April 20, 2010
Minding Our Own Business Forum: Are Law Faculty Qualified and Up To the Challenge?
Posted by joanheminway

In her posting, Michelle Harner writes about the "value-add" of transactional lawyers.  This reminds me of a portion of Steve Bainbridge's Mergers and Acquisitions book, replicated here, from here, that I share with my Corporate Finance students each semester.  For those of you who haven't read the book or the postings, here is the nub.

. . . People hire transactional lawyers because they add value to the deal. . . . The lawyer makes everybody better off by increasing the size of the pie. . . .  Hence, while there is little substantive economic difference between an asset sale and a merger, there is a significant legal difference.  By selecting one form over another, the transactional lawyer ensures that the deal is done at the lowest possible cost.

The full commentary is well worth reading.  Steve, like Larry, Michelle, and me, comes out advocating training in business, finance, and economics in addition to legal doctrine.  As you already know, I add lawyering (drafting and document review, oral presentation, etc.) skills to the mix.  Even assuming we can adjust the curriculum to our satisfaction, however, there are issues relating to human resources.

Brett raises cost issues and suggests adjuncts as one possible solution.  Adjuncts are valuable (truly essential) in skills training, but they do not solve our problem--my problem--in this area.  I am worried about finding faculty with the expertise and aptitude to teach this next generation of business lawyers--faculty who can connect theory to practice through doctrine and related legal and non-legal skills.  These faculty members would have both practical and academic experience and would need to

  • know what it is that transactional lawyers do, preferably through first-hand experience;
  • be well-versed in
business law,
legal drafting,
oral expression, presentation, and advocacy,
basic economics, and
communication and database technologies;
  • understand and synthesize underlying theory and policy; and
  • be accomplished teachers--skilled at effectively imparting knowledge to others.

Truthfully, not many of us fit this mold precisely or even approximately.  Of course, each of us would not necessarily have to have all of these attributes, if colleagues in the relevant curriculum help supply what's needed in a coordinated fashion.  However, this overall picture, if accurate, indicates that we may be increasingly looking for faculty members to teach transactional law classes (cost permitting) that are different from those we have searched for in the past--or that we may be retraining and retooling ourselves for the task at hand--or both.  Personally, I am ready for the retraining/retooling mission.  Are you?

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