You would think a course called “Business Law: Contracts” would be just about the most boring thing you could commit your time to. But I recently took said course through The Great Courses, and I’m here to tell you contract law doesn’t have to be boring.
Professor Frank Cross from the University of Texas at Austin teaches the contracts course, and he infuses it with humour, and legal examples that stick in your mind.
The Great Courses are a series of college-level audio and video courses on a wide variety of topics, including business. This particular course happened to be recorded in 1994, and the biggest problem is not with the contract law or audio quality, but with the pop culture references — Cross’s jokes about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are a bit awkward in 2015.
There are eight lectures in the series:
1. Foundations of contract
2. Offer and acceptance
3. Consideration, capacity, and form
4. Genuineness of assent
5. Performance and discharge
7. Third-party rights
8. International contracts
What I learned
The number one point I took away from this course was that contracts don’t have to be scary.
At Vireo Productions, we’ve run into potential clients who refuse to sign contracts, and I understand where they’re coming from: the thought of signing a contract can bring to mind complicated language, lawyers, and legal entanglements. Who wants to deal with that?
Cross describes contracts as “a meeting of the minds,” meaning that the whole point of a contract is to sign a mutually beneficial document that both parties can count on and refer to down the road. (Vireo also uses a plain-language contract that’s easy to understand and read.)
Because, let’s face it, things go wrong sometimes. We’re all just people, doing the best we can, and mistakes happen. It’s much better to have a plan for when something goes wrong, than to try to figure it out when tempers may be running high.
Another takeaway from the course for me was that contracts are logical. Not only does it make sense to have a contract from a business perspective, but each piece of a contract is there for a logical reason. At the end of each lecture, Cross gives legal examples, and asks his students to guess the outcome; almost always, the outcome was obvious if you took the time to think it through.
I’ve always endeavoured to use contracts because I had been told it was the right thing to do. I still believe having a contract is important, but after having listened to the course, I have a much deeper understanding of the process.
This course is great for anyone who regularly uses contracts in their line of work. It’s currently selling for about $90, but I got it on sale for $20, which I think is a more fair price considering the course is 21 years old. So if you’re interested in listening to it, you might wait for it to go on sale!