The Harvard Law School Blockchain and FinTech Initiative was founded in early 2019. The mission of HLSBFI was to create a platform to:
- Educate HLS students about blockchain technology and FinTech innovations;
- Connect HLS students around a shared interest in an exciting new industry;
- Prepare students for careers in the blockchain and/or FinTech space; and
- Provide a resource for student interest in the blockchain and FinTech ecosystem at Harvard and beyond.
The organization’s original board members included: Amy Zhang (President/Executive Director), Alice Tranter Wilson (Vice President), Dave Benger (Education Director), Tue Tran (Treasurer), VJ Vesnaver (Events & Communications Director), Eloi Colldeforns Papiol (International Chair), Ignacio Orellana García (Secretary), Lea Hungerbühler (Trek Chair), Ryan Chan Wei (Diversity Chair), Matthew Dodd (Social Media Chair), and Talgat Mustafin (Outreach & Funding Chair).
Amy Aixi Zhang, President
Amy is a third-year law student at Harvard Law School from Arcadia, California. Prior to law school, she worked as a journalist for ProPublica, and then at the Berkman Klein Center. She is passionate about understanding the role of financial regulation in encouraging innovation, and worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission her first year summer helping takedown nutso ICOs. She helped found the HLSBFI in January 2019. She will start work at Debevoise, New York after graduation.
Jhalak Kakkar, Advisor
Jhalak is currently a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School. Regulators around the world are grappling with Fintech and Blockchain and she hopes to advise them as they navigate these complex legal and technical issues. She was part of the founding Board of the HLS Blockchain and Fintech Initiative in 2018, while an LLM student at Harvard Law School. Prior to this, for the last six years, Jhalak worked with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India. PRS Legislative provides non partisan research to the 780+ Members of the Indian Parliament and 3000+ Members of State Legislatures on legislation, policy and budgets. She lead PRS Legislative’s engagement with Members of Parliament, before which she was an analyst with the research team tracking legislation and policy on science, technology and natural resources. Jhalak graduated with honors from the National University of Juridical Sciences in 2012 with a BA/LLB (law) degree.
Thomas Hopkins, Events Chair
Thomas is a second-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School from Salt Lake City, Utah. Prior to attending HLS, he worked as a tax associate for Grant Thornton. Thomas became interested in Blockchain and FinTech in early 2015, attending several nationwide Blockchain and FinTech conferences as a hobby, briefly mining altcoins on his laptop, and researching new legal applications for Blockchain technology.
Michael Svedman, Publication Chair
Michael is a third-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School. Before attending law school, he managed an art collection in Chicago and taught film and writing courses in Pittsburgh. His interest in crypto- and other digital currencies grows out of his thinking about money as a legal, social, and political institution. After graduation, he plans to work at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York.
Yuan He, Treasurer
Yuan is a second-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School. She graduated from The Ohio State University and worked as an auditor for two years in financial services industry. Yuan’s interest in Blockchain and FinTech initially developed from her curiosity about Bitcoin. She would like to explore the impact of Blockchain technology and FinTech on the traditional banking industry and regulations of financial institutions.
Mandy Mengyu Li, Events Team
Mandy is a first-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School. She graduated from the University of Chicago with Honors in Economics, and has professional experience in the fields of corporate banking, venture capital, and financial regulatory law. Mandy advises startups via the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, serves on the Venture Fund Committee of Women Law Association, and works as a Panel Manager for the Harvard Asia Business Conference. Mandy is interested in understanding the challenges that blockchain poses on the regulatory bodies, as well as exploring ways that law can foster and sustain FinTech innovations.
Farah Bougarras, Trek Team
Farah is an LLM student at Harvard Law from Carthage, Tunisia. She graduated with honors from Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne in financial law and from Paris II Pantheon Assas in corporate and tech law. Farah is interested in how technological innovation is impacting the financial industry, and how law and regulators should approach the new challenges ahead. Farah’s professional and academic experiences lead her to gain exposure to the differences in corporate and financial regulatory environments in both developed and developing economies, and she wishes to tap into that experience to help foster financial innovation across different markets. She is currently conducting research on the use of Machine learning and alternative data in trading on financial markets at Paris-Saclay and HLS.
Jason Altabet, Sponsorship Team
Jason is a first-year law student at Harvard Law School. In 2017, he graduated from the University of Rochester with a double major in Economics and Political Science. His senior thesis, Candidate Positioning in U.S. House Elections: The Case of Donald Trump, was published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research. At Rochester, Jason was the President of the Mock Trial Organization, Chairman of the Senior Giving Campaign, and was a Senior Writer for the Campus Times. Jason previously worked at the European Parliament, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice. He’s particularly focused on the intersection of financial regulation, prosecution, and blockchain.
Chris Murray, Conference Team
Chris is a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School. Apart from being a blockchain and fintech enthusiast, Chris also enjoys advising startups with the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project and was selected as a Black Family Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. Before law school, Chris graduated from West Point with a degree in Comparative Politics and Arabic and served as an Infantry Officer in the US Army in assignments ranging from East Asia to Washington, D.C. Chris currently lives with his wife, Claire, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.