It started in 2009 with a first-of-its kind transactional law competition in which small teams of law students competed to negotiate the best deals for fictional clients.
The meet was popular enough that its creator, Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law professor Karl Okamoto, took the idea a step further in 2011 by launching LawMeets, a free website that presents law students with transactional simulations. The students are presented with a business scenario and then submit videos in which they offer legal advice. The videos are rated by their peers and the best are evaluated by experts, who offer video feedback for all participants to view.
With a fresh grant of $500,000 from the National Science Foundation, LawMeets in October will expand its offerings with the first in a series of free online courses that combine lectures and simulations exploring the finer points of transactional law.
Okamoto hopes the LawMeets programs will help to fill a curricular void at law schools, where many business law courses focus on legal doctrine and precedents rather than the nuts-and-bolts of deals.
"Very few of these courses talk about how to get a deal done," Okamoto said. "Even in most business organizations classes, there's limited discussion on how to form an LLC and draft an operating agreement."
The first LawMeets course, the Basics of Acquisition Agreements, will last for two weeks -- from October 23 to November 7. The course is what is known as a MOOC -- massive open online course, a technology that law schools are only beginning to experiment with.
The course will include four video lectures, four interactive simulations and two panel discussions moderated by LawMeets faculty and transactional lawyers. Participants may view the lectures online at their own convenience, although there are cutoff dates for the student video submissions.
The lectures will be delivered by Okamoto; DLA Piper partner Jay Finkelstein; University of California, Davis School of Law professor Afra Afsharipour; and Cornell Law School professor Charles Whitehead.
Sixty participants have already signed up for the inaugural class in the few days since it was announced, some as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia. Okamoto hopes that 500 students participate, but the online platform can support thousands of users, he said.
Individual students can participate, but Okamoto hopes that law professors will incorporate its mini-courses into their own classes.