When Alexandra “Lexi” Studwell ’19 was in middle school, she wanted a laptop so badly, she created a PowerPoint presentation and drew up a contract for a loan from her parents.
Even as a child, she says, “I wanted to write contracts for a living.”
Her love of structuring agreements brought her to an appreciation for financial regulation, the guiding hand in contracts. She is pursuing that interest as the 2019 recipient of the Millstein Public Service Fellowship, awarded to a recent Columbia Law graduate to do legal work in financial regulation in Congress or an executive-branch agency.
A gift from Jim Millstein ’82 and his father, Ira Millstein ’49, the fellowship is designed to encourage government service and give the Columbia Law School community a valuable voice in policymaking and regulation of the financial-services industry.
Financial regulation “is the backbone of everything,” Studwell says. “Like a contract, the financial regulatory framework will lay out a very clear outline of how parties should interact.”
Building on a Childhood Dream
During her first spring at Columbia Law, Studwell started working with Robert Jackson Jr., then a Columbia Law professor who now serves as a commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). One project was Jackson’s petition to mandate that corporations disclose political spending, “the issue that sparked my interest in financial regulation,” she says. Studwell then was an intern in his office through the SEC Honors Program. Thereafter, her coursework focused on banking, tax, and securities, and she served as senior business relations and digital editor of the Columbia Business Law Review.
On September 3, Studwell will begin her one-year fellowship as an attorney in the majority’s office of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters of California. Her work will focus on the Subcommittee for Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets. Studwell, who graduated from Emory University a semester early to join Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in Iowa, sees this fellowship as an opportunity to again work with powerful women in public service.
In the committee, she expects to go behind the scenes of lawmaking, working on fact-finding hearings and drafting legislation that sets the policies and frameworks for agencies enforcing financial rules and regulations.
Studwell is living in Washington already, with her dog, Gin, named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59, with a nod to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
After the fellowship, Studwell will join the executive compensation group at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she was a summer associate in 2018. Executive compensation, she says, should be calibrated on a definition of corporate success that goes beyond a company’s performance on Wall Street.
“Right now, the question, ‘Did I succeed?’ is ‘Did I raise the stock price?’ But there’s more to it,” she says. “Maybe it should be revenue, maybe it should be how the employees are paid or how the employees are treated. There are a lot of other aspects of success in business.”
If that first contract from her childhood is any indication of her future success, she says, she is on the right path: “My parents laughed at me a lot,” she says, but, all parties having agreed to the terms of her contract, she did end up with that laptop.
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Published on July 17, 2019