Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2016 Emory Transactional Law and Skills Teaching Conference - Save the Date

Emory’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice cordially invites you to attend its fifth biennial conference on the teaching of transactional law and skills. The conference, entitled “Method in the Madness: The Art and Science of Teaching Transactional Law and Skills,” will be held at Emory Law, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 10, 2016, and ending at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2016.

The registration fee for the conference is $189 and includes:

 Pre-conference lunch and snacks
 A pre-dinner reception on June 10
 Breakfast, lunch and snacks on June 11

We are planning an optional dinner for attendees on Friday evening, June 10, at an additional cost. Attendees are responsible for their own hotel accommodations and travel arrangements. Additional information on the optional dinner and accommodations to come.

A request for proposals will be distributed in the fall.

We look forward to seeing you in June of 2016!

Sue Payne
Executive Director and Professor in the Practice of Law
Center for Transactional Law and Practice
Emory University School of Law
sue.payne@emory.edu

May 13, 2015 in Conferences, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sports Law Grading Break: A Little Perspective on Deflategate

I had planned to write a post about Delaware LLCs and who has standing to request judicial dissolution, but that post is going to wait.  I'm knee deep in Sports Law exam grading, and so sports is on my mind.  The big thing going on right now is, of course, Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his apparent participation in having footballs deflated to a psi that was not in compliance with league rules.  

The science on the benefits of deflating footballs is not clear, as noted here.  That, of course, is irrelevant to whether the rules were broken.  Some have argued that the air pressure rules are stupid, especially given that the league not long ago change the rules to allow each team to prepare their own footballs for use on offense. Andy Benoit of SI.com explains

With football being so much about strategy, the more comfortable the ball is for a quarterback and his receivers, the more entertaining the game becomes.

The NFL already agrees with this. Why do you think officials and ball boys go to such lengths to try to keep a football dry during a rainy game? Or, bringing it back to the inflate/deflate issue (or inflate/deflate controversy, since America has decided to be dramatic, if not hysterical, about this), why did the NFL permit quarterbacks to prepare their own balls before games in the first place?

The problem is, the league didn’t go far enough here. It should abolish all parameters regarding the ball’s air. Tom Brady didn’t cheat. Tom Brady’s job is to throw the football. Unfortunately, he had to go too far out of his way to do his job well.

I wouldn't think it would take a lawyer to explain that this reasoning is flawed, but perhaps it does. Even where a rule is stupid, counterproductive, or even obstructionist, it is still a rule. Failing to follow it leads to sanctions.  If a speed limit is too low, it can limit my ability to get to a meeting on time or make it so the FedEx driver can't deliver as many packages in a day.  But if either one of us gets clocked by a police officer's radar going 15 mph over the speed limit, we're going to get a ticket. And it's no defense to say, "But it's making it harder for me to do my job well!" 

Brady, through his agent, has vowed to appeal, as is his right.  Some people seem very concerned with Brady's image, and other have even suggested that the suspension could keep Brady from a future in politics.  Maybe, but given that we live in a country that has re-elected many people who have tarnished their own images while in office, I'm not going to be too concerned about this.  

The NFL, of course, has its own image issues, much of which is self-imposed.  The sanctions against Brady seem reasonable but severe, if acting in a vacuum.  But we don't, and it's hard to to look at other relative punishments for guidance.  The NFL has been aggressive with suspensions in other areas, such as Sean Payton's year-long suspension for BountyGate. Saints fans were certainly not happy with the outcome of the NFL's punishment.

On the other hand, as the Washington Post reported, A lot of people noticed that Tom Brady got twice as long a suspension as Ray Rice’s initial punishment.  The NFL could argue, of course, that Brady broke the league's rules, while Rice was subject to punishment from thecriminal justice system, too.  And they might, if they wanted to remain as tone deaf on domestic violence as they have been in the past.  

Why the NFL has this inflation rule, though, is a fair question. As Andy Benoit noted in the article linked above, why not just let each team provide footballs with whatever inflation they want?  If it is easier to catch a deflated ball, then it's also easier to intercept.  The league knows that offense sells tickets, so why not provide an advantage to all teams, if there is one to be had?  Seems like a win-win option, and it reduces the number of things NFL officials have to worry about enforcing. Less regulation of regulations that are hard to enforce and have dubious value to the integrity of game helps everyone involved, and it reduces people trying to game the system through largely irrelevant technical rule enforcement. (I'm looking at you, pine tar.)

Still, a rule is a rule, and if you get caught knowingly breaking a rule, there will (and should be) sanctions.  And let's be honest: The New England Patriots, with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know what they are doing better than most.  They are arguably the most successful coach and quarterback combination in NFL history, and they are very, very good at what they do. They only do things they think will help them win, and if they do something risky, there's a good chance they're correct that there's an advantage to be had.  

Respect them for their skills, and hold them accountable for actions. And let's keep it all in perspective. It's still just football, and this time, no one got physically hurt.   

May 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Games, Joshua P. Fershee, Sports, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Is a national bar exam on the way?

I currently teach two classes that are on the bar exam—civil procedure and business associations. Many of my BA students are terrified of numbers and don’t know much about business and therefore likely would not take the course if it were not required. I know this because they admit that they take certain classes only because they are required or because they will be tested on the bar, and not because they genuinely have an interest in learning the subject. I went to Harvard for law school and although I had an outstanding education, I learned almost nothing that helped me for the NY, NJ, or FL bars (hopefully that has changed). I owe all of my bar passages to bar review courses so naturally (naively?), I think that almost any student can learn everything they need to know for the bar in a few short months assuming that they had some basic foundation in law school and have good study habits.

The pressure to ensure that my students pass the bar exam definitely informs the way I teach. Though there has only been one round of civil procedure testing on the multistate, this semester I found myself ensuring that I covered certain areas and glossed over others, even though I know having litigated for 20 years, that some subjects are more relevant in real life. Similarly, in BA, I had to make sure that I covered what will be on the Florida bar, while still ensuring that my students understand Delaware law and some basic finance and accounting, which isn't on the Florida bar, but which they need to know.

New York recently announced that it would join other states in adopting the uniform bar examination effective July 2016. The other states using the UBE include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. New York, as the largest adopter, hopes to inspire other states to do the same.

NY students would still have to take online courses and pass a 50-question test regarding specific NY laws, but the students would take the MBE, and MPT or multistate performance test. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the two 90-minute MPT exercises are “designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Rather, it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills arise.” The NY graduates will also no longer have to write on 6 NY-based essays, but will instead write the multistate essay examination. Students will have to write on topics including: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Uniform Commercial Code (Secured Transactions).

In adopting the change, New York officials explained, a “significant advantage of adopting the UBE is that passage of the test would produce a portable score that could be used by the bar applicant to gain admission in other UBE states, assuming the applicant satisfies any other jurisdiction-specific requirements. This portability is crucial in a legal marketplace that is increasingly mobile and requires more and more attorneys to engage in multi-jurisdictional practice.”

I think this is sound reasoning. Many of today’s graduates do not know where they will end up, and I personally know that the thought of taking yet another bar exam was a reason that I decided to stay in Florida when I was in private practice. But the better reason to move to the UBE is the testing of the practical skills that lawyers say recent graduates lack. It won’t solve the problem of the lack of legal work, but it will make it easier for students who want to try to find work in other states. I doubt that Florida, which wants to make it as difficult as possible for snowbirds to set up practice here, will ever adopt the UBE but it should. Many oppose the adoption because schools may not have the faculty or resources to prepare students for the new test. But I welcome the change. Despite the pressure to prep my students for the bar, I have ensured that my students work on drafting client memos, discovery plans, markups of poorly written documents, and even emails to partners and clients so that they can be ready for the world that awaits them. If Florida joins the UBE bandwagon, they will be ready for the MPT too.

 

May 7, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporations, Current Affairs, Jobs, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do Book Rentals Negatively Impact Learning?

Over the last few years, book stores and publishers have been evolving in how they offer books. Some textbooks are available electronically, and others are available for rent.  Although I always try to be thoughtful about how students learn throughout the year, I find that I am especially sensitive to such thoughts when it's time to grade exams and papers.  I obviously can't speak for all my fellow law professors, but I know a lot of us agree that we really like our students, and we want (and expect) them to succeed.  

The cost of books matters.  This article reports that students often spend $1200 a year on books and supplies, and further revealed:  

Of the students surveyed, 65% said they decided against buying a textbook because of the high cost, and 94% of those students said they were concerned that their decision would hurt their grade in that course. Nearly half of the students surveyed said the cost of textbooks affected which courses they took.

This was not a law-specific survey, and I think (and hope) most law students do buy (or rent) their books. I absolutely support trying to make books more affordable, but it cannot come at the expense of content.  I have taught some of my courses with all free materials, but that does not work for me in all cases.  

This year, my thoughts on the learning process have turned, in part, to textbook rentals. Some (and perhaps many) students have moved on to book rentals instead of purchases.  I am sympathetic to how much books cost, and I can understand why students would look for savings where they can.  I am, how, concerned that rented books could have a negative impact on learning because of limits (or perceived limits) on how a renter can treat the books.  

Barnes & Noble, for example, has the following book rental policy: 

Rules of Renting
Textbook rentals allow us to reuse and recycle books. We hope that you return your rental textbook to us in a condition for someone else to reuse later. If the textbook is returned with excessive highlighting or writing, missing pages, and/or damaged spines or covers, you will be charged for the replacement of the book. 

This seems reasonable enough, but I worry that the concern about limiting highlighting and writing in the book could serve to limit student engagement with the content.  There is other language that suggests that it's not just "excessive highlighting or writing" that could be a concern. Also from the B&N website:

Treat with Care 
Over the course of your studies be aware that other students will be renting the textbook after you, so please limit highlighting and writing in the book.

This is not merely advising against "excessive" notation -- it is also requesting "limit[ed]" highlighting and writing in the book.  I am someone who likes to write in the margins, for example, and connect thoughts or ideas with circles and lines in the text.  I am also not averse to highlighting important passages.  (As a side note, I get the point on truly excessive highlighting.  I bought one book that had so much highlighting it was easier to pick out what was not highlighted. Kind of annoying and amusing at the same time.  I was able to work with it, but I was more careful with future purchases.) 

As a first-year student, I wrote every term I didn't know (or suspected was a term of art) in the margins to look up in Black's Law Dictionary.  I sometimes even wrote the definition in the margin. This kind of connection with the material, I think, was an important part of my learning process. I realize not everyone learns this way, but for those of us who do, I fear that the textbook rental will limit that experience.

Obviously, one who knows they learn better by writing in books can just choose to buy, instead of rent. Unfortunately, at least some of us wouldn't know that's they way we learn until after we get started. I can't say that I would have known, anyway.  My (lax) undergraduate study habits were not in any way similar to my law school habits, and I was more than five years removed from school when I went back to law school.   

I don't have a great answer right now, and I have not been able to readily find any studies to support my concerns on book rentals (or allay my fears).  For students, I would say to think about how you learn and consider whether a book rental runs the risk of negatively impacting your education. For educators, I think we need to keep thinking about how students interact with the learning material, and we need to be aware of, and adjust to, the outside forces that may change the student learning process.  Comments on all of this are most certainly welcome.  

May 5, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nat'l Bus. Law Scholars Conf. Line up & Extended Deadline

National Business Law Scholars Conference

Thursday & Friday, June 4-5, 2015 (Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark, NJ)

The organizers have put together a great line up of speakers and this conference is becoming (has already become) an intellectual highlight for the summer.  Keynote speakers include:  SEC Commissioner Troy Paredes, and Boston College Law  Professor Kent Greenfield.

In addition to the call for papers, which has been extended to May 8th (email Eric Chaffee), the conference will feature a Plenary Panel on the Extraterritorial Application of Federal Financial Markets Regulations with the following participants: 

Colleen Baker (view bio)
Lecturer, University of Illinois, College of Business

Sean Griffith (view bio)
T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law; Director, Fordham Corporate Law Center

Eric Pan (view bio)
Associate Director, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

Joshua White (view bio)
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business

For those of you unfamiliar with the NBLSC, here's a conference description from the organizers: 

This is the sixth annual meeting of the NBLSC, a conference which annually draws together legal scholars from across the United States and around the world. We welcome all scholarly submissions relating to business law. Presentations should focus on research appropriate for publication in academic journals, law reviews, and should make a contribution to the existing scholarly literature. We will attempt to provide the opportunity for everyone to actively participate. Junior scholars and those considering entering the legal academy are especially encouraged to participate. For additional information, please email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at eric.chaffee@utoledo.edu.

-Anne Tucker

 

 

 

 

PLENARY PANEL - THE EXTRATERRITORIAL APPLICATION OF FEDERAL FINANCIAL MARKETS REGULATIONS


Colleen Baker
 (view bio)
Lecturer, University of Illinois, College of Business

Sean Griffith (view bio)
T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law; Director, Fordham Corporate Law Center

Eric Pan (view bio)
Associate Director, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

Joshua White (view bio)
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business

CALL FOR PAPERS (EXTENDED UNTIL MAY 8, 2015)

To submit a presentation, email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at eric.chaffee@utoledo.edu with an abstract or paper by May 8, 2015. Please title the email “NBLSC Submission – {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 commentator or moderator.

CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS

Barbara Black (The University of Cincinnati College of Law, Retired)
Eric C. Chaffee (The University of Toledo College of Law)
Steven M. Davidoff Solomon (The University of California Berkeley Law School)
Kristin N. Johnson (Seton Hall University School of Law)
Elizabeth Pollman (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles)
Margaret V. Sachs (University of Georgia Law)

HOTEL INFORMATION


Hilton Penn Station
 | Online Reservations Availalbe Here
Located one block from Seton Hall Law School

  • Located adjacent to Newark Penn Station (Amtrak and New Jersey Transit Rail Lines)
  • Four miles from Newark Liberty International Airport – Complimentary shuttle service
  • $209 + tax per night
  • Reservations may be made online here or by calling 973-622-5000
  • Reference: SETON HALL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
  • Location: Gateway Center – Raymond Boulevard, Newark, New Jersey
  • Hilton Penn Station will release rooms on May 13, 2015.


Courtyard Marriott Newark Downtown

Located in downtown Newark (ten minute walk)

  • Located in the heart of downtown Newark adjacent to the Prudential Center and easily accessible to all major transportation
  • Four miles from Newark Liberty International Airport – Complimentary shuttle service
  • $139 + tax per night
  • Reservations may be made by calling: 973-848-0070
  • Reference: SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL
  • Location: 858 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey
  • Courtyard Newark Downtown will release rooms on May 13, 2015.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS AND INFORMATION

Visit and explore Seton Hall Law and its surrounding area.

May 1, 2015 in Anne Tucker, Call for Papers, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Would the world be a better place if law students were shareholders?

It’s that time of year again where I have my business associations students pretend to be shareholders and draft proposals. I blogged about this topic last semester here. Most of this semester’s proposals related to environmental, social and governance factors. In the real world, a record 433 ESG proposals have been filed this year, and the breakdown as of mid-February was as follows according to As You Sow:

Environment/Climate Change- 27%

Political Activity- 26%

Human Rights/Labor-15%

Sustainability-12%

Diversity-9%

Animals-2%

Summaries of some of the student proposals are below (my apologies if my truncated descriptions make their proposals less clear): 

1) Netflix-follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the core standards of the International Labour Organization

2) Luxottica- separate Chair and CEO

3) DineEquity- issue quarterly reports on efforts to combat childhood obesity and the links to financial risks to the company

4) Starbucks- provide additional disclosure of risks related to declines in consumer spending and decreases in wages

5) Chipotle- issue executive compensation/pay disparity report

6) Citrix Systems-add board diversity

7) Dunkin Donuts- eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups

8) Campbell Soup- issue sustainability report

9) Shake Shack- issue sustainability report

10) Starbucks- separate Chair and CEO

11) Hyatt Hotels- institute a tobacco-free workplace

12) Burger King- eliminate GMO in food

13) McDonalds- provide more transparency on menu changes

14) Google-disclose more on political expenditures

15) WWE- institute funding cap

One proposal that generated some discussion in class today related to a consumer products company. As I skimmed the first two lines of the proposal to end animal testing last night, I realized that one of my friends was in-house counsel at the company. I immediately reached out to her telling her that my students noted that the company used to be ”cruelty-free,” but now tested on animals in China.  She responded that the Chinese government required animal testing on these products, and thus they were complying with applicable regulations. My students, however, believed that the company should, like their competitors, work with the Chinese government to change the law or should pull out of China.  Are my students naïve? Do companies actually have the kind of leverage to cause the Chinese government to change their laws? Or would companies fail their shareholders by pulling out of a market with a billion potential customers? This led to a robust debate, which unfortunately we could not finish.

I look forward to Tuesday’s class when we will continue these discussions and I will show them the sobering statistics of how often these proposals tend to fail. Hopefully we can also touch on the Third Circuit decision, which may be out on the Wal-Mart/Trinity Church shareholder proposal issue.These are certainly exciting times to be teaching about business associations and corporate governance.

April 9, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Law School, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Media Coverage of Business Combinations

For thirty years, I have had a pet peeve about the media's routine reporting on mergers and acquisitions.  I have kept this to myself, for the most part, other than scattered comments to law practice colleagues and law students over the years.  Today, I go public with this veritable thorn in my side.

From many press reports (which commonly characterize business combinations as mergers), you would think that every business combination is structured as a merger.  I know I am being picky here (since there are both legal and non-legal common parlance definitions of the verb "merge").  But a merger, to a business lawyer, is a particular form of business combination, to be distinguished from a stock purchase, asset purchase, consolidation, or statutory share exchange transaction.

The distinction is meaningful to business lawyers for whom the implications of deal type are well known.  However, imho, it also can be meaningful to others with an interest in the transaction, assuming the implications of the deal structure are understood by the journalist and conveyed accurately to readers.  For instance, the existence (or lack) of shareholder approval requirements and appraisal rights, the need for contractual consents, permit or license transfers or applications, or regulatory approvals, the tax treatment, etc. may differ based on the transaction structure.

Continue reading

April 8, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, M&A, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Assistant Director of the Center for Transactional Law and Practice - Emory Law School

Emory Law School seeks an Assistant Director of the Center for Transactional Law and Practice to teach in and share the administrative duties associated with running the largest program in the Law School.  Each candidate should have a J.D. or comparable law degree and substantial experience as an attorney practicing or teaching transactional law.  Significant contacts in the Atlanta legal community are a plus.

Initially, the Assistant Director will be responsible for leading the charge to further develop the Deal Skills curriculum.  (In Deal Skills – one of Emory Law’s signature core transactional skills courses – students are introduced to the business and legal issues common to commercial transactions.)  The Assistant Director will co-teach at least one section of Deal Skills each semester, supervise the current Deal Skills adjuncts, and recruit, train, and evaluate the performance of new adjunct professors teaching the other sections of Deal Skills.

As the faculty advisor for Emory Law’s Transactional Law Program Negotiation Team, the Assistant Director will identify appropriate competitions, select team members, recruit coaches, and supervise both the drafting and negotiation components of each competition.  The Assistant Director will also serve as the host of the Southeast Regional LawMeets® Competition held at Emory every other year.

Additionally, the Assistant Director will be responsible for the creation of two to three new capstone courses for the transactional law program.  (A capstone course is a small, hands-on seminar in a specific transactional law topic such as mergers and acquisitions or commercial real estate transactions.)  The Assistant Director will identify specific educational needs, recruit adjunct faculty, assist with curriculum design, and monitor the adjuncts’ performance.  

Besides the specific duties described above, the Assistant Director will assist the Executive Director with the administration of the transactional law program and the Transactional Law and Skills Certificate program.  This will involve publicizing the program to prospective and current students, monitoring the curriculum to assure that students are able to satisfy the requirements of the Certificate, and counselling students regarding their coursework and careers.  The Assistant Director can also expect to participate in strategic planning, marketing, fundraising, alumni outreach, and a wide variety of other leadership tasks.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  

Emory University is an equal opportunity employer, committed to diversifying its faculty and staff.  Members of under-represented groups are encouraged to apply.  For more information about the transactional law program and the Transactional Law and Skills Certificate Program, please visit our website at:  

http://law.emory.edu/academics/academic-programs/center-for-transactional-law-and-practice/index.html

To apply, please mail or e-mail a cover letter and resumé to: 

 

Kevin Moody

Emory University Law School

1301 Clifton Road, N.E.

Atlanta, GA  30322-2770

sue.payne@emory.edu.

 

APPLICATION DEADLINE:  April 30, 2015

 

[Hat tip to Bobby Ahdieh for this post]

April 4, 2015 in Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Key Legal Documents for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Earlier this week I went to a really useful workshop conducted by the Venture Law Project and David Salmon entitled "Key Legal Docs Every Entrepreneur Needs." I decided to attend because I wanted to make sure that I’m on target with what I am teaching in Business Associations, and because I am on the pro bono list to assist small businesses. I am sure that the entrepreneurs learned quite a bit because I surely did, especially from the questions that the audience members asked. My best moment, though was when a speaker asked who knew the term "right of first refusal" and the only two people who raised their hands were yours truly and my former law student, who turned to me and gave me the thumbs up.

Their list of the “key” documents is below:

1)   Operating Agreement (for an LLC)- the checklist included identity, economics, capital structure, management, transfer restrictions, consent for approval of amendments, and miscellaneous.

2)   NDA- Salmon advised that asking for an NDA was often considered a “rookie mistake” and that venture capitalists will often refuse to sign them. I have heard this from a number of legal advisors over the past few years, and Ycombinator specifically says they won't sign one.

3)   Term Sheets- the seminar used an example for a Series AA Preferred Stock Financing, which addressed capitalization, proposed private placement, etc.

4)   Independent Contractor Agreement- the seminar creators also provided an IRS checklist.

5)   Consulting Agreement- this and some other documents came from  Orrick's start-up forms page and ycombinator. FYI, Cooley Goddard also has some forms and guidance.

6)   Employment Agreement- as a former employment lawyer, I would likely make a lot of tweaks to the document, and vey few people have employment contracts in any event. But it did have good information about equity grants.

7)   Convertible Promissory Note Purchase Agreement- here's where the audience members probably all said, "I need an attorney" and can't do this from some online form generator or service like Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer.

8)   Stock Purchase Agreement- the sample dealt with Series AA preferred stock.

9)   IRS 83(b) form- for those who worry that they may have to pay taxes on "phantom income" if the value of their stock rises.

10) A detailed checklist dealing with basic incorporation, personnel/employee matters, intellectual property, and tax/finance/administration with a list of whether the responsible party should be the founders, attorney, officers, insurance agent, accountant, or other outside personnel.

What’s missing in your view? The speakers warned repeatedly that business people should not cut and paste from these forms, but we know that many will. So my final question- how do we train future lawyers so that these form generators and workshops don't make attorneys obsolete to potential business clients?

 

April 2, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Law School, LLCs, M&A, Marcia Narine, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Flipping Roles in the Securities Regulation Classroom

Today, part of the assignment for my Securities Regulation students was to read a chapter in our casebook and, as assigned by me, come to class prepared to teach in  a three-to-five-minute segment a part of the assigned reading.  The casebook is Securities Regulation: Cases and Materials by Jim Cox, Bob Hillman, and Don Langevoort.  The chapter (Chapter 7, entitled "Recapitalization, Reorganizations, and Acquisitions") covers the way in which various typical corporate finance transactions are, are not, or may be offers or sales of securities that trigger registration under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "1933 Act").  I have used this technique for teaching this material before (and also use a student teaching method for part of my Corporate Finance course), and I really enjoy the class each time.

I find that the students understand the assigned material well (having already been through a lot of registration and exemption material in the preceding weeks) and embrace the responsibility of teaching me and each other.  I am convinced that they learn the material better and are more engaged with it because they have had to read it with a different intent driven by a distinct objective. For their brief teaching experience, each student needs to understand both the transaction at issue and the way in which it implicates, does not implicate, or may implicate 1933 Act registration requirements.  They do not disappoint in either respect, and I admit to being interested in their presentations and proud of them.

I also find that changing my role principally to that of a listener and questioner refreshes me.  I organize and orchestrate the general structure of the class meeting and come to class prepared with the knowledge of what needs to be brought out during the session.  But since I cannot control exactly what is said, I must listen and react and help create logical transitions and other links between the topics covered.  In addition, I can create visuals on the board to illustrate aspects of the "mini-lectures" (as I did today when a student was explaining a spin-off transaction).  I honestly have a lot of fun teaching this way.

There are, no doubt, many ways in which we can engage students in teaching course material in the classroom that may have similar benefits.  What are yours?  When and how do you use them to make them most effective?  Teach me!  :>)

March 25, 2015 in Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Law Teaching: Deep and Shallow Knowledge

The depth of everyone's knowledge varies from subject to subject. I have a deep understanding of many areas of securities law, but a very shallow understanding of physics. (I’m not even in the wading pool.) But, even in subjects I teach—business associations, securities law, accounting for lawyers—the depth of my knowledge varies from topic to topic.

When I’m teaching the Securities Act registration exemptions, my knowledge base is very deep. I research and write primarily in that area. I know the law. I know the lore. I know the policy.
In other areas, my knowledge is much shallower. In some cases, I know just enough to teach the class. My business associations class sometimes touches on entity taxation issues, but I’m far from an expert on entity taxation. (My tax colleagues would say “far, far, far.”)

One’s knowledge deepens over time, of course. That’s one of the great joys of becoming an expert, whether you’re a law professor or a practitioner. I know more now about every topic I teach (including entity taxation) than I knew when I began teaching 27 years ago.

Several years ago, I decided to teach a course on investment companies and investment advisers. I started from scratch. I had no such class in law school and I didn’t practice in that area, so I had to learn the details myself before teaching the class. Now, having taught the class many times and having written two articles that deal with issues in the area, my knowledge base is much deeper.

All law professors have shallow and deep areas of knowledge. Over time, all of us should try to deepen our knowledge in the shallower areas. This improves our teaching and, less obviously, improves our scholarship. I tell my students that a broad education benefits the specialist, and my own experience confirms that. I have often drawn on what I learned in one of my shallower areas while writing an article in a deep area.

Professors also need to be careful that our teaching isn’t negatively affected by our shallow and deep areas.

  • Be sure your course coverage (and your exam coverage) is based on the importance and relevance of the topics and the needs of the students, not on your knowledge base. There’s a natural psychological tendency to focus on what we know best, which is usually also what we’re most interested in. Don’t minimize a topic just because your knowledge of the topic is shallow. Don’t stress a topic just because your knowledge is deep. I would like to spend my entire securities regulation course talking about Securities Act exemptions, but I don’t.
  • Be careful to maintain the same classroom atmosphere in shallow and deep areas. When I’m teaching in a deep knowledge area, I’m often just scratching the surface of what I know. I sometimes have to fight to stay excited about the material and avoid going on autopilot. When I’m teaching in a shallow area, the discussion is fresher and more exciting to me. I’m more likely to learn from my students and I can empathize with their struggles to master the material. The key is to keep an even keel—to keep the discussion equally fresh and exciting, no matter how deep or shallow your knowledge.
  • Don’t overwhelm the students with your deep knowledge. They need to spend some time in the shallow end before you can take them into the depths. It’s taken you years to develop your deep knowledge; you can’t replicate that for your students in an hour or two.
  • Admit when your knowledge is shallow. “I don’t know” is a perfectly appropriate response even when your knowledge is deep, even more so when your knowledge is shallow. And “I don’t know” is much better for you and your students than trying to fake it. Use these opportunities to deepen your knowledge and get back to the students with your answer. I can’t count how many times in my career I have faced situations like that.

I apologize for disillusioning any readers who, based on this blog, believed I was omniscient and had deep knowledge of everything.

 

March 16, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Sweet Briar Situation

If you keep up with higher education news, you have already read about the decision to close Sweet Briar College. This story hit close to home, in part because I am a professor and in part because I graduated from a small liberal arts college.

My biggest question is why the administration took so long to tell the students and faculty. By making the announcement in the spring semester, the administration seems to have harmed students who will be looking to transfer and faculty members who will be looking for new jobs. More reading on the faculty members' situation is available in The Atlantic.

Given the general demand for students, I assume the students will be able to find new college homes, though their options might be be somewhat more limited than if the announcement were made in the fall. Most of the Sweet Briar College faculty members, however, will be in an incredibly tough bind. Most academic hiring happens during the fall semester.

With a nearly $100 million endowment (some of which is supposedly restricted), one wonders whether the administration could have kept the school open for one more school year, for the benefit of the faculty and students looking for a place to land. Alternatively, what prevented an announcement this past fall? Perhaps administration worried about students and faculty leaving en masse if given longer lead time, but if the school is closing anyway, I do not see why that would be a problem. Perhaps creditors played a role?

Also, I wonder why the school did not make a more desperate and direct plea to their alums. Instead of abruptly announcing that the school would close, why didn't the administration say that the school would close unless they raise X dollars in Y time period?

As outsiders, we obviously do not know all the facts, but, in any event, it appears to be a sad situation.

March 13, 2015 in Ethics, Haskell Murray, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Teaching Students to Deal with Ambiguity and Complexity

One of my pet peeves when I was in practice was working with junior lawyers or student interns who refused to take a position on anything when I asked for research. Perhaps because of the way law schools teach students, they tended to answer almost every question with “on the one hand but on the other hand.” This particularly frustrated me during my in house counsel years when I was juggling demands from internal clients in over a dozen countries and just wanted to know an answer, or at least a recommendation. Over at Legal Skills Prof Blog and PrawfsBlawg, they lay part of the blame on issue spotting exams. I use issue spotting essay exams, so perhaps I am perpetuating the problem, but I find that students have a love-hate relationship with ambiguity. They like to be ambiguous in essays but hate ambiguity in multiple choice questions.

I just finished administering multiple choice exams to my civil procedure and business associations students. Typically, I use essays for midterms and a combination of testing techniques for the final exam. I’m not a fan of multiple choice because I believe that students can get lucky. On my final exams I use some standard multiple choice but I also use a hybrid style where students have to pick the correct answer and then write one sentence about why each other choice was wrong. It's a pain to grade, but I get an idea as to how much they really understand. But with a combined 130 exams for midterms, I decided to go with the straight multiple choice. In addition to making life easier for me with grading, it will help prepare the students for the bar exam.

I chose to ask particularly complex multiple choice questions. The civil procedure students didn’t just have to answer about personal jurisdiction. Most answers combined at least two other topics or federal rules, in some instances with at least one part that could be incorrect. The BA exam was similar. After both exams a number of students complained that the questions were too ambiguous and they would have preferred essays. Ironically, many of the students who were most concerned about the nature of the questions did very well on the exam, which leads me to believe that some of them lack the confidence in their own analytical abilities.

I think students prefer essays because of the freedom to do the “this/that” or “throw everything on the wall and see what sticks” type of "analysis." With the multiple choice questions that I used, the students had to do a much deeper level of analysis to choose the right answer- or to determine that none of the answers fit- which they hate. Often the concepts were restated in a way that probably wasn’t in their notes or the book. Those who memorized suffered the most.

Yesterday, I reminded my students that the law is ambiguous. Lawyers must think on multiple levels very quickly to answer what may seem like a simple question. In the alternative, often students overthink issues when the answer is more obvious.

If you have any thoughts on how to get students more comfortable with deeper levels of analysis and navigating through ambiguity, please post comments below or email me at mnarine@stu.edu.

 

March 13, 2015 in Business Associations, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Practical Lessons in the Business World: You Don't Have to Use Their Draft

Today in my Energy Law Seminar, I sprung an exercise on my class.  I gave each member of the class a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement (NDA).  Half the class works for a venture fund and the other half works for a technology inventor who was seeking investment. (I give them some more details about the proposed deal the NDA would help facilitate. (The exercise is based on an issue I worked on some years ago.)

I instruct them to read the  NDA, then they can meet with others assigned the same side. They can come up with their negotiating points, then I turn them loose with the other side.  

I always enjoy watching students work like this.  They are forced to react, and it lets them be a little creative.  I also like this exercise, because it has multiple layers. They get to ask me me what they need to know for the business points, and I later get to talk to them about the options they may not have considered.  

I have done this a few times, and the students always negotiate what they see as the key issues. Their issue spotting is usually good, but they often miss a big option (a couple students do often have an idea what's up).  Here's the twist: the NDA I give them is absurdly one-sided and in fact reserves the secret information for the venture fund (who is only providing money), and not the inventor (who has the technology and information they want kept secret).    

They can, of course, negotiate with this document and try to get a workable NDA based on the deal points, but the better answer for the investor representatives is to decline the entire document. The NDA is so one sided, there is no fixing it.  The better answer is to ask for a more balanced version or to offer to draft one for the potential counterparty  to consider.  

Sometimes, of course, you have no room for negotiations, such as when you rent a car.  You can mark up the contract, but with Avis, it's take it or leave it.  The same can be true for certain clients who need funding or a supply contract, but often, there is room to talk.  The real life version of the negotiation provides a perfect example:  I told the venture fund the NDA was too one-sided and that it couldn't work for us. I suggested that we could try a draft or that we'd be happy to look at a different option.  The venture fund's reply: "Oh sure, we have one that is far more balanced that doesn't have the provisions that seem to concern you most. You'll have an email in a few minutes."  

When we talk about deal points and key issues, sometimes it's easy to forget to teach students some other big keys to business law.  The takeaways: 

(1) If at all possible, only use draft documents that reflect a sense of mutuality (e.g., reciprocal indemnification clauses). "Fixing" one-sided documents is fraught with risk.  

(2) Don't be afraid to ask. Often, though I don't care for it, people like to start with offers to "see what I can get." (I see this as counterproductive, at least where a long-term relationship could be built.)

(3) Negotiate in proportion to the issue before you. The NDA is often so you can negotiate the deal. If you make that initial part too antagonistic, you may never even get to negotiating the actual deal, which can mean everyone loses. 

March 10, 2015 in Entrepreneurship, Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Negotiation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Preparing today's students for the legal market

It’s always nice to be validated. Day two into torturing my business associations students with basic accounting and corporate finance, I was able to post the results of a recent study about what they were learning and why. "Torture" is a strong word-- I try to break up the lessons by showing up to the minute video clips about companies that they know to illustrate how their concepts apply to real life settings. But for some students it remains a foreign language no matter how many background YouTube videos I suggest, or how interesting the debate is about McDonalds and Shake Shack on CNBC.

My alma mater Harvard Law School surveyed a number of BigLaw graduates about the essential skills and coursework for both transactional and litigation practitioners. As I explained in an earlier post, most of my students will likely practice solo or in small firms. But I have always believed that the skills sets are inherently the same regardless of the size of the practice or resources of the client. My future litigators need to know what documents to ask for in discovery and what questions to ask during the deposition of a financial expert. My family law and trust and estates hopefuls must understand the basics of a business structure if they wish to advise on certain assets. My criminal law aficionados may have to defend or prosecute criminal enterprises that are as sophisticated as any multinational corporation. Those who want to be legislative aides or go into government must understand how to close loopholes in regulations.

What are the top courses students should take? The abstract is below:

We report the results of an online survey, conducted on behalf of Harvard Law School, of 124 practicing attorneys at major law firms. The survey had two main objectives: (1) to assist students in selecting courses by providing them with data about the relative importance of courses; and (2) to provide faculty with information about how to improve the curriculum and best advise students. The most salient result is that students were strongly advised to study accounting and financial statement analysis, as well as corporate finance. These subject areas were viewed as particularly valuable, not only for corporate/transactional lawyers, but also for litigators. Intriguingly, non-traditional courses and skills, such as business strategy and teamwork, are seen as more important than many traditional courses and skills.

Did you take these courses? Has your school started adding more of this type of coursework and does your faculty see the value? Do you agree with the results of this survey? Let me know in the comments or email me at mnarine@stu.edu.

March 6, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Jobs, Law School, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Teaching Grit

I've enjoyed getting to know a bit about University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth's work on "grit." Duckworth and her co-authors call grit "perseverance and passion for long-term goals," and they claim that grit can be predictive of certain types of success.  

Can we, as educators, teach grit? If so, how? Duckworth asks, but doesn't fully answer these questions in her popular TED talk. She does, however, think Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck's work on growth mindset, which I wrote about a few months ago, offers the most hope.

Do readers have any thoughts on this subject? Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me your thoughts.

February 27, 2015 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Did Wal-Mart Prove Me Wrong? Do Boycotts Work?

I have just finished a draft of an article arguing that disclosures don’t work because consumers and investors don’t read them, can’t understand them, don't take any real action when they do pay attention to them, and fail to change corporate behavior when they do threaten boycott. I specifically pointed out the relative lack of success of consumer protests over the years. I also noted that Wal-Mart continues to get bad press for how it treats its employees despite the fact the Norwegian Pension Fund divested hundreds of millions of dollars due to the company’s labor practices, prompting other governments and cities to follow. My thesis—it takes a lot more than divestment and threats of boycott to change company behavior. But perhaps I’m wrong. Yesterday, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon announced a significant wage increase declaring:

We’re strengthening investments in our people to engage and inspire them to deliver superior customer experiences… We will earn the trust of all Walmart stakeholders by operating great retail businesses, ensuring world-class compliance, and doing good in the world through social and environmental programs in our communities.

The letter to Wal-Mart associates is here. I don’t know which was more striking, the $1 billion dollar move to $9 and then eventually $10 per hour or the fact that he used the word “stakeholders.” Wal-Mart also announced changes that would affect health insurance and shift scheduling, but the main headline concerned the wage hike. Main Street may be happy but Wall Street was not, and the stock price fell after the announcement. Others pointed out that the pay raise is still not enough to pull workers out of poverty.

Does this move mean that boycotts and advocacy really do work and that we will see more of them? Do I have to edit my article or will this be an anomaly? Will other big retailers or fast food chains follow? Will socially responsible investors reinvest in Wal-Mart? Is Wal-Mart trying to pre-empt government regulation on the minimum wage? Is Wal-Mart signaling to regulators in foreign countries that it cares about workers so should be allowed to operate there more freely? 

I will be teaching a course in transnational business and international human rights in the Fall and Wal-Mart will be a case study. A few years ago, I used the company’s CSR report in my corporate governance, compliance, and social responsibility seminar.  I asked the students to consider why Wal-Mart’s report looked and felt so different from Target’s, which essentially has many of the same labor issues. I wanted them to think about the marketing behind CSR from a reputational and regulatory perspective. I posited that Wal-Mart’s CSR report was written for regulators. Two weeks later, the company announced its massive and still ongoing bribery investigation. I’m happy for the workers but a bit curious as to what caused the company to make this announcement now. In the meantime, I will be watching the reaction from advocates, the markets, and other companies closely.  

February 20, 2015 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, International Business, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Look it Up: The Value of Google (or Bing or Yahoo)

The internet age has brought tremendous access to information.  As kids, many of us were used to the familiar refrain from our parents, "Go look it up."  That meant getting out a dictionary or the Encyclopedia Britannica (volumes of books) to see if we could figure out unique facts about the Tasmanian Devil (my fourth-grade report subject), which is "the world's largest carnivorous marsupial."   Things have changed.

Today, telling someone to look it up means a trip to the computer, and probably Google, Bing, Yahoo or some other search engine.  Maybe it could mean a news service like the New York Times, and of course Westlaw, LexisNexis, or Bloomberg for legal issues. If I needed any evidence things have changed for all of us, I recently asked my nine-year-old son to put the "word book" he got out to help with his homework. He looked at me and asked, "You mean the dictionary?"  Um, yeah.  

Anyway, with all this information at our fingertips, I am regularly amazed how often I could tell people to, "Look it up."  Students regularly ask me questions that they could easily look up themselves, and it happens with colleagues or vendors, too. I have always liked finding the answers to questions, so it usually doesn't bother me much. I like to be the source of information.  But when it's really easy to find -- as in "What's the population of  West Virginia?" -- it's a little disappointing. 

In a time where people are often looking for an edge to make themselves more valuable to their employer, I suggest that people should be more inclined to look things up.  Try to save questions for times when you really need the help.   

February 17, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, February 16, 2015

So . . . You Think You Want a Business Law Job . . . .

It may just be my students, but it seems there is a renewed interest in business law careers among law students.  Several of my students this year who had originally started down a path toward a career in another area of law have happily and passionately settled, somewhat late in the game, on being business lawyers.  Somehow, after taking Business Associations and other foundational business law courses, they've been bit by the business law bug.  And they are incredibly talented students--high up in their class in terms of rank and well worthy of employment in a firm or business or government.  One is my research assistant.

We have been working together and with the folks in our Career Center to identify relevant geographical and employer markets.  But I am seemingly engaged in a continuous struggle to help each of them (a) to enhance his resume to reflect his new-found business law passion (given that each already had accepted a second summer job somewhat or totally outside the business law area when he refocused on business law as a career path) and (b) to make the new connections that he needs to make in order to successfully pursue his revised career path.  How can a middle-aged academic almost 15 years out of practice help a 3L business law job-seeker to make his resume more relevant, his contact list deeper, and his interviews more effective?

Continue reading

February 16, 2015 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

“We Just Can’t Get Enough of Business Associations”

My seventy business associations students work in law firms on group projects. Law students, unlike business students, don’t particularly like group work at first, even though it requires them to use the skills they will need most as lawyers—the abilities to negotiate, influence, listen, and compromise. Today, as they were doing their group work on buy-sell agreements for an LLC, I started drafting today’s blog post in which I intended to comment on co-blogger Joan Heminway’s post earlier this week about our presentation at Emory on teaching transactional law.

While I was drafting the post, I saw, ironically, an article featuring Professor Michelle Harner, the author of the very exercise that my students were working on. The article discussed various law school programs that were attempting to instill business skills in today’s law students. Most of the schools were training “practice ready” lawyers for big law firms and corporations. I have a different goal. My students will be like most US law school graduates and will work in firms of ten lawyers or less. If they do transactional work, it will likely be for small businesses.  Accordingly, despite my BigLaw and in-house background, I try to focus a lot of the class discussion and group work on what they will see in their real world.

I realized midway through the time allotted in today’s class that the students were spending so much time parsing through the Delaware LLC statute and arguing about proposed changes to the operating agreement in the exercise that they would never finish in time. I announced to the class that they could leave 10 minutes early because they would need to spend at least another hour over the next day finishing their work. Instead most of the class stayed well past the end of class time arguing about provisions, thinking about negotiation tactics with the various members of the LLC, and figuring out which rules were mandatory and which were default. When I told them that they actually needed to vacate the room so another class could enter, a student said, “we just can’t get enough of business associations.” While this comment was meant to be a joke, I couldn’t help but be gratified by the passion that the students displayed while doing this in-class project.  I have always believed that students learn best by doing something related to the statutes rather than reading the dry words crafted by legislators.  My civil procedure students have told me that they feel “advanced” now that they have drafted complaints, answers, and client memos about Rule 15 amendments.

I am certainly no expert on how to engage law students, but I do recommend reading the article that Joan posted, and indeed the whole journal (15 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 547 (2014). Finally, please share any ideas you have on keeping students interested in the classroom and prepared for the clients that await them. 

 

February 12, 2015 in Business Associations, Business School, Conferences, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway, Law School, LLCs, Marcia Narine, Negotiation, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (1)