August 11, 2008
The Role of Adjuncts in Transactional Skills Education
Posted by Tina Stark

The reality is that most law schools will not have as faculty, enough professors with the real world experience to teach transactional skills courses.  That means that adjuncts will teach these courses. 

Over the years, adjuncts have gotten a bad rap.  Here are three of the most common complaints:

·                     They do not know how to teach.

·                     They do not show up.

·                     All they do is tell war stories.

At Emory we have tried to deal with each of these complaints. 

Part of my job is working with adjuncts – to help them create their materials and to work with them on how to teach.  In addition, we sometimes use a student-teacher arrangement where a new adjunct will attend a course for a semester before teaching it.

Adjuncts are generally lawyers who have excelled and want to pass on what they know.  Having excelled in practice, they also want to excel as adjuncts.  I have yet to meet an adjunct who was not delighted to have help and guidance. 

To deal with the real problem of conflicts with work, we have set up our deal skills and capstone courses so that two adjuncts co-teach each course.  In addition to assuring coverage, this arrangement has at least three benefits. 

First, the adjuncts can brainstorm together about the exercises and hypotheticals they are going to create.  This usually results in a superior work product, as do most collaborations. 

Second, the adjuncts can divide the work.  That makes it more likely that each adjunct will be able to prepare thoroughly for the classes he or she teaches.

Third, in class, the professors can play off of each other, providing the students with two views of an issue, which, of course, is wonderful pedagogically.

Finally, there are the war stories.  This issue is relatively easy to deal with.  I tell the adjuncts that they can tell war stories if they have pedagogic value. But then, somewhat facetiously, I tell them that if their evaluations say that the course was mostly war stories, they will be fired and probably so will I.  This works like a charm.

This discussion has assumed that adjuncts would be responsible for an entire course.  But we can also leverage practitioners’ expertise by having them help out in more limited ways.  There is, of course, the one-off guest lecture.  Professors sometimes resist these visits, protesting that the syllabus has no room for anything new.  There are two possible ways to address this.  First, the adjunct could teach material already in the syllabus in a new way.  Second, the material in the syllabus could be taught either through a reading or a brief lecture.  Sometimes, it is a matter of being flexible and open to something new.

Another alternative model for using adjuncts is the team approach, each member of the team being responsible for a particular unit in the syllabus.  This could work well in an advanced transactional course where, for example, each of five practitioners assumed responsibility for teaching a different contract: a shareholder’s agreement, an indemnity agreement, an acquisition agreement, a lease, and an employment agreement.  Of course, one adjunct would need to coordinate the others and have overall responsibility for the course

A final variation is the one-credit add-on.  Rob Illig of the University of Oregon Law School described this approach at Emory’s recent conference on the teaching of drafting and transactional law.  In essence, the students take two courses concurrently.  While they are enrolled in Rob’s doctrinal M&A course, they also take a one-credit “lab” that two practitioners teach.  In the lab, students focus on the acquisition agreement and relevant transactional skills. 

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