PUBLISHED:December 12, 2013

New Wintersession course for 1Ls highlights role of corporate lawyers

A new Wintersession course will give first-year law students an overview of the way businesses are structured and regulated, and the lawyer’s role in advising clients and facilitating transactions.

The Counselor and the Client: The Corporate Context, a six-hour, half-credit course, is the first Wintersession course for 1Ls.  It will be taught by James Cox, the Brainerd Currie Professor of Law, a renowned corporate law scholar; Senior Lecturing Fellow Erika Buell, who has advised and worked inside start-ups and teaches in Duke’s Law and Entrepreneurship Program; and four lawyers who focus on domestic and cross-border transactions, mergers, antitrust, and corporate law at Hogan Lovells in Washington and New York.  All have close ties to Duke. 

“This Wintersession course offers a window into what a corporate lawyer does day-to-day,” said Dean David F. Levi.  “Getting this early exposure to transactional and corporate law may help guide students’ course selections in their second and third years of law school.  It also helps students imagine what kinds of things lawyers in different practice areas actually think about day to day.” 

Wintersession, the Law School’s annual session of short courses focused on professional skills training, will take place Jan. 4 through Jan. 8, 2014, prior to the start of the spring semester. New Wintersession offerings for upper year students focus on such matters as electronic discovery, Excel for lawyers, in-house investigations, and the intellectual property issues involved in video-game creation, among many others.  Cox will also teach his popular course, Basic of Accounting.  View a complete roster of Wintersession courses here; registration is open until midnight  Dec. 20 and takes place through ACES. (First year students can register for The Counselor and the Client after Dec. 20 by contacting Dean's Fellow Amanda Lacoff.)

The Counselor and the Client is scheduled around 1L Legal Analysis, Research and Writing classes that begin during Wintersession.

“One of the most important features of our legal system is the way in which we permit and foster group ownership and the aggregation of capital,” said Levi.  “Just as our new Foundations course attempts to help our 1L students understand developments in legal thought, and the overall context of the first-year curriculum, this mini-course is another attempt to help students get the bigger picture.”  

In the first two-hour class, Cox will give students a framework for corporate law, examining such topics as markets, securities, and methods of financing corporations and transactions.  In the second and third sessions, Buell will use the life cycle of a start-up entity to illustrate and apply some of the key concepts Cox raised, and the Hogan Lovells team will explain the role of attorneys at the different stages and how they might handle specific issues.  They also will offer students a glossary of terms relevant to corporate practice and the issues raised in the course.

Joanna Huang ’11, a Hogan Lovells associate, will teach the class along with partner William Curtin III T’92, counsel Derek Meilman ’02, and associate William Yavinsky T’05, all of whom focus on domestic and cross-border business transactions.  She recalled the two courses she took as a Wintersession student, on the work of corporate counsel and on creating a business entity, respectively.

“It was extremely helpful for me to learn about what practitioners actually did on a day-to-day basis,” said Huang, who focuses her practice on merger clearance and other matters related to antitrust, competition, and economic regulation.  “I thought it was such a brilliant idea to give students the option to take these real-world classes. They were fantastic.”  She hopes that she and her colleagues can be similarly helpful to current students by focusing on concepts and terms fundamental to corporate practice.

“We hope this course can help students figure out whether they are interested in corporate law, introduce them to some fundamental concepts, and share with them what it means to be or work with a corporate lawyer,” she said.  She admits, though, that it’s also a labor of love to be teaching at Duke.  “Obviously, the four of us love Duke.  We’re all excited to be coming back.  The Law School and its folks have had a significant impact on my life and my career.  That’s my motivation.”

Huang’s embrace of Wintersession as both a student and practitioner/instructor is emblematic of its overall success within the Duke Law community since it was established four years ago.  Many courses are oversubscribed and faculty and alumni are enthusiastically volunteering to design and teach classes on practical and innovative matters they would like new associates and colleagues to understand. 

“The support we have received from the faculty and our alumni and their firms and organizations has been remarkable,” said Levi.  “We are so grateful for their time in developing courses and sharing their expertise and insights with our students.  We couldn’t run this program without them.”