June 01, 2012
Coverage Doesn't Really Matter
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

There, I said it.

Haskell Murray's sweet and thoughtful post on mentors reminded me of my early teaching days.  7 years might not sound like a lot to you grizzled veterans, but it strikes me at the end of this academic year that I've been around for a while now.  Looking back to my first year, I remember one observation from an old hand that sounded ludicrous at the time: "It doesn't really matter if we cover all the material.  It's not a big deal."

"What?!" I was horrified.  I had only 3 credits to cover Business Associations, not the luxury of 4.  As it was whole chapters and doctrines were left to the wayside, and I felt I had to rush through material to make sure we Covered It All.

I think it was around the end of my second year when I realized that 90% of law the students dutifully crammed into their heads for the exam had trickled out within 2 weeks.  That realization was equal parts sobering and liberating.  Now my goal is for students to walk out of BA understanding 1) there are different ways to run the railroad, each with tradeoffs in terms of control, liquidity and taxation 2) there are fiduciary duties, 3) the business judgment rule, 4) derivative suits (kind of), and most importantly, 5) THERE'S A STATUTE.  Start there. 

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty more that I teach and test on.  But one of my big goals is to introduce students to the idea of transactional law.  So I always try to have at least one guest speaker, a real live lawyer who will tell the class what their practice is like.  And we've been lucky enough to have Bill Chandler, the former Chancellor of the Chancery Court, teach a short course here at Georgia for the past several years.  When he's in town I dragoon him into service.  He's talked about the history and role of the Chancery Court, Disney, what it's like to be back in practice.  It's an incredible opportunity for our students to hear from him--much more valuable than anything I could impart in lecture #42.

In Contracts we have a negotiation class and a class on NDAs.  I find these classes, particularly toward the end of the semester, are a welcome break in the routine for students.  What's more, they give students a taste of how transactional attorneys deal with contracts in real life.  Providing this context makes the students care more about the doctrine they're learning.

When I mention such classroom excursions to very new professors, they often remark, "Oh, that sounds great, but I just don't have the time!  I have so much to cover!" 

I nod understandingly and smile. 

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