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Monday, October 22, 2012

Don Langevoort on Cunningham: Contracts and "Contracting"

Donald C. Langevoort is the Thomas Aquinas Reynolds Professor at Georgetown Law. 

Langevoort-don_1The following post is cross-posted from an online symposium that previously appeared on Concurring Opnions.  The original post can be found here.

Like all the reviewers so far, I am a big fan of Larry’s book.  My interest in his approach comes partly from his way of bringing the subject alive, but more (and the book varies in the extent to which it does this deliberately) because it moves readers toward situating themselves in the time and place at which the bargain was struck and events play themselves out.  Erik Gerding makes this point, too, and I want to elaborate on it.  A case like Wood v. Lucy Lady Duff Gordon asks why the deal was expressed as it was, and thus what was the deal, really?  There is a good bit of writing in law and economics that tries to theorize about deal-making, and Victor Goldberg, among others, have done some very rich work on Lucy, among other cases.  I desperately want to engage my contracts students with these ideas, but find it hard to do without devoting more time than my 4 credits in a semster allows.  “Contracts in the Real World” gives the students a base for many of these intuitions (especially the chapter on interpretation and parol evidence), and I hope that it will at least stimulate their interest in thinking more about contract doctine in this way.  What I hope for most is that Larry or some reader will follow up on this volume with another dealing more explicitly with the “what were they trying to do?” and “was this a good way to do it?” questions.  I’m familiar with a couple of efforts in this direction, but so far they don’t work for me.  The person who pulls off that book in a rich, sophisticated but engaging way will earn my undying gratitude.  For now, however, I’m happy enough that Larry has given contracts students and teachers not only a great introduction to the human workings of contract law, but also some valuable impressions of the work-a-day world out of which some very interesting deals were conceived.

[Posted by JT]

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