The Transactional Law Practice Certificate Program
The Transactional Law Practice Certificate Program is a curricular pathway for students interested in pursuing legal careers representing clients in planning, negotiating, structuring, and documenting business transactions. It is designed to provide law students with a strong background in basic business law concepts, an opportunity for in-depth study of advanced business and business-related legal doctrine and practice, and intensive practice-oriented instruction focusing on the skills essential for transactional law practice.
South Texas College of Law Houston has a long tradition of excellence in skills-oriented legal education, and the Transactional Law Practice Certificate Program builds on that tradition by providing a comprehensive and integrated course of study through which students may develop competence in transactional matters that business lawyers routinely handle, including working with clients in planning and implementing business transactions; negotiating and drafting legal documents; and advising and counseling clients on the applicable laws and regulations governing various aspects of a business deal.
Who Should Consider Participating?
Students from all academic and professional backgrounds–including the humanities, sciences, engineering, and business–are encouraged to consider enrolling in the Program and taking business and transactional courses. Students need not have any special business background or experience to participate in the Transactional Law Practice Certificate Program. Moreover, since most lawyers do some transactional work, even students who do not expect to have exclusively transactional law practices are encouraged to consider participating in the program.
Eligibility for Participation
Students must apply for admission to the program. To be eligible to participate in the program, a student must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.900. The formal online application form can be found here. [Note to web designer: insert hyperlink to the online form on the italicized sentence.]
Students normally should apply to participate after completing the first thirty (30) semester hours of required law school courses and before completing forty-five (45) semester hours or during their third semester of full-time study. An important consideration affecting whether to grant an exception to this time of application will be whether the student will be able to satisfy the requirements for the certificate before the student graduates.
To receive the Certificate at graduation, a student must satisfy the following requirements:
Required Business Law Courses
A student must take all the following core business law courses:
- Agency and Partnership Law
- Secured Transactions
Elective Business Law Courses
A student must complete three courses from among the following:
- Antitrust Law
- Business Bankruptcy
- Business Planning
- Corporate Finance Law
- Corporate Taxation
- Environmental Law
- Intellectual Property Survey
- International Business Transactions
- Partnership and Subchapter S Taxation
- Payment Systems
- Real Estate Development
- Real Estate Finance Law
- Sale and Leasing of Goods
- Securities Regulation
- Other (as approved by the Program Director)
South Texas College of Law Houston offers many business-related courses – many more than listed above – and upon a student’s request the Program Director may approve other courses not listed above to satisfy the elective business law course requirement. To request approval of a course as an elective, a student should identify the course and provide a brief explanation of how the subject matter relates to business transactional practice and how it will contribute to the student’s career plans.
Transactional Skills Courses
Foundational Skills Course
A student must take one of the following foundational skills courses:
Capstone Skills Course
A student must take one of the following capstone skills courses:
Substantial Writing Requirement
All South Texas College of Law Houston students must satisfy a substantial writing requirement as a condition of graduation. That requirement may be met by a Seminar or Supervised Research or by meeting the writing requirement for either the South Texas Law Review or CURRENTS: Journal of International Economic Law.
A student need not satisfy any additional writing requirement to earn the Transactional Law Practice certificate, but he or she must meet that requirement by writing on a business transactions-related topic approved by the Program Director. To meet this requirement, a student must coordinate topic selection with the Program Director and with the faculty member teaching the Seminar or Supervised Research or with the editor of the student journal. A student should consult with the Program Director about possible writing topics early in the topic selection process. The Substantial Writing Requirement Approval form is located here.
Grade Point Average
To earn the certificate, a student must meet the following minimum grade point average requirements:
- A 3.333 grade point average in all certificate-related courses taken (i.e., in all courses used to earn the certificate), and
- A 3.000 overall law school grade point average
Application for Certificate
A student who expects to satisfy the requirements for the certificate should notify the Program Director by email during his or her last semester of law school enrollment and request to receive the certificate and to be included in the law school’s Honors and Awards program.
Realistic Course Problems
Each course focuses on a realistic, mid-market transaction that students might expect to see in law practice. In fact, some of the course problems are modeled after actual transactions in which one of the course developers was involved as counsel for one of the parties. Each transaction is complex enough to present the kind of difficult business and legal issues that student lawyers must address, but not so complex that students cannot complete the course work during a semester.
Focus on Lawyering Skills
Students who complete each capstone transactional skills course certainly will know how to handle that particular transaction when they graduate. But these courses simulate actual attorney work that students should expect to encounter in practice, so they must develop document drafting skills, practice using redline/ track changes while negotiating documents, learn how to use negotiation leverage, differentiate between business and legal issues, and learn client communication skills – all skills that should be transferable to any transaction in any industry, so that as new lawyers they should be prepared to add value to whatever transaction they may be called upon to handle.
An important element of all the courses is the significant contributions made by practicing lawyers. The original conception for the courses was that they would be team-taught by a full-time faculty member and an adjunct faculty member with experience related to the course transaction, and adjunct faculty continue performing a central role in the courses. The use of experienced practicing lawyers as all or a part of the instructional team assures that the course remains current, as adjunct faculty members can call attention to emerging issues in practice. Moreover, each of the courses was designed by a full-time faculty member in collaboration with one or more accomplished practicing lawyers to make certain that the transaction accurately reflects issues students should expect to encounter in law practice.
Demanding Course Expectations
In each of these courses, students must draft five or six of the key documents required for the transaction. Summative assessment of student performance is based primarily on a portfolio of these documents submitted by each team of student lawyers. But students also may be graded in part on written assignments turned in during the semester, classroom participation, team participation, and on classroom exercises. Each course has a class meeting once weekly, but students also must be available for up to two additional hours per week to meet with their team and/or the instructor for small group drafting, review, and discussion of the document drafts.
Detailed Instructor Assessment and Feedback
An essential feature of the transactional practice capstone course model is frequent personal engagement with faculty to review their on-going course work, made possible by limiting enrollment to 16 students per section. Often these meetings involve line-by-line review of draft documents, requiring students to explain the legal or business issue their proposed language addresses and to justify the linguistic or substantive choices they have made. In one respect, the courses are designed to replicate the kind of hands-on, individualized training that experienced lawyers once may have provided their new colleagues but which the realities of modem law practice make infeasible. This detailed review of draft work product has proved to be the key to success in these courses.
The benefits of collaborative learning have long been known among educational theorists, but law students too often work alone and in isolation. The transactional practice capstone course model makes use of collaborative learning, placing students in teams to enhance learning through working together and to learn how to collaborate effectively with team members in a project-based setting.
Students work together in teams of three or four to solve problems, complete tasks, or learn new concepts. One virtue of this approach is that it requires students to work together just as practicing lawyers must do. Also, it actively engages students to process and synthesize information and concepts, rather than using rote memorization of information. Student lawyers work with each other on the course assignments projects, so they must collaborate as a group to understand the concepts being presented to them.
All South Texas students must take a course in Professional Responsibility as a requirement for graduation, but students also should learn how to recognize professional responsibility issues in the context of a business transactional law practice and how to address those issues in a practical and ethically appropriate way. Accordingly, each course problem contains at least one special issue implicating a lawyer’s professional obligations that students must recognize and develop a strategy for resolving.
Students who complete the requirements for the Transactional Law Practice Certificate will be able to:
- State and explain the basic legal concepts of fundamental subjects in business law and other business transactional-law-related subjects.
- Compose an objective analysis of the legal issues presented in a moderately complex business law context and to predict the likely legal resolution of each issue.
- Demonstrate basic legal writing skills essential to business transactional law practice.
- Draft the primary legal documents necessary to effectuate a representative business transaction.
- Collaborate effectively with team members in a project-based setting.
- Recognize the role of counsel to businesses, business owners, or business management and the professional ethical implications of representing the various parties to a transaction.