Monday, July 21, 2008

Tina Stark and Transactional Lawyering

Posted by Bill Henderson

In 2007, one of the most significant law school hires never made to Leiter's Law School Reports.  Emory Law hired Tina Stark as Professor in the Practice of Law and as director of its Center for Transactional Law and Practice.

Stark_2 I first heard Stark speak several years ago at the ABA Section on Business Law mid-year meeting. At the time, she was an adjunct at Fordham Law and co-chair of the ABA Committee on Business Legal Education.  Tina described her remarkable business law course at Fordham, which included a steady stream of guest speaker experts who explained the fundamentals of the stock market, insurance, investment banking, etc.  This structure helped students rapidly ascend the learning curve so they could understand the terminology and substance of sophisticated business transactions. 

I was so impressed by her remarks that I looked up her professional background, which included time as a commercial banker (before law school), a clerkship for the NY Court of Appeals, and becoming a corporate partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLP.  In 1993, Tina formed a company that specialized in in-house training of transactional skills, such a contract drafting, risk analysis, acquisitions, due diligence, and reading and analysis of financial and accounting statements (the company is now called Stark Legal Education).

So when dean David Partlett and a handful of key faculty decided that Emory needed to offer its students first-rate training in transactional skills, they sought out the person with the best transactional training credentials in the country: Tina Stark.  Earlier this year when I was at Emory for a talk, Tina and I had a long conversation about teaching business law.  I also had the opportunity to review some of her teaching materials.  Suffice to say deal lawyering requires a mode of analysis that is very different than litigation. (In terms of business law courses, Corporations is relatively easy to teach; I really had to grapple with transactional pedagogy for my Business Planning class.)  Tina's approach provides students with powerful and accessible theoretical frameworks for tackling a wide range of business transactions.  I was very impressed.

On May 30-31, Emory hosted the Inaugural Conference of the Transactional Law Center.  (But for Law & Society, I would have attended.)  Tina Stark subsequently posted her opening remarks on SSRN.  For those of us who teach business law courses, Tina has set a very high bar.  Her proposed curriculum is a road map for ensuring that students interested in business law get an education that is commensurate with their investment of time and money.   

One reminder to Tina and her colleagues at Emory:  Try to measure the effect of your new curriculum -- will the Atlanta, New York or DC employers privilege students who complete the prescribed courses?  If the answer is yes, you can ride that wave a long way.

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Can't say I'm impressed with the book she published with Wolters Kluwer. Maybe she's effective with it in her hands, but as used by the present instructor whose course I'm watching through the eyes of my spouse, it is off the mark in so many ways. Instead of teaching lawyering, it is making students think there's some "formalism" out there that's wrong and substitutes in its place Tina's preferred "formalism". I'm all for teaching real lawyering skills, but from what I've seen of the materials in her book so far, either the instructor using them with my spouse is incompetent or they miss the mark.

Posted by: NONE | Nov 2, 2009 9:25:51 PM

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