October 06, 2015
Should Casebooks Include Statutes? Answer: No
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

Steven Bradford asks the titular question.  And his answer, like mine, is a clarion "No!" 

But it makes no sense in courses like Business Associations or Securities Regulation, where students will be looking at dozens, even hundreds, of pages of statutory and regulatory material. The students in those courses will still have to buy a statute book; including some of the same statutory material in the casebook just increases the size (and cost) of the casebook.

In the comments casebook author David Epstein defends the inclusion of statutes:

Obviously, different authors have answered that question differently, My answer is that business associations casebooks should include the most important parts of the most important statutory provisions. Here is why.

I want students to have read and thought about the most important provisions of RUPA, the MBCA and/or the Delaware General Corporation Statute BEFORE CLASS. That is very important to what we can then accomplish together in class, In my experience, more students are more likely to have read and thought about the most important statutory provisions if those provisions (and only those provisions) are excerpted in the casebook.

I understand that there are costs to including the most important statutory provisions in a casebook, First, it might marginally increase the cost of the book. Second, it might make it less likely that students will, prior to class, read the other relevant statutory provisions that are not included in the casebook. And, I guess, some might make a "pandering" argument.

I guess I'm raising my hand on that last one.  I wouldn't characterize including large chunks of statute as "pandering," though.  I'd call it "frustrating one of my chief pedagogic goals."  After a few years teaching BA, my goals became pretty modest.  I want students to walk away understanding fiduciary duty, the business judgment rule, and that there are inevitable tradeoffs between the various forms of business organization.  But, most of all, I want them to take away one thing:

Look it up in the code

I teach BA as a code-based class.  My students have to hunt for provisions in the RUPA, the MBCA, the DGCL, and RULLCA.  We cover the MBCA and Delaware not because Georgia is a Model Act state, but because I want to talk about the different ways they handles questions like conflict of interest or the derivative suit.  It's sure hard work getting students to flip between code provisions and wrestle with definitions.  But the practice of law requires it.  And I put my money where my mouth is on the exam, as well--every exam involves an issue we haven't covered in class before, that requires students not only to spot the issue but also to figure out the answer using the statute. 

So no, casebook authors, please don't put too much statutory material in the casebook itself.  I want students to look it up before class or in class.  Because that's what they'll have to do when they're practicing law.

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