Friday, June 1, 2018

Does Every Law Student Need to Learn Transactional Lawyering Skills?

Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia, site of the Emory Transactional Law & Skills Conference. After only a few hours of presentations, I'm already inspired to make some changes in my new transactional lawyering class. I will write about some of the lessons learned next week. Today, I want to share some of Tina Stark's remarks from the conference dinner that ended moments ago. Although she initially teased the audience by stating that she would make "subversive" statements, nothing that she said would scandalize most law students or surprise practicing lawyers.

Her "radical" proposal entailed having transactional skills education be a part of every law student's curriculum. In support, she cited ABA Standard 301(a), which states:

OBJECTIVES OF PROGRAM OF LEGAL EDUCATION (a) A law school shall maintain a rigorous program of legal education that prepares its students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession.

She argued that for the academy to meet this standard, schools must go beyond a narrow reading of ABA rules and provide every student with the foundation to practice transactional law, particularly because half of graduates will practice in that area even if they don't know it while they are in law school. She also referenced ABA Standard 302, which states in part:

LEARNING OUTCOMES A law school shall establish learning outcomes that shall, at a minimum, include competency in the following: (a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law; (b) Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context.

Stark correctly observed that notwithstanding the litigation focus in law school, lawyers write more than predictive memos and briefs. She emphasized that competency in oral and communication skills is particularly important for deal lawyers.

If she came even close to being "radical," (and I don't think she did), it's because she went beyond calling on more schools to offer, much less require drafting courses. Instead, she recommended that schools add at least one credit to the first year contracts course so that students can learn the structure of contracts and build a foundation for more advanced work. She likened law students failing to learn the parts of a contract to medical students studying anatomy without doing dissections. 

She anticipated the argument that schools do not have enough time to add an extra credit to the basic contracts course by countering that another first year course could be moved to the second year. This would allow professors to spend the first part of the semester teaching 1Ls to read and analyze a contract so that they can understand business drivers when reading cases in contracts and property class. 

Although some in the academy might resist the proposal, I believe that members of the bar and business community would applaud this move. If the long waiting list for my transactional lawyering course and similar ones around the country are any indication, law students would appreciate more balance in the curriculum as well. 

 

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2018/06/why-its-time-for-parity-for-transactional-education.html

Conferences, Contracts, Corporations, Law School, Lawyering, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching, Writing | Permalink

Comments

I cannot laud enough the inclusion of transaction law skills in curriculum. Even Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason evidenced transactional law skills (although his legal secretary seemed to always be delegated the drudgery).

A late life lawyer (with a career already) with the resources to shape my practice (rather than watch my practice shape me), I chose to emphasize the transaction side. I was able to take my daughter to school, pick her up, attend school activities and involve myself in her extracurricular activities. I watched classmates with highly successful, primarily litigation, practices search out the regularity of in-house counsel in order to better maximize their marriages and enjoy their children. It was bittersweet to watch the transition because for the first decade of my practice, I got associated by these classmates to perform the transactional work.

On the other hand, it is also a travesty to allow the graduation of a young lawyer that has no trial and appellate exposure. Many the “baby lawyer” I have watched roasted for lack of a mentor’s guidance or exposure to the most basic of knowledge or skill in a courtroom.

Posted by: Tom N. | Jun 2, 2018 6:33:40 PM

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