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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


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You people are so lucky.. :) There aren't many to understand such cases and get to have such teaching opportunity.


One interesting aspect of our Consumer Credit Laws ( is understanding how to sue credit card companies for their violations.


Funny you should ask. Dee Pridgen, Ralph Rohner, and I have been working on what will be the Third Edition of the Thomson/West casebook Consumer Law Cases and Materials. Though the book will not be out until the spring, we have been making copies of drafts available to professors who wish to use them. The book includes many of the topics you raise.

Andrew Engel

I am afraid I over-stated my case in the previous post. I did not mean to limit topics to purely statutory matters. I do believe, however, that it would be an error to infuse psychology and managerial theories into the class at the expense of actual law. Spending time on EU consumer law is a bad idea when American consumer law is all over the map. Yes, big picture issues come into play. But not until AFTER you actually know what the law says. I have represented consumers for over 15 years. Each case starts with the law, before you get to more esoteric matters. I am sure your empirical studies are quite insightful. But I do not think those who are headed for small firm practice will benefit from them. They will be concerned with things like how to use the mish-mash of consumer laws and common law claims (none of which really address predatory lending issues) to stop the forelosure case filed against their defrauded little old lady client.


Although I agree with a lot of the previous comment, I guess I have to disagree with its conclusion. I think there's a dangerous temptation to see the course as a series of topics on which there are statutes that need to be covered and to treat that collection of topics and statutes as "consumer law." That's the statute-of-the-week or law-of-the-horse, approach: Consumer protection becomes yet another sphere of human activity that the law regulates and the course simply "covers" that body of law without any consideration of what larger issues it raises or how it might fit together as an analytical whole.

That sort of approach is not what serves lawyers well in the long run. Instead, what law students ultimately (hopefully) get out of law school is a set of frameworks, modes of argument, and concepts--ways of thinking about problems that they'll some day encounter. They may not remember anything specific about what a particular statute says--they can always look that up anyway--but they'll understand, for instance, the notion of a statutory strict liability regime that replaces common civil law or criminal law models.

I also think consumer law could be a great subject to get students thinking about big-picture issues like private versus public enforcement and the mechanisms of enforcement we use (e.g. the uses and abuses of the class action device; fee-shifting; statutory damages), as well as special problems of federalism, such as the federal preemption doctrine and federal law on arbitration. I could be very wrong about this--I'm not a professor--but, as a practicing litigator and before that as a judicial law clerk, I've found myself drawing on the big picture stuff much more often than whatever black letter law I may happen to have digested along the way.

Andrew Engel

I envy you. Teaching that course would be one of my dream jobs.

I marvel at the lack of consumer law instruction in law schools. If you think about the American economy, it is driven by consumer spending. Virtually every aspect of consumer transactions is regulated in one way or another. Yet, consumer law is given only lip service in most schools. In practice, I have seen numerous instances of malpractice because lawyers try to apply traditional legal concepts and theories to consumer disputes. The reality is that consumer protection statutes and regulation alter the traditional relationships between the parties to consumer transactions.

I, however, am a traditionalist. There is too much law to cover to go deeply into theory and comparative models. Focus on the law. There is so much of it, you'll never run out of good material and never teach the course the same way twice. One thing to remember is that, unlike in criminal law or womens' issues in the law, every one of your students is a consumer. Every one has practical, real life experiences to draw upon. While more esoteric course structure might interest you, I think sticking with the law will help your students in practice much more.

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