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Business Torts:

A question for those readers who took a second-/third-year law school class on business torts -- torts like interference with business relations, misrepresentation, bad faith breach of contract, and the like: Have you found this class useful in your practice?

Steve:
I didn't take such a class, but if I had, I'm pretty sure I would have found it useful!
8.24.2007 1:37pm
bjr (mail):
My Enterprise Organizations course touched on these torts, and I am writing this while taking a break from researching precisely these issues (indeed, the attorneys involved in the underlying transaction would have done well to have taken such a course!). I found this class to be among the more practical and helpful classes I took in law school, and anyone contemplating a career in the private sector (either counselling or litigating) should take a similar class. Of course, the subject matter will not be applicable to all practices, and it's impossible for students to predict what their practices will look like even a few years out of law school, but those whose clients might include businesspeople or corporations would be well-advised to select into this elective, and law schools should make it available.
8.24.2007 1:51pm
Antares79:
Although I took no class called "business torts," my Antitrust and Trademark classes both substantially addressed state law/tortious business misrepresentation, false advertising, and unfair competition. Sadly, I am finding it useful.
8.24.2007 1:52pm
Thales (mail) (www):
It seems like this stuff can usually be folded into first year torts or contracts. In practice they are easy torts to learn, and frequently piggy backed onto contractual causes of action (unless there is no colorable argument for an existing contract) and in any case duplicate basic contractual and tort theories of damages. Such a class would go near the bottom of my list as useful to business lawyers, far below secured transactions, bankruptcy, antitrust, securities regulation, etc. But if the professor had a unique expertise and could fill out the class with truly sophisticated analysis and content, I guess it would be a different story.
8.24.2007 1:54pm
Keyes:
I think it's a topic, if limited only to torts, that can be covered in one week of classes during 1st-year torts, so long as the case book has the necessary materials.

To me, it seems a stretch to devote an entire semester to run-in-the-mill tort claims just because the victim purports to be a business entity -- unless the class extends to include claims under (i) state and federal RICO, (ii) the Lanham Act, (iii) unfair trade practices/unfair competition, (iv) breach of confidentiality/non-compete agreements.
8.24.2007 2:00pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
The subject might be more "courseworthy" if it included professional liability -- legal, accounting, engineering.
8.24.2007 2:05pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
I agree with both Steve and Keyes: I didn't take one (I don't think my law school offered one) and I do think it would have been helpful, since I practice commercial litigation; but on the other hand, if it was going to be full-scale class as opposed to a unit in a regular torts class, then it should also include the sorts of statutory torts Keyes mentions.
8.24.2007 2:18pm
texas lawyer (mail):
I did not take such a course, but I think it would be extremely helpful. Most commercial litigation involves such business torts.

I don't think 2 weeks in torts or contracts as a first year is sufficient basis to cover what most commercial litigators spend their careers handling.

The interplay between contract and tort (the so-called) contort is very important and not easy to understand. And, the issue of how to prove damages would be a great part of the course. While contracts classes include a brief unit on damages, the bigges issue in many commercial cases is whether the damages are too speculative. Learning that would be a great benefit.

A high-level law-school course bringing together the more basic concepts could be quite useful.
8.24.2007 2:25pm
10803:
The timing is amazing. I saw your article and the following from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog within 2 minutes of each other on my rss reader.

The Law Borg

Looks like tortious interference is alive and kicking.

I've actually had it come up in a few situations. Mostly M&A but I've also had a loser in an RFP try to convince me that the winning bidder had interfered somehow.
8.24.2007 2:31pm
Bpbatista (mail):
I was a litigator at a 300+ lawyer firm for 10 years and am now in-house litigation counsel for a Fortune 500 company -- In both positions I had too many cases to count involving these types of claims. It would be helpful for aspiring litigators to have some knowledge of these types of claims before they leave law school. Certainly would be more useful than memorizing the Blue Book.
8.24.2007 2:53pm
TaxLawyer:
When I started out in litigation practice, I had a senior associate give me a research project on TI. He spoke as if he assumed I knew the basic contours of the tort. In fact, I had never heard of it.

Mindful of that experience when I started teaching Torts, I made sure to cover at least the basic outlines of TI in our 6 credit, full-year Torts class. We're scaling TOrts back to a 1 semester, 4 credit course this year, and so I have had to ditch teaching it. Far more useful to a typical commercial litigator than virtually any other tort covered in the typical basic torts course, unless you're going into personal injury, mass tort, or products liability as an area of practice.
8.24.2007 3:53pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that it really depends on your practice. I have had need of such, but have done just fine by using the usual types of legal resources available to practicing attorneys.
8.24.2007 3:54pm
Tinhorn (mail):
(I know that at least a few of you must be thinking this, so someone might as well say it.)

A question for those readers who took law school classes -- classes like contracts, property, criminal law, and all the rest: Have you found those classes useful in your practice?
8.24.2007 4:01pm
Bpbatista (mail):
I think all of the "core" courses are useful. It is the "[fill in the blank] and the Law" (e.g., Feminism and the Law, Literature and the Law) type classes -- which are seemingly beloved by the faculty -- that are utterly useless.
8.24.2007 5:39pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"A question for those readers who took law school classes -- classes like contracts, property, criminal law, and all the rest: Have you found those classes useful in your practice?"

No, as a transactional lawyer I have never run into any issues involving property or contracts. I actually twiddle my thumbs all day and collect an enormous salary.
8.24.2007 7:17pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
I didn't take that course, either, but that hasn't stopped anyone else from commenting.

Here's a new question: is posting comments on EV's blog, even though he asks you not to, because you don't belong to a certain class*, tortious interference with his blog?

Like I said, I wouldn't know the answer to this, because I didn't take the class.

* pun not intended.
8.24.2007 9:57pm
Lev:
Antitrust and Unfair Trade Practices

very useful
8.25.2007 1:24am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Like others here, I did not take a separate class on the subject, but only touched upon them in torts/contracts/BusOrg classes. And as a commercial litigator, I would have found these useful to have studied (with the usual caveat about having to re-learn everything one uses in real life, regardless of what one studied in law school). But I agree with Keyes/JDB: adding in the statutory causes of action would be helpful.
8.25.2007 1:35am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I agree with the first commenter. I wish my school had offered one instead of the 10-12 "race and the law" "gender and the law" "AIDS and the law" "Law of Indigenous Peoples" they offered every semester.
8.25.2007 2:18am
Cornellian (mail):
Every single complaint I see is loaded with a standard assortment of those kinds of claims as boilerplate filler to what they're really complaining about. I suppose therefore it would have been useful to have taken a course like that in law school. Courts are sometimes surprisingly vague about the elements of those causes of action. It would probably take a bit of work to make sure there's enough stuff their for a full course. Though I sort of agree with Brian G, that if you can make room on the calendar for things like "gender and the law" I don't see why you can't make room for stuff you'll actually be dealing with after you graduate.
8.25.2007 12:14pm
Dana Anderson:
Yes, I took such a course, and yes, it was quite useful in dealing with such claims.
8.27.2007 10:48am
Stash:
Yes, I took a "business torts" class. It was very useful and I have used the knowledge on numerous occasions. One of my first assignments as a new associate was regarding trade secrets and restrictive employment covenants. Over the years I have had to deal with litigation regarding interference with contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, trade secrets (computer programs and the classic "customer list" cases). I have dealt with unfair competition and state trade name and trade mark issues. The knowledge is also useful for transactional work, e.g. does this business need a federal trademark or is the substantially cheaper state registration sufficient? If you represent small local businesses, most of the protections and issues that arise involve state law, local competitors, employees, partnership issues and business sales. What is a reasonable non-compete agreement under the circumstances? (I have seen numerous instances where drafters write facially excessive non-compete agreements-and therefore invalid-to "protect" their client.) How do I document/set up a system where my customer information will be protected as a trade secret? Can I use this picture I found on the internet for my advertising? (Or, oops, I used this picture,and got this letter.) This is the milieu in which the Ma and Pa store, small businesses, salesman, and small entrepreneurs, real estate partnerships and venture investors operate. The more glamorous federal issues have much less impact on them. When I compare the usefulness of this course to my antitrust course, I have to say this one was far more useful for the real world everyday problems of small businesses.
8.29.2007 2:21am