June 08, 2009
Business Associations
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

I’m here in Long Beach live-blogging the AALS Mid-Year meeting. The first session’s title is Role of the Basic Course: What is it and Where is it Going? Bob Thompson led off with an update to his 1998 survey. There was too much information for me to scribble down, and I hope Bob will publish his full results. One highlight was that most of us appear to be offering 4 credit hours, and in 2 weekly sessions. [Blogger note: We’re still at 3 credits 3 times a week at Georgia, but maybe we’re behind the times…]

Bill Carney offered an evolutionary perspective which I largely missed because I snuck out of the session to grab my laptop. He ended with a reference to the massive entity shift we’ve seen to LLCs, and the reflection (doubtless warming Larry Ribstein’s heart) that unincorporated entities are foundational and we are largely failing our students by not integrating LLCs more into the basic course. [Blogger note: As my Corporations students know to their sometime sorrow, we cover about 4 weeks of partnerships and 1 week of LLCs. We move FAST.]

Our own Christine integrates tax and accounting in BA to an impressive degree.. My favorite quote: “In BA we teach stories of people who hate each other. They didn’t before, but now they do.” [Blogger note: mindful of all the non-business, math-fearing law students out there, I always open my first class with: “Don’t be scared. All we’re going to talk about is relationships. Relationships between partners; relationships between shareholders, managers, and directors; family relationships, particularly in the close corporation context. It’s just relationships.” ]

Jeff Lipshaw spoke about the difficulties of integrating a business understanding into the course. My favorite tidbit: he quoted Ron Gilson that in moving from corporate law practice to law teaching you shift from being a beetle to being an entomologist, and added a Lipshavian wrinkle: “We are entomologists trying to teach beetles how to be beetles.” [Blogger note: I don’t like beetles.]

Cheryl Wade emphasized making connections between Business Associations and the real world. She integrates current events into her class, using stories not from the Wall Street Journal (which many professors seem to require their students to read) but from the general news to talk about the duty of care. She also tries to make time to discuss race, class and gender, particularly in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Even when she doesn’t have time, she points out that BA is an implicit discussion of race, class, and gender: wealthy white men.

I’ll close with the question our moderator Larry Ribstein opened with: Are we preparing the Main Street lawyers of tomorrow to be the Wall Street lawyers of yesterday? And if so, why?

Updates: Jeff has written about beetles before.  And if you've ever wondered how to prepare to moderate a AALS Mid-year meeting panel (and honestly, who hasn't wondered?), see here.

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