January 07, 2012
The First Meeting of the Section on Transactional Law and Skills
Posted by Gordon Smith

The only negative from the first meeting of the Section on Transactional Law and Skills this afternoon was the absence of Section Chair Tina Stark, who was unable to attend. Tina provided the energy and leadership for the creation of this new section. We are all indebted to her, and we missed her today.

The section meeting had two parts. First, two speakers who were selected from the call for presentations described their efforts in transactional education. Carol Morgan talked about corporate counsel externships at the University of Georgia, and she rekindled my interest in this form of transactional education. When I interviewed for my first academic job in 1993, I talked about the need to bring transactional training to law students, and shortly after arriving at Lawis & Clark, I created the "Clinical Internship Seminar: Corporate Counsel," which seems similar to the Georgia externship program. It's a great context for students to learn something about business and law.

Karl Okamoto followed by describing his incredible LawMeets competitions, MiniMeets tools, and ApprenNet program. I am not sure if I can claim to have been there at the creation, but I remember Karl floating some of these ideas at a dinner just three or four years ago, and I am astounded by the amount of progress he and his team have made. You can read more about all of this in The National Law Journal. After hearing Karl's presentation, I have decided to use a couple of his MiniMeets in my Business Associations course this next semester. If you want to include some transactional lawyering in one of your courses, I know he would be eager to discuss his products.

In the second part of the program, I moderated a panel discussion on "Getting it Done." Law schools have embraced the teaching of transactional skills, but many questions remain about how best to execute this strategy, and this panel featured people who were implementing transactional training on a grand scale. Scott Burnham of Gonzaga described the first-year Transactional Skills and Professionalism Lab; Jim Moliterno of Washington and Lee discussed transactional immersion and other components of that school's well-known third-year program; Bob Rasmussen of USC talked about the importance of interprofessional education for business lawyers and efforts at USC to encourage such training; and Janet Thompson Jackson related her experiences as transactional clinician at Washburn. The panelists were uniformly excellent.

While we touched on many subjects during the panel session, one point of emphasis among the panelists and the audience was the importance of adjunct professors. Eric Gouvin referred us to his ABA Report on Best Practices Report on the Use of Adjunct Faculty, which is essential reading for academic deans and others who work with adjunct professors. Eric noted that the ABA encourages law schools to employ adjunct professors. While that is true, the AALS has a membership requirement limiting the use of adjunct professors. My sense is that this requirement is not well known among law professors who have no experience in administration. AALS Bylaw 6-4(d) provides:

In each division of a member school's program, each student shall have the opportunity to obtain substantially all of his or her instruction leading to the Juris Doctor degree from the school's full-time faculty.

The interpretation of this bylaw appears in Executive Committee Regulation 6-4.1:

Full-time Faculty Requirement. A member school demonstrates compliance with Bylaw 6-4(d) if in each division of its program, the school's full-time faculty offer at least two-thirds of the credit hours or student-contact hours leading to the J.D. degree. (emphasis added)

Most plans for increasing transactional training rely heavily on the use of adjunct professors, but truly ambitious programs run the risk of pushing a school into dangerous territory with regard to this provision. I hope the AALS' emphasis on full-time faculty is not merely a protectionist measure from law professors. In any event, if we are serious about encouraging experiential learning during law school, the Executive Committee will need to revist this interpretation.

The emphasis of this year's program was on transactional education, and I think it was terrific. Tina should be proud. However, I know that Tina, our new chair Joan Heminway, and the other officers and executive committee members of the Section are committed to the promotion of transactional scholarship, too. If you are interested in transactional teaching or scholarship, I hope you will support this Section.

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