Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cultivating “Legal Imagination” Via Case Studies

I am writing this while on a break at the AALS Annual Meeting, having just attended the panel discussion organized by the AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs, and Unincorporated Associations: Effective Methods for Teaching LLCs and Unincorporated Business Arrangements.  The presentations were excellent, including one by BLPB co-blogger Anne Tucker.  Here are a couple of items I took from Robert Rhee’s presentation that I thought might be of interest to our readers:

1.  Robert J. Rhee, Case Study of the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch Merger

This is a case study of the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merger. It is based on the article, Fiduciary Exemption for Public Necessity: Shareholder Profit, Public Good, and the Hobson’s Choice during a National Crisis, 17 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 661 (2010). The case study analyzes the controversial events occurring between the merger signing and closing. It reviews in depth the circumstances under the federal government threatened to fire the board and management of Bank of America unless it consummated the Merrill Lynch acquisition. Among other issues, this case study raises the questions: (1) what is the role of a private firm during a public crisis? (2) what are the responsibilities of the board? (3) what is the role of government and how should it treat private firms? This case study can be used in corporate ethics classes in business schools, or business associations classes in law schools.

2.  Todd D. Rakoff, Martha Minow, A Case for Another Case Method, 60 Vand. L. Rev. 597, 602-03 (2007).

[W]hen we think of what students most need that they do not now get, we think: “legal imagination.” What they most crucially lack, in other words, is the ability to generate the multiple characterizations, multiple versions, multiple pathways, and multiple solutions, to which they could apply their very well honed analytic skills. And unless they acquire legal imagination somewhere other than in our appellate-case-method classrooms, they will be poorer lawyers than they should be.As a pedagogical matter, it seems to us that the place to start in creating these additional skills is the time frame by which materials are assigned. Appellate cases present the world as already structured in almost all dimensions, so that the few open issues can be decided crisply. Insofar as professors try to alter those frames, they must retrace steps that have already been taken. We need to start instead with a much more open-ended presentation of the world, and  walk onward. We need (if the language of the VCR is not already hopelessly out-of-date) to shift from “rewind” to “play.” (Indeed, since we want to start with raw data, we might even say we are advocating using a “facts-forward” mode.)

Business Associations, LLCs, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching | Permalink


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