In 1984, Professor Ronald Gilson wrote Value Creation by Business Lawyers: Legal Skills and Asset Pricing when there were only a handful of transactional legal clinics offering pro bono business legal services to real clients. Professor Gilson offered insightful observations in that seminal article that have been useful to clinicians about the failure of law schools to teach the skills and judgments needed by business lawyers. He observed that law schools could cure this deficiency by teaching practice skills, and facilitating practice through partnerships between academics and practitioners. Due to the changing legal marketplace and the rise in technology-driven entrepreneurship in the last 30 years, the authors review Professor Gilson’s observations, implementing, in part, the theoretical perspective in his seminal law review article as a platform for their analysis.
This article analyzes how transactional legal clinics in law schools are responding to some of the reforms urged by Professor Gilson. Today, transactional legal clinics are facilitating partnerships between academics and practitioners not only in the academy, but also through partnerships with bar associations, law firms, and private lawyers. Additionally, this article examines transactional legal clinics nationwide 30 years after Professor Gilson’s foundational work, which described business lawyers not as innate transaction costs to be endured, but as transaction cost engineers with the potential to create value in business deals. Despite a surge in transactional law clinics in the last three decades, there has not been a comprehensive examination of these clinics and the opportunities they create for educating law students to be business lawyers through the representation of actual clients in need of business legal services. The authors hope to fill a gap in the relevant business law scholarship and spark a robust conversation in the legal community about transactional clinic design trends and opportunities.
Finally, this article is also a companion to Enriching the Law School Curriculum: The Rise of Transactional Legal Clinics in U.S. Law Schools and discusses areas of clinical transactional practice, models and funding, industry sectors represented, clients served, transactional lawyering models, and future opportunities. Given the surge in transactional clinics at American law schools, which now number more than 150, and emerging scholarship in the field, a comprehensive discussion and analysis of design trends and opportunities is timely.