Below is the very beginning of the textbook used in the course, Contracts: A Contemporary Approach, by John K. Setear.


Chapter One

An Introduction to Contracts

A contract is a voluntary, mutual exchange of commercial promises. If you fail to keep your part of a contractual bargain, then you are usually liable in a civil suit for the amount of money that you cost the other party as a result of your breach of promise.

 

Overview of the Chapter

This chapter introduces the subject matter of the course. For each of three broad areas of interest—legal rules, advocacy skills, and questions of theory and policy—this chapter poses two central questions and then includes a legal document that we will use to examine each broad area of interest in the context of a particular situation.

First, the chapter describes the two central questions that the rules of contracts law seek to answer:

  1. Did the parties make a legally enforceable contract?
  2. If so, what legal remedy, if any, is available to a party alleging that another party to the contract has broken a contractual promise?

In connection with these two questions about rules, we will read and discuss a judicial opinion called Hawkins v. McGee.

Next, in deference to the especially important role that legal rules play in the course, we will read a summary of all the legal rules covered in the course. This summary also serves to set forth the organization of the course, because the organization of the course flows from the way that the book groups together various rules.

The chapter then moves from rules to advocacy skills and discusses the two central questions that legal advocates, including contracts lawyers, should ask themselves:

  1. Have I expressed my own position, and understood the positions of others, as clearly as possible?
  2. Have my words and actions advanced my client’s interests as far as is ethically possible?

In connection with these two questions about advocacy skills, we will read and discuss a contract between the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Michael Milken about the videotaping of certain guest lectures that Milken was supposed to give at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management.

Finally, the chapter describes the two central questions of policy and theory that society should ask about the interplay of its rules of law (including contracts law) and the actions of legal advocates:

  1. Who benefits and who suffers from the application of a particular rule?
  2. Should society be happy with this outcome?

In connection with these two policy questions, we will read and discuss a case called Bolin Farms v. American Cotton Shippers Association.