Startup Enhances Legal Education
By Brian J. Hubbard // October 23, 2014
LawMeet® – Eastern Regional Finals
Litigators have long influenced legal education. As a result, law school competitions mainly center on classic litigator skills, such as brief drafting and oral arguments (i.e., moot court). When I was a law student, if you were interested in IP transactions, your options were very limited. As I recall, the only choice was reading case law on how courts interpret certain terms. Even now, hands-on opportunities to learn about IP transactions lag behind other areas of law.
Philadelphia startup, ApprenNet, is trying to flip that dynamic, using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Among other learning tools for potential IP transactionalists, ApprenNet’s Karl Okamoto and Emily Foote developed the Intellectual Property LawMeet®. The IP LawMeet® is a type of “moot court” experience for students interested in a transactional practice.
I was honored to be a judge at the Eastern Regional Finals of the 2014 IP LawMeet® last Friday, Oct. 17. The LawMeet® competition gives law students hands-on experience and coaching from experienced practioners to develop transactional legal skills. Student teams read a case study of a hypothetical business deal. Then, they participate in a client conference call with one side and draft an agreement based on their interpretation of the situation. Next, the students mark-up their opponents’ drafts. Finally, they meet face-to-face to negotiate.
As in real life, to excel, one has to assimilate information and come out understanding the deal, your client’s objectives, your opponent’s objectives, and an acceptable range of resolution points where you can compromise.
I was fortunate to judge a team that eventually became a finalist, but really, I was struck by the fact that all the teams were outstanding. As I expected, some students were better negotiators, some were better drafters, and some were subtle advocates at the mark-up stage. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see how collegial and cooperative all the contestants were, even in a designedly adversarial situation. Interestingly, this attitude is similar to most of my experiences in real life transactional practice.
Judges were able to give feedback, and their coaching was definitely introspective and potentially very valuable to the students. Some of the comments I heard were doubtless a synthesis of years of hard-won experience. Much of the judges’ advice was big-picture, focusing on the need for narrative, personalization, and the right tone. We pointed out moments of particularly effective advocacy by the students, and offered insights on what works in our practices. Overall, it was a particularly focused opportunity to associate with colleagues and jointly mentor law students for one of my favorite types of work, while witnessing some students who will become truly amazing attorneys.