Alumnus of the Month

Q&A with Martin E. Lybecker '70

Martin E. Lybecker ‘70 is a leader in the development of banking and securities laws. As a partner at the nationally known Perkins Coie law firm, Lybecker serves as counsel to investment companies, investment advisers, broker-dealers, depository institutions, insurance companies and multiple financial services trade associations. When not in the office, Lybecker serves as an adjunct professor at Duke University’s School of Law teaching seminars on financial services and financial holding companies. Among other awards, he has been selected by Washingtonian magazine as one of the top financial services lawyers in Washington, D.C. Lybecker was also recognized by his peers in The Best Lawyers in America, in banking, capital markets, and mutual funds law. In August 2012, he will become Chair of the ABA Section of Business Law.

Who inspired you to study and practice business law?

My undergraduate degree from the University of Washington Business School was in Accounting, which helped me be very comfortable with the concepts in the business law-related courses at the Law School. Several of the professors at the Law School who taught in the business law curriculum, Ron Hjorth and Dick Kummert, were kind enough to take an interest in my career. After graduating, I attended NYU's LL.M. in Taxation program at Ron Hjorth's urging, and I attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School's LL.M. program at Dick Kummert's recommendation.

What are your most memorable achievement(s)?

The late 1970s were a tumultuous time in the securities markets. Before I left the SEC in 1981, I was responsible for the regulations that permitted money market funds to exist and the amendments in 1980 to the Investment Company Act that created business development companies. When I began practicing law, I got involved in representing banks and assisting them in giving investment advice to mutual funds notwithstanding the prohibitions in the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Starting in the mid-1980s, I began representing the insurance industry in their efforts to uphold the laws that prevented banks from underwriting and/or selling insurance. In 1995, I was second chair in NationsBank of North Carolina v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co., the Supreme Court decision that allowed national banks to sell fixed and variable annuity contracts. Most recently, I have been representing the banking industry with respect to implementation of the Volcker Rule, that part of the Dodd-Frank Act which prohibits a bank from engaging in proprietary trading and sponsoring hedge funds and private equity funds.

You have both practiced and taught law, which is your favorite and what do you prefer about each profession?

Practicing law is very challenging. I have often served as a "lawyer's lawyer" because of the types of securities law and banking law issues in which I have specialized. Teaching is also challenging -- it forces you to rethink very basic concepts and learn how to explain them, pedagogically, to students who do not have very much background in the financial markets. I have been fortunate to represent different financial institutions with respect to very similar issues, which requires that one think deeply and very clearly about the law. For me, teaching is the same thing.

What do you enjoy most about speaking at events and conferences?

Speaking at conferences is simply another form of teaching -- a lecture, rather than the Socratic method -- and the same pedagogical rules apply. I'm always pleased to be asked to speak, and try very hard to challenge the audience.

Do you have advice or suggestions for current law students who wish to follow in your footsteps?

It is natural to want to specialize as quickly as possible, so that one can feel that he is learning something new each day. Nonetheless, it is important to learn a great deal about the areas of the law that abut your specialty. A good securities lawyer should be comfortable with banking law and vice versa, because someone will always have to insure risks, lend money, and give investment advice, and one ought to understand how each of those areas to work with banks, mutual funds, insurers, venture capital funds, etc. Working for an agency in the Federal government allows one to gain insight into how those agencies think and function.

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