Thursday, August 30, 2007

Teaching the Law of Personal Property

For quite some time now, I've been meaning to blog about Peter Wendel and Robert Popovich's article The State of the Property Course:  A Statistical Analysis, which appeared last year in the J. Legal Ed. (anyone know of a link to an electronic version - I couldn't find one).  There are a lot of interesting things to talk about from the article, but one thing that jumps out is the degree to which traditional personal property subjects like the law of finders and intervivos gifts are neglected, especially in four credit courses.  There is nothing inherently surprising about this -- my understanding is that personal property coverage has been declining for some time now, and something needs to give in a four credit class.  I have a hard time, though, imagining teaching property without a reasonable amount of personal property coverage because personal property presents possession issues incredibly well.  I've restructured the first part of my course to be all personal property -- capture, finding, bailments, and gifts.  I do them quickly, and since I'm teaching a four credit property course this year, not in great depth.  The cases are relatively easy and accessible for first-year students.  By the end, the students have a good sense of the malleability of the idea of possession, which makes teaching related real property subjects easier.  Indeed, the classic finding case Hannah v. Peel presents the odd idea of possessing real property very well.  Time is scarce, but keeping at least some personal property coverage seems to me to be a good idea.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

Teaching | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Teaching the Law of Personal Property:


I've always spent significant time teaching personal property topics (the traditional ones plus, during recent years, an introduction to IP). Their pedagogical value is at least on a par with what can be gained from the real property topics. Although many teachers have cut personal property disproportionately when transitioning to a one semester property course, I don't think that's necessary. One of the beautiful things about teaching property is that we can get away with teaching whatever we choose (much more so than any other first year course).

Posted by: Jim Smith | Aug 31, 2007 7:30:32 AM

Post a comment