This past Friday and Saturday I was in Atlanta, at Emory Law School’s conference on “Teaching Drafting and Transactional Skills: The Basics and Beyond.” (Click here to go to the relevant page of Emory Law School’s website.)
The conference was organized by Tina Stark, an Emory professor and the executive director of the school’s new Center for Transactional Law and Practice. Seeing as 175 people were in attendance, I have to assume that Tina considers that it was a grand success.
I was one of the speakers—I talked briefly about using information technology in contract drafting. I was primarily there to see people I’m in email contact with and, more generally, to meet kindred spirits, but in the process I picked up some useful information.
One thing I noticed is that the top rank of law schools appeared to be underrepresented. I had some interesting discussions about that. Here’s what I gleaned: Law schools need to provide value to their students and need to assure employers that their students are worth employing. Given their reputation, the “elite” law schools accomplish those goals without breaking a sweat. Just by getting in, their students are guaranteed excellent employment prospects. And employers know that any students at those schools are at the head of the pack in the academic rat-race. So those schools are free to continue to focus on doctrine and free to require all their students, even those who are headed to transactional practice, to study litigation-based writing.
By contrast, less-exalted law schools are constantly having to prove their worth to their students and to employers, and they have to be responsive to what the market demands. And one thing that the market is demanding, loud and clear, is better transactional training.
That’s not to say that the top schools spurn transactional training. I’m living proof of that! And Harvard Law School, for one, seems to have embraced clinic-based teaching of transactional skills. But the dichotomy I outlined would seem to explain why, overall, the top schools are less enthusiastic about teaching transactional skills.
But I’m no expert in such matters, and I’m prepared to have readers demonstrate that I’m talking through my hat.