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For 20 years, transactional lawyers looked on while their litigator colleagues brushed up on trial skills through New Jersey’s Inns of Court. Then, a group of lawyers decided to provide dealmakers their own nurturing learning environment. “We had all been talking about the absence of training for lawyers at junior levels, not just those one or two years out,” says H. Glenn Tucker, a partner with Newark, N.J.’s Greenberg Dauber Epstein & Tucker. “There is no such thing as a course in transactional law” in law school. “We felt there was a need for a type of ongoing education for transactional lawyers,” says Paul Murphy, a partner with Kalison McBride Jackson & Murphy in Liberty Corner. The Inn of Transactional Counsel that Murphy, Tucker and five others founded starts its third year of programs next month, with the stated mission “to promote excellence in law practice as it relates to matters that are transactional in nature, as well as professionalism and collegiality among its members.” The founders began planning the Inn in the spring of 2001 and held their first meeting in October. It was a low-key startup, drawing members by word of mouth and county bar mailings. Many younger members are from the founders’ firms. Others have been enticed by the chance to learn from mentors like Richard Sandler, of Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler, and Stephen Knee, of Newark’s Saiber, Schlesinger, Satz & Goldstein. The Inn now numbers 29 members from 22 law firms in Morris, Essex, Union and Somerset counties. It appears to be the first program of its type in the United States. Swing Harre, the director of chapter relations for the American Inns of Court, the umbrella body for the hundreds of Inns of Court that serve litigators throughout the country, says that though there are inns serving many specific areas of practice, she is not aware of another inn that serves transactional lawyers. Though not affiliated with the American Inns, the Inn of Transactional Counsel is modeled in many ways on its litigation counterparts. It shares the same tripartite structure, based on level of experience. Members with up to seven years’ experience are “associates,” with seven to 15 years are “solicitors” and the most senior, with 15 or more years, are “counselors.” For $200 per year, members get to attend 10 monthly dinner meetings. The format varies, from presentations by members and guest speakers to break-out sessions with interactive role-playing, says Murphy, the current president. Topics covered thus far include aspects of intellectual property and employment law involved in property transfers; commercial real estate negotiations; the drafting of stockholder agreements for corporations and operating agreements for limited liability companies; and representation of family businesses. During the next two years, the Inn will take a different, more structured tack, working through the various aspects of an asset acquisition agreement. Aristotle Mirzaian, who has been an associate member for two years, says the Inn has made a difference for him. More than once he has come into the office the next day and applied what he learned, impressing clients and partners, he says. He has also been able to consult more experienced members on particular issues by telephoning them or arriving a bit earlier at meetings. Mirzaian, an associate with Hackensack’s Harwood Lloyd, heard about the Inn from his wife, Jessica Tracy, an associate with Morristown’s Dillon, Bitar & Luther, also an Inn member. Solicitor Todd Schaper, vice president and general counsel for the Newark nonprofit Youth Consultation Services, says he joined the Inn while working at Kalison McBride as “a way to network with people who have a vast amount of experience.” Younger lawyers are not the only ones to benefit. “One of the things we’re most pleased about is the extent to which senior attorneys themselves are learning,” remarks Murphy. With stepped-up outreach generating increased interest, Murphy is wary of expanding to the point that the quality of the interaction is diluted. He anticipates spinning off a second Inn to avoid going above 35 members. Meanwhile, a new Inn of Transactional Counsel, with about 25 Bergen and Hudson County members, plans to hold its first meeting on Oct. 30, says Robert Kaye, a founder. His group is not formally affiliated with the Morris/Essex Inn, though Murphy and Tucker have been advising him, says Kaye, a partner with Chasan Leyner Bariso & Lamparello in Secaucus. The American Inns of Court number in the hundreds nationwide and include 22 chapters in New Jersey. Though geared to litigation, some focus on such specialized areas as employment law, family law, bankruptcy and workers’ compensation.

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