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
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.