So Training in Contract Drafting Isn’t Important to Employers?

Via this post on the WSJ Blog, I learned about survey results presented by three Harvard Law School professors in an article entitled “What Courses Should Law Students Take? Harvard’s Largest Employers Weigh In.” (Available here on SSRN.)

I’m not surprised that “Contract drafting” didn’t feature in the results for the question “What courses should HLS students take?,” given that the more prestigious law schools apparently prefer, validly or not, to incorporate contract drafting into substantive courses. (See this blog post.) Harvard might not offer a separate course on contract drafting.

Just as unsurprising is that “Contract drafting” doesn’t appear in the results for the question “What skills/knowledge bases should students acquire?” That’s because “Contract drafting” didn’t feature as a possible answer. The omission shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that plenty of full-time faculty don’t know from contract drafting.

But the article notes the following:

Several other corporate associates stressed the importance of hands-on experience with contracts (M&A contracts and loan agreements) and SEC filings, writing “Also, … it could be hugely helpful … if in the context of this type of workshop or another class, you could introduce students to the actual legal documents that govern these transactions ….”

That suggests that if “Contract drafting” had been included as one of the responses, it might have made a decent showing in the results.

But bear in mind that the 124 respondents were all from BigLaw, and we all know that BigLaw doesn’t draft contracts, it regurgitates. Just joking! Sort of.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

4 thoughts on “So Training in Contract Drafting Isn’t Important to Employers?”

  1. It is perhaps not surprising that law firms that act for financial institutions value accountancy training. Whether such training is relevant for other lawyers is less clear.

    I had a related discussion with a non-lawyer speaker (senior commercial manager, now teaching at London Business School) at my IP transactions course last week. He had been speaking to some of the students (mostly newly qualified lawyers) over lunch and had been surprised at how naive they seemed to be about the purpose of a law firm (ie to make money for the partners). We had previously discussed the lack of training for young lawyers in contract drafting, as he reminded me, and he also expressed surprise that training in negotiation wasn’t a fundamental part of a lawyer’s training. I had asked him to speak on recognising negotiating “tricks”.

    While I can see his point of view, I think for many people it is best to have some experience of working as a lawyer before these applied skills are most usefully taught. The training will “sink in” more if you have a point of reference, ie you are working on drafting and negotiating agreements for a living. I teach on an LLM course at UCL, on Commercialisation of Intellectual Property, and unless the students have some prior experience of IP agreements (as a minority do), I am doubtful how far one can teach them about such an applied subject. Actually, this makes the course a soft option, as there is less law to learn than with some other subjects.

    • You’re perhaps thinking of training in certain types of transactions; I’m thinking of training geared to making students informed consumers of contract language. I suspect that they’re unlikely to get that sort of training at most law firms.


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