July 19, 2011
Corporations/B.A. Roundtable: The Use of Stories in the Business Associations Course
Posted by Afra Afsharipour

I really appreciate the robust discussion on ways to teach corporate social responsibility, especially as this is something that I struggle with in my BA class.  I tend to take the approach that Lisa and Kent outline.  I try to introduce basic corporate law theory concepts and then teach Wrigley and Dodge back-to-back. These cases do a terrific job in setting up some fundamental questions about the nature of the corporation, the role of the Board and shareholders, the question of to whom directors owe fiduciary duties, the Board's responsibility to other stakeholders, is shareholder-wealth maximization really mandated by corporate law (I agree with David’s analysis that it is not), the rationales for the business judgment rule, etc.

I try to animate these questions and the cases by incorporating the stories and characters involved in the cases. I suspect that many others do the same. The use of stories helps students have a more robust discussion of the legal issues involved in the case, how these cases have shaped the law, and whether these cases really stand for the propositions that we now assume they stand for. Incorporating these corporate law stories can also help us teach students about how personality, motive, and social/political/historical context affect judicial opinions and outcomes of cases.  For example, Henry Ford was a much more controversial figure than a basic reading of Dodge v. Ford (as presented in most casebooks) makes him out to be.  The background story of the case illuminates the fraught relationship between Henry Ford (the controlling shareholder) and the Dodge Brothers (minority investors) whose business plans would place them in competition with Ford. 

For anyone who is not already aware, you can get a better sense of the background of many of the cases we teach in books like Corporate Law Stories and The Iconic Cases in Corporate Law.  If you are aware of other books/articles with good corporate law stories, please submit a comment with a link or reference.

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