Berkeley Transactional Practice Survey

Steven M. Davidoff is Professor of Law and Finance at Ohio State University College of Law. As of July 2014, Professor Davidoff will be Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

It is hard to gainsay the observation that business law practice has evolved significantly over the last three decades. Fields as distinct as corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions law have substantially merged with a host of traditional “business school” topics, such as accounting, finance, strategy, project management and risk analysis. Although some law schools have endeavored to keep up with these changes in business law practice, their reaction has been somewhat sluggish. Indeed, many major law firms with sophisticated business law practices have expended significant resources on training their junior associates (or retraining their experienced attorneys) through “mini-MBA” courses, business boot camps, and similar programs offered either through third parties, partnerships or in-house expertise. Nevertheless, it is our view that law schools can and should continue to work to provide this type of training to students in partnership with efforts already under way at law firms. Such efforts are certainly key components to creating sophisticated lawyers for the next century.

Simultaneous with this sea change in business law, the practicing bar has been putting the traditional curriculum of law schools under greater scrutiny. Late in 2013, an ABA task force proposed to establish minimum requirements within ABA-accredited law schools for “skills” or “experiential” learning related to building practical skills and competencies. (Similar proposals are percolating up from state bar association task forces as well.) Rather than tracking the traditional doctrinal labels (such as “tax” or “evidence”), these proposals purport to concentrate instead on more transcendent forms of knowledge that tend to be valuable to lawyers across practice areas. It is conceivable that these efforts will substantially reshape the traditional law school curriculum.

Given the near simultaneity of the two trends described above, one might reasonably predict that the emerging proposals on legal education would dovetail nicely with the changing face of business law practice.

Not so fast.

Although the proposals put forward by the ABA and others address some elements of modern business law transactional practice, it is unclear how much input established business law experts (attorneys, other professionals, educators, and the like) have had on the process of drafting the proposed guidelines, or whether there has been much systematic analysis of what topics constitute important “skills” for entering transactional attorneys. Moreover, the current proposals—while ostensibly general—do not appear to highlight the full range of skills that many transactional lawyers tell us are useful for a starting lawyer. Accordingly, the goodness of fit between transactional business law skills on the one hand and the ABA endeavor on the other is still an open question.

Luckily, it is also an empirical one. To begin to address it, we have developed an on-line survey instrument to help gauge what sorts of core competencies established professionals in transactional practice areas consider important. We hope the results of the survey will help both practitioners and legal educators assess (and if necessary, work to amend) the current proposed guidelines. Although largely directed to practicing attorneys, the survey is also open to other professionals who work closely with practicing attorneys in transactional practices (such as bankers, accountants, financial advisers, etc.).

This survey is part of a broader project on these issues that we are launching in order to further explore the role of academia in training the next generation of transactional lawyers.

Readers interested in filling out this 5-10 minute survey can do so by following the link below:

The more input we can get from experts in the area the better advice we’ll both receive and be able to give. When complete, results of the survey will be made available on the website for the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy (BCLBE), at We will also continue to update this website in order to detail the parameters and findings of our project.

Prof. Robert Bartlett

Prof. Steven Davidoff

Prof. Eric Talley


UC Berkeley School of Law

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