4 Tips to Make Business Law Relevant for Students

Max Chao is a full time continuing lecturer at University of California Irvine. He was named UCI Lecturer of 2018 and 2021 in 2021 and won the 2019 and 2020 Merage Excellence in Teaching awards.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to teach students most days. It is not easy to teach Business Law, as many people know. I learned how to survive the Socratic method for teaching in law school. I also learned all about IRAC[1] while analyzing cases and writing memos. My students are not Law students, but they are both MBAs and undergrads. My challenge has been to engage them and make Business Law relevant for them.
Nearly 20 years of teaching experience at The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine. These strategies are what I use in all of my classes and I am the reason for my longevity and eventual success in Business Law.

Tip 1: Tell Stories
My stories based on my experiences as a practicing attorney bring Business Law to life.
When we discuss the restrictions in the United States Constitution (such as the 1st-5th and 14th Amendments) on the content of laws or regulations that a government can enact I think back to law school. That’s when I interned at the local city attorney’s office and analyzed the constitutionality of a proposed ordinance regulating–ostensibly, banning–nude juice bars within the city limits[2] (yes, this was a thing back in the 90s).
After we have covered the elements required to form a contract I tell my students about the time a client accepted an offer to buy real estate on faulty terms. We had to make a counteroffer to our buyer by implementing the first delivery rule. [3]
My students learn about how a colleague and me were able to hold an opposing party responsible for failing to properly incorporate their business. [4]
When we discuss secured transactions, one of my favourite stories is brought up. Students hear me tell them about a time when a client borrowed money from a friend to buy a car. The borrower refused to repay her loan after their relationship ended. So I hired a tow truck to spy on the borrower and learn her daily habits. She was always parking her car in her garage, which she knew was a sign of her disapproval. [5]
These stories illustrate the principles of Business Law and show students how they can apply what they have learned in class to real life.

Tip 2 – Use current events
I incorporate current events into every aspect my Business Law curriculum.
We examined the constitutionality and legality of the modified shelter-in place orders issued by the California governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also looked at whether Hawaii’s requirement for inbound travelers to submit a negative COVID-19 testing within 72 hours of leaving for the islands is discriminatory.
We examined the defamation lawsuits Dominion Voting Systems Corporation filed against Fox News and other prominent people in relation to statements they made regarding the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. We also examined whether statements made in the context of Elon Musk’s musings to privatize Tesla were a violation or not of securities laws.
By adding current events into my curriculum, I make Business Law relevant for students by showing them how law-related topics constantly crop up on the news.
Tip 3: Involve Students
Third, I make my students–oftentimes, unknowing–participants in unexpected legal-related scenarios which happen randomly[6] in my classes.
After we have studied negotiable instruments, I challenge my students create their own $1 check. They can take their check to their bank to get the teller honored with their unique, but valid, check. [7] Tellers expect standard, preprinted checks. My students must now describe the components of a valid check and show that their own checks meet these requirements. To make this even more fun for me, but not necessarily the teller, the student who creates the most unique check wins a special prize. [8]
My students learn from my experiences in Business Law.
Tip 4 – Use MindTap
MindTap has provided me with invaluable resources. MindTap is integrated into Canvas, our school’s Learning Management System (LMS). This makes it easy for me to post links in MindTap to news articles for my students to see and comment on.
MindTap also includes pre- and post-lecture exercises that help illustrate many aspects of Business Law. I love the “Why Does It Matter” section.

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