Tuesday, April 24, 2007

St. John's LL.M. in Bankruptcy

Sorry for the gaps in my blog--I've been doing a lot of speaking (Enron, images of lawyers in movies, legal ethics, corporate ethics) and some teaching (St. John's LL.M. in Bankruptcy program--a short course on Enron and other corporate disasters).

A word or two about this year's class on Enron at St. John's: the students were quite good, of course; more important, though, they worked collaboratively. We began three out of the four sessions with brainstorming on the students' papers, and the students shared their ideas and research leads freely. The class discussions included an illustration of how easily smart people can run into problems. The students formed their own "law firm" from scratch and had to sort out how to hire people with good character, how to retain them while maintaining a collegial and cooperative environment, what to do with laterals from different corporate cultures, and how to evaluate associates.

My favorite discussion involved how to encourage associates to report problems. I gave them the following scenario: it's very late at night, and an associate is babysitting a closing. Five minutes before the closing has to occur, the associate spots a problem with the deal. She tries to reach the partner in charge, or any partner, but everyone's unreachable. What happens if she refuses to close the deal, and later, she discovers that she was wrong about the problem? Should the law firm reward her for having the guts to hold off on the deal (assuming that her mistake about the deal was reasonable), or should the firm punish her for not trusting the work of the partner who was in charge of the deal?

The class's discussion included several variations: What if she could wake up the partner in charge just before the closing--should the partner be angry or glad of the interruption? Would the firm "punish" her later by failing to give her work of the same level of importance? Should the firm trust her more, or trust her less, for making this mistake? Can the firm avoid a last-minute problem by briefing all of the associates on the deal before the deal closes?

I had a great deal of fun teaching this class, and I'm looking forward to reading the students' papers. Bravo to St. John's (and Ray Warner and Yvette Gutierrez) for such a wonderful program!

1 comment:

Tom Hardy said...

Thanks for all the info! Do you know how I can get some lawyers in St. John's that I can go to for some help?