Monday, October 17, 2016

Research and Writing Question of the Day . . . .

Assume a state trial court issues an opinion in a particular case and the case is not appealed.  Should a legal scholar using the opinion to support or refute a key point (in the text of a written work) characterize the weight or status of the opinion (e.g., noting that it is a trial court opinion and that is has not been appealed)?  Justify your answer.

If the trial court at issue is the Delaware Chancery Court and the opinion addresses matters under the Delaware General Corporation Law, does that alter your answer?  Why?  Why not?

I am having fun considering these issues today in connection with my work on a symposium paper.  I have not yet decided how to handle the specific matter that raises the questions.  Accordingly, it seemed like a good idea at this juncture to share my questions and seek collaboration in answering them . . . .

October 17, 2016 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Writing | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, October 10, 2016

2017 National Business Law Scholars Conference (NBLSC): Call for Papers

National Business Law Scholars Conference (NBLSC)
Thursday & Friday, June 8-9, 2017

Call for Papers

The National Business Law Scholars Conference (NBLSC) will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 8-9, 2017, at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. 

This is the eighth meeting of the NBLSC, an annual conference that draws legal scholars from across the United States and around the world.  We welcome all scholarly submissions relating to business law. Junior scholars and those considering entering the legal academy are especially encouraged to participate. 

To submit a presentation, email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at with an abstract or paper by February 17, 2017.  Please title the email “NBLSC Submission – {Your Name}.”  If you would like to attend, but not present, email Professor Chaffee with an email entitled “NBLSC Attendance.”  Please specify in your email whether you are willing to serve as a moderator.  We will respond to submissions with notifications of acceptance shortly after the deadline. We anticipate the conference schedule will be circulated in May. 

Keynote Speaker:

Lynn A. Stout, Distinguished Professor of Corporate & Business Law, Cornell Law School

Plenary Author-Meets-Reader Panel:

Selling Hope, Selling Risk: Corporations, Wall Street, and the Dilemmas of Investor Protection by Donald C. Langevoort, Thomas Aquinas Reynolds Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School


Jill E. Fisch, Perry Golkin Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Steven Davidoff Solomon, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Hillary A. Sale, Walter D. Coles Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law

Conference Organizers:

Tony Casey (The University of Chicago Law School)
Eric C. Chaffee (The University of Toledo College of Law)
Steven Davidoff Solomon (University of California, Berkeley School of Law)
Joan Heminway (The University of Tennessee College of Law)
Kristin N. Johnson (Seton Hall University School of Law)
Elizabeth Pollman (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles)
Margaret V. Sachs (University of Georgia School of Law)
Jeff Schwartz (University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law)

Please save the date for NBLSC 2018, which will be held Thursday and Friday, June 21-22, at the University of Georgia School of Law

October 10, 2016 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 3, 2016

SLR Online - Salman v. United States: Changing the Course of Insider Trading Law?

The Stanford Law Review Online has just released a series of essays on Salman v. United States, scheduled for oral argument on Wednesday.  I plan to blog more about the Salman case as/if I can find time this week, but I wanted you to have this link right away--first thing this morning.  The essays are a veritable insider trading feast and are written by some of the most thoughtful scholars in the area: Jill Fisch, Don Langevoort, Jonathan Macey, Donna Nagy, and Adam Pritchard.  There's something in at least one of the essays for almost everyone out there.

October 3, 2016 in Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2016

More On Salman As The Date For Supreme Court Oral Argument Approaches . . . .

In recent weeks, co-bloggers Ann Lipton and Anne Tucker both have posted on issues relating to the upcoming Supreme Court oral argument in Salman v. U.S.  Indeed, this is an important case for the reason they each cite: resolution of the debate about whether the receipt of a personal benefit should be a condition to tippee liability for insider trading (under Section 10(b) of/Rule 10b-5 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended), when the tipper and tippee are close family members.  Certainly, many of us who teach and litigate insider trading cases will be watching the oral argument and waiting for the Court's opinion to see whether, and if so, how, the law evolves.

Having noted that common interest (as among many) in the Salman case, as I earlier indicated, I have a broader interest in the Salman case because of a current project I am working on relating to family relationships and friendships in insider trading--both as a matter of tipper-tippee liability (as in Salman) and as a matter of the duty of trust and confidence necessary to misappropriation liability.  The project was borne in part of a feeling that I had, based on reported investigations and cases I continued to encounter, that expert network and friends-and-family insider trading cases were two very common insider trading scenarios that implicate uncertain insider trading doctrine under U.S. law.

While I have been distracted by other things, my research assistant has begun to gather and reflect on the data we are assembling about publicly reported friends and family insider trading acting between 2000 and today.  Here are some preliminary outtakes that may be of interest based on the first 40 cases we have identified.

  • 16 of the cases involve friendships;
  • 7 cases involve marital relationships;
  • 7 cases involve romantic relationships outside marriage (e.g., lover, mistress, boyfriend); 
  • 5 cases involving siblings;
  • 3 cases involve a parent/child relationship; and
  • 3 cases on involve in-laws.

Those categories capture the vast majority of cases we have identified so far.  The cases represented in the list are primarily from 2011-2016.  Some cases involve more than one type of relationship.   So, the number of observations in the list above exceeds 40.

Another key observation is that most initial tippers in these cases are men.  Notable exceptions are SEC v. Hawk and SEC v. Chen, described in this 2014 internet case summary. Six cases found and analyzed to date involve female tippees.

Theories in the cases derive from both classical and misappropriation scenarios.  I will say more on that in a subsequent post.  For now, however, perhaps the most important take-away is that my intuition that there are many cases involving exchanges of material nonpublic information in family relationships and friendships appears to be solid.  Hopefully, the Court will help resolve unanswered questions about insider trading doctrine as applied in these cases, starting with the personal benefit question raised in Salman.

September 26, 2016 in Ann Lipton, Anne Tucker, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Crowdfunding and Creatives

This Friday, I will co-present on a continuing legal education panel on "The New Crowdfunding Laws for Private Investors & Other Ways to Legally Raise Money For Your Project" at the Americanafest--the Americana Music Festival and Conference.   The program description is set forth below.

There have been significant changes in federal and state laws related to soliciting investors through crowdfunding and other types of investment activities.  These new changes are designed to make certain types of investments easier and more accessible to people and businesses who seek investors for their projects. This panel will discuss those new laws and strategies of how to seek small to moderate size investments under today’s federal and state law. The panel will also discuss “dos” and “don’ts” for those seeking out investors and what to look for when offered an investment opportunity.

I love cultivating this ground, even if I have done much of it in the past with different audiences.  I will prepare some specialized information relating to financing music and other creative projects, for example, for this program.  I also plan to discuss important traps for the unwary.

What I really want to know is: what else might folks working with and in the music industry (or with other artistic and creative business venturers) want to know?  I have some ideas based on my research on crowdfunding to date.  But send me your ideas . . . .  No doubt, a whole new discussion may be generated from audience questions.  But I would love to be as prepared as possible.

September 19, 2016 in Conferences, Crowdfunding, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, September 12, 2016

[Over]confidence in the C-Suite, Politics, and the Employment Interview Process

Interesting research has been done on overconfidence in business leadership (see, e.g., herehere, and here) and political behavior (see, e.g., here and here).  I periodically consult the literature in this area for use in my work.  It is fascinating and often helpful.

In my continuing career development advice to law students, and as a member of our faculty appointments committee at UT Law this year, however, I recently have come to notice and be concerned about overconfidence in job searches.  Specifically, I see law students who, in testing out a new confidence in their knowledge and skills, overdo it a bit and over-claim or come across as unduly self-important.  I also see faculty candidates who have registered for the Association of American Law Schools Faculty Appointments Register (FAR) puff and oversell--using the comment areas to make cringe-worthy self-aggrandizing statements about their teaching or scholarly background or abilities.

Most of us prefer to associate with confident people.  Confidence in a leader or colleague is an attractive trait--one that we associate with strong governance and high levels of performance.  Confidence wins appointments, elections, and jobs.  Yet overconfidence, if recognized, is unattractive and often means lost opportunities.

Overconfidence is common.  Don Moore, a faculty member at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, notes this in a recent blog post on Overconfidence in Politics.

I study overconfidence among all sorts of people, from business leaders and politicians to college students and office workers. And my research shows that most people are vulnerable to overconfidence. We are excessively confident that we know the truth and have correctly seen the right path forward to prosperity, economic growth and moral standing. Research results consistently show that people express far more faith in the quality of their judgment than it actually warrants. . . .

How do those of us who advise law students enable them to be confident and show confidence without becoming overconfident--or projecting overconfidence?  In his post on résumés and interviews two years ago, co-blogger Haskell Murray advised students to avoid overstating their accomplishments.

Lawyers, perhaps more than other professionals, will call you out on any overstated items on your resume. While I have met plenty of arrogant lawyers, and perhaps was one, arrogance isn’t going to win you many supporters in the interview. Avoid vague self-congratulations (e.g., “provided excellent customer service.”). Stick to the specific, verifiable facts (e.g., “voted employee of the month in April 2012” or “responsible for a 35% increase in revenue from my clients.”).

I totally agree.  I also made a related point regarding the written word in my post on cover letters back in January.

. . . I see a significant number of cover letters that use strident adjectives and adverbs to help make their points. The sentences in these letters tend to smack of over-claiming. Also, in many cases, these adjectives and adverbs represent poor substitutes for well-chosen . . . stories. Most employers are likely to be more favorably disposed to the documentation of specific facts substantiating an applicant's suitability for an open position than they would be to sentences consisting of self-selected (and sometimes over-blown) characterizations of the applicant's suitability for that position.

But I have learned that the line between confidence and overconfidence, as important as it is in the job search process, can be a thin one.  And decisions about how to confidently--but not overconfidently--communicate with contacts, mentors, and prospective employers (among others) often must be made on one's own and quickly.  So, my bottom line advice to students is to focus generally in all communications, oral and written, on being other-regarding.  This article written by a Forbes Contributor makes some great observations and offers tips along those lines.  And if you can ask a trusted mentor to help you prepare for common questions or review the text of emails or letters, that's great.  

What else?  You tell me.  I am not confident that I know more . . . .  :>)

September 12, 2016 in Behavioral Economics, Joan Heminway, Jobs, Psychology | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Nifty Student Question Regarding Career Communications By Email

As many of you already know, I regularly advise students (as so many of us do) on career planning and job searches.  This advice extends to communications in connection with career planning and job searches.  And I have blogged about all this.  I have posted in the past, for example, on networking letters (my post is here) and cover letters, for example (my most recent post is here). 

Yesterday, I got an email message from a student with a great question related to all this.  Here is the question: "What would you recommend as the subject line of an email to a contact you have been referred to by someone else?"  Nice.  Here's what I ended up writing back, in pertinent part.

 . . . Email titles are tricky.

The first thing I would do is ask if the person making the connection can e-introduce you with an email message and copy you in.  I have done that many times.  My script usually goes something like this:

[X], e-meet [Y].  As I explained to you earlier today, [Y] is the [title & affiliation].

[Y], [X] is a [year] at UT Law who is considering [career goal].  [X] is especially interested in working with [specific practice interest].  S/he has M/W/F time free in her/his academic schedule this fall, and she/he would love to find a targeted internship involving all or part of that time.  I thought you might be able to help me identify opportunities for [X}.  So, I offered to introduce you to each other by email in the hopes that you could help [X] find something suitable.

[Y], I know that you are always busy.  If this request is unduly burdensome, I fully understand.  Just let us know.  But if you have a little bit of time to make some suggestions to me and [X] on this, I hope that you will do so.

Best to all,

Joan Heminway

If that doesn't work, we're back to you sending the email on your own.  You may want to ask the person who gave you the connection if it's OK to copy him or her on the message you send, btw.  I think that adds credibility and can have other advantages, too.

As with many things, the answer to your question about recommended email subject lines is "it depends."  More specifically, it depends on the precise content, the context, and your style.  Sometimes, and this is consistent with my style, I will entitle an email like this--one to a stranger with whom I have some affinity--by referring to this affinity relationship in some way.  So, if the person is, e.g., an alum of UT Law, I might entitle the message: "Greetings from the UT College of Law."  If the only affinity is the mutual friendship, a similar approach might lead to a title like:  "E-introduction with Regards from Joan Heminway."

Do those kinds of suggestions resonate with you?  Let me know.  We can consider this the start of a conversation . . . .

I am not wholly satisfied with this response.  The first suggested subject line may be too generic (even though I have used it in the past) and the second sounds a bit formal for most students.  Maybe the second one is better cast this way: "E-introduction (and Warm Regards from Joan Heminway)."  At any rate, your ideas are most welcomed.  As I noted in my response to the student, I think this is an ongoing conversation . . . .

September 9, 2016 in Joan Heminway, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Private Ordering in the Uncorporation: Modified and Eliminated Fiduciary Duties Are Often the Same Thing

What does it mean to opt out of fiduciary duties?  In follow-up to my co-blogger Joan Heminway's post, Limited Partnership Law: Should Tennessee Follow Delaware's Lead On Fiduciary Duty Private Ordering?, I will go a step further and say all states should follow Delaware's lead on private ordering for non-publicly traded unincorporated business associations. 

Here's why:  At formation, I think all duties between promoters of an unincorporated business association (i.e., not a corporation) are always, to some degree, defined at formation. This is different than the majority of other agency relationships where the expectations of the relationship are more ingrained and less negotiated (think employee-employer relationship).  

As such, I'd make fiduciary duties a fundamental right by statute that can be dropped (expressly) by those forming the entity.  I'd put an additional limit on the ability to drop fiduciary duties: the duties can only be dropped after formation if expressly stated in formation documents (or agreed unanimously later). That is, if you didn't opt out at formation, tell all those who could potentially join the entity how you can change fiduciary duties later. This helps limit some (though not all) freeze-out options, and I think it would encourage investors to check the entity documents closely (as they should).

At formation, the concerns we might have of, for example, an employee without fiduciary duties, are not the same as they are for co-venturers. Those starting an entity have long negotiated what is a breach of the duty of loyalty, for example.  In contrast, I think fiduciary duties in most employer-employee (and similar) relationships reflect the majoritarian default and they facilitate the relationship existing at all. For LLCs and partnership entities, I think that's less clear. Entity formation is relatively rare compared to how often we enter other agency relationships, and they almost always involve significant negotiation (if not planning).  And if they don't, the rules we expect traditionally should be the default. But where the parties talk about it, and they usually do, allowing a more robust sense of freedom of contract has value.  

Even in Delaware, where one can negotiate out of fiduciary duties, there remains the duty of good faith and fair dealing. I think of that as meaning that the parties still have a right to the essence of the contract.  That is, the contract has to mean something.  It has to have had a purpose and potential value at formation, and no party can eliminate that.  But, the parties only have a right to what was bargained for.  As such, what we might traditionally consider a breach of the duty of loyalty could also breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing, but a traditional breach of the duty of loyalty might not be sufficient to find liability where there is expressly no duty of loyalty. Instead, the act must so contradict the purpose of the contract that it rises to the level of a breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing. 

Part of the reason I support this option is that I think case law has already validated it, but in such an inartful manner that it confuses existing doctrine. See, e.g.McConnell v. Hunt Sports Enterprises132 Ohio App. 3d 657, 725 N.E.2d 1193 (Ct. App. 1999) (“An LLC, like a partnership, involves a fiduciary relationship. Normally, the presence of such a relationship would preclude direct competition between members of the company. However, here we have an operating agreement that by its very terms allows members to compete with the business of the company.”).

In closing, I will note that I am all for express provisions that require investors to pay attention at the outset. I don't believe in helping cheaters hide the ball. I just think law that encourages investors and others joining new ventures to pay attention is useful and will provide long-term value to entities.  I don't think that eliminated fiduciary duties at formation raise any more of a risk than we already have with limited or modified fiduciary duties at formation. With the more limited protections described above, freedom of contract should reign. 

September 6, 2016 in Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway, Joshua P. Fershee, Legislation, LLCs, Negotiation, Partnership, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Limited Partnership Law: Should Tennessee Follow Delaware's Lead On Fiduciary Duty Private Ordering?

I originally was going to write about overconfidence today.  But I will reserve that post for a later date.  Instead, for today, I am sharing with you a Tennessee legislative drafting issue on which my voice (together with the voices of others) has been solicited and asking for your views and comments.

A committee of the Tennessee Bar Association has been working on proposed revisions to the Tennessee Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act.  Several thorny issues remain for consideration and final decision making, among them, whether Tennessee law, like Delaware limited partnership and limited liability company law, should allow for the elimination of general partner fiduciary duties.  The committee soon will be voting on this issue, and we are circulating among us our current views (having earlier debated the matter in telephone conference calls).  I took a shot at writing down my views for the group and circulated them last night.  I am including the main substantive part of what I wrote here, minus some typos that I caught after the message was sent (and please forgive the disfluencies in places), and requesting comments from you:

Continue reading

September 5, 2016 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Legislation, Partnership | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Toast To Laborers On Labor Day

Although I knew that Labor Day was a creation of the labor movement (about which I have mixed views), I had never looked up the history of the holiday in the United States.  The Department of Labor, unsurprisingly, has a nifty, short webpage with some nice historical facts.  Among them: the holiday has roots back into the 1880s and was originally a municipal creation, then became a state holiday in a number of states before Congress approved the holiday in 1894.  The brief history on the webpage concludes with the following paragraph:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Great stuff.  

Labor and employment lawyers have focused commentary over the past week on legal matters relating to their spheres of influence in acknowledging Labor Day.  Proskauer partner Mark Theodore posted a piece on a pair of recent NLRB decisions, and a union commentator, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, posted an advocacy piece promoting proposed federal legislation--the Employee Rights Act (which, according to the article, is "legislation which would protect employees from out-of-touch union bosses.").  

All of this may be of interest to business lawyers.  Or it may not.  But tomorrow, I will honor the holiday by working--at least for part of the day.  And that does seem, somehow, fitting . . . .

September 4, 2016 in Employment Law, Joan Heminway, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016

First time this has happened in 16+ years of law teaching . . . .

Imagine this: Professor walks into Business Associations class Monday morning at 8:00 am having prepared to cover 14 pages of reading when she assigned only three (intending, when creating the syllabus, as she later recalled, to use the time to summarize, contrast, and compare agency law rules that will again come into play in partnership and other entity law--and to catch up, if need be).  OK.  The professor is me.  First lesson (which I thought I had learned many moons ago): always double-check the syllabus on what you've assigned.
So, what happened in class?  Well, the students didn't let on that the outline for the class plan that I scripted out on the whiteboard seemed to go beyond the reading.  But they might not have recognized that, since it was only an outline.  However, once I started covering the unassigned material, someone did alert me to my error.  Shocked (!), I told them that I had been too nice (weak response) and that--obviously--I had not checked the syllabus to confirm the day's reading assignment before scripting out the class plan and preparing for class.
I didn't then let the students go after learning of the mistake (having covered in summary fashion those three pages in about 15 minutes of class time). Instead, I constructed a hypothetical set of facts relating to a business conducted as a sole proprietorship from the facts of the partnership case on the syllabus for Wednesday (which I had prepared to cover for today) and asked the students to analyze contract and tort liability based on the hypothetical using the agency law rules we covered over the past four classes.  Detriment: people weren't prepared for this based on the prompts in the syllabus for today's class, and it took a while (and a board diagram) to establish the facts of the hypothetical with some (albeit far-from-perfect) clarity.  Benefit: many students learned that they don't yet know/understand agency law, and I got the opportunity to give the students a few pointers on how partnership law will be different from agency law.
Did I make the right choice?  I am following up with a post on the course TWEN site to capture the agency law rules we covered in class (to which the students did not have many salient citations).  What else can I do to take this lemon and turn it into lemonade?  All suggestions are welcomed.

August 29, 2016 in Agency, Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Partnership, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Bit More Title III Crowdfunding Data . . . .

We are now more than three months into the Title III crowdfunding experiment.  I have been wanting to get back to posting on Title III crowdfunding since my "LIVE" post back in May, but so much other fun stuff has been going on!  So, to make me feel a bit better on that point, I will share some current crowdfunding data with you all in this post based on publicly available information obtained from a Westlaw search performed yesterday (Sunday, August 21, 2016).  [Note to the powers that be at the SEC:  EDGAR makes it hard to find the aggregated set of Form C filings unless you are collecting data on an ongoing basis.  I hope that changes as EDGAR continues to improve . . . .]  

At the outset, I will note that others have offered their own reports on Title III crowdfunding since I last posted (including here, here, and here).  These reports offer some nice summaries.  This post offers a less comprehensive data dump focusing in on completed offerings and withdrawn offerings.  At the end, I offer some limited observations from the information provided here about crowdfunding as a small-business capital-raising alternative, the need for EDGAR adjustments, inferences about the success of Title III crowdfunded offerings, and platform disclosure about withdrawn offerings.

First, however, the top-level Westlaw-based summary:

Total Form C filings: 85 (275 filings show on Westlaw, but only 85 are non-exhibit filings representing distinct offerings)
Total Form C/A filings (amendments, including exhibit filings): 153
Total Form C-U filings (updates): 4
Total Form C-W filings (withdrawals): 2

The remainder of this post takes a shallow dive into the updates and withdrawals.  Filings in each case are presented in reverse chronological order by filing date.  All referenced dates are in 2016.  Issuer names are copied from filings and may not be the actual legal names of the entities.

Continue reading

August 22, 2016 in Corporate Finance, Crowdfunding, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Do Clothes Make the Lawyer? Maybe They Do . . . .

As many of you know, I often like to post on issues relating to advising students (witness my cover letter posts, the most recent of which can be found here).  I also like to post from time to time on issues relating to fashion and the law (e.g., this post).  And sometimes, I fuse the two in a single post.  This post is one of those fusion posts.

Many of us intuitively understand that clothing affects not only the perceptions others have of us but also the perceptions we have of ourselves.  Some of us may even have done research to unearth evidence that these intuitions have some empirical traction.  But can what you wear affect your performance?  Research provides some evidence that it can.

Researchers at Northwestern University have identified a "systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes" that they term "unclothed cognition."  Their research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2012, found that the attentiveness of the subjects was higher when wearing a lab coat than it was when they were not wearing a lab coat or were wearing a lab coat described as a painter's coat. The research was fairly widely reported at the time.  Although the study explored the effects of wearing a lab coat, one can see how the results may also hold for people wearing other performance-linked clothing, like athletic wear or other professional clothing, including business suits.  (A subsequent study on the cognitive effects of business suits can be found here.  More general commentary is available here and elsewhere.)

Admittedly, the results of these studies and others like them are qualified and the research in this field is at an early stage.  Having said that, as our students start interviewing for jobs and engaging in clinical practice and other experiential learning in the new semester, the possible effect of clothing on performance may be a relevant footnote for them.  I admit that I am not a fan of dress codes, as a general rule.  However, I may mention these studies to my students so that they can use the information in their decision-making, if they so choose.

August 15, 2016 in Joan Heminway, Jobs, Psychology | Permalink | Comments (10)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

SEALS 2016 Business Law Wrap-Up (And Then Some)

Today marked the end of the 2016 conference of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS).  My discussion session on small business finance capped off the Workshop on Business Law, a series of business law programs at the conference, and closed out the conference itself just after Noon.  It was great to share programs, at various points in the conference, with co-bloggers Josh Fershee, Ann Lipton, Haskell Murray, and Marcia Narine.

Here is a list of the three business law programs in the Workshop on Business Law from this year's conference:

  • Discussion Group: Sustainability & Sustainable Business
  • Discussion Group: Perspectives on the Future of White-Collar Crime
  • Discussion Group: The Legal Aspects of Small Business Finance in the Crowdfunding Era

Other business law programs included several of the new scholar paper panels, the annual "Supreme Court Update" on "Business, Administrative, Securities, Tax, and Employment Issues," a discussion group focusing on "Big Data: Big Opportunities in Business and Government, and Big Challenges in Law and Ethics," and a discussion group in the SEALS "Works-in-Progress Series" that featured papers by veteran scholars on topics ranging from international food labeling regulation, to self-interest in financial regulation, to developing a better understanding of informational intermediaries in financial transactions, to the domestic and international regulation of non-financial disclosures.

I admit to jubilant exhaustion.  As an organizer of SEALS programming, the week is always a bit of a marathon for me.  But the effort is worth it.  When I first came to the SEALS conference back in 2002, there was no organized business law programming.  I am glad that a number of us working together ensure each year that the conference features robust, timely programming for business law teachers and scholars.

And that reminds me to mention two more things.  

First, SEALS also is a great place to pick up new teaching and curricular ideas.  This year's conference was no exception.  I participated in a discussion session on "Strategies for Designing and Integrating Transactional Simulation Capstone Courses into the Curriculum" that covered a variety of different approaches to synthesis courses in the curriculum.  I also moderated an engaging session on "Law School Specialization and Certification Programs."

Second, if you have ideas for programs for the 2017 conference, please let me know.  Better yet, submit the program yourself through the SEALS website submission platform.  Make sure if it is a business law session that you designate it for inclusion in the Workshop on Business Law.

I head back to Knoxville tomorrow morning to prepare for the new semester, which begins next week.  No doubt some of you already are in the classroom and others will not be there for a week or more yet.  Regardless, I wish you all well.  I am happy to be recharged with new ideas from the SEALS conference--ideas that are a great stimulus to a productive semester and year.  I hope you also find something to motivate and inspire you.

August 9, 2016 in Conferences, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Value of Scholarship "Extras"

I was recently invited to write a short piece on crowdfunding and investor protection for a special issue of one of the publications of the CESifo Group Munich, the CESifo DICE Report--"a quarterly, English-language journal featuring articles on institutional regulations and economic policy measures that offer country comparative analyses."  The group of authors for this publication (present company excluded) was truly impressive, and I have enjoyed reading their submissions.  My contribution is published here on the CESifo website and here on SSRN, for those who care to look it over.  

I did not hesitate to accept the CESifo Group's invitation to publish this paper, even though it is not primary scholarship and the deadline was tight for me given other professional obligations.  (The editors did allow me to negotiate a bit on the timing, however.)  The purpose of my post today is to explain why I decided to take this opportunity.  With the limited time that we all have to produce research papers, why would I invest in this kind of an "extra" publication--one that is not likely to get me full scholarly credit (whatever that may mean) in a critical assessment of my body of work?  Here are four reasons why I value this kind of project (if I can fit it in with my primary professional obligations).

  1. A publication with an interdisciplinary international research group puts a scholar's name and pre-existing scholarship (some of which typically is cited in the piece) in front of a new audience.
  2. A short, summary research paper of this kind offers the opportunity to synthesize or re-synthesize ideas from prior research and writing--a skill that (in my experience) improves with practice and is useful in other writing as well as in teaching.
  3. The reductive, focused writing process may reveal fresh insights, and these may lead to new research, writing, or teaching.
  4. Leveraging prior research by using it for multiple, distinct projects is efficient--and smart.

You may or may not agree with these reasons.  You may have other reasons for publishing this kind of work--or reasons for not doing so.  I invite you to add them in the comments.  And if you are untenured, not yet fully promoted, or otherwise subject to adverse employment action relating to scholarship activity, you'll likely want to check with your dean and trusted senior members of your faculty (including any associate dean for faculty development) before accepting a publication invitation of this kind.  Each institution honors these "extra" publications differently . . . . 

August 1, 2016 in Corporate Finance, Crowdfunding, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Direct v. Derivative under the Tennessee Business Corporation Act

In a recent decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Keller v. Estate of Edward Stephen McRedmond, Tennessee adopted Delaware's direct-versus-derivative litigation analysis from Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette, Inc., 845 A.2d 1031 (Del. 2004), displacing a previously applicable test (that from Hadden v. City of Gatlinburg, 746 S.W.2d 687 (Tenn. 1988)).  Although this is certainly significant, I also find the case interesting as an example of the way that a court treats different types of claims that can arise in typical corporate governance controversies (especially in small family and other closely held businesses).  This post covers both matters briefly.

The Keller case involves a family business eventually organized as a for-profit corporation under Tennessee law ("MBI").  As is so often the case, after the children take over the business, a schism develops in the family that results in a deadlock under a pre-existing shareholders' agreement.  A court-ordered dissolution follows, and after a bidding process in which each warring side of the family bids, the trustee contracts to sell the assets of MBI to members of one of the two family factions as the higher bidder.  These acquiring family members organize their own corporation to hold the transferred MBI assets ("New MBI") and assign their rights under the MBI asset purchase agreement to New MBI

Prior to the closing, the losing bidder family member, Louie, then an officer and director of MBI who ran part of its business (its grease business), solicited customers and employees, starved the MBI grease business, diverted business opportunities from MBI's grease business to a corporation he already had established (on the MBI property) to compete with MBI in that business sector, and engaged in other behavior disloyal to MBI.  Louie's actions were alleged to have contravened a court order enforcing covenants in the MBI asset purchase agreement. They also were allegedly disloyal and constituted a breach of his fiduciary duty of loyalty to MBI.  Finally, they constituted an alleged interference with New MBI's business relations.  

Continue reading

July 25, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thank You Letters

Following on Joan's excellent post about networking letters, I wanted to share a few words about thank you letters.

Attorney Kyle Westaway organizes "thank yous" into four levels:

  • Level 1 — Email saying thanks for the time and insight.
  • Level 2 — Level 1 + this is how your insight impacted my life.
  • Level 3 — Handwritten thank you note.
  • Level 4 — Level 3 + a small gift.

This seems right, and Kyle's entire post is well worth reading at the link above.

A mere thank you e-mail usually isn't worth much, but it is better than nothing (unless the thank you is typo-riddled, and then it might be worse than nothing). The e-mail is worth more if the author recounts meaningful specifics from your conversation or picks up on a way that he/she might be of assistance.

The handwritten note has made a comeback after interviews, but I don't think it has had the same resurgence after networking/advice meetings. This is a shame because generally the interviewer is just doing his or her job, while the person who is honoring your networking/advice request is usually the one bestowing a true gift. Due to the relative rarity, I think handwritten notes are even more appreciated after a networking/advice meeting than after an interview. For handwritten notes, I think it is worth investing in personalized stationery and trying to remember to send the notes right away so that the delay is not elongated.  

As to small gifts, those obviously would not be appropriate after an interview, but might be a really nice touch after a networking/advice meeting. If any readers have good thoughts on appropriate small gifts, please share in the comments or over email. I have always had a hard time thinking of these kinds of gifts. Wine seems like a common choice, but it could be risky unless you know the person drinks alcohol.

Finally, this recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Stop Making Gratitude All About You struck a chord. The author suggests praising the recipient rather than just describing how the recipient benefited you or made you felt. Of course, praise should be sincere and can be overdone, but I think the author is onto something.

July 22, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Central States Law Schools Association Conference: Registration is Open!

Registration is now open for the Central States Law Schools Association 2016 Scholarship Conference, which will be held on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24 at the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, ND. We invite law faculty from across the country to submit proposals to present papers or works in progress.

CSLSA is an organization of law schools dedicated to providing a forum for conversation and collaboration among law school academics. The CSLSA Annual Conference is an opportunity for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work. Scholars from member and nonmember schools are invited to attend.

Please click here to register. The deadline for registration is September 2, 2016.

Hotel rooms are now available for pre-booking. The conference hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn in Grand Forks. The hotel phone number is (701) 775-6000. When booking, identify yourself as part of the “UND School of Law” block to receive a daily rate of $89. Please note that conference participants are responsible for all of their own travel expenses including hotel accommodations.

For more information about CSLSA and the 2016 Annual Conference please subscribe to our blog.

We look forward to seeing you in Grand Forks!


The 2016 CSLSA Board
For more information about CSLSA, visit our website at or contact a board member.

July 19, 2016 in Conferences, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Networking Letter: Sibling of the Job-Seeking Cover Letter

As an adjunct to my posts (here and here) on law placement cover letters, I commend to you this blog post on networking letters, correspondence that seeks to establish a career or job-related connection--maybe even a longer-term relationship--rather than apply for a specific position.  Truth be told, in some form or another, four of the five tips in the post also apply to job-seeking cover letters.  The outlier?  Tip #2: "Don't ask for an interview or a job."

My take on the relevance of the other four tips for job placement cover letters is as follows:

  1. Respect your reader's time.  Always a good idea when you are asking for anything.  Do not demand.  Ask graciously.  But also be careful not to fall over yourself in being respectful.  It's just not attractive.  It's usually sufficient to use a pair of sentences like these after making an "ask" to show your respect:  "I know that you have a busy schedule.  Accordingly, if this request is unduly burdensome, please just let me know."
  2. Sell your strengths.  This is important and seems obvious.  But folks still miss this prompt!  Why would someone want to meet with a person they don't know well or at all unless the person was interesting to them in some respect?  As readers may recall, I recommend using the PAR method in sharing professional and personal strengths--using a short, pointed narrative, rather than merely describing knowledge, experience, or skills with adjectives and adverbs.
  3. Consider the timing of your letter.  I just had a request from a student on this very issue--when to get back in touch with folks he had positive connections with last year who asked him to "stay in touch" about his permanent job search.  These questions (as to timing) are highly contextual and can be tough to navigate.  I recommend consulting with multiple people to get their views about particularly sticky timing questions.  For example, with respect to my student, the timing of/participation of the firms in on-campus interviews plays a role.  So, I recommended that he also consult with folks in our Career Services office.
  4. Stick to it.  The advice the blog post author (Miriam Salpeter) gives here is dead-on right.  Key sentence: "You don't want to stalk the person, but it's okay to touch base a few times before you consider the door closed."  Again, I advise using advisors from various "walks" to help determine what crosses the line.  It's very important to those consultations that the letter writer keep accurate and complete records of contacts with the proposed letter recipient and others in the same workplace that can be shared with the consultants so that they can best advise. 

As another interview season is on the horizon (although interviewing never seems to stop these days, does it?), some of this advice may come in handy for folks soon.  I also recommend in this regard, btw, Haskell Murray's great post on resumes and interviews.  I cite to it in my initial cover letter post, but I want to note its value again here.

Thanks to Jim Levy for this post on the Legal Skills Prof Blog that alerted me to the networking letter piece.

July 18, 2016 in Joan Heminway, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Innovative Teaching in Bankruptcy and Reorganizations

OK.  I know it's not yet quite time to panic about syllabi and such for the fall semester.  But that first day of class does approach, and I know some of you out there have already given some thought to innovating your teaching for the fall.  Maybe you're new to teaching or teaching a new (or new-to-you) course.  Maybe you're trying to spice up or change the direction of a course you've taught for a while.  Maybe this post will give you some new food for thought . . . .

For a number of years, my colleague George Kuney, the Director of the business law center at UT Law, has asked students to invest in a particular Chapter 11 bankruptcy case as a capstone experience in his Bankruptcy and Reorganizations course.  The students, working in pairs or small groups,  are required to review all of the documents in the case docket and provide summaries that integrate those filings with learning from the course and supplemental research.  George makes the resulting case studies available to the public.  The cumulation of case studies created by students in this course has gotten quite impressive over the years.  And the case studies get significant readership.

I often have said that it's hard for a law student to identify gaps in knowledge unless the student undertakes to write or speak about the law.  George's exercise offers students the opportunity to both write and speak about the law in a practical setting.  The final work product is a joint writing, but along the way, the students engage verbally to discuss between or among themselves what to present and how to present it in the final case study.

The project also helps students to see the immediate relevance of the law they are learning to find and apply in the course.  Someone out there is using that law right now in a context that requires issue and rule identification and legal analysis and judgment.  The students review and assess the decisions and actions of legal counsel and their clients real-time--just as the news media is reporting on those decisions and actions, in some cases.  Wow.

I see a lot of value in this method of teaching.  I am playing around with changing my Securities Regulation course (which next will be offered in the spring) to incorporate a smaller-scale version of an exercise like this.  It may take me a while to come up with something that works, but I am going to give it a go.  Let me know if you've used a project like this in any of your classes.  I would be curious to know what folks are doing in this regard.

July 11, 2016 in Bankruptcy/Reorganizations, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)