BU Law to launch new Transactional Law Program:
Building practice-ready skills for the legal workplace

Professor Tina L. Stark

Professor Tina L. Stark

Veteran attorney, banker and educator Tina L. Stark recently joined the BU Law faculty to head a new Transactional Law Program that will provide students not only with knowledge of substantive business and financial law but also the practical skills to deliver informed services to clients.

In general, junior associates in business law practices aren't useful for a couple of years, notes Stark. Transactional associates beginning practice today need skills and knowledge that they can use on their first day of work. Clients don't want junior transactional lawyers on their matters because they don't want to pay for their training. Students who can be put to work immediately are that much more valuable and attractive as new employees. That's the intent of the new Transactional Law Program

Tina has been on the cutting edge of teaching lawyers and law students professional, practical and translatable transactional skills, an area where innovations are gaining traction in U.S. law schools.

Professor Stark's teaching is informed by her years as a banker and as a corporate partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLP. She also spent 14+ years as an adjunct professor and teacher of continuing legal education courses. Through her own business, she taught transactional continuing legal education seminars at firms in the United States and abroad.

Stark believes that preparation for the actual practice of transactional law must begin with theory, followed by progressively more sophisticated building blocks that include practical application of doctrine. The key, she says, is to expose students to material more than once, a critical factor in learning.

Litigation is usually taught in this way. Students start in their first year with civil procedure and legal writing, where they learn how to research and write a memo and brief, and move on to evidence in the second year. Then, through sophisticated skills courses, they learn how to take depositions, argue motions and cross-examine a witness. Stark believes that the curriculum on the transactional side should mirror this progression.

This process depends on students having taken excellent doctrinal courses, Stark insists. The doctrinal courses provide the foundation on which the skills courses can build, and Boston University has some of the strongest faculty in the field teaching these courses.

According to Stark, transactional building blocks, such as contract drafting, provide core transactional skills and an essential foundation to learning negotiation. She envisions a drafting course that focuses on how to incorporate the business deal into the contract and how to look at a contract from the client's business perspective so that the deal is memorialized in a way that is most advantageous to the client.

Other courses will teach how to think like a deal lawyer, contract analysis, risk analysis, negotiation, and how to explain business issues to a client. Through simulations, students will learn how to perform specific tasks that will make them immediately valuable to a firm and a client, including due diligence, transaction management and the drafting of third-party opinion letters, resolutions and closing documents.

Finally, as a capstone course, students will work for an entire semester through all stages of a simulated transaction – from the letter of intent through the closing. At this point, with students possessing a foundation in both doctrine and skills, simulations could be taught at a very sophisticated level by practitioners involved daily in those types of transactions.

What others say about Tina Stark and Transactional Law:

William D. Henderson, professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession commented: Law schools have long struggled with the challenge of teaching effective transactional law. For the last 20 years, many of the nation's leading firms have turned to Tina Stark to fill this large skills gap. The reason is simple: Her innovative workshops and teaching materials create powerful, intuitive frameworks for understanding complex transactions, plus these concepts are made immediately concrete through realistic problems and simulations that develop hands-on skills. It is a huge coup for Boston University to hire Tina Stark. Her pedagogy sets the standard for legal transactional training, both in practice and in law schools.

Law firms also recognize the need for the kind of transactional education that Tina Stark has provided to law students and to lawyers. Tina has been on the cutting edge of teaching lawyers and law students professional, practical and translatable transactional skills, an area where innovations are gaining traction in U.S. law schools, said Jane Eiselein, Director of Professional Development at Ropes & Gray. Her knowledge has been important in addressing the gap between law school and law practice, and she will be a significant contributor to developing talent at BU Law School and in the Boston community.