Thursday, March 24, 2011

Does the County Recorder's Office Have a Photocopier?

Maybe, like me, when you teach your students about recording acts and title searches, you tell them the county officials they'll need to work with to complete a title search are helpful. 

On the other hand, maybe not so much . . . .

From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer comes this account of an exchange between a Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office official (Patterson), and an attorney (Marburger) who is deposing him about the presence, or absence, of a photocopier in the office, under the watchful eye of defense counsel (Cavanagh). 

Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder's office, has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: Any photocopying machine?

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be -- let me make sure I understand your question. You don't have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?

Patterson: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

 

Apparently he cannot.  It continues . . . .

Cavanagh: There's different types of photocopiers, Dave.

Marburger: You're speaking instead of -- you're not under oath. This guy is.

Cavanagh: I understand that, but I understand what his objection is. You want him to answer the question, but I don't think it's fair.

Marburger: It's not fair?

Cavanagh: It's not a fair question. A photocopy machine can be a machine that uses photostatic technology, that uses xerographic technology, that uses scanning technology.

Marburger: I don't care what kind of technology it uses. Has your offices -- we don't have technocrats on the Ohio Supreme Court. We've got people like me, general guys --

Cavanagh: Objection. 

 

I love that objection; apparently defendant's counsel objects to plaintiff's counsel's description of himself as a general guy.  But there's more . . . .

Patterson: I understand that there are photocopying machines, and there are different types of them just like --

Marburger: Are there any in the Recorder's office?

Patterson: -- there are different cars. Some of them run under gas power, some of them under electric power, and I'm asking if you could help me out by explaining what you mean by "photocopying machines" --

Marburger: That's a great point.

Patterson: -- instead of trying to make me feel stupid.

Marburger: If you feel stupid, it's not because I'm making you feel that way.

Cavanagh: Objection.

 

At this point, if my 14 year-old were here, he'd be yelling something like 'pwnned!', which apparently means 'owned,' which in human apparently means 'that was a zinger.'   But wait!  Perhaps if plaintiff's counsel could simply re-phrase the question, we could find an answer that makes everyone happy . . . .

Marburger: Have you ever--do you have machines there where I can put in a paper document, push a button or two, and out will come copies of that paper document also on paper? Do you have such a machine?

Patterson: Yes, sir.

Marburger: What do you call that machine?

Patterson: Xerox.

Success!

And good luck with that title search, students.

Addendum:

Then again, there are photocopiers, and then there are photocopiers, as we learned from The Wire:

 

Mark A. Edwards

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March 24, 2011 in Recording and Title Issues, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Marsh on the Commercial Real Estate Debt Crisis (again)

I have posted Too Big to Fail vs. Too Small to Notice: Addressing the Commercial Real Estate Debt Crisis on SSRN. (This is the bigger article that I teased earlier.)

I have directed this article to policymakers and scholars, but I hope that it may also be useful for those teaching Real Estate Transactions, to supplement textbooks by providing a current snapshot of the state of the commercial real estate industry.  

Many thanks to Jim Durham of Dayton for taking time out of his vacation to read and comment on this piece! 

Here's my abstract:

The commercial real estate industry has been devastated by the current economic crisis, losing 40% in value since the end of 2007. As a result, commercial real estate borrowers owe lenders $1 trillion more than their properties are worth. Although the federal government has been warned that the commercial real estate debt crisis may cause a double-dip recession, the government’s response thus far has been to allow the market to work itself out. This Article argues that this laissez faire response rests upon flawed assumptions about the structure of the commercial real estate industry. Compounding the problem, policymakers are incorrectly interpreting increased lending and transactions in the upper echelons of the market as a signal that their policies are working. Instead, the current approach has forced sales at distressed prices, numerous foreclosures, and, perhaps most importantly, significant small bank failures without any systemic benefits. Policymakers have seen these losses as an unfortunate but unavoidable cost of the recovery process, and dismissed these small actors as not “systemically important.” In fact, this Article argues that in the aggregate, small commercial real estate borrowers and small banks are vital to fueling job creation and economic recovery. By focusing primarily on the health of large financial institutions, borrowers, and properties without due consideration for the smaller players, the current policy may lengthen the economic crisis by placing further stress and uncertainty on some of the most vulnerable segments of the economy.

As always, comments are much appreciated!

Tanya Marsh

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March 7, 2011 in Mortgage Crisis, Real Estate Transactions, Recent Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Treatises

A question has popped up that I don't know how to answer;  What are the leading multi-volume real property law treatises? 

Where do you property profs and practicioners turn when you need clarification on the law? 

Steve Clowney

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February 24, 2011 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anyone Need a Leaseholds Exam Question?

Cause I gotta beauty for ya, right here.

The New York Times reports that real estate developers have made such a visually appealing $80 million alteration to the facade and entrance of 112 West 34th Street in Manhattan that they are candidates for a prestigious development award.

The problem: they are tenants, not owners of the building, and the 1963 lease that the then-owners and then-tenants signed (both current owners and tenants are assignees) provides that the tenants must get prior written approval from the owner before making structural changes worth more than $100,000.  As a result, the owner wants the lease terminated and the tenants out.  The lease isn't supposed to expire until 2077.

Why on earth would a landlord object to a tenant making -- at its own expense -- $80 million dollars worth of awarding-winning improvements to a property, you ask?

Because the lease provides that the annual rent for the property is $840,000 per year.  This, for a 26-story building that sits across from Macy's.  This, for a building the tenants lease out to office and retail tenants for many, many times that sum.

So are the owners being unfairly opportunistic in trying to terminate a lease so they can capture the building's increase in market value?  Or are the tenants being hypocritical in arguing that a literal reading of the lease applies to the rent, but not the alterations clause?  How will a court likely decide the issue and why, or is it more likely that a market solution will be found, and how?

Life doesn't throw perfect hypotheticals at us very often.  Take it!

Mark A. Edwards

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January 18, 2011 in Landlord-Tenant, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rick Barber, George Washington, and The Right of Publicity

One more video you may want to use when you cover the right of publicity.  Last year a congressional candidate named Rick Barber shot a campaign ad that got a lot of attention.  He sat at a kitchen table with men dressed as Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, and George Washington.  He explained the situation in Washington (as he sees it) and the piece ends with a close-up of Washington dramatically intoning "Gather Your Armies."  You can find the clip here.

I showed the commercial in class today in the context of the California common law right of publicity following White v. Samsung.  We discussed whether Washington's right to publicity had been violated.  It was an interesting discussion.  One student suggested that the folks who own Samuel Adams beer would have a more significant claim (although in the piece Sam sits listening, rather than calling to arms.)  Since many felt that Washington had been dead too long to deserve any protection, we also discussed whether the analysis would be different if a more recent president, such as JFK, were depicted.  That led to a discussion of the Kennedy miniseries which will not be shown on the History Channel (because of behind-the-scenes pressure, rather than a right of publicity claim).

Oh yeah, we also discussed Paris Hilton and Snooki's respective paths to fame, and whether a Lockean approach to property rights (i.e. encouraging labor) should really be applied to them.

All in all, a fun and engaging class.

Tanya Marsh

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January 13, 2011 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Right to Publicity

If you are covering the Right to Publicity this week, as I am, you might want to check out a story that originally aired on 60 Minutes in 2009 and was updated last night.  It is available on the show's website here.

Tanya Marsh

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January 10, 2011 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Using Facebook to Illustrate Land Use Issues?

I admit that I'm a bit of a gamer.  I will even admit that I spend time playing Zynga games on Facebook.  (You know... FarmVille, Mafia Wars, etc.)  And perhaps this just me trying to justify wasting my time harvesting virtual crops, but I'm thinking that the newest Zynga game, CityVille, might actually be a useful tool for Property students to conceptualize some land use issues.  There is an article about CityVille here.  If you've ever played SimCity, its very similar, but free. 

Everyone starts with the same blank slate and resources, but then you can design your city in any way you choose.  Some designs and allocations of resources work better than others.  The aesthetic employed by the game is interesting because players get a bonus if they use green space elements like flowers and shade trees next to housing and businesses.  

I'm thinking about having my Property students sign up for CityVille when we get to Land Use, play it for a week and then compare their creations with each other and use that experience as a springboard for a discussion of zoning, restrictive covenants, etc.

Thoughts?

Tanya Marsh

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December 15, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Midterm in Property?

I'm working on my first syllabus for Property, a 4 credit spring course.  I am considering having a midterm a week before Spring Break.  The midterm would make up probably 40% of the final grade and the final exam would be non-cumulative.

This is not an original idea -- another Wake Forest Property Prof does the same thing.  I'm wondering how many other Property Profs give a midterm and what you see as the advantages and disadvantages.  Here's my initial list of pros and cons:

Pros:

-- The midterm would be given a week after we wrap up the material on estates in land and future interests.  The main "pro" is that students would be tested on future interests while the material is still fresh in their minds and they wouldn't waste a lot of their finals prep time with the material.

-- The ABA (and many other folks) think that midterms are a good idea, for a variety of different reasons.

Cons:

-- Possible student revolt at the prospect of a test on future interests a week before Spring Break?

-- I would end up spending Spring Break grading midterms.

 

Property Profs, I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

Tanya Marsh

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December 14, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Disunion

Frequent readers may remember that an important tenet of my property teaching philosophy is that the struggle over property rights has a central place in history.  I've argued that we might undersell the importance of property rights by focusing so intensively on the doctrinal trees that we miss the political-economic forest.

One way I like to discomfort my students, and bring into stark relief the historical importance of property rights, is by examining the emancipation of slaves through the lens of the Takings Clause. 

The Takings Clause may seem (and, I think, is) a somewhat callous and inadequate lens through which to view the abject horror of slavery, but that's exactly how some framed the issue 150 years ago.  In a debate on the Senate floor, Henry Clay (for one) argued that emancipation of slaves would be a taking of private property, requiring just compensation of the slave owners.  Anticipating the reply that emancipation could not be a taking because humans could never have legitimately been property, Clay said (I like to imagine coolly), "That is property which the law says is property."  Sale of slaves

In both my first year course, and my Comparative Property Rights seminar, I make my students debate that proposition.  I ask them simply: Is it true?  Most say no.  So then I ask: If law can't tell us what is property, then what can?  No one, myself included, seems to be able to answer that.

All that is a prelude to telling you that for the past few weeks, the New York Times has been running a wonderful feature, Disunion, which provides a day-by-day analysis, using primarily contemporary accounts, of the descent into the Civil War immediately preceeding and following Lincoln's election in 1860.  For history buffs like me, it's fascinating.  I find myself more eagerly concerned about the daily news from November 1860 than the news on the front page. 

The news from this week (minus 150 years) has been particularly ominous.  Southern state legislatures are meeting to 'discuss' secession in the wake of Lincoln's election, but the extreme rhetoric of the meetings leaves no doubt that horrible violence is at hand.  Members of the cabinet of the sitting President are preparing to join them.  The federal government is teetering. 

Meanwhile, President-elect Lincoln has remained maddeningly silent.  Finally, the pressure becomes unbearable, and through Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, Lincoln attempts to reassure the South: "when Trumbull told the crowd that under Lincoln, all the states will be left in complete control of their own affairs, including the protection of property, those in the know believed they were hearing the words of the president-elect."  The meaning of Lincoln's pledge to protect property was unmistakable.  Lincoln was attempting to tell the South that, in Clay's words, that was property which the law said was property -- including human beings.  For Lincoln's admirers, that pledge may come as a shock.  He was not yet fully committed to emancipation.Slave deed   

But, of course, nothing Lincoln could say or do would reassure the Southern legislatures.  They didn't trust him or the abolitionists who supported him.  War was on the horizon. Within five years of that week in November, 600,000 Americans would be dead.

As I like to say to my students, when it comes to property rights, damn right, there will be blood.  

Interestingly, in hate-laced rhetoric that resonates today, secessionists cast Lincoln and Vice President-elect Hamlin as something 'other' than bona fide Americans.  Southern media and politicians constantly accused Hamlin in particular of having “black blood in him,” or being descended from Native Americans.  One Southerner wrote to Lincoln, offering to buy the "intelligent mulatto boy" Hamlin from him.

The Disunion series is a fantastic teaching tool on lots of levels, but it is a treasure trove on the historical centrality of property rights.  Check it out.

Mark A. Edwards

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November 23, 2010 in Property in the Human Body, Property Theory, Takings, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 15, 2010

How can the ABA support PropertyProfs?

I am back from the fall leadership meeting of the ABA's Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section.  If you teach property courses and aren't a member of the section, I highly recommend that you get involved.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

The main topic of discussion in the section's Legal Education Committee (chaired by Wilson Freyermuth) meeting this weekend was how the ABA, the Real Property section, and the committee in particular can support property professors with materials, ideas, and expertise.  Many good ideas were thrown around, but it was a small group, so we wanted to extend the discussion to the larger PropertyProf community.

1.  Can you envision any way that the ABA's Real Property section can support your efforts in the classroom?  Are there any materials that you desire that you have a difficult time finding?  Would it be helpful if members volunteered to serve as guest speakers to talk to your students about some aspect of their practice? 

2.  How could the ABA's Real Property section support new professors, or adjuncts teaching for the first time?

3.  We would eventually like to reach out to adjunct professors teaching real estate courses, but don't believe that a comprehensive list of such people exists.  (If it does, please let me know!)  It would help enormously if you could post a comment to this post or e-mail me directly with a list of the real estate courses at your school taught by adjuncts, the names of the people teaching those courses, and any contact information.

There are a lot of great people involved in the ABA's Real Property section, both practitioners and professors.  We'd love your input on ways that we can capitalize on that experience and energy for the benefit of all of our students!

Tanya Marsh

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November 15, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Want to Know What's a Dumb Idea?

Giving 150 midterms, that's what.  I apologize for my lack of participation as of late, but merciful light is at the end of the grading tunnel.

I like to take some of the pressure off the final and give the students some feedback, but I now think the cost in workload outweighs the benefit.  Of course, I thought that last year, too, and still gave midterms this year.

Could someone please copy this post and send it to me in October of next year?

Do you give midterms, and why or why not?

Mark A. Edwards

 

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November 10, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sample Real Estate Financing Documents for Teaching?

I'm looking for forms of (a) a deed of trust; (b) a sale-leaseback; (c) an installement land contract; and (d) a subordination agreement from a real estate context to use with my students.  I have the Fannie Mae form deed of trust, but would like to see other samples.  Forms for notes and mortgages are pretty easy to come by, but if you have any that you really like, I'd love to see those as well.  If you have any such forms that you'd be willing to share, please e-mail me - propertyprof@gmail.com .

Thanks.

Ben Barros

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October 19, 2010 in Real Estate Finance, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recording Acts In-Class Exercise

Today in Real Estate Transactions we began talking about the Recording Acts (Chapter 14 in Professor Lefcoe's book).  We talked a little bit about the reasons that we have Recording Acts and how the system works in America.  I walked them through how to do a title search with the White House (look for the deed from G.W. Bush to B. Obama, then search forward for encumbrances, then search back for prior grantor, etc.).

But most of today's class was spent with the students working alone or in small groups to conduct an actual title search. I provided them with the name of a homeowner and the legal description.  I picked Sarasota County, Florida, but any county with on-line records would have worked.  I gave them five questions that walked them through the title search.  As they went through the questions, I would stop and make sure everyone was on track.  When class was over, everyone handed in a sheet with their answers (this won't be graded) and I posted my model answer on TWEN.  On Monday, we will talk about the different kinds of recording statutes and this example will be helpful to illustrate the applicability of the doctrine.  One of the deeds they uncovered, for example, went unrecorded for 14 months.  Most of the documents were delayed 3 weeks or more after they were signed.

This exercise worked really well for my class because it allowed me to talk about the Recording Acts in an actual context, as long as a lot of other related issues, like MERS.  I am thinking of using a version of this exercise in my Property class next semester. 

If anyone is interested in a copy of the questions and my model answer, send me an e-mail.  I'm happy to share.

Tanya Marsh

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September 30, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Fight for the Arctic

In 2007, Russia planted its flag on an underwater mountain range arising from the oil-rich Arctic seabed, adding a show of power to its legal claim that the range belonged to it under international law.  Not surprisingly, other nations claiming property rights in the Arctic seabed loudly objected, most notably Canada.  As the ice shelf in the Arctic disappears, making areas accessible that were inaccessible before, arguments over sovereign property rights are gathering momentum.  Russian and Norway recently concluded a 40-year dispute over Arctic territories.  And this week scientists and diplomats from a number of nations claiming rights are meeting at a conference in Moscow.Arctic  For an excellent source of analysis of international relations in the Arctic, see Professor Michael Byers's blog, Who Owns the Arctic? 

Beyond the obvious geopolitical and resource-management importance of the dispute, it is fascinating to see the array of tactics contemporary competing claimants to property use to establish their dominion over it, particularly for those of us who teach first-year property students.  The parties' use of law, custom, marking & signaling, and raw power to make their claims certainly would not surprise anyone teaching Johnson, Pierson and Ghen.

For example, Russia has gone to great lengths to mark the territory as its own, using a submarine to plant its titanium flag.  It has argued that by custom, the Arctic is its own, since more Russians live within the Arctic circle than any other nationality.  And Russia and Canada are both submitting claims to the territory to the UN for a ruling under the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Russian flag on seabed

In addition, both Russia and Canada are making a show of expanding their presences in the region.  Both countries have found new enthusiasm for sponsoring scientific expeditions to, and building research stations in, the region.  The presence of those stations sends an important signal about territorial claims.  More ominously, in moves that both display territorial claims and threaten the use of raw power, both countries have increased their military presences there as well.  Canada, in fact, held military exercises there and vowed to increase its spending on defense forces for the area.

We teach students that actual, physical presence can be a key to making a successful property rights claim under doctrines such as adverse possession.  That same impulse seems to be animating the competing nations, even without the benefit of a doctrine that would reward their efforts.  That suggests to me that doctrines such as adverse possession merely ratify a deeply felt normative sense that claims to property rights are strengthened by the fact of physical presence.  And this may be our last, best opportunity to see competing claims to "new" earthly territory -- in other words, the doctrine of discovery, and the raw military power that animates it, at work.     

Mark A. Edwards

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September 28, 2010 in Miscellaneous, Natural Resources, Property Theory, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Property Casebooks: and Pricing Issues

Thanks to the Property Prof gurus (including my marvelous colleague Al Brophy) for inviting me to post here.  From Al's post, you may know that I hope to address teaching and learning issues, based in part on my experience working on the "Carnegie Report" on Legal Education ("Educating Lawyers").

To begin, however, I'd like to raise a different issue:  Do those of us who teach property law weigh the cost of casebooks and supplements in making decisions about required texts?

I've served in recent years at chair of the UNC Chapel Hill faculty senate, and as the chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly (representing faculty at all 17 UNC system campuses).  A crucial issue that has been raised in both settings concerns the costs of student textbooks and what faculty members can do to try to keep educational costs down for our students in these challenging financial times.

I've long been a user of the Dukeminier & Krier property casebook (since entering law teaching in 1981... in part because I'm a UCLA Law graduate and knew both of the original authors).  More recently I changed to the casebook by Freyermuth, Organ, Noble-Allgire and Winokur (Property and Lawyering, 2d, 2006) because I wanted to see how its "lawyering exercises" might be used to engage students and teach more than doctrine.

In spring 2009 I adopted a new casebook by John Sprankling and Raymond Coletta of McGeorge--

Property: A Contemporary Approach (Interactive Casebook Series, West) (first edition, 2009).  Last year, my students loved it, and I did too (it was well edited, provided importance choices since it included a chapter on intellectual property as well as one on environmental law), had a very strong teachers' manual, an on-line version that made it easy to prepare while traveling, and was authored by two thoughtful professors who had also authored important and thoughtful supplemental teaching resources (on global issues in property law and study aids).    My students last year rated this casebook much, much  more favorably than others I have used.  I enjoyed teaching from it and thought all was well.  I adopted it again for this fall semester (when I'm teaching a large section of nearly 90 students)... All was well....

Until... (drum roll please), I was preparing my fall semester syllabus and tried to find out more about West's pricing policies particularly as they applied to students with used books.

The saga will continue in my next post....

In the meantime (it's a quiz!)

1.  Do you consider the cost of textbooks and supplements in making decisions regarding required instructional materials?  Why or why not?

2.  Do you know what the materials you require cost?

3.  Have you heard of the federal textbook legislation that supposedly requires publishers to advise faculty members about costs?

Your comments and insights are most welcome.

 

--Judith Wegner (UNC School of Law)

September 24, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Integrating Lawyering Skills in the Property Classroom

I've been following the debate over on Prawfs Blawg regarding Bruce Newton's paper entitled "Preaching What They Don't Practice:  Why Law Faculties' Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship and Devaluation of Practical Competencies Obstruct Reform in the Legal Academy."  There have been a number of interesting posts on Prawfs Blawg regarding the ABA's recommendations for reform and possible ways to work practical skills into the academic curriculum.  Certainly not a new debate, but definitely interesting.

I thought I'd post a little bit about the Real Estate Transactions class that I'm developing as I teach this semester.  I posted this summer about my search for a book, and ended up adopting George Lefcoe's Real Estate Transactions, Finance and Development.  This is a really interesting area in terms of books -- they are all very different and I could have easily been happy with several others.  I just received a preview copy of the book by James Durham, Debra Stark, and Thomas White III (Commercial Real Estate Transactions: A Project and Skills Oriented Approach) and it also looks great.   I also toyed with the idea of teaching from the ABA's A Practical Guide to Real Estate Transactions, but ended up putting it on reserve as a supplement.

What I'm trying to do is work lawyering skills into the class as a means of reinforcing the legal concepts.  Real Estate Transactions is a little funny because it isn't a doctrinal class, but it does include doctrine.  But I'm also not teaching a drafting class (not that there's anything wrong with that).

So I explained to the students on the first day that we would first build a foundation before getting to the meat of commercial real estate transactions -- we needed to be on the same page about standard contract law before we could move into this more specific type of contract.  On the first day, I gave them an actual, very complicated purchase and sale agreement for an operating shopping center.  I had them make lists of concepts that were unfamiliar to them, then I compiled those lists into a master list that we will work our way through the semester. 

We then spent a few days working through some material from Tina Stark's Drafting Contracts book, talking about the differences between reps and warranties, covenants, conditions to obligations, etc.  They looked through my sample contract and found examples of those types of provisions, and we talked about them.  I gave them the option of drafting a few simple provisions and then gave them written feedback outside of class.  In class, we spent 15 minutes debriefing to further reinforce the concepts.

Yesterday, I gave them a real residential lease and we talked about the analytical skills that transactional attorneys use to spot business issues, evaluate risk, and then mitigate risk.  Today, they broke into pairs and negotiated certain provisions in the contract, role playing the landlord's attorney or the tenant's attorney.  After each negotiation, we debriefed about the content of their negotiations, what each party was trying to get, what kind of compromise was mutually acceptable, and what terms are enforceable.

Thursday the real work specifically on commercial real estate transactions will begin.  But I think that these first two weeks have been a great investment of time.  They seem very comfortable with the ideas of balancing risk, aligning incentives and control, and crafting appropriate standards, which I think are pretty important in commercial real estate transactions.  The negotiation exercise in particular is one that I think I will use throughout the semester because the students were very engaged as they argued with one another, and seemed to learn a lot during the debrief from the other students.  It also proved to be a great jumping off point for me to work in the substantive points that I wanted to make about landlord/tenant law.

So far, I think that my attempts to integrate lawyering skills into an "academic" class, as a means of teaching the substantive law, have been successful.  Next semester I will teach Property, which I believe will be a bigger challenge given that it is a fundamental doctrinal course. 

I'm very interested in how other Property Profs are addressing this debate.  Do you think that lawyering skills should be taught in separate courses by a separate faculty (as advocated by some on Prawfs Blawg) or should they be more integrated in the academic curriculum (as I am attempting)?  Thoughts?

Tanya Marsh

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August 31, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Freak Out Day? Holy @#$% Day?

We need a name for that day, during the summer, when you suddenly realize that the new semester is bearing down upon you, and you've accomplished approximately 5-10% of everything you swore you'd get done this summer, for sure, not like last summer when you wasted a huge amount of time trying to play the guitar and napping inside your office. 

This summer I meant to:

(1) re-vamp and re-organize my fall courses; and

(2) complete one article that's been accepted; and

(3) make significant progress on a second to be submitted in the fall; and

(4) contribute witty and deeply provocative posts here several times a week.

So far, I've managed to:

(1) try to play the guitar; and

(2) take some outstanding naps.

. . . . OK, honestly I'vew gotten a lot more done than that.  But, I got an email today letting me know that I was supposed to have posted my first assignment for the fall semester of Property I already.  Thus the title of this post.  Apparently, I used to know something about "property", even taught it recently, and am expected to teach it this year to "law students."  All of this is only vaguely familiar to me at this point.

If you have suffered a similar experience, we need a name for this day.  Any suggestions?

Mark Edwards

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


July 21, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crafting the First-Year Property Course

Newbie property law prof here.  This summer is marked by great transition for me and my family – from practice to the academy and from Indianapolis to Winston-Salem.  There is so much to do and think about that it is sometimes difficult to figure out where to start.  Just when I thought I had a handle on things, I had the opportunity to attend two AALS conferences back-to-back.  I just got back from the New Law Teachers Conference, which I will blog about later.  The previous weekend was spent in New York City, at the AALS Mid-Year Workshop on Property.

The Mid-Year Meeting was a really fantastic opportunity to meet (in person) some of the people who so generously helped me in this process.  The weekend was also chock-full of interesting ideas. 

The first plenary session focused on what should be included in the introductory Property course.  The panelists were Professors Al Brophy (UNC), Henry Smith (HLS), Stewart Sterk (Cardozo), and Molly Van Houweling (Berkeley).  They each offered a different and interesting perspective.  Professor Brophy discussed incorporating some non-traditional cases to highlight ethnic and racial tensions in the history and development of American property law.  Professors Smith and Van Houweling each presented their thoughts on the inclusion and exclusion of certain topics in the first year course, particularly how to handle intellectual property.  Finally, Professor Sterk shared his approach, which emphasizes asking students to role-play as lawyers and apply doctrine to client counseling problems.

More after the jump.

Continue reading

June 20, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Off to Prague

On Tuesday I leave for Prague, where I'll be teaching my Comparative Property Rights course to American students at the Charles University Faculty of Law.  I'll continue posting from Prague where, in addition to teaching, I'll be doing some researching and writing. I'm very excited because Prague is the ideal setting to teach and research comparative property rights issues, since Czech property rights have undergone several radical transformations in quick succession.

As I discovered when I created my Comparative Property Rights course, it turns out there is no casebook or or single text available for the course.  Therefore, I've had to create one.  This summer, the five topics we'll examine are (1) colonial compared to indigenous property rights; (2) property rights under civil law compared to common law; (3) property rights under communist systems compared to capitalist systems; (4) comparative constitutional protections of property rights; and (5) my personal favorite, restitution.  I've compiled a series of readings -- cases, excerpts from law review articles and books, etc. -- for each topic.  In addition, I've written a series of what I call 'focus questions' to guide the students through the reading and to center class discussions.

If anyone is considering teaching a comparative property rights course and would like the syllabus for any of those topics, send me an email (mark(dot)edwards at wmitchell(dot)edu).  There's no point in reinventing the wheel when the prior art is available although, of course, you may find that my wheel is square and has the spokes sticking out sideways, to beat a metaphor beyond recognition.

My next post will be from Prague!

Mark Edwards

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

May 15, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Salkin on Renewable Energy and Land Use Regulation Parts I and II


Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted Renewable Energy and Land Use Regulation (Part 1) and Renewable Energy and Land Use Regulation (Part 2) on SSRN.  Here are the abstracts:

Part I of a two-part set of materials on renewable energy and land use regulation, this piece focuses on local climate change action plans (highlighting Denver, Los Angeles, Montgomery County, Cleveland and Santa Fe), discusses lcoal governments and LEED, Energy Star issues including preemption, and the incorporation of green development concepts into local comprehensive land use plans and local zoning and land use regulations.

This article is Part 2 of a set of materials on renewable energy and land use. The article focuses on state and local government approaches to the siting of wind projects including a discussion of host community agreements. Examples of local ordinances are provided as well as a summary of recent relevant caselaw.

Ben Barros

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

April 21, 2010 in Land Use, Natural Resources, Recent Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)