David Pratt’s 1L Contracts at Albany Law School. She met future fiancé Nicholas Davoli ‘14 in the class; he is now a prosecutor for the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Tanney also served on the executive board of the Moot Court Program and was inducted into the national Order of Barristers moot court honor society.
Living just five minutes from the school, she loved such fun-with-friends activities as the end-of-term “Jorts Bar Crawl,” a Lark Street bar-to-bar ramble by law students, all in jean shorts.
“I talk to dozens of alums regularly, either to catch up or to solicit advice on something we ran across at work,” Tanney said. “It's great to have that network to tap into whenever you need some advice or assistance.”
After graduating, Tanney worked to organize a new network. “Post-graduation, I founded the Graduates of the Last Decade, Albany Law School's young alumni organization,” she said. It now has six regional chapters.
As for her legal career, Tanney got her start at a boutique securities firm.
“I talk to dozens of alums regularly, either to catch up or to solicit advice on something we ran across at work. It's great to have that network to tap into whenever you need some advice or assistance.”
“Due to its size, I got a lot of hands-on experience that enabled me to have a rather well-rounded career at such an early stage,” Tanney said.
She was counsel on the first insider-trading case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the Second Circuit's U.S. v. Newman decision and on a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration against a large online brokerage, winning the largest-ever award ($2.4 million) against that firm for her client.
At BakerHostetler, Tanney represents Irving H. Picard, Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA) trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. One of the world’s largest firms, with 900-plus attorneys in 14 offices, BakerHostetler is the court-appointed counsel seeking to recover stolen assets for customers and creditors who suffered losses in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
“The Securities Investor Protection Act was created in response to a loss of small investor confidence and financial crisis period of the late 1960s,” Tanney explained. “SIPA affords protection to customers of a debtor firm which is without the financial capacity to honor its financial obligations. A trustee is typically appointed to work toward replacing customers' securities positions and restore cash in their accounts.”
Tanney said her favorite Albany Law School experience was serving as a teaching assistant.
“It not only forced me to re-learn the material, which was helpful for the bar exam, but I had to find a way to explain the subjects to students in a way that they would understand and retain the information,” Tanney said. “Being able to fine tune that skill is crucial as an attorney because you are always discussing or explaining esoteric concepts to clients, colleagues, judges, or even family at day's end. Being an effective communicator is the mark of a good litigator, and I strive for that daily.”
“I think law school, generally, is a good incubator for the ’real world,’” she added. “If you resign yourself to the fact that you will undoubtedly lock horns with people either personally or professionally, then you can easily learn and maneuver how to move on, grow and solve problems without getting bogged down in particularly petty things. At Albany Law, there are plenty of opportunities for students to be exposed to like interests and differing opinions, which subconsciously matures students and prepares them for these situations in a professional setting.”
Acknowledging job-market challenges, Tanney maintained, “Regardless of where you wind up in law school, if you have the determination to succeed and are willing to put in the time, you can go after and achieve your goals — so long as you understand and have respect for the work it will take to get you there.”
Tanney said it’s especially important as a woman in the industry.
“The law is now shifting from a male-dominated culture to one that embraces smart, successful female attorneys,” she said. “I’m thrilled to work at a firm which recognizes and celebrates these kinds of women.”