First-year law students negotiate the best deal for their client in the Introduction to Transactional Skills Program

“I’m most nervous about the uncertainty,” said Sona Sosa, a first-year Temple Law student.  Dressed professionally and holding her briefcase she elaborated: “Everything has been thoroughly explained to us, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding today.”

Sosa was preparing for her final negotiation in the Introduction to Transactional Skills Program at Temple Law School, Friday, October 13, 3017.

The Introduction to Transactional Skills Program (or ITS) at Temple Law is a two-week experiential learning program for first-year students, which began in the fall of 2011.  Every 1L takes the one-credit course, which is unusual, if not unique, in that it gives first-year students hands-on exposure to business-transactions practice.

The ITS students are asked to imagine that they represent Carly Whitman or Emeril Bourdain, two friends who together want to open a restaurant in Philadelphia.  Carly, a wealthy investor, has agreed to finance the business, and Emeril, an up-and-coming chef, has agreed to be the Executive Chef.

The students were grouped into small classes of about a dozen, and then split into pairs. In pairs, they began the process by interviewing their “client”—either Emeril or Carly—played by teaching assistants, in order to learn what the client wanted, needed, could not accept, and so on.  Thereafter, the pairs were matched with counterparts from another class representing the other side, to negotiate and draft a term sheet and an employment agreement.

Over the two weeks, faculty coached students through new legal concepts such as non-compete clauses, exclusivity, and severance pay.  But, the students were the “lawyers,” and controlled the negotiations and drafting.

With the term sheet and employment agreement for each quartet concluded, the ITS program culminates in a final negotiation where practicing attorneys from the Philadelphia area visit for the afternoon in order to observe the students negotiate and give them constructive feedback.

This leads to Sosa’s “mystery”:  She was nervous because the final negotiation this past Friday, October 13th culminates in a “surprise” for the students.  This last round involved a new fact scenario that was revealed to them only thirty minutes before the final negotiation.  Using this information, students must quickly develop a strategy based on their existing deal, and their knowledge of their client’s goals, in order to advance the client’s interest and come to an agreement, if possible.

Attorneys who came to observe the first-year students lauded the professionalism and skill of the 1L’s.  Many said that they participate because of the importance of the program to their careers. “I actually went into transactional work,” said Coryell Barlow (LAW ‘15), an associate at Cozen O’Connor and ITS-alum, stated.  “I wanted to see how far I came since my time in the program. I want to see if I can help the students . . . and provide constructive feedback on anything they can relate to on an associate level.”

Another observer, Enrique Marquez, (LAW ‘12), a tax litigator for the City of Philadelphia, explained, “I have a special place in my heart for Temple Law. I run a practicum with Temple Law students and they’re not only the best students, but the best professionals.” He continued, “I come back to give back . . . and though you can donate, and I do, I feel this is much more substantive. If I can help anybody reach the next level, or give a tip to help anybody get through the maze of law school, I’m going to do it.”

I come back to give back . . . and though you can donate, and I do, I feel this is much more substantive.

ITS this year was spearheaded by Professor Andrea Monroe, who led a dozen teachers and teaching assistants, 184 students, the Law School’s technology and other administrative services, fifty volunteer lawyers.   “I am very happy with the outcome,” Professor Monroe said. “And now, we’re on to planning next year!”

Chloe Mullen-Wilson is a second-year law student at Temple. Chloe graduated from Seton Hall University in 2016 and spent this past summer interning for the firm Stradley Ronon LLP.

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