Federal Trade Commission externship: Safeguarding American consumers - The University of Tulsa
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Federal Trade Commission externship: Safeguarding American consumers

woman with long blonde hair photographed in front of shelves containing leather-bound books
Bailey Ryals

The University of Tulsa College of Law is committed to helping every one of our students locate and land externships that support their professional aspirations and prepare them for practice while gaining academic credit. In summer 2021, Bailey Ryals (3L) completed an externship with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Dallas, Texas.

After speaking with Ryals, it became clear that the best way to understand the details and impact of her externship experience was to share her own insightful words.

Would you give us an overview of your externship and why it appealed to you?

When I read about the FTC opportunity, it seemed like the perfect combination of my interests in business compliance/regulatory work and advocacy. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection advocates for consumers by stopping “unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices.”

This externship would usually take place in Dallas at the Southwest Region office. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, my position was fully remote.

What kinds of projects did you work on with the FTC?

I had the opportunity to work on a wide assortment of projects. One of the main ones entailed conducting legal research into a variety of business practice issues.

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Additionally, I reviewed consumers’ complaints to look for similarities in their experiences and relate them to possible counts against defendants. I also spoke directly with consumers to gather more information about their situation and draft consumer declarations. This was extremely valuable to do because it gave me hands-on experience with receiving a large influx of information and looking for specific facts that relate to the case issues. Finally, I was also able to attend quite a few webinars, training sessions, informational staff meetings and more.

How was it externing virtually?

Although the position was virtual, I really didn’t feel like it was much different from what an in-person position would be like. I was on frequent Zoom calls with attorneys in the office, and the webinars also give me the opportunity to network with other attorneys from different regional offices and departments. When I started the externship, multiple attorneys in the office also took the time to introduce themselves to me over email or through a phone call.

I would say the virtual position has actually been nice because it has given me the opportunity to meet individuals outside of the Dallas office — from Los Angeles, New York and even the FTC’s Washington, DC, headquarters office. Additionally, my supervisor, Jim Elliott, was terrific about communicating with us, answering any questions we had, keeping us in the loop on current happenings in the FTC and giving us plenty of opportunities to learn something new.

What were some highlights of the externship?

One of my favorite experiences with the FTC was making the consumer calls I referred to. Those really brought the cases to life and showed me the direct impact we are making by hearing consumers’ experiences.

Consumer calls also taught me invaluable skills, including interviewing people, which is something many lawyers need to be able to do when speaking with potential clients or conducting depositions; looking for key evidence and formulating a narrative. Attorneys are frequently given a large amount of information, and it is not often given to us in chronological order.

The second highlight was a regional office virtual event that the Dallas office held. Interns and externs from all the FTC regional offices attended, along with each office’s regional directors. This event gave me the opportunity to network with students and faculty from across the country.

“TU Law students have joined us at the FTC for the past 7 years. Each of them has showcased their legal skills and knowledge, and all have surpassed our expectations. They have been smart, talented, problem solvers, dedicated and enthusiastic, and all have had a thirst to learn.

“In Bailey’s case, she joined us and immediately applied what she learned at law school to the real-world conditions of practicing law. She rose to the occasion and performed many of the same tasks that young attorneys at the FTC do day in, day out.

“It’s important that an extern’s work product can be relied upon as accurate, thorough, complete and on-point, while performed in a very professional manner and meeting the deadline. We knew we could depend on Bailey to produce the quality work we need.

“Bailey not only added to the quality of our work, but also the quantity, so that, with her help, investigations moved quicker. That means a lot to consumer protection agencies – we can stop the fraud sooner and fewer people get scammed out of their money.”

James Elliott
Assistant Director
Federal Trade Commission, Southwest Region

How would you sum up the impact of your externship?

Overall, my time at the FTC helped me to strengthen my legal research and writing skills, piece together case facts, review extensive legal documents, draft declarations and more. It also exposed me to an assortment of substantive and procedural legal issues I’m going to need to be familiar with after graduation.

I would also like to take a minute to give some thanks to Lauren Donald, TU Law’s assistant dean for experiential learning. When I started thinking about and researching externships, I was anxious that finding one would complicated and stressful. But this was definitely not the case, thanks to Dean Donald. She was so helpful, quickly answering all my questions and ensuring the whole process ran smoothly. I have also been able to talk with her about my future career aspirations, and she gives terrific advice. Dean Donald is the best!

woman with long blonde hair standing outdoors wearing a blue blazer and with her arms folded across her chestBailey Ryals came to TU Law with a bachelor of science in human development and family science from Oklahoma State University. As an undergraduate, she completed multiple internships with nonprofit organizations, including a child advocacy center. “My time at that organization showed me just how important advocacy is to the community and how much of a positive impact we can have in the legal profession. This was my initial spark to go to law school,” said Ryals.

After receiving her BS, Ryals worked for three years as an inside sales representative while preparing for the LSAT and applying to schools. That work experience taught her about various business practices and enabled her to work with a wide range of clients, from small businesses to larger corporations. She completed an assortment of contractual agreements with clients, such as branding standard agreements and uniform programs. “That experience really showed me that I had an interest in compliance work and business practices, which was a great preparation for my FTC externship.”

During her 2L year, Ryals was an associate editor with TU Law’s Energy Law Journal. For 2021-22, she will serve as the journal’s executive notes editor. Outside of law school, Ryals is a member of the Junior League of Tulsa, where she meets women professionals across the city and is able to give back to her community.

One size doesn’t fit all at The University of Tulsa College of Law. Each student brings individual strengths and aspirations. Our job is to help them gain the skills and knowledge they need in order to excel in their chosen field of practice. Get your fulfilling career journey underway by applying today!