Profiles in Scholarship

Kathryn Judge

Capital Ideas

The latest addition to the Law School’s faculty, Professor Kathryn Judge, aims to master the complexities of capital markets

By Joy Y. Wang

Fall 2011

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Professor Kathryn Judge is accustomed to standing out from the crowd. This summer, the capital markets expert attended the annual meeting of the American Securitization Forum to help supplement her understanding of the economy’s inner workings. Upon arriving, she soon realized that her credentials were unique among the event’s participants. “There were representatives from banks, the SEC, and the FDIC, but I was the only academic in the room,” she explains.

Judge, who joined the Columbia Law School faculty this fall, is unfazed at the thought of infiltrating the ranks of bankers and stockbrokers to bring a new perspective to capital markets scholarship. After all, she has firsthand experience with the fast-paced world of finance. “I was effectively a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch,” says Judge, who worked in the company’s Seattle office before entering
law school.

Judge—petite, polite, and a certified yoga instructor—is a far cry from the stereotypical aggressive, in-your-face stockbroker, and that is OK with her. She maintains a matter-of-fact attitude about standing out in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

“Over the decade I’ve been in this field, it has not been uncommon to be one of a small percentage of women studying capital markets,” says Judge. “I’ve found that if you’re willing to contribute, there are people who are willing to listen.”

She recently attended a three-day training session with Moody’s to learn how the company monitors banks and to better understand the tools banks use to assess the credit risks to which other banks are exposed.

“I went to law school open to the idea of working in academia but was mainly always interested in how things work,” Judge notes. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., she grew up in a household with strong role models and a familiarity with academia. Her father was a university-level academic administrator, and her mother graduated from Harvard Law School.

While Judge says there was never pressure to follow in her parents’ footsteps, she does credit one fateful weekend in Cambridge, Mass., as being the catalyst for her decision to attend law school. Lured solely on the promise of a fun outing, Judge went with her mother to an event that celebrated women in law. “There was something about the way the women were engaged and how they talked about
issues that really spoke to me,” she says. “It was very dynamic, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

That realization led to Stanford Law School and, eventually, prestigious clerkships with Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Throughout her professional career, Judge has continued to pursue an interest in capital markets, she says, because the discipline is grounded in real-world problem solving. “Everyone benefits if the economy works well,” Judge notes. She looks forward to developing her scholarly voice during the course of the new semester, and she has an article due out in the Stanford Law Review in early 2012 that examines systemic risk and the securitization of home loans. Judge also views teaching as an opportunity to serve as a mentor to students and, in particular, women. “I want to see more women in this field and more women talking about these issues,” she
says. “The room for new thinking in this area is among the greatest in academia
right now.”

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Illustration by Stephen Gardner