ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Private Law Podcast Features Liam Murphy

I started law school in the Fall of 1996, visions of social justice, constitutional, international, and comparative law dancing in my head.  I knew I would have to take torts and criminal law in the first semester.  That would be diverting, I thought.  There was also something called civil procedure.  I had no idea what that was, and based on my grades in that course, that had not changed by the the end of my first year.  Contracts was a course about transactional law, I supposed.  It was for people who became lawyers so that they could make money.  I had no interest in that.

Liam_B._Murphy_photo_horizontalDutifully, I showed up for class, and in walked Liam Murphy (right).  Liam was not what I had in mind when I imagined my contracts professor.  He was not a transactional lawyer.  He was a philosopher.  I don't know if he ever practiced law or even got a law license.  He was a pure academic, and he thought about contracts law the way I wanted to think about contracts law, at a time when I thought I would never want to think about contracts law.  He started in with the very basic premise that, at least in the United States, contracts law is about promises, and so we started talking right from the beginning about why we enforce some promises and not others. 

Suddenly, contracts law was not at all about commerce or transactional work.  It was about a very basic human interaction.  It was about obligations, moral and legal, and about why we think some promises entail moral obligations and why the law treats some of those moral obligations but not others as legal Private law podcastobligations.  Yes, we read cases and we learned doctrine, and yes, those cases mostly involved commercial transactions.  We also read a lot of economics and law literature about contracts.  But we never lost track of the basic questions with which we started.  For which promises should the law provide a remedy in case of breach, and what are our intuitions, moral, conventional, or pragmatic, about what those remedies should be?   

Oh, how I came to love my contracts class!  How happily I would return to that classroom and do it over again! 

Well, thanks to Felipe Jimenez's Private Law Podcast, I was able to bite into a madeleine and feel as though transported back through time and space into Vanderbilt Hall circa 1996-97.  The conversation begins with Liam's thoughts about tax law, moves to property, and then settles in on the nature of promise and contract.  

Highly recommended!

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A la recherche du temps perdu

Posted by: John Wladis | Jan 19, 2022 8:10:29 PM