Liz Marshall Anderson
Liz Marshall Anderson (ΦΒΚ, Lawrence University) is a senior counsel in the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Before joining the SEC, she spent almost a decade in private practice where she advised clients on government investigations and related white collar matters. She graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence University with a degree in Classics and a minor in Philosophy and went on to receive her J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect or an actress. I grew up about an hour away from Spring Green, Wisconsin, and was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and his home Taliesin (as well as various buildings he designed in Madison) and watching Shakespeare plays at American Players Theatre.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
I studied abroad in Rome at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies my junior year. The centerpiece of the program was a Roman history class where we received a lecture on a period of Roman history on Monday, and then took field trips in and around Rome on two to three other days of the week to see the architectural sites we were learning about and the artifacts in museums from that time period. It was truly a dream and brought the city to life. At Lawrence, the art department had an extensive ancient coin collection. My senior year, I took a seminar where each student researched three coins from the collection that had not previously been studied. Roman emperors used coins as propaganda, so the images on the coins convey information about how the emperor wanted to be seen by his subjects. We interpreted the meaning of the coins and then got to create a museum exhibit displaying our coins and explaining their significance. It was a wonderful combination of my interests in art history, Roman history, and Latin.
Your current job is as a Senior Counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Division of Enforcement. What drew you to your career path, and what do you find most fulfilling about working in both the legal field and government public service?
When I was a summer associate between my second and third year of law school, one of the partners invited me to join him when he took a witness for testimony at the SEC. When the SEC investigates whether a securities law violation has occurred, they bring people in and ask them questions under oath to build their case. When I sat in that testimony room, a light bulb went on and I knew what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. I spent nine years in private practice doing securities and white collar defense work, and now I sit on the other side of the table and investigate violations of the securities laws. I have always been drawn to synthesizing facts and building a case, so it is incredibly fulfilling work for me.
As a defense attorney, I frequently represented individuals and helped them navigate what was often the most difficult time in their life. It was challenging work, but having clients who were grateful for my and my colleagues’ help made it rewarding as well. Now that I work for the government, I get to do my part to fulfill the SEC’s mission to protect investors and to maintain fair and orderly markets. The 2008 Financial Crisis happened during my senior year of college, so just as I was becoming an adult, I saw the significant impacts the financial world can have on everyone's well being, even people with no investments who are just starting out in the world, and I feel privileged to be able to do this work.
What role has your liberal arts education played in the development of your career? Why do you think a well-rounded arts and sciences education are important in today’s society?
Most importantly, my liberal arts education taught me how to write, how to think critically, and how to develop strong arguments, three essential skills for any lawyer. Most of my undergraduate classes consisted of group discussions led by a professor which taught me to question my assumptions and be open to being persuaded or just understanding a different viewpoint or interpretation. It also taught me the importance of nuance and context, which are often missing from modern online debate.
You were formerly the President of Phi Beta Kappa’s D.C. association, and you are currently an executive committee member. What plans do you have as a part of that leadership team, or what projects have you worked on in the past that you're proud of?
When I became the DC association President, we had a website that was on its last legs. No one knew how to fix it and it was becoming increasingly difficult to update. I realized that the website was holding us back and causing us to lose members, but that it was also a problem that would take a lot of work to fix. After my time as President was over, I worked with our Treasurer and other volunteers as well as a company who builds websites for non-profits to build an entirely new website with a robust membership function on a shoestring budget. I don’t have a tech background, so I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. The new website greatly increased our number of dues-paying members and is much more user-friendly, and I’m extremely proud that we were able to make it a better experience for our volunteers and our members.
You currently serve as the President of the Conference of Association Delegates (COAD) with the Society. What does this role entail? What do you enjoy about this work, and why do you feel it is important to stay involved and contribute to the Society?
As COAD President, my official job is to attend the Triennial and the annual Senate Meetings and sit on the Committee on Associations. I take what I have learned as a former leader of an association and what I have learned from speaking to other people who run associations, and use that information to figure out ways we can continue to develop associations. I love that this role provides a window into the big picture of PBK’s mission and everything that it is trying to accomplish, which is not necessarily visible when you are running an association. When I moved to DC after law school and joined the DC PBK Association, it was my only space that was not mostly composed of attorneys. PBK gave me opportunities, to learn from members at all stages of life and in various professions, to visit places all over the city, to hear interesting lectures, and to mentor recent graduates. My hope is to help build that type of community in metropolitan areas all around the country.
Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is “the love of learning is the guide of life,” and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?
I am currently learning Italian on Duolingo, which is definitely challenging. I don’t know when I will next go to Italy, but I will hopefully be able to do more than order a meal in a restaurant this time around. Last year, I acquired my first piano as an adult so I have been enjoying re-learning an instrument I played until college. I am hoping my kids will want to take piano lessons someday, so I can play duets with them.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
My first advisor in college told me to choose classes based on the professor and not the subject matter. A great professor can make any subject matter interesting, while a mediocre teacher can make a fascinating subject matter tedious. I followed this advice through law school and it pushed me outside my comfort level, whether that was reading 18th century English satirists or taking corporate finance in law school.
What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
I have two small children, so I don’t read as much as I would like. I just finished Say Nothing
by Patrick Radden Keefe and it was every bit as good as everyone said it would be. I do watch a lot of TV to decompress and my favorite shows of 2023 were Andor
, White Lotus
, and The Bear
– I would recommend Andor
even if you don’t care about Star Wars,
it’s so well done. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly ones that follow the two friends talking about pop culture and entertainment format. Two favorites are the Watch
and Food News
, and many others produced by the Ringer. In a break from the two friends talking model, I also enjoy Plain English
with Derek Thompson, especially for his thoughts on finance, tech, and how they intersect.
Published on February 7, 2023.