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INTERVIEW: POORNIMA RAVISHANKAR, IN-HOUSE SECURITIES LAWYER, UBS FINANCIAL SERVICES

The graphic image of Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding the weights of justice.

Poornima Ravishankar is originally from New Jersey, though her younger sister will often obnoxiously point out that she was actually born in Philadelphia. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Journalism, then worked as a copy editor at the Metropolitan Opera Publications Group in New York City for 3 years before attending the Seton Hall University School of Law.

During law school, Poornima was an Articles Editor at the Seton Hall Review, where she also published a stirring Comment about privacy law (34 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1093 (2004)). Upon graduation, she worked as a corporate law associate at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti in Morristown, New Jersey before going to UBS Financial Services as an in-house attorney in 2009. At UBS, she has services as both staff lawyer and manager for Dispute Resolution and currently is a Products & Advisory Services lawyer counseling the mutual funds, 529, donor-advised fund and non-discretionary advisory businesses.

In her spare time, Poornima likes to buy shoes, travel, read and snuggle with her dog (not necessarily in that order).

Describe a day in the life of an in-house securities lawyer.

Typically, I get to the office around 9 am hoping that nothing major has blown up during my 45-minute commute to the office. I spend the majority of my time in meetings with my in-house clients – I counsel a few different areas of the business – providing legal advice on long-term business initiatives as well as one-off questions that arise during the course of doing business. I spend a small amount of time reviewing and negotiating distribution agreements with mutual fund companies. On rare occasions, I work with outside counsel from law firms we have retained for their expertise in niche areas.

What initially attracted you to this field? Please discuss your career path.

I was always interested in law school but never wanted to be a litigator. Even though I never had much interest in business as an undergraduate student, during law school I found myself enjoying classes in business, securities and anti-trust. After law school, I worked at a couple of law firms doing some deal work as well as securities and anti-trust. I quickly figured out that law firm life was not for me, but while doing outside counsel work for UBS, the opportunity arose for me to go in-house, first on the regulatory side and then moving into a more specialized product-focused area.

What are some of the rewards and downsides of this area of law and the legal profession?

The securities law practice area has been a great fit for me because I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn about how the finance industry works from something of an insider’s position, while still using the natural analytical mindset of a lawyer. Understanding the banking industry is something that has become even more relevant in the last 10 years since the 2008 collapse – quite honestly, I often wish both politicians and journalists were more literate in this area!

Working in-house has many advantages in terms of work-life balance and work environment. However, I always caution lawyers looking to make a move in-house that there is a big difference going from being a revenue generator at a law firm to a cost in-house in terms of how you’re treated overall. You have to develop a thick skin and be able to stick to your guns when you’re sitting across from important business people who may sometimes feel you are blocking them from running their business the way they want to.

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?

I worked for three years before I went to law school, and even though I did not have a law-related job, I always think that having the perspective that comes from living in “the real world” was invaluable. It even allows you to think about the law in a different way and apply real-world examples to the case law you’re studying in a different way.

Additionally, I would make you sure you really want to pursue a career in the law – I think there are too many people who go to law school because they’re not sure what they want to do and they think a law degree may be helpful. While there are many people who go on to do different things after law school, I think people are happiest in law school and after when they have a real interest and passion for the work, wherever the path eventually leads them. You spend too much time doing it to only have a passing, vague interest in it.

Contact Information:

Poornima is happy to answer questions and is reachable by email at: poornima.ravishankar@ubs.com.

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