Lexington, VA • Tuesday, March 02, 2010
The law school curriculum traditionally has emphasized litigation over transactional practice, that area of the law that refers to various legal rules that influence or constrain planning, negotiating, and document drafting in connection with business transactions.
This changed at Washington and Lee School of Law with the implementation of its new third-year curriculum, which puts substantial focus on helping students develop transactional lawyering skills through rigorous practice simulations. Now two W&L students will put these skills to the test at a first of its kind competition hosted by the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University on March 4-5, 2010.
Third-year students April Finn and Jennifer Langley will represent W&L at the invitation-only meet. The competition will measure students’ mastery of the skills involved in structuring and negotiating everything from mega-mergers to financing a multi-unit rental property. In each round, teams will be asked to work with another team to structure and negotiate a letter of intent for the sale of a business. Teams will be judged by panels of senior deal lawyers.
In addition to W&L, teams from Brigham Young University, Cornell University, Drexel, Emory University, University of Georgia, the University of Indiana-Bloomington, New York Law School, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University are competing.
In conjunction with the meet, Drexel will host a conference that will explore new approaches to educating transactional lawyers. Participants will include a select group of law professors, senior practitioners and others involved in educating the next generation of deal lawyers. One question the conference hopes to address is the possible formation of a national organization dedicated to transactional training similar to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). A collaboration among the bar and the legal academy, NITA has helped create, standardize and propagate the teaching tools that have trained a generation of litigators.
W&L Law professor Lyman Johnson, who will present at the conference, has taught a business planning simulation course at the school for more than twenty years. During the course, students advise two entrepreneurs on the best organizational form for a start-up biotech venture and prepare an actual operating agreement for the proposed deal, among other tasks.
“Our 3L reforms, and the Drexel competition, provide students with the opportunity to do what lawyers do in every kind of practice: exercise professional judgment,” says Johnson. “At W&L, we help lawyers-to-be acquire substantial knowledge about the law, but we also help them learn how to express a carefully-reasoned view point.”
During the conference, Johnson will discuss W&L’s third year reform as part of a panel titled “Teaching Transactional Lawyering Today.”
“There is growing interest in legal education in developing new approaches to helping our students learn,” said Johnson. “The reforms at W&L continue to attract attention and keen interest from scholars and practitioners alike.”