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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Contracts Prof Weekly Spotlight: Nathan Oman

Spotlight_2_6_4_1 Nathan B. Oman (William & Mary)
B.A., Brigham Young University
J.D., Harvard Law School

Nate_1 Nathan Oman has joined the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary.  This year, he will teach Contracts and Secured Transactions.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah thinking that lawyers were boring.  As an undergraduate I studied political science, philosophy, and economics mainly because I couldn't decide which field I was more interested in.  Gradually it became clear to me that the most interesting place where the concerns of these disciplines intersected was in the law.  I tested the waters by working as a research assistant for a duo of law professors and got hooked on jurisprudence.  Some come to the law for money, power, and prestige.  Some come to the law out of a burning sense of outrage at the injustices of the world and a desire to work for their redress.  Some come to the law because they have humanities degrees and don't know what else to do with their lives.  Oddly enough, I came to the law because I thought that reading law review articles was fun.

After college I worked on the DC staff of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) while my wife attended graduate school.  When she finished her degree, we moved to Boston and I began law school at Harvard.  Having studied political theory and spent a year or two working in politics, I assumed that the most interesting -- and important -- subjects were those that deal with the architecture and power of political institutions. I found to my surprise, however, that the most engaging fields were torts, property, and -- especially -- contracts.  As a 1L, I read Grant Gilmore's The Death of Contract and Charles Fried's Contract as Promise, and I have been hooked on the theory of contract law ever since.

After graduating from law school (which included a stint on the Articles Committee of the Harvard Law Review, where even my appetite for reading law review articles flagged at times), we moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I clerked for Judge Morris "Buzz" Arnold on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  (Best clerkship ever!)  After clerking, I survived two years of litigation and appellate practice with the Washington, DC office of Sidley Austin LLP before running the gauntlet of the "meat market."  I now teach contracts and commercial law at William & Mary Law School.

For the present, my primary research interest in contract law is the relationship between economic and moral theories of contract.  My own conclusion is that neither approach adequately captures the law of contracts, which contains some rules and structures that are best explained by one approach and some rules and structures that are best explained by the other approach.  My ambition is to show that despite this heterogeneity, contract law should be understood as more than the largely random result of historical and political accidents but actually has a relatively coherent normative structure.  Hopefully, the products of this ambition will be coming soon to a law review near you.  (You can download my work thus far here).

When not working on contracts, I have a scholarly interest in law and religion. My focus here is less on traditional questions of church and state than on understanding how people have used religion as a lens through which to understand and experience the law.  I am currently researching an article comparing the early legal codes of commonwealth America's two indigenous theocracies -- the early Puritan of Massachusetts Bay and the mid-19th century Mormon "State of Deseret" in the American West -- in an attempt to understand the very different ways in which competing theologies are
manifested in the law.

In addition to the law, I enjoy spending time with my wife and 4-year-old son.  I also like to garden, run and play chess (badly).  I have long felt that I had an inner banjo player, but I feared to let him out because I was convinced that he basically sucked. I recently began learning the banjo and my fears have proven to be fully justified.

[Ed. note: Nathan also manages to contribute rather admirably to the blog over at Concurring Opinions].

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