AALS Panel Preview: Teaching Commercial Law in the 21

Kara Bruce, Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

This year’s AALS Annual Meeting features a number of dynamic panels for the commercial law crowd.  Offerings include an update from the joint Uniform Law Commission and American Law Institute task force on potential UCC amendments to address emerging technologies,[1] a heavy-hitting panel considering “the next post-crisis financial reform,”[2] and a works-in-progress series featuring the work of junior consumer law scholars. The Financial Institutions Section will also host an offsite virtual scholarship workshop on the afternoon of January 6.[3]

I am looking forward to a panel co-sponsored by the Sections on Commercial and Consumer Law, Teaching Methods, and Technology, Law, and Legal Education, titled Teaching Commercial Law in the 21st Century.[4]  Perhaps because commercial law subjects are so difficult for students to access, I have found that my commercial law colleagues are particularly thoughtful teachers, and I invariably pick up good ideas from my discussions with them.

This panel, like many good pedagogical exercises, arose from the consideration of educational outcomes.  Two of our panelists, John McGarvey and Bill Henning, are members of the American Law Institute and Uniform Law Commission’s Permanent Editorial Board, which addresses interpretive problems with the UCC and recommends amendments to the Code.  In that capacity, they have observed several recent appellate court decisions that have flubbed application of core commercial law concepts.  These high-profile cases have led them to question how law schools are preparing graduates in the area of commercial law.  And thus, the panel was born.  Carliss Chatman and I were invited to join what we hope will be an engaging Q&A-style conversation.

Given that no professor can cover the entirety of their chosen field in a survey-style course, our panelists will share what skills and competencies they prioritize in their courses.  We will share techniques for integrating developing technologies, racial justice, and practice skills into the commercial law curriculum.  We will also consider how administrative-level decision-making can support our goal of producing graduates with a baseline competency in commercial law.

Teaching commercial law in the best of times often involves dragging students though a dense thicket of statutory text.  These challenges are magnified during a pandemic, when our students (and perhaps we) may face loss, grief, financial instability, tension, and other hardships.  The panel will conclude by discussing strategies for teaching effectively through the COVID-19 crisis.

We hope that readers of the Best Practices Blog will join us for this panel and contribute to the discussion.  If there are topics you’d like the panelists to address, please reach out to me at kara.bruce@utoledo.edu.


[1] Section on Commercial and Consumer Law, Co-Sponsored by Financial Institutions and Consumer Financial Services: Commercial Law in the 21st Century, Tuesday, January 5, at 11:00 a.m. EST.  See Program for more details. 

[2] Section on Financial Institutions and Consumer Financial Services, Co-Sponsored by Commercial and Consumer Law: The Next Post-Crisis Financial Reform, Tuesday, January 5, at 1:15 p.m. EST.  See Program for more details. 

[3] The panel will take place via zoom from 1-5 p.m. EST on January 6.  Please contact Patricia McCoy for log-in details and additional information.

[4] Section on Commercial and Consumer Law, Co-Sponsored by Teaching Methods and Technology, Law and Legal Education: Teaching Commercial Law in the 21st Century, Tuesday, January 5, at 4:15 p.m. EST.  See Program for more details. 

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