Bob O’Loughlin was formerly a research associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. In the fall of 2010, he began his first year of law school at the University of Michigan.
This was your first job out of school. How did you come upon this position?
Like a lot of people, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school, so I figured I’d just look for a job, get out in the real world for a couple of years, and see what was out there. I went on the OCC website and started applying for jobs. I wanted to use my economics degree, so I looked at consulting jobs and banking. I thought this job with the Fed sounded interesting, so I applied.
What convinced you this was the right path for you?
Two things that really drew me were: one, having the Federal Reserve Bank on your resume can’t look bad. Two, I knew I’d be exposed to a lot of different fields, so if I wanted to move on in business, I would have some background in that. Or if I decided to get a Ph.D. in economics, I would have more research background. It turns out I was exposed to banking legislation and financial regulation, which turned me on to the idea of going to law school.
In a nutshell, what do you do as a research associate at the Fed?
All Federal Reserve Banks have research groups, where teams of economists split their time between monetary policy work (studying how the macro economy is doing and where we should be setting interest rates) and academic research. They write and publish papers and collaborate with each other and other economists. I help the economists with their projects. If they’re working on policy, I’m getting data, making charts and graphs. If they’re doing research, I’m assembling data sets, running regressions, and coming up with results. I also write a department publication called Banking Legislation and Policy, a quarterly publication covering recent banking and financial regulation and legislation and judicial decisions.
Did you do any internships or work-study in this field that prepared you for this kind of job?
The summer before senior year I worked for Professor Jon Bakija as his research assistant. It was so much fun. Summer in Williamstown was great. And then I TA’d for a couple of classes in the economics department my senior year.
What have you found to be the most enjoyable aspect of your work?
Every day is different. Because we don’t have clients, our projects are driven by the economists and our own questions. We don’t have deadlines, except with our publications. The research moves at its own pace. There isn’t that constant pressure of, “OK, this guy needs this by Friday, or else we lose this contract and I get fired.” It also was a nice transition from school because it’s an academic setting.
Did your Williams experience affect your decision to come here?
The reason I wanted to work in economic research was because of the professors I had at Williams. They really helped me with the idea of doing research and learning yourself—all the projects where you had to go out and do your own research and come in and present an idea or prove this or that. That taught me to really love learning—and learning how to get to a result, get to a conclusion.
Also, having that intense, small classroom, working closely with the professors and with the other students, where you get a lot of interaction and they really push you to do all this interesting work, was great.
What has made you decide to go to law school?
Writing Banking Legislation and Policy started me thinking about law school. Also, doing economic research can get…a little frustrating.
Have your peers had an impact on the career decisions you’ve made?
Senior year, everyone was looking at I-Banking and consulting and I had no idea what any of these things were. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. We didn’t have things like investment banking.
I still remember the day, sitting in Goodrich with Larry Dworkin (’07), and I said, “OK, Larry, you’re applying for all these jobs. Can you please tell me what all these things are? Because I have no idea.” And he just sat me down and said, “Look, here are your opportunities. The office of career counseling has all these people who are coming in recruiting and interviewing and here’s what you have to do if you want one of these jobs. Here are the different fields; here are the different ways you can go.” He taught memore about how the finance industry works as I had learned up to that point in my life.