Ricki Tigert Helfer (1976)  

RE: Reflections on My Time at The Law School -- 1973-76 -- and Thereafter

As requested, this is an attempt to set out a few reflections about my time
at The Law School from 1973 to 1976 and thereafter.

I remember very well my first quarter at The Law School because I thought
some of the classes were the most stimulating and intellectually exciting I
had ever experienced. I also remember feeling very intimidated by how smart
all my fellow classmates were. I wasn't sure at first if I really belonged
in such a stellar group; and when I started to feel more at home after the
first quarter, it was an exhilarating feeling.

I have specific memories of being hunched over my outline the first year
contracts material at 2 AM before the final exam the next afternoon and
suddenly realizing that Richard Epstein had laid out the entire theory of
contracts law in his rapid fire lectures (I used to have hand cramps from
trying to keep up with him) and that I more or less understood it! What a
great feeling! I will also never forget Bernie Meltzer reminding us in
Labor Law that "life isn't fair" and I won't forget that Bernie became a real
friend after I graduated, as did a number of my law school professors. I
will also never forget Wally Blum's tie or how much I learned about analyzing
the tax laws from him, which, much to my surprise, came in handy when I had
to explain an obscure provision of the tax code to Paul Volcker while I was
working at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington.

Ours, the class of 1976, was the first class that Geof Stone taught. Not
only did he take an interest in every one of his students while we were
there, I can vouch for the fact that he continued to follow and advise on
our careers long after we left the Law School. I am thrilled that Geof is
back at The Law School after his distinguished tenure as Provost of the
University. I had the great good fortune to serve twice on the Visiting
Committee of the Law School in the intervening years since graduation, and I
saw first hand the positive evolution of The Law School. Thanks to Geof
Stone and his successors as dean, as well as Judith Wright and others in the
administration, The Law School became, I believe, much more student friendly
while still retaining its cutting edge approach to legal education.

Most of all, for me, I am convinced that the analytical tools that resulted
from my studies at The Law School and the lessons I learned from the school's
emphasis on the real world in which the law applies, particularly financially
and economically, equipped me to work while in government and in the private
sector on major financial problems that this country has faced. In the 1980s
at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board I worked
on the sovereign debt crisis, and in the late 1980s and 1990s I worked on the
domestic banking crises and their aftermath at the Federal Reserve and the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Later in the 1990s I applied my U.S.
government experience to working on the Asian financial crisis and banking
system reform in emerging market countries at The Brookings Institution. The
Law School is sometimes not thought of as a training ground for U.S.
government lawyers and officials, but in my case it certainly was.

I have taught law students off and on and found that it is incredibly
difficult to live up to the skills and examples of the great teachers that
have taught and continue to teach at The Law School! My husband Michael
Helfer went to Harvard Law School, and I enjoy reminding him where the best
legal education in the country can be obtained -- at the University of