Monday, February 12, 2018

Sending Advanced Business Law Students on Document "Treasure Hunts"

Just a quick post today about a teaching technique I have been using that offers significant opportunities for exploration, especially in small class environments.

I am again teaching Advanced Business Associations this semester.  The course allows students to review and expand their knowledge of business firm management and control issues in various contexts (public corporations, closely held corporations, benefit corporations, and unincorporated business entities), mergers and acquisitions, and corporate and securities litigation.  I have reported on this course in the past, including in this post and this one.

At the conclusion of each unit, I have students locate (go off on a treasure hunt, of sorts) and post on the course management website (I use TWEN) a practice document related to the matters covered in that unit.  Today we concluded our unit on benefit corporations.  Each student (I only have five this semester) was required to, among other things, post the actual corporate charter (not a template or form) of a benefit corporation.  Although the Advanced Business Associations course features training presentations by representatives of Lexis/Nexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg that include locating precedent documents of various kinds, the students have not yet had this training.

In our discussions about this part of today's assignment, we learned a number of things.  Here are a few:

  • New articles, blog posts, and other secondary materials can be a good starting place in locating firms with particular attributes.
  • The word "charter" can mean different things to different people.
  • Journalists do not understand the difference between a benefit corporation and a B corporation.
  • In research geared toward locating precedents for planning and drafting, googling descriptive terms is likely to yield fewer targeted results than googling the terms used an actual exemplar document.
  • Corporate charters for privately held firms can be difficult to find--especially in certain specific jurisdictions, even when you know the firm's name and other identifying attributes.
  • "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again." Three of the five students posted more than one document before they found an appropriate example.
  • The corporate charters the students posted include exculpation and indemnification.
  • Patagonia's charter is pretty cool.  It has a detailed, specific benefit purpose, a prohibition on redemptions, and a right of first offer.  It also requires a unanimous vote on certain fundamental/basic corporate changes, redemptions, and bylaw amendments.
  • There is a law firm in California that is a professional corporation organized as a benefit corporation "to pursue the specific public benefit of promoting the principles and practices of conscious capitalism through the practice of law."  Also pretty cool.

The discussion was rich.  The students accomplished the required task and reflected responsibly and valuably on their individual search experiences during our class meeting.  They learned from each other as well as from me; benefit corporations seemed to come alive for them as we spoke.  We accomplished a lot in 75 minutes!

Do any of you use a similar teaching technique?  Have you adapted it for use in a large-class (over 50 students) environment?  If so, let me know.  I would like to evolve my "treasure hunt" for business law drafting precedents for use in a larger class setting.

Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Social Enterprise, Teaching | Permalink


The first assignment in my corporate drafting class (around 16 students) is to do a corporate profile of their new "client." I assign each student a different public corporation and then they have to research the corporation and report back to me as the partner who will be taking on the new client. Before I send them off to do their research we discuss generally what types of information they would want to know about a client who is an entity and where they might find some of that information. I also have one of our research librarians spend an hour walking them through the different research resources (Bloomberg, Westlaw, etc.). Usually the result is profiles that are more business focused. The class discussion though is always interesting and productive as I ask students questions about their client like "Is there director exculpation? advancement? indemnification?" "What are the default voting standards?" "Is there a staggered board?" "Are there any big pending lawsuits? How might such a lawsuit affect the corporate managers you will be working with?"

Posted by: Megan Shaner | Feb 14, 2018 7:38:55 AM

Yes! This is a variant on what I describe in my post, with similar learning objectives and opportunities for exploration. Thanks so much for sharing this project here, Megan. It sounds like a productive exercise.

Posted by: joanheminway | Feb 14, 2018 8:19:04 AM

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