Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The latest Legal Rebels column over at the ABA Journal Blog features a profile of Drexel Professor Karl Okamoto who is trying to do for law school transactional skills training what moot court does for aspiring litigators. More specifically, Professor Okamoto has created a competition called LawMeets that has 74 teams of students representing law schools from around the country competing over the drafting of deal documents and mock negotiations. All of it is judged by prominent transactional lawyers who provide students with feedback and then show them how it's really done.
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the transactional-training movement went on steroids four years ago when Karl Okamoto set out to solve a problem raised by some of his students at Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law, and by other professors on an email discussion list: Why was there was no equivalent of moot court for those interested in transactional law?
Compared to the natural theatrics of moot and mock courts, dramatizing a deal is daunting, Okamoto says. Moot court requires single-focus preparation, and it begins and ends in a day; while deals play out in painstaking stages, usually over several months.
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In a competition Okamoto dubbed LawMeets, students get fact patterns for a deal and play the roles of buyer, seller and client. Over a period of months, they have conferences; draft, exchange and mark up documents; and then negotiate the deal. Prominent transactional lawyers judge their documents and negotiations, as well as offer feedback. Then the students get to watch the pros haggle over the same terms.
"That's when we think the 'ahas' begin," Okamoto says.
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Last July, the National Science Foundation awarded Okamoto a $500,000 grant to develop an online version of LawMeets with virtual apprenticeships via ApprenNet, on top of earlier grants totaling $180,000. He has expanded beyond legal education, offering the same structure to interactive learning communities for other specialties such as nursing students and restaurant workers.
"The online platform lets you give hands-on, practical learning exercises to hundreds or thousands of students–with peer review and interaction with experts," Okamoto says.
That's a huge change from a generation ago, when transactional law was taught mostly from textbooks and then learned at the sides of deal-making partners.
Continue reading here.