Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Tribute to Tina Stark

Tina Stark has announced that she has retired from teaching effective December 31, 2014.  She plans to continue writing, teaching, consulting, and attending conferences.

Professor Stark has been one of the most important innovators in legal education.  She is especially known for advocating that contract drafting be taught as a regular course in law school, and she wrote a seminal text on contracts, Drafting Contracts: How & Why Lawyers Do What They Do, Second Edition (Aspen Coursebook).   A few years ago, she declared,

"Perhaps our biggest challenge is convincing our schools that they should expand their transactional skills curricula. We have for years labored in the shadows of litigation skills training–something our colleagues understand and, therefore, support. Deal work they do not get. No one is researching cases, and appellate briefs are nowhere to be seen.  Most of our colleagues are not quite sure what we do or why it has anything to do with law, but they know they do not want anything to do with it." (here)

Professor Stark's ideas have caused us to change how we conceive of and teach law:

"Deal lawyers start from the business deal. The terms of the business deal are the deal lawyer’s facts. The lawyer must then find the contract concepts that best reflect the business deal and use those concepts as the basis of drafting the contract provisions. I call this skill 'translating the business deal into contract concepts.' Mastering it is the first steppingstone to becoming a deal lawyer. All else flows from this skill. It is the foundation of a deal lawyer’s professional expertise and problem-solving ability. Without it, negotiating and drafting are abstractions."  (here at 224)

Nobody in my generation was taught to think of contracts like that!

You can find her most recent views on legal education here.  Among the ideas in this address are that

1. Law schools should teach the basic courses in modules--"one module for each of the three umbrella practice areas: litigation, transactions, and legislation/regulation,"

2. Law schools should use teaching techniques in addition to the Socratic approach, and

3. Law schools should establish a six-credit English composition prerequisite for admission to law school.

She added, “Students are graduating with licenses to practice in any area of law. They need not have the skills of a practitioner of ten years, but they must be well-prepared for entry level practice.”

Tina is much loved in the legal writing and legal skills communities.  She has mentored many novice professors, and we have all benefitted from attending her lectures and worksh0ps.  We hope to keep seeing her at conferences and reading her articles for many years to come.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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I chaired the Emory committee that searched for our first director of our transactional law program. My colleague Tim Terrell told me that Tina was absolutely the best candidate for our position, and, with the persuasiveness of Dean David Partlett, we were able to entice her to Atlanta. What for us was a general concept of a progression of learning experiences in transactional law was transformed by Tina's dream into a full and rich three-tiered program. She joined us with enormous energy, quickly recruiting and training adjunct professors, and counseling and mentoring hundreds of students about career and course choices. She institutionalize her concept not only at Emory, but also for legal education, with Emory's biennial conference on teaching transactional law and her creation of an AALS section. She also became my very good friend. Thank you Tina

Posted by: Bill Carney | Jan 25, 2015 10:39:57 AM

Tina Stark has been my mentor and friend since I first left law practice and began teaching in 2005. Generous with her time and energy, she has answered all of my questions and helped me reach a deeper understanding of the subjects I teach. Generations of law students have learned and will continue to learn how to draft contracts with Tina's textbook as their bible. Thank you, Tina, for the splendid second edition of your book and for remaining a leader in the field of transactional law and skills education.

Posted by: Sue Payne | Jan 23, 2015 9:36:32 AM

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