When most people think of law work, they imagine dramatic courtroom cases.

However, much of the work involves transactions (drafting contracts, negotiating deals and handling other aspects of law related to business agreements).  Third year Cornell Law School student Mystyc Star Metrik feels this is a neglected area of  study.

Law school today is mainly geared toward life in the courtroom, but many law students do not intend to become litigators.  Some of us want to be business lawyers, or general counsel for a company, or do some other type of transactional work (for those of you unfamiliar with transactional work, it consists of drafting contracts, negotiating deals and handling other aspects of law related to business transactions.) Unfortunately, our legal education leaves us woefully unprepared for such work. To make matters worse, when second years remember that the world is not limited to Myron Taylor Hall and start competing for prestigious summer jobs at law firms, they often encounter the question, “Why transactional work?”  A detailed response would carry a lot more weight, but most of us, who lack transactional experience, can only offer vague generalities.  Why this gap in legal education?

Things weren’t always this way.  In the early colonial days, few men who practiced law went to law school.  They may have read a few legal books, but most learned their skills through professional apprenticeships.  Apprenticeships and other forms of on-the-job training were often required components of legal education (in addition to, or sometimes instead of, formal schooling) until around 1950, when law school attendance became a compulsory prerequisite to bar admission. The decision to scrap practical training in favor of tedious academic study is perplexing, and it puts law students at a real disadvantage when trying to enter a field that they know little about.

During the second summer in law school, those of us who are lucky enough to get jobs at large firms are finally exposed to transactional work, although we have little prior knowledge or skill to apply to the area.  When asked if I knew how to craft a venture capital partnership agreement on my first day, I felt like the lawyer was speaking another language…

Legal education has not changed since its inception, and some reform is needed if students are to be prepared to enter the job market with practical knowledge.  Aspiring transactional lawyers do benefit from the research and analytical skills taught in law school, but we would rather be learning about what makes a good contract provision and how to negotiate than obsolete property law from the time of fiefdoms that is no longer even good law.  Times have changed, and legal education needs to, too.