Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Teaching Your Own Case - Perspectives?

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw (cross-posted at MoneyLaw)

In the spirit of the late Wayne Barnett, my tax professor at Stanford, whose introductory tax course was subtitled "Great Cases I Have Lost," I have decided to drop one of the cases on the "what is a security issue?" from the Choi & Pritchard Securities Regulation case book, and instead teach Great Lakes Chemical Corp. v. Monsanto, Inc. on the question whether an LLC interest can be a security under the federal securities laws.

This case is of some pedagogical note. It was in the fifth edition of the Klein, Ramseyer, & Bainbridge Business Associations case book, and Choi & Pritchard mention it in their teacher's manual. For me, however, it is something akin to dissecting the recent Appalachian State v. Michigan football game, because I was the general counsel of Great Lakes Chemical at the time the case was filed, and was intimately involved in the decision to file it as a federal securities, rather than a state common law fraud, claim. Indeed, I was involved in the decision to file it as a fraud claim at all, rather than merely a breach of contract case. And, although the case ultimately settled, on this particular issue we took a sound butt-kicking (all the more frustrating because the federal court indicated on the record at the close of argument that he thought there was a well-pled fraud claim if the interest was a security, and later a Delaware chancery judge booted it as a fraud claim under state law based on disclaimer language in the agreement).

So, a little like Tom Sawyer listening to his own eulogy, I can't help wanting now to engage in the objective and academic post-mortem of something that was a very real part of my life.

I am curious, however, about the perspective of those out there who have actually taught their own cases. Is it a good idea? How do the students react? Does it help bridge the theory-practice divide?

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Dear Jeff:

I am an adjunct professor at Marquette Law School, where I teach Local Government Law. I currently use several appellate cases that I argued or partcipated in.

I also have a multi-page questionaire that I use to supplment the university's student reviews. One of the questions I ask is about the use of cases I have been personally involved in. The students' responses are uniformly positive and appreciative. One of the reasons frequently given is that we can go behind the opinion in a way that reminds the students that these opinions involve real people with real stakes in real outcomes.


Posted by: Mike Morse | Sep 5, 2007 11:06:57 AM

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