Review: Teaching Transactional Skills in Partnership with the Bar

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By Emily Grant from Washburn University School of Law

In his Berkeley Business Law Journal article, Professor Carl J. Circo explores the legal education reform movement as it relates to transactional practice skills, collecting the myriad conversations about what our law students need and proposing a creative partnership between the bar and the academy to help meet that challenge.

Professor Circo provides observations and suggestions from the ABA Standards and taskforces, the NALP Foundation roundtable conference series, and a white paper issued by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He also offers a unique look at what the profession wants from new graduates by recounting comments from practitioners at recent conferences, as well as by summarizing results from a survey Professor Circo administered to law firm training and development professionals about the skills that entry-level transactional lawyers need. Through this examination, Professor Circo’s article paints a telling picture about the concerns of practitioners. Although “[d]ifferent bar organizations and lawyers offer many alternative perspectives on the goals of legal education,” Professor Circo identifies a few larger themes that emerge. Practitioners stress the need for teaching “general competencies” of business practice, including creative problem solving, project management, teamwork, risk assessment, and flexibility.

Professor Circo also explores the current discourse within the academy about transactional skills education, detailing presentations and conversations from various symposia and conferences, and concluding that, while progress is being made to increase skills instruction in transactional courses, several competing factors including budget and professional inertia restrict reform movement. “[L]aw schools are paying meaningful and productive attention to the transactional skills gap. . . . What is less certain is whether transactional skills advocates have the strength, support, and perspicacity required to achieve meaningful change across a wide spectrum of the legal reform movement.”

By way of a proposed solution, Professor Circo suggests increased partnership between law schools and the bar. He notes that researchers need to gather more empirical data to define and evaluate the skills gap. He emphasizes the importance of all stakeholders in legal education to advocate and support innovation and experimentation. And he calls for increased collaboration between the legal academy and the legal profession to identify how law schools might involve practicing lawyers directly in teaching to facilitate the transition from law school to practice.

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