Monday, April 4, 2011

Teaching the Rule Against Perpetuities

Over at Prawfsblawg, Dave Fagundes has a post outlining the debate over teaching the Rule Against Perpetuities.  Although the post and the comments are a thoughtful contribution to this topic, I do take issue with one small bit of Fagundes' argument.  He writes:

There are some plausible reasons to be skeptical that the RAP belongs on a modern property syllabus.  First, many states have abolished the RAP by statute, so it’s not even law in many jurisdictions.  Moreover, the RAP is complex enough that teaching it well takes, I’ve found, at least four full class-hours, and given that property is often hard enough to cover (at least if you have only four credits to do it), this time could be allocated to other issues that people may find more instinctively interesting or important. 

The notion that the RAP takes four class hours to teach needs to be challenged - it sets up a false choice between not covering the rule at all or sinking an entire week into the abyss of medieval times.  For example, here's a great post by Mary Sarah Bilder on how to teach the RAP in one hour.  The easiest way to save time on the RAP is to give students problem sets to do as homework (as opposed to doing them in-class).  The reading in the future interests section of most property textbooks is pretty light, so the additional work isn't much of a burden.   

For my part, I think teaching the Rule Against Perperuities in first year property remains important.  It conveys, like no other subject, that the law is actually quite difficult and takes a lot of work to master.  I see too many students who think that being a lawyer resembles being a elementary school librarian - you just need to mosey through the shelves, find the relevant case, and present its clear rule to the client.

Steve Clowney

Estates In Land, Teaching | Permalink

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If you think this is interesting, you should read Paula Franzese's new "A Short and Happy Guide to Property." It really brings many of these issue down to Earth and makes it easy to comprehend and understand. It's pure gold. Her breakdow of the RAP is amazing.

Posted by: John Diaz | Apr 10, 2011 4:12:33 PM

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