BYU Law understands the importance of creating hands-on learning opportunities for students early in their academic careers. For this purpose, BYU Law partnered with Kirkland & Ellis in New York City, to create an immersive, multi-day dealmaking program facilitating students through the process of mergers and acquisitions.
The Deals Academy, an innovative approach to teaching students the ins and outs of transactional law, began on April 26, 2019. Twelve first-year law students were selected from the applicants to spend two days engaged in deals simulations, where they received feedback and insight from experienced M&A lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis.
“This was a transformative experience for our students,” explained Professor William Clayton, who had previously worked as a corporate attorney in New York City before joining the BYU Law faculty in July 2018. “It demanded a lot of them. One day, they were sitting in a classroom in Provo learning the most basic principles of M&A, and 72 hours later they were on the 51st floor of an elite New York law firm negotiating complex deal provisions.”
Kelton Gardner, a participating student, was pleased to learn about the Deals Academy. During his first year at BYU Law he was sure he wanted to pursue a career in litigation; however, his interest was piqued by corporate law as he considered his interests and sales background. He began searching for opportunities to talk with M&A professionals, in addition to acquiring internships and work in the field. The Deals Academy was a perfect and timely learning opportunity.
“It was amazing to work with some of the best and the brightest in the world,” Gardner recounted on working with Kirkland & Ellis lawyers. “They explained what was going on at a high level in a very simple way.”
Learning from professionals and getting a feel for the dealmaking process was one of the Academy’s key objectives. Additionally, the program focused on providing students the opportunity to experience the work, social, and cultural lifestyles of young professionals living in New York City. BYU Law students were also extended the occasion to participate in informational interviews with other large law firms in the city.
Gardner interviewed with partners from international law firms White & Case and Ropes & Gray. They offered descriptions of the work environment in their firms and further insight on working in one of the greatest cities in the world. Interacting with other lawyers and partners from these prestigious law firms solidified Gardner’s desire to work in New York City in the future.
At the close of a whirlwind week the students returned to Provo with much more knowledge and experience than they could have gained in a classroom. Clayton said the students “left the Deals Academy with greater confidence in themselves and a loftier vision of what’s possible for their careers.”