Monday, October 5, 2015

Should Casebooks Include Statutes?

The authors of the business associations casebook I use have, in their latest edition, reprinted some of the relevant statutes in the casebook. One section of the Revised Uniform Partnership Act even appears twice within a span of only eight pages. (I don't mean citations to statutes; I mean the full language of the statute.)

The authors of the book I use (which shall remain nameless) are not alone. I’ve also seen this practice in other casebooks.

I just don’t get it.

I can understand putting a few statutes or regulations in a casebook if the students are only going to look at a couple of sections in the course. It eliminates the need for students to purchase a separate statutory supplement.

But it makes no sense in courses like Business Associations or Securities Regulation, where students will be looking at dozens, even hundreds, of pages of statutory and regulatory material. The students in those courses will still have to buy a statute book; including some of the same statutory material in the casebook just increases the size (and cost) of the casebook.

Including statutory material can also accelerate the casebook’s obsolescence. Some of the sections included come from uniform and model acts, which aren’t likely to change rapidly. But the book includes a number of selections from Delaware and other states. We all know that Delaware almost never changes its business associations statutes. (Stifled chuckle here.) What am I supposed to do next year if the statute changes? Tell my students to cross out the material?

My apologies for the rant, but this is one of a number of things these authors have done in their latest edition that really bug me. I may soon be accepting my co-blogger Joan Heminway’s invitation to try the B.A. book she co-authors. (I hope you don’t reproduce any statutory material, Joan.)

If I'm wrong, and there's a legitimate justification for this, I'd be happy to eat my words, but I just don't see the point.

UPDATE: For another view, check out Usha Rodrigues's blog post over on The Conglomerate.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2015/10/should-casebooks-include-statutes.html

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Comments

I am one of the co-authors of the business associations book that Steve is using.
I am really proud of the book - think that my co-authors and I do a great job of my business associations accessible and understandable to students with no business background or interest. And we are proud that a professor like Steve who so obviously cares about his students is using our book.

I am the co-author responsible for insertion of statutory provisions. But for my co-authors, I would include even more.

At the more that 15 law schools at which I have taught (one of the few advantages of being really old), it has been at best challenging to get students to read both the casebook and statutory supplements outside or class or to bring both books to class. My experience has been that more students have read and thought about the statutory provisions that are in the book.

I have no interest in Steve's eating his words. I just want Steve and others to use the book so that their students learn and my grandchildren eat well.

David

Posted by: david epstein | Oct 5, 2015 6:33:41 AM

David,

I didn't identify the book because, except for one paragraph at the end, I wasn't trying to pick on you or your co-authors. I think that many authors are doing something like this. And I certainly don't want to deprive your grandchildren.

You're right about many students not paying attention to the statute book, but I think your solution just exacerbates the problem. You're encouraging them to do that, and actually sending the message that the provisions not included in the casebook are less important and probably don't need to be reviewed.

I think the answer is to really focus on the statute book and continually harp on the need to bring the book to class. I do that, and I find that my students bring their books. I don't know if they're reading those statute books outside of class, but they are certainly using them in class.

Posted by: Steve Bradford | Oct 5, 2015 6:40:17 AM

Steve,

Based on your comments, I assume you are in favor of statute supplements for your classes? I have always used statute supplements in BA and SecReg, but I wonder if your logic in this post applies to statutory supplements as well.

These statute supplements are usually expensive and sometimes are out of date. Unlike most casebooks, the statutory supplements are updated every year, so they are usually up to date, but even so, sometimes the timing of the course and the publication of the supplement sometimes means that they are not entirely up to date. Statutes are freely available online and often the statutory supplements come with minimal editing and minimal or no comment. I understand why so students do not like paying for them.

My reason for including the statutory supplement each year boiled down to convenience for the student, which I take is David's argument for having them in the casebook. One distinguishing factor might be that professors often let students bring statutory supplements into exams and it would not be practical to let them access the statutes online during an in-class exam.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Oct 5, 2015 10:19:06 AM

Haskell,

The problem with David's argument is that his statutes don't REPLACE the statute book. His book includes numerous references to statutes that are not in the casebook itself, so a student still needs a statute book (or separate statutes from somewhere). It doesn't help anything from a cost standpoint, because they still have to have the statute book.

As to your separate point about charging students for statute books that include publicly available material, I'm in agreement. For a few years, I put together a digital set of securities statutes that was available to anyone who wanted to use it. I could never do that for B.A. because the ABA (MBCA) and what is now the Uniform Law Commission weren't willing to cooperate in terms of copyright.

Posted by: Steve Bradford | Oct 5, 2015 11:00:08 AM

The casebook I edit follows he approach Steve suggests (occasional excerpts). For my students, I have copied and pasted the DGCL and MBCA onto the course web site. No need for them to buy a statutory supplement and no need for me to put statutes in the book.

Posted by: Lawrence Cunningham | Oct 5, 2015 5:45:24 PM

SHOULD BA CASEBOOKS INCLUDE ANY STATUTORY PROVISIONS?

Obviously, different authors have answered that question differently, My answer is that business associations casebooks should include the most important parts of the most important statutory provisions. Here is why.

I want students to have read and thought about the most important provisions of RUPA, the MBCA and/or the Delaware General Corporation Statute BEFORE CLASS. That is very important to what we can then accomplish together in class, In my experience, more students are more likely to have read and thought about the most important statutory provisions if those provisions (and only those provisions) are excerpted in the casebook.

I understand that there are costs to including the most important statutory provisions in a casebook, First, it might marginally increase the cost of the book. Second, it might make it less likely that students will, prior to class, read the other relevant statutory provisions that are not included in the casebook. And, I guess, some might make a "pandering" argument,

I believe that the benefit is greater than the costs, I can understand how other casebook authors have come to a different conclusion.
David Epstein

Posted by: david epstein | Oct 6, 2015 3:10:30 AM

I started to comment but then decided to blog: http://www.theconglomerate.org/2015/10/should-casebooks-include-statutes-answer-no.html. Great question!

Posted by: Usha Rodrigues | Oct 6, 2015 8:16:53 AM

I am with Steve and Usha on this. Full disclosure: I am a casebook coauthor whose book has sparse statutory excerpts but is peppered with statutory references (to enable students to identify relevant provisions more easily at the start of their statutory explorations).

I tell students that if they are to forget one book for class, it better be the casebook (with the exception of the piecing the veil and fiduciary duty segments of the course). I label the statutory supplement a "statutory resource book" to emphasize that its role is not supplemental, but is the core of the course. I will say more about this next week, but my group oral midterms in Business Associations (ongoing this week) require that the students be familiar enough with the statutes to maneuver around them on their own, answering questions by referencing and citing to the applicable rules in their analyses. The students would be unable to do this if they were unfamiliar with the indices for (and chapters and sections of) the various statutory entity laws we learn about in the course.

Anyway, thanks for the provocative post, Steve. This is a great topic for debate. I know that our students all care that we think about these things carefully--whichever way we come out on them.

Posted by: joanheminway | Oct 7, 2015 9:18:00 PM

Well, if I may be so bold, the basic problem is that you're all using the wrong book and the wrong statutory supplement. What you need is a thin casebook with a few statutes as necessary and a very thin statutory supplement with just the most relevant provisions. Yes? ;-)

Posted by: Steve Bainbridge | Oct 9, 2015 7:54:18 AM

Steve,

I'm not sure which casebook and statutory supplement you're talking about. Could you be a little more specific? : )

Seriously, I have no problem with the thin casebook idea, but I want a relatively thick statutory supplement--not one with all of the garbage that gets crammed into some of them, but the full text of the various relevant statutes, including a good selection of securities provisions that might come up in the B.A. course. (More on that in my post on Monday.)

Posted by: Steve Bradford | Oct 9, 2015 8:14:18 AM

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