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-Spencer L. Simons, Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law


Monday, April 15, 2013

Contract Law Can be Interesting!



Contract law is boring and hard--I blame Prof. Kingsfield for this—and gets a bad rap as far as the first year curriculum goes. Torts and Criminal law have great fact patterns,everyone wants to own real estate someday so there is an incentive to learn Property law, and Constitutional law has become politics by another name so everyone has an opinion. Only Civil Procedure can match Contracts for dullness (I will redeem Civ. Pro. in a different post). I am telling you now that Contract law can be interesting. You are just reading the wrong books.


 Foundation Press has published a series of books with the title [Insert Legal Subject] Stories in which law professors give the reader a little more context on famous and influential cases.  In the volume Contract Stories (KF801.A7 C66 2007), famous cases like Hadley v. Baxendale and Hamer v. Sidway are given “the rest of the story” treatment. The text of the actual opinion isn’t included, but a lot of background information on the parties and their situations are provided along with a great deal of analysis putting the case within the context of contract law all written in a very readable format. I’ve never read Contract Stories, but I have enjoyed selections from other books in the series and highly recommend them for “lawyerly leisure reading” (I just made that up).

You are probably saying to yourself, “but reading more about these cases doesn’t sound too interesting to me!”  You may be right. If that is the case then I recommend reading Professor Lawrence A. Cunningham’s book Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter (KF801 .C862012). (Full disclosure: I performed some research for Prof. Cunningham several years ago, but nothing associated with this book).  Prof. Cunningham explores contract issues by utilizing a series of contemporary and interesting contract cases, many involving celebrities, and uses them to explain contract law issues. The concept of mitigation is explained using the case of Washington Redskin season ticket holders being sued for not renewing their tickets. The idea of mistake is illustrated by a divorce agreement adversely affected by the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Contract acceptance is illustrated by an attorney’s offer broadcast on the television show “Dateline” being accepted by a law student at South Texas College of Law (and he also re-tells the story of Carbolic Smoke Ball in a shout-out to Professor Kingsfield).  Contracts involving Paris Hilton, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jane Fonda are also used to illustrate important points of law.

Contract law can be a difficult subject to digest for even the most diligent student. However, both of these books make contract law more approachable by making cases and concepts come alive and feel more relevant by adding much needed depth and relevance.

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