Creating an Online Set of Materials for Teaching Contract Drafting

My thoughts are turning back towards teaching. In particular, wearing my Mr. Commoditize hat, I’ve been considering how one of the big problems with teaching contract drafting is the improvised nature of it all.

You have practitioners teaching it, some of them perhaps imparting to their charges a grab-bag of conventional wisdom. You have legal-writing people teaching it, some of them perhaps not grasping the dramatic difference between litigation writing and the software-code world of contract drafting.

And currently, the materials available for those teaching contract drafting aren’t comprehensive enough.

So what I’d like to do is develop a set of online materials that would be made available to law schools throughout the country and, ultimately, beyond. It would in effect constitute a turnkey course in contract drafting.

The materials would include the following:

  • syllabuses for one-, two-, and three-credit courses
  • problem sets for class discussion
  • a broad and constantly updated selection of written assignments (together with password-protected annotated model answers)
  • reference analyses of key topics
  • video clips by practitioners

The site would also offer ContractExpress document-assembly templates, compiled by moi, for “boilerplate” provisions and a confidentiality agreement. They would allow students to sample a more efficient approach to contract drafting, and they would also provide students with the highest-quality version of the most basic provisions and the most common kind of contract. (One way to encourage quality contract drafting is to expose students to lots of quality contract language.)

The foundation of the site would be A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. I don’t know how one could teach contract drafting without incorporating a set of guidelines for the building blocks of contract language. You might as well ask students to build a grand edifice with mud bricks.

In designing the site and putting the materials together, I’d be assisted by an editorial board drawn from law firms, company law departments, and law schools.

Initial inquiries suggest that you wouldn’t have schools pay for access to the site. Instead, students would pay, just as they pay for course books.

The idea wouldn’t be to undercut the role of the instructor. Instructors would obviously be entitled to customize the materials as they see fit. But it’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to consider the effectiveness of an instructor apart from the quality of materials that the instructor uses. If the materials are lacking, the course will be lacking. That’s particularly true in the case of contract drafting, which is only now emerging from a primitiveness akin to witchcraft.

How might I make this happen? Well, I’d need backing, as I’m not about to embark on such a project on spec. I could imagine teaming up with some combination of one or more law schools, continuing-legal-education vendors, publishers, law firms, and bar associations.

If this is of interest, you know where to get hold of me.

Posted in Teaching | 3 Comments

  • AWrightBurkeMPhil

    If you haven’t looked into it, might offer some ideas. It’s an effort by a consortium of universities to make top-flight courses available worldwide. Korean high schoolers ace advanced MIT courses, etc.

    I took a free (they’re still developing the business model) Ancient Greek History course there, taught by Dr. Andrew Szegedy-Maszak of the Classics Department at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and it was first-rate.

    Coursera itself may not be a suitable vehicle for what you envision, but it may reduce wheel-reinvention time.

  • James Murphy

    An excellent idea! I use both your book and Tina Stark’s book in my drafting contracts class. The two books together help me teach the students what concepts to use and how to express them. The online materials you’re describing would be very helpful.

  • A.S.

    This is a great idea! However, as a recent law school graduate without access to law school courses, I would like this to be available for CLE. I wasn’t taught how to draft in law school, and since I am starting my career in-house (and writing contracts), such a course would be incredibly valuable!