My Chicago Law Moment: Vanessa Countryman, '05, Felt the Synergistic Dance between Law and Economics

Vanessa Countryman

My Chicago Law Moment is a series highlighting the Law School ideas, experiences, and approaches that have impacted our students and alumni. Video produced by Will Anderson

Vanessa Countryman, ’05, never took a single Securities class, and yet her Law School education prepared her unusually well for her job as Chief Counsel of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That’s because the Law School introduced her to something even more valuable: a constellation of ideas that enabled her to understand the synergistic relationship between law and the markets.

“At the highest level, it’s the idea that economics can really inform the law, it can inform policy development, and it is its own way of thinking about the world and making sense of it,” Countryman said. “Going to Chicago has very much shaped how I think about these things, and it certainly helped me in my job and helped me communicate with all the financial economists I spend my day with.”

She added: “The economists love that I went to Chicago because they know that that really means something. Economics is not this sort of vague concept [for me].”

In classes ranging from Antitrust to Administrative Law to Remedies, professors taught not just the statutes and black-letter law, but the framework behind them, Countryman said.

We’d “have very serious discussions about the theories that animate why the law ended up that way, or about … how you apply the law [when a new experience comes up],” she said. “I think those were the kinds of classes that came together to shape a very particular kind of worldview for me. … Chicago uniquely prepared me to … work in financial services and think about the how the markets can drive the law and how the law can drive the markets … [and understand the] inter-relationship.”

Of course, when she was in Law School, she didn’t know how prominently economics would factor into her work, and she didn’t know which of the powerful ideas or experiences would carry through her career. Which tends to be the case with Chicago Law Moments.

“Just be open to listening to your classmates, listening to … a professor, even in a class you might not love,” she said. “Who knows where something is going to resonate with you.”