Friday, February 5, 2016
I have been on the road a good bit over the past few months. Like Stephen Bainbridge, I greatly prefer driving to flying. On these road trips, I have noticed an increasing number of billboard advertisements for universities (my university included).
When I was in high school, I cannot remember any respectable 4-year universities or graduate schools using billboards to advertise. Maybe they did, and I just did not notice; but I do remember for-profit and community colleges using them. Today, however, I have seen billboard advertisements for schools ranked as high as the top-25 universities in the country, not to mention many solid public (including state flagship) and private universities. The Ivy League schools and their chief competitors seem to still be avoiding billboards, though even some them resort to billboards for their executive programs. (The for-profit schools still use billboards, but have also moved on to things like buying stadium naming rights).
I do wonder what accounts for the shift towards university billboard advertising, if there has been a shift. I also wonder about the costs and benefits of billboard advertising for universities. And I wonder about the comparative costs and benefits of alternative marketing.
Super Bowl ads – costing a record high $5 million for a 30-second spot – are likely a much more significant investment than your average billboard ad, but I imagine most companies that are advertising during the Super Bowl have decided that the costs outweigh the benefits. A few years ago, however, Pepsi decided to withdraw from the Super Bowl advertising frenzy for the first time in 23 years. Instead, Pepsi made more than $20 million in local grants, in the amount of $5,000 to $250,000 each. The local grants included things like buying uniforms for a high school's band. I imagine the local grants were powerful, relatively narrow in impact, and perhaps difficult to tie directly to sales. This year, it looks like Pepsi is back advertising during the Super Bowl where the advertising is much broader, if shallower. (Hat tip to the Coursera and University of Illinois digital marketing course for the link to the Pepsi story).
So maybe the decision for universities to use billboards is similar to the decision of multinational corporations to advertise during the Super Bowl: the ad might not be as personally powerful as something more individualized like local grants, but the ad will reach many more people. While I think the broader reach makes some sense, I do wonder if that will continue to hold true with social media; I imagine some of Pepsi’s local grants, for example, could “go viral” when shared on social media and could possibly rival the reach of a Super Bowl ad.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
For the past four weeks I have been experimenting with a new class called Transnational Business and Human Rights. My students include law students, graduate students, journalists, and accountants. Only half have taken a business class and the other half have never taken a human rights class. This is a challenge, albeit, a fun one. During our first week, we discussed CSR, starting off with Milton Friedman. We then used a business school case study from Copenhagen and the students acted as the public relations executive for a Danish company that learned that its medical product was being used in the death penalty cocktail in the United States. This required students to consider the company’s corporate responsibility profile and commitments and provide advice to the CEO based on a number of factors that many hadn’t considered- the role of investors, consumer reactions, the pressure from NGOs, and the potential effect on the stock price for the Danish company based on its decisions. During the first three weeks the students have focused on the corporate perspective learning the language of the supply chain and enterprise risk management world.
This week they are playing the role of the state and critiquing and developing the National Action Plans that require states to develop incentives and penalties for corporations to minimize human rights impacts. Examining the NAPs, dictated by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, requires students to think through the consultation process that countries, including the United States, undertake with a number of stakeholders such as unions, academics, NGOs and businesses. To many of those in the human rights LLM program and even some of the traditional law students, this is all a foreign language and they are struggling with these different stakeholder perspectives.
Over the rest of the semester they will read and role play on up to the minute issues such as: 1) the recent Tech Terror Summit and the potential adverse effects of the right to privacy; 2) access to justice and forum non conveniens, arguing an appeal from a Canadian court’s decision related to Guatemalan protestors shot by security forces hired by a company incorporated in Canada with US headquarters; 3) the difficulties that even best in class companies such as Nestle have complying with their own commitments and certain disclosure laws when their supply chain uses both child labor and slaves; 4) the Dodd-Frank conflict minerals debate in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the EU, where students will play the role of the State Department, major companies such as Apple and Intel, the NGO community, and socially-responsible investors debating some key corporate governance and human rights issues; 5) corporate codes of conduct and the ethical, governance, and compliance aspects of entering the Cuban market, given the concerns about human rights and confiscated property; 6) corporate culpability for the human rights impacts of mega sporting events such as the Super Bowl, World Cup, and the Olympics; 7) human trafficking (I’m proud to have a speaker from my former company Ryder, a sponsor of Truckers Against Traffickers); 8) development finance, SEC disclosures, bilateral investment treaties, investor rights and the grievance mechanisms for people harmed by financed projects (the World Bank, IMF, and Ex-Im bank will be case studies); 9) the race to the bottom for companies trying to reduce labor expenses in supply chains using the garment industry as an example; and 10) a debate in which each student will represent the actual countries currently arguing for or against a binding treaty on business and human rights.
Of course, on a daily basis, business and human rights stories pop up in the news if you know where to look and that makes teaching this so much fun. We are focusing a critical lens on the United States as well as the rest of the world, and it's great to hear perspectives from those who have lived in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. It's a whole new world for many of the LLM and international students, but as I tell them if they want to go after the corporations and effect change, they need to understand the pressure points. Using business school case studies has provided them with insights that most of my students have never considered. Most important, regardless of whether the students embark on a human rights career, they will now have more experience seeing and arguing controversial issues from another vantage point. That’s an invaluable skill set for any advocate.
February 4, 2016 in Business Associations, Comparative Law, Compliance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Human Rights, International Business, International Law, Investment Banking, Law School, Lawyering, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, January 28, 2016
From the Faculty Lounge: "Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law seeks an outstanding lawyer/educator/scholar to teach business law and entrepreneurship courses, broadly defined, and to serve as the Faculty Director for The John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship." More information available here.
At this point in the year, I imagine that some, if not many, of the positions on the list may be filled.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
As many of you know, I teach both traditional doctrinal and experiential learning courses in business law. I bring experiential learning to the doctrinal courses, and I bring doctrine to the experiential learning courses. I see the difference between doctrinal and experiential learning courses as a matter of emphasis. Among other things, this post explores the intersection between traditional classroom-based law teaching and experiential law teaching by analogizing business law drafting to yoga practice principles. This turned out to be harder than it "felt" when I first started to write it. So, the post may be wholly or partially unsuccessful. But I persevere . . . .
I begin by noting that we are, to some extent, in the midst of a critical juncture with respect to experiential learning in legal education. Some observers, including both legal practitioners and faculty, criticize the lack of experiential learning, noting that legal education is too theoretical and policy-oriented, resulting in the graduation of students who are ill-prepared for legal practice. Yet, other commentators note that too great an emphasis on experiential learning leaves students without the skills in theory and policy that they need to make useful interpretive judgments and novel arguments for their clients and to participate meaningfully in law reform efforts. Of course, different law schools have different programs of legal education (something not noted well enough, or at all, in many treatments of legal education). But even without taking that into account, many in and outside legal education (including, for example, in articles here and here) advise a law school curriculum that merges the two. I think about and struggle with constructively effectuating this all merger the time.
Now, about the yoga . . . . Most of you likely do not know that, in addition to teaching law, being a wife and mom, and other stuff, I enjoy an active yoga practice. As I finished a yoga class on Sunday afternoon, I realized that yoga has something to say about integrating doctrinal and experiential learning, especially when it comes to instruction on legal drafting in the business law area. Set forth below are the parallels that I observe between yoga and business law drafting. They are not perfect analogs, but they are, in my view, instructive in a number of ways important to the teaching mission in business law. The first two bullet points are, as I see it, especially important as expressions of the idea that law teaching is more complete and valuable when it holistically integrates doctrine, policy, theory, and skills. The rest of the bullets principally offer other insights.
Monday, January 25, 2016
I was going to blog today about Usha Rodrigues’s article on section 12(g) of the Exchange Act, but my co-blogger Ann Lipton stole my thunder over the weekend. If you’re interested in securities law and you haven’t read Ann’s excellent post on section 12(g), you should. Ann discusses Usha Rodrigues’s article on the history and policy of section 12(g); if you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it. It’s available here. (Even if you’re not interested in reading about section 12(g), I highly recommend Usha’s scholarship in general. I’ve read several of her articles and blog posts over the last few years; she has become one of the leading commentators on securities and corporate law. She blogs at The Conglomerate.)
Instead of discussing section 12(g), I’m going to talk about exams. I finished grading my fall exams about a month ago and I’ve had time to reflect on them. The main reason students don’t do well on exams is that they don’t know or understand the material. But I’ve been reflecting on the difference between exams that are pretty good and exams that are excellent. Those students all know the material, so that’s not the difference.
One of the major differences between a good exam and an excellent exam is in how well students indicate the level of uncertainty in the law.
Sometimes, the law is clear and the answers to issues are certain. Sometimes, the answer is a little fuzzy, but the available authorities point strongly in a particular direction. Sometimes, the answer is completely unclear.
The best exam answers differentiate among those different possibilities and indicate the certainty of the author’s conclusion as to each issue. Bad answers don’t do that. They provide a definite “yes” or “no” to an issue when an unqualified answer is unwarranted. Or they go through a long list of arguments (“on the one hand, . . . ; on the other hand, . . . ) without reaching a conclusion or even indicating which side has the better argument and why.
I can always tell from reading exams which students I would want to consult as attorneys, and this is one of the clues.
Friday, January 22, 2016
I am taking a MOOC from University of Illinois and Coursera on digital marketing. I've been trying to take at least one course a semester. Both the underlying material, and the intricacies of online education have been interesting. I chose this course because I have family members in the digital marketing area, and I am taking (and discussing) this course with them.
Later, I may discuss some of the substantive take-aways from the course --- I have completed about 50% of the course so far --- but in this post I want to discuss business/academic entanglement.
In this digital marketing class, an assignment on co-creation (by firms & their customers) consisted of creating an online account with Starbucks, submitting an idea for consideration, and reporting how the idea was received by commenters. This was a useful exercise and it made the concept come alive, but I couldn't help wondering if Starbucks was somehow involved with University of Illinois and/or Coursera in creating this assignment. To be clear, I have no idea whether Starbucks was or was not involved. But, in any event, with the thousands (and maybe 10s of thousands) of people who are taking this course, this assignment seemed like a win for Starbucks. Well, actually, this idea submission portion of Starbucks' website was not functioning properly, leading to many, many complaints from the students on the course discussion boards, but the assignment could have been a big win for Starbucks. And eventually, a work-around was suggested, and I assume that many, many people still created online accounts with Starbucks when they might not have otherwise. The creation of those accounts, and the simple brand exposure, certainly has some value to Starbucks.
Anyway, my question is this: Are course creators ethically obligated to disclose entanglement or abstain from entanglement between businesses and their educational institutions?
Even if there is no entanglement (I am thinking about direct or indirect payments for the assignment), how should potential benefits to the educational institution be treated? For example, what if the University of Illinois plans to pitch Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on making a contribution toward a new campus building and plans to bring up this assignment? Again, I don't know if there was any entanglement here, and I assume it was just an innocent and useful assignment. But with the increasing corporatization of higher education, I wonder about the appropriate boundaries between businesses and universities.
Thoughts from our readers are welcomed.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Employers and hiring coordinators are busy people. Like law review editorial boards, they get many more qualified submissions than they need for the openings they have. One of our challenges in advising students in the job search game is making their submissions stand out. Of course, personal connections and timing are very helpful in this regard. But résumés and cover letters also are important and may make a real difference in obtaining interviews and getting desired offers of employment.
As we settle into the new semester, my unemployed 3L students have begun to seek help from me in their quest to launch their careers post-graduation. One resource I highlight is the BLPB. Co-blogger Haskell Murray earlier posted some super information about résumés and interviews. I followed, at his suggestion, with a post on cover letters (and then one on following up with firms that have not initially extended an interview invitation). This post adds some new details on cover letters that respond to common mistakes I see and questions I have been asked about my earlier post on that topic.
Specifically, I want to describe better the key personalized part of the cover letter--the body of the letter between the introductory and closing paragraphs. This is the segment of the letter that, if everything else looks and sounds right, calls the applicant out on an individualized basis and holds the promise of positively distinguishing her or him from other applicants. Here's what I said about this section of the cover letter in my original post:
The body of the letter is the most important as a matter of content. It is where you get to show that you have what the employer needs and wants for the position. You should rely on any position announcement you have to write this part of the letter. If there is no announcement or other position description, seek information about or rely on your knowledge of the position to identify the employer's needs and wants. Summarize for yourself from those needs and wants the specific skills and experience being sought by the employer. Then, demonstrate, preferably by example, how you fill these needs and satisfy these wants in a few (no more than three) short paragraphs. Avoid repeating what's on your resume and refrain from using characterizing adjectives and adverbs. Show the reader that you are a good fit and among the most qualified folks for the job. Don't just say it.
There's a lot in that passage! Note also that the comments to that original post add a bit more on some of these (and other) matters. Critical embedded messages in the quoted paragraph include the desirability of:
- presenting customized information that directly addressees the job requirements set forth in the position announcement (or any other manifestations of the prospective employer's needs and wants);
- demonstrating, rather than characterizing, the applicant's "fit" through the information provided;
- avoiding mere repetition of information included in your résumé; and
- avoiding the use of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
I address each in turn below.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
The AALS Section on Business Associations and Law is honoring 13 exemplary mentors for their contributions to scholarship, teaching and the development of new business law scholars. Those honored were nominated by fellow members of the AALS Section. The mentors will be recognized at the conclusion of the AALS BA Section meeting on January 8th (1:30-3:15) at the Annual AALS meeting in New York. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues and thanking them for their contributions to our field.
- Lynne L. Dallas (San Diego);
- Claire M. Dickerson (Tulane) (posthumous);
- Christopher R. Drahozal (Kansas);
- Egon Guttman (American);
- William A. “Bill” Klein (UCLA);
- Donald C. Langevoort (Georgetown);
- Juliet M. Moringiello (Widener Commonwealth);
- Marleen O’Connor (Stetson);
- Terry O’Neill (Emerita, Tulane);
- Charles “Chuck” R.T. O’Kelley (Seattle);
- Alyssa Christmas Rollock (formerly of Indiana-Bloomington);
- Roberta Romano (Yale); and
- D. Gordon Smith (BYU)
The AALS Annual meeting starts today in New York. The full program is available here, and listed below are two Section meeting announcements of particular interest to business law scholars:
Thursday, January 7th from 1:30 pm – 3:15 pm the SECTION ON AGENCY, PARTNERSHIP, LLC’S AND UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATIONS, COSPONSORED BY TRANSACTIONAL LAW AND SKILLS will meet in the Murray Hill East, Second Floor, New York Hilton Midtown for a program titled:
"Contract is King, But Can It Govern Its Realm?"
The program will be moderated by Benjamin Means, University of South Carolina School of Law. Discussants include:
- Joan M. Heminway, University of Tennessee College of Law
- Lyman P.Q. Johnson, Washington and Lee University School of Law
- Mark J. Loewenstein, University of Colorado School of Law
- Mohsen Manesh, University of Oregon School of Law
- Sandra K. Miller, Professor, Widener University School of Business Administration, Chester, PA
BLPB hosted an online micro-symposium in advance of the Contract is King meeting. The wrap up from this robust discussion is available here.
Friday January 8th, from 1:30 pm – 3:15 pm join the SECTION ON BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS AND LAW
AND ECONOMICS JOINT PROGRAM at the Sutton South, Second Floor, New York Hilton Midtown for a program titled:
"The Corporate Law and Economics Revolution Years Later: The Impact of Economics and Finance Scholarship on Modern Corporate Law".
The program will be moderated by Usha R. Rodrigues, University of Georgia School of Law, and feature the following speakers:
- Frank Easterbrook, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago, IL
- H. Kent Greenfield, Boston College Law School
- Roberta Romano, Yale Law School
- Tamara C. Belinfanti, New York Law School
- Kathryn Judge, Columbia University School of Law
- K. Sabeel Rahman, Brooklyn Law School
At the conclusion of the program, the officers of the Section on Business Associations would like to honor 13 faculty members
for their mentorship work throughout the year.
I hope to see many of you in New York soon!
January 6, 2016 in Anne Tucker, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Delaware, Financial Markets, Joan Heminway, Law and Economics, Law School, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 31, 2015
The Five Corporate Scandals That Defined 2015 and Why I Resolve to Sneak More Ethics and Compliance into My Teaching
This is the time of year when many people make New Year’s resolutions, and I suppose that law professors do so as well. I’m taking a break from teaching business associations next semester. Instead, I will teach Business and Human Rights as well as Civil Procedure II. I love Civ Pro II because my twenty years of litigation experience comes in handy when we go through discovery. I focus a lot on ethical issues in civil procedure even though my 1Ls haven’t taken professional responsibility because I know that they get a lot of their context from TV shows like Suits, in which a young “lawyer” (who never went to law school) has a photographic memory and is mentored by a very aggressive senior partner whose ethics generally kick in just in the nick of time. It will also be easy to talk about ethical issues in business and human rights. What are the ethical, moral, financial, and societal implications of operating in countries with no regard for human rights and how should that impact a board’s decision to maximize shareholder value? Can socially-responsible investors really make a difference and when and how should they use their influence? Those discussions will be necessary, difficult, thought-provoking, and fun.
I confess that I don’t discuss ethics as much as I would like in my traditional business associations class even though some of my 2Ls and 3Ls have already taken professional responsibility. This is particularly egregious for me since I spent several years before joining academia as a compliance and ethics officer. I also use a skills book by Professor Michelle Harner, which actually has an ethics component in each exercise, but I often gloss over that section because many of my students haven't taken professional responsibility and I feel that I should focus on the pure "business" material. Business school students learn about business ethics, but law students generally don’t, even though they often counsel business clients when they graduate.
Yesterday, I tweeted an article naming five corporate scandals that defined 2015: (1) the Volkswagen emissions coverup (2) the "revelation" regarding Exxon’s research warning of man-made climate change as early as 1981 and its decision to spend money on climate change denial; (3) climate lobbying and the “gap between words and action,” in particular the companies that “tout their sustainability credentials” but are “members of influential trade associations lobbying against EU climate policy”; (4) the Brazil mining tragedy, which caused the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history, and in which several companies are denying responsibility; and (5) the “broken culture” (according to the Tokyo Stock Exchange) of Toshiba, which inflated its net profits by hundreds of millions of dollars over several years.
All of these multinational companies have in-house and outside counsel advising them, as did Enron, WorldCom, and any number of companies that have been embroiled in corporate scandal in the past. Stephen Bainbridge has written persuasively about the role of lawyers as gatekeepers. But what are we doing to train tomorrow's lawyers to prepare for this role? Practicing lawyers must take a certain number of ethics credits every few years as part of their continuing legal education obligation but we should do a better job as law professors of training law students to spot some of the tough ethical issues early on in every course we teach. This is especially true because many students who graduate today will work for small and medium-sized firms and will be advising small and medium-sized businesses. They won’t have the seemingly unlimited resources I had when I graduated in 1992 and went to work for BigLaw in New York. Many of the cases I worked on were staffed with layers of experienced lawyers, often in offices from around the world. If I naively missed an issue, someone else would likely see it.
So my resolution for 2016? The next time I teach business associations, I may spend a little less time on some of the background on Meinhard v. Salmon and more time on some of the ethical issues of that and the other cases and drafting exercises that my students work on. If you have ideas on how you weave ethics into your teaching, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish all of our readers a happy and healthy new year.
December 31, 2015 in Business Associations, Business School, Compliance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Merry Christmas, Law Profs
Greeting cards have not been sent.
The Christmas stress is true.
But I still have one wish to make,
A special one for you:
Merry Christmas, law profs!
We're on break(?), that's true.
So I can dream,
And in my dreams,
There's no more grading to do!
Grading's ne'er joyful.
There's always something "new."
And every day's a taxing one,
When grades and gifts are due.
The lights on my tree
( . . . Wait--is there a tree?)
Perhaps we'll buy one today . . . ?!
No logs on the fire,
But I have real desire
To take a break and say
That I wish you Merry Christmas
--Happy New Year too.
I've just one wish
On this Christmas Eve:
I wish that grading was through!
I wish that grading was through!!
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, law profs.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Still grading, and (in the process) reflecting on the line in Marcia Narine's post from last week on the references to “creepy tender offers” and “limited liability corporations” in her students' final exam submissions . . . . I thought I might share today a few of my own favorite outtakes from my students' Business Associations exams. I know that the time crunch and the nature of the exam software contribute mightily to the typing errors in student submissions, but on the reading end, some of the answers submitted are just . . . well . . . funny. As you'll no doubt note, today's post focuses mostly on closely held corporations (with one typo relating to limited partnerships).
First , there are, of course, the transposed letters. Most of these don't warrant more than a brief mention. The limited partnership act references to UPLA and RUPLA, instead of ULPA and RULPA fit into this category. Similar are the inevitable variants of case names (Donahue becoming Danahue, Donahur, and Donaue, etc.).
Then, there are the many misspelling of fiduciary(ies)--which I have come to believe may just be a hard word to type. (Or maybe no one actually knows how to spell it.) Uncommon misspellings of this often misspelled exam word include three versions that I found in one exam, in the same paragraph: foiducaries, fidurcairy, and fiducaiys. (I should note that all of these correct to "fiduciary" or "fiduciaries" in the spellcheck, which I had to override to make this post. Hmm. Maybe they were not as far off as I thought.)
Perhaps my favorite submission from the closely held corporation parts of the exam, however, was the one from the student who (repeating at the outset of his/her answer a short-form version of the prompt from my exam question) simply wrote: "What is the f duty?" There was a bit of blank space after the letter "f" in that submission, so, given the possible existence of some exam period frustration . . . . I think you can see where my mind went as I read that. (Or maybe that would be--with words transposed--"What the f is duty?") :>) Please forgive the irreverance!
Anyway, more on exams next week, when I am done. Can't wait. To be finished with grading, that is. Look for my holiday post for you all on my state of mind in that regard tomorrow morning. Ho, ho, ho.
I have updated my legal studies professor (mostly in business schools) and law professor (in business areas) job lists.
Positions at Western Illinois University and Regent University School of Law are recent additions.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
A number of months back, the Business Law Prof Blog hosted a series of five posts by Marcos Antonio Mendoza (here, here, here, here, and here) that were quite popular. He wrote about (among other things) the need to educate students for the evolving roles in which they may serve as corporate counsel. His recent article on corporate counsel.com offers much food for thought along those lines and serves as a good reminder, as we head into a new semester, of what our students may need long-term in the workplace. In both this article and his earlier BLPB posts, Marcos is reacting to an academic research paper, "Finding the Right Corporate Legal Strategy" (available to subscribers or for purchase), published last year in the MIT Sloan Management Review by Professor Robert C. Bird of the University of Connecticut School of Business and Professor David Orozco from the Florida State University College of Business.
Although you all should read Marcos's Corporate Counsel article (and his posts) for yourselves, I will offer a few quotes from the article and related law school instruction take-aways here. These largely repeat and reframe Marcos's own observations in his BLPB posts.
- "[T]he most successful companies determine which of five legal strategies is the most effective in their legal environment, and then deploy their legal resources to accomplish their goals." The five legal strategies are avoidance, compliance, prevention, value, and transformation. We would be doing our students a great service in identifying and explaining these five strategies and showing the students how legal doctrine, theory, and policy connect with the strategies.
- "One of the most effective ways for companies to promote . . . attorney education [about business issues] is through job rotations, in which counsel are temporarily assigned to managerial positions in the business units they support." Courses in the standard law school curriculum--and even new offerings focusing on business skills (e.g., reading and interpreting financial statements)--obviously do not (cannot) serve this function, although some clinic and simulation experiences offer students a limited exposure to business issues. We should consider designing field placements, internships, externships, etc. for business law students to give them some quality, sustained exposure to business issues.
- "[E]xecutives should create a cross-functional strategic team composed of lawyers and operational business managers who are guided by the chief legal strategist. The team’s responsibility is to hypothesize legal strategies that have a clear impact on a profit-loss statement." Can we model these strategic teams for our students? Can a consciously constructed curricular or co-curricular program with a business school (easier to accomplish for those of us in universities) offer a useful experience of this kind to our students?
Again, as we finalize course planning and syllabi for (and, in general, think about) the new semester, the types of educational experiences identified by Marcos in his earlier posts--including those highlighted here--are well worth bearing in mind.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Amazon Prime Now has debuted in Nashville. Amazon Prime Now offers free two-hour delivery on many items for Prime members. The service is amazing and is already changing the way I shop. I really dislike shopping malls, especially during the busy holiday season, but I also dislike waiting weeks (or even days) for shipments to arrive, so Amazon Prime Now is a perfect solution.
With Amazon Prime Now expanding, I imagine even more brick and mortar retailers will be headed to bankruptcy unless they find a way to differentiate their companies and add more value.
Brick and mortar retailers may find differentiation through community building services. I already see some retailers attempting this. Running footwear and apparel stores are offering free group runs starting from their storefronts and/or group training programs for a fee. Grocery stores are offering group cooking classes. Book stores are offering book clubs. The list goes on.
These brick and mortar retailers are finding it more and more difficult to compete with e-retailers on price and convenience. With the rise in technology, however, face to face community seems to be increasingly rare. Brick and mortar retailers that aid in community building may be able to justify higher prices for their goods, and the fee-based training programs may add another solid revenue stream.
Similarly, in my classes, I consistently ask myself: How am I providing value beyond what students could receive from an online course? I have made changes (like more group work, more case method work, more writing-based assessments, and more face to face advising) in response to this question, and I continue to look for ways to improve. Adapt or die.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
I’m knee deep in grading my business associations exams and so far, I’m pretty pleased. Maybe it’s my in-house background, but I spend a lot of time with my students getting them to focus on providing strategic advice to their fictional clients because that’s what my former clients demanded. My operations and executive colleagues complained that lawyers didn’t understand business or their pressure points and offered legal advice without thinking of the big picture or strategic considerations. With that in mind, my students work in law firms and do a variety of exercises from Michelle Harner’s skills book. When they answer questions in class based on cases or drafting exercises, I force them to think like a client rather than just the lawyer. I drill into them the importance of speaking to their clients in plain English, and I tell them if they can’t break the concepts down in their own words, then they don’t really understand them. Their final exam required them to advise a number of different clients based on the same fact pattern, and I am enjoying reading the different strategies that my 69 students devised based upon the same set of facts.
I get a break from teaching BA next semester but I will be thinking of other ways to teach my students to think like clients. I’ve recently read an article by Professor Alicia J. Davis from Michigan, who uses the HBS case study method in her advanced courses. I agree with her assertion that one drawback is that most law students lack the work experience and business knowledge to understand some of the concepts, but I may adopt some of her methods since my students work in law firms already, which is ideal for this method. The abstract of her article is below:
For the past twenty-five years, my academic and professional pursuits have straddled the line between business and law. I majored in business administration in college and then worked as an analyst in the Corporate Finance department at a bulge bracket Wall Street firm. After completing a JD/MBA, I returned to investment banking with a focus on middle-market mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and subsequently practiced law with a focus on private equity and M&A. Finally, in 2004, I found my current home as a corporate law professor. In my courses, which include Mergers & Acquisitions, Enterprise Organization, and Investor Protection, I strive to teach my students the substantive law, the ethics surrounding the practice of law, the nuts and bolts of how to execute transactions, and how corporations can be better world citizens. Though imparting those skills is a significant undertaking in and of itself, it is not enough. I also want my students to appreciate the underlying business rationales for the transactions we discuss in class and to begin to develop an intuition for sound business strategy.
A basic understanding of a client's business, of course, aids with traditional transactional lawyering tasks, such as due diligence, negotiating a deal, and drafting acquisition agreements. For example, if a lawyer knows that her client's acquisition target derives forty percent of its revenue from a particular customer, she will pay particular attention to that customer's contracts with the target during her due diligence review. She also will draft the M&A agreement's target representations and warranties section so that her client receives contractual assurances of full disclosure about the status of those customer contracts. However, in my teaching, I strive to go beyond giving my students this basic understanding. Perhaps I am too ambitious, but I want more for my students than understanding just enough about business to draft merger agreement provisions effectively. I want them to begin to develop the ability to serve as lawyers who provide legal advice in a strategic context.
Monday, December 7, 2015
A warning to all of you in the real (non-academic) world: law school exam season has begun. You know what that means: it’s whine time. Time to read blog posts by law professors complaining about the miseries of grading exams. (What you read in the blogs is nothing compared to what you hear in the hallways of law schools.)
Grading law school exams is not a pleasant task. It’s intellectually grinding, but it’s not just the work. I care about my students and I hate to see some of them waste their promise.
But, on a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (hard), grading law school exams is at most a 3. Some people have to clear septic tanks for a living. Police officers and soldiers put their lives on the line every day. I worked in a pea cannery two summers, and, even compared to that, grading exams is a breeze.
I have it easy, so I promise not to whine this year. I have a well-paying job that mostly allows me to do what I love, so I can tolerate grading. (Don't bother tracking down my old blog posts; I admit I've whined about grading in the past.).
To my students, good luck. I hope you all do wonderfully; nothing would be more fulfilling than to give every one of you an A. And, if you stumble, don't forget the words of Charles Colton: "The greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer."
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I recently received the following call for papers via e-mail
Law and Ethics of Big Data
Co-Hosted and Sponsored by:
Virginia Tech Center for Business Intelligence Analytics
The Department of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business
The Wharton School
Washington & Lee Law School
April 8 & 9, 2016
Indiana University- Bloomington, IN.
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 17, 2016
We are pleased to announce the research colloquium, “Law and Ethics of Big Data,” at Indiana University-Bloomington, co-hosted by Professor Angie Raymond of Indiana University and Professor Janine Hiller of Virginia Tech.
Due to the success of last year’s event, the colloquium will be expanded and we seek broad participation from multiple disciplines; please consider submitting research that is ready for the discussion stage. Each paper will be given detailed constructive critique. We are targeting cross-discipline opportunities for colloquium participants, and the IU community has expressed interest in sharing in these dialogues. In that spirit, the Institute of Business Analytics plans to host a guest speaker on the morning of April 8.th Participants are highly encouraged to attend this free event.
Submissions: To be considered, please submit an abstract of 500-1000 words to Angie Raymond at email@example.com and/or Janine Hiller at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 17, 2016. Abstracts will be evaluated based upon the quality of the abstract and the topic’s fit with the theme of the colloquium and other presentations. Questions may be directed to Angie Raymond at email@example.com or Janine Hiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors will be informed of the decision by February 2, 2016. If accepted, the author agrees to submit a discussion paper by March 26, 2016. While papers need not be in finished form, drafts must contain enough information and structure to facilitate a robust discussion of the topic and paper thesis. Formatting will be either APA or Bluebook. In the case of papers with multiple authors, only one author may present at the colloquium.
TENTATIVE Colloquium Details:
- The colloquium will begin at noon on April 8th and conclude at the end of the day on April 9th
- Approximately 50 minutes is allotted for discussion of each paper presentation and discussion.
- The manuscripts will be posted in a password protected members-only forum online. Participants agree to read and be prepared to participate in discussions of all papers. Each author will be asked to lead discussion of one other submitted paper.
- A limited number of participants will be provided with lodging, and all participants will be provided meals during the colloquium. All participants are responsible for transportation to Indiana University Bloomington, IN.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
With the recent release of bar results in many states, I have been obsessed of late about the sorry state of bar passage across the country--as well as specific bar passage issues relating to our graduates. So, rather than (as I should and will do soon) responding to Steve Bradford's prompting post on the final JOBS Act Title III crowdfunding rules and the related proposals regarding Rules 147 and 504 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (as well as his follow-up post on the Rule 147 proposal), I have decided to focus on bar passage for my few minutes of air time this week. Specifically, I want to begin to explore the question of what we can do, if anything, as business law professors to help more of our students succeed in passing the bar on the first attempt.
At a base level, this means we should endeavor to understand something about the reasons why our individual students fail the bar the first time around. A lot has been written about the national trends (inconclusively, as a general rule). And I am sure every law school is now analyzing the data on its own bar passage shortcomings. But my experience teaching Barbri and my conversations with former students who have not passed the bar indicate a number of possible causes. They include (and these are my descriptions based on that experience and those conversations, in no particular order):
- Failing to state the applicable legal rule(s) and apply them to the facts;
- Difficulty in processing legal reasoning in the time allotted;
- Nerves, sleep deprivation, illness and the like; and
- Engaging insufficiently with study materials and practice examinations.
Assuming that these anecdotal observations are, in fact, causes contributing to bar exam failures for at least some students, how might we be able to help?
Friday, October 23, 2015
This week I thanked the law review editors at the West Virginia Law Review for their hard work on my forthcoming article. They seemed truly grateful for the thanks, which was well deserved, and it made me think that I should thank law review editors more often.
Law review editors put in a tremendous amount of time working on our articles, often well after-hours given all of their other commitments. Even when the process is frustrating, I think we need to be thankful and professional. Also, given that I have had a few rough editing experiences, I now state my preferences up front, which (at least this time) led to better results.
Personally, I don't have a problem with exploding offers, and I actually think more law reviews should use them. The submission game incentivizes submission to many journals and trading up multiple times. This process wastes an incredible amount of student editor time and they have every right to effectively shut down the expedite process.
As I have mentioned before, the exclusive submission window is an elegant solution to the expedite problem. Under this strategy, the law review promises a prompt decision and the professor promises to accept the offer if made. The only downside to the exclusive submission window is that the professor usually cannot shop the article during that window, so it slows the submission process.
Maybe the solution is to allow multiple submissions, but prevent professors from trading-up. If that were the rule, professors would be incentivized to submit only to journals where they would be happy to publish and the process would be faster.
Finally, I can't have a post about law reviews without asking, again, why more law reviews have not moved to blind review. I cannot think of a good reason, but am I missing something?