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50 for 50 Spotlight: Kate Larson Prochaska (JD '12)

"My Pepperdine education changed my life and allowed me to reach professional goals I never thought possible."

Banking is a highly regulated industry, and with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act after the financial crisis, there were even more regulations to interpret and assess the impact. Kate Prochaska is the Senior Counsel & Director, Regulatory Policy at Discover Financial Services. At Discover, Kate serves as the head of regulatory policy where she creates and executes the company's regulatory strategy to best amplify its priorities in Washington, DC. A native of San Diego, Kate never saw herself leaving Southern California for the tougher climate, literally and figuratively speaking, of the East Coast. However, after participating in the Pepperdine School of Law Washington, DC program during her final semester of law school, Kate confirmed her passion for policy, calling the semester "one of the most valuable educational decisions I ever made." This week we turn the spotlight on Kate, a bright alumna who the Director of the DC program, Nancy Hunt, says has set the city of DC on fire!

Before moving to DC, Kate confesses that she barely knew who Sen. Dodd and Rep. Frank were, but in only seven short years, she has testified in front of Congress and regulators, written dozens of comment letters, analyzed thousands of pages of rules and proposals, and lead countless meetings on Capitol Hill, with regulators, and at the White House. Kate explains, "While DC may seem opaque to many, my main goal at my current and former jobs is to explain the practical ramifications of proposed and implemented laws to policymakers in order to avoid unintended consequences that could harm consumers and the economy."

As a faith-based person that graduated from a faith-based law school, Kate believes that she has the responsibility not to simply work hard and earn a paycheck, but to do good in the world. She continues, "I know a banking lawyer/lobbyist is not generally someone people think of as doing good in the world, however, financial institutions are one of the cornerstones of our society, and are they why we are able to purchase our dream home, finance school, buy groceries, and hopefully build savings for a rainy day. I have seen first-hand the great lengths people within financial institutions go to in order to educate consumers and help them fulfill their dreams. To me, helping people understand finances and provide for their family is 'doing good.'"

Kate adds, "My Pepperdine education changed my life and allowed me to reach professional goals I never thought possible." She recalls the invaluable mentorship of Professor Nancy Hunt, Professor Janet Kerr, and Rex Wackerle while she was in school.

Professor Hunt, who leads the DC program, displayed a passion for her students, and Kate calls her work ethic unmatched: "When I moved back to DC after passing the California State Bar, (Nancy) was such an amazing resource and connected me with anyone who would talk to me as I pounded the DC pavement trying to get my foot in the door." Kate is proud to now call Nancy a friend.

Professor Kerr was Kate's professor for both Corporations and Entrepreneurship as well as her adviser in the Palmer Entrepreneurship Program. "Not only was she a fantastic professor and incredibly book and business smart, but she was so personable and relatable that she made very complex concepts understandable. On more than one occasion I recall saying 'I want to be like Professor Kerr when I grow up.' Her fabulous suits and shoes did not hurt!"
Rounding out the pack of mentors, Kate recalls Rex Wackerle who is the head of government relations office at Prudential in Washington, DC, and whose help, she notes, forever changed the trajectory of her career...and her life. "During my first semester of my third year, I cold called Pepperdine alumni based in DC. Although we had never met, he was incredibly helpful to connect me with my internship and has been a mentor ever since."

As Pepperdine Caruso Law looks to what the next fifty years hold for its alumni family, Kate says that she hopes to see a continued commitment to a greater purpose and an expanded focus on practical workforce training. Kate calls the Pepperdine mission "unmatched" and believes that the law school is doing meaningful work for their students through the DC program, Palmer Center, Straus Institute, and clinics. Kate concludes, "Since the DC program made such a difference in my life, I hope to see these types of programs continue to thrive in the future."