August 19, 2008
Who Should Take Antitrust
Posted by Rob Illig

Ok, day 2 as a guest blogger.  I'm off in a few minutes to teach the first day of Business Associations and Mergers & Acquisitions, so I'll be (mercifully) brief.

On Sunday David Zaring commented on the value of taking Antitrust while in law school.  I agree wholeheartedly that it's a terrific course, but especially so for a particular subset of students.

As I am sure is the case at many law schools, each year I encounter a number of students who entered law school with visions of social justice in their heads - and no real life experience to speak of - but who then discover that their real interest lies in business law.  Either they were ignorant of the joys and challenges of dealmaking, or they just assumed that they wanted to litigate.  The pedagogical challenge they present is not only to teach them the legal skills they need to practice business law, but also to help them get a feel for how businesses (and businesspeople) think and behave.

One way to handle this is through course selection.  In my experience, antitrust and business bankruptcy are the two courses that best expose what goes on behind the curtain in a large corporation.  Maybe it's the glimpse that antitrust provides into the proverbial smoke-filled room, or the fact that bankruptcy is when all is laid bare, but I urge all of my inexperienced business law students to take both courses. 

In addition, I should note, I of course encourage them to get involved with various externship opportunities as well as our small business clinic, both of which also provide insights into how businesses behave.  Finally, I give them a list of books by people like Roger Lowenstein and James Stewart that I encourage them to read offline.  "Deals from Hell" by Robert Bruner is also a good read for students who are unfamiliar with the doings of large businesses, as are a number of other fairly obvious choices.  Books of this ilk are also helpful in providing some recent background as to how (and why) the American economy has evolved in recent years, something that is especially important for students who paid no attention to economic news until law school (and maybe not even then).  More and more, for example, I am finding students who are unfamiliar with important corporate law developments like the Disney/Michael Eisner soap opera or even the doings of Enron (let alone events of the 20th century!).  How can they understand current trends in corporate law if they don't know the context in which the law developed?

By the way - I too saw the new Star Wars movie over the weekend.  As my six-year-old daughter recently explained to me, "star wars isn't just a phase, Dad, it's part of who I am."

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