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Business Law: Contracts

Business Law: Contracts

Professor Frank B. Cross J.D.
The University of Texas at Austin

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Business Law: Contracts

Business Law: Contracts

Professor Frank B. Cross J.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Course No.  561
Course No.  561
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Course Overview

About This Course

8 lectures  |  46 minutes per lecture

What is a contract? How can you make one binding? How can you avoid being prematurely bound by one? What can you do to get out of a contract? What remedies are available if someone breaches your contract? What special rules apply to international contracts? These questions and the other important issues of legally enforceable promises are covered in the eight lectures of this course.

Contractual agreements are one of the principal mechanisms for ordering life in society. Whether a contract is written or oral, or even implicit, it carries with it all of the duties and obligations that society has endowed with the force of law.

This series of eight lectures lays a comprehensive foundation in the practical and intricate body of law that governs contracts.

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What is a contract? How can you make one binding? How can you avoid being prematurely bound by one? What can you do to get out of a contract? What remedies are available if someone breaches your contract? What special rules apply to international contracts? These questions and the other important issues of legally enforceable promises are covered in the eight lectures of this course.

Contractual agreements are one of the principal mechanisms for ordering life in society. Whether a contract is written or oral, or even implicit, it carries with it all of the duties and obligations that society has endowed with the force of law.

This series of eight lectures lays a comprehensive foundation in the practical and intricate body of law that governs contracts.

Your guide to contracts is Professor Frank B. Cross, Professor of Business Regulation at The University of Texas at Austin and a former attorney with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, DC.

The Academy of Legal Studies in Business honored Professor Cross as the nation's outstanding professor. The Business Week guide to M.B.A. programs has also recognized him as one of the nation's outstanding teachers.

Professor Cross is the author of more than 30 articles in journals of law, science, policy, and management. He has published four textbooks for business law classes, as well as several other academic books. Professor Cross serves on the editorial boards of four journals, including the American Business Journal.

When Has a Contract Been Made?

Lecture 1 explores the boundaries of contracts in law. It discusses the four main requirements that any contract must satisfy, and it discusses the Uniform Commercial Code of the United States, which incorporated common law about commercial contracts into state statutes.

Lectures 2 and 3 give greater detail about the main components of a contract.

One party makes an offer and the other accepts, refuses, or makes a counteroffer, but there are many possible slips in between. Which offers are binding? Lecture 2 examines the preliminary issues of offer and acceptance, including the ability of parties to negotiate, the definiteness of a contract's terms, and terms of acceptance.

In Lecture 3, we look at three more elements of a binding contract:

  • What each party must give up for a contract to be made ("consideration")
  • Whether and when those of a diminished capacity, such as children or the insane, can make contracts
  • When a contract must be in writing.
When Is a Contract not Binding?

Lectures 4 and 5 consider the possible reasons for declaring contracts void or breached.

When does a mistake by either party or fraud by one of them invalidate a contract? When can a party successfully claim that an agreement was reached under duress? In Lecture 4, you get answers to these questions.

Lecture 5 reviews problems with the performance of a contract, including how much of a performance is required to consider a contract discharged, and other legal reasons for discharge. What conditions will excuse performance?

What can you do when the other side doesn't meet its obligations?

If a contract has been breached, how do the courts decide how much you are owed? Remedies for breaches of contract, and different methods for assessing the fair compensation in such cases, are considered in Lecture 6.

Special Cases: Third-Party and International Contracts

The series concludes with discussions of two unique issues in contract law: third-party rights in contracts and international contracts.

Lecture 7 explains the categories of persons who are legally permitted to enforce agreements to which they are not original contracting parties. These might include beneficiaries of the contract or an assignee of a certain part of a contract. The key questions are these:

  • When can rights under a contract be assigned to someone else?
  • When can a contract that benefits you be enforced by you?

Lecture 8 discusses international contracts and the practical and legal complications arising from them. Simple translation is only the first problem, and there are hundreds of variations on rules among countries. We focus on issues raised by international agreements, letters of credit, and other commercial practices. A discussion of the United Nations Convention on the International Sale of Goods in contrast with U.S. law is included.

Please note:

This course is not intended to provide financial or investment advice. All investments involve risk: Past performance does not guarantee future success. You acknowledge that any reliance on any information from the materials contained in this course shall be at your own risk.

View Less
8 Lectures
  • 1
    Foundations of Contract
    Contract is defined, and the elements and types of contracts are examined. x
  • 2
    Offer and Acceptance
    One party makes an offer and the other accepts, refuses, or makes a counter-offer, but there are many possible slips in between. Which offers are binding? How must acceptance be communicated? x
  • 3
    Consideration, Capacity, and Form
    We look at three more elements of a binding contract, what each party must give up for a contract to be made, whether and when those of a "diminished capacity" can make contracts, and when a contract must be in writing. x
  • 4
    Geniuneness of Assent
    When does a mistake by either party or fraud by one of them invalidate a contract? When can a party successfully claim that an agreement was reached under duress? x
  • 5
    Performance and Discharge
    If you've ever built a house, you have surely wondered what the law requires when a valid contract is in place and one party does not perform to its obligations. What conditions will excuse performance? x
  • 6
    Remedies
    If a contract has been breached, how do the courts decide how much you are owed? x
  • 7
    Third-Party Rights
    When can rights under a contract be assigned to someone else? When can a contract that benefits you be enforced by you? x
  • 8
    International Contracts
    Simple translation is only the first problem and there are hundreds of variations on rules among countries. We focus on issues raised by international agreements, letters of credit, and other commercial practices. x

Lecture Titles

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Frank B. Cross
J.D. Frank B. Cross
The University of Texas at Austin
Professor Frank B. Cross is Professor in the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management at The University of Texas at Austin and a former attorney with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Kansas and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. At Texas, Professor Cross has taught undergraduate classes, MBA classes, and executive-education courses in aspects of the legal environment in business. He has been honored as the nation's outstanding professor by the Academy of Legal Studies in Business. He was recognized as a top teacher by the Business Week guide to MBA programs. Professor Cross has authored many publications, including more than 30 articles in journals of law, science, policy, and management. He has published four textbooks for business law classes, as well as several other academic books. Professor Cross serves on the editorial boards of four journals, including the American Business Journal.
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Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 32 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great Introduction to Contracts This course is taught based on real life: that is, there may be laws that are written, but they don't really mean anything until they are tested in court. Cross presents the basics of contract law and then presents cases illustrating the law and gives insights on why cases were decided the way they were. This course taught me: 1. What is a contract? I thought I knew. Now I know better. 2. All the different ways contracts become valid and remain valid. 3. How contracts are broken and, more importantly, when they are not broken. 4. How careful one has to be when dealing internationally. Cross educated me while also being entertaining. It is interesting that he didn't seem to plan the lectures precisely because he seems to fit in as many example cases as he has time to squeeze in. That is, he'll say that we have time for a few examples, or we have time for one more case... That being said, it never seemed like he left out any of the explanations and there were always a few examples. I do wish he could have added another lecture or two with more case examples. The examples he chose really showed how strange our system is and the often odd cases that arise and I really enjoyed that aspect of the course. I also enjoyed the other Business Law course; see the link below. February 2, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent example of what a course should be! Clearly, from the rating, I thought that this course was well organized, well structured and very well presented. I found Professor Cross very easy to listen to. As part of my MBA program, I took a much longer business law course some years ago; as a former government acquisition official, I took courses in government contract law (but now we are talking about decades ago). I found this to be an excellent review and refreshed key points in my mind. I found the small examples to be helpful. One can, of course, desire or use longer ones, but then the salient points can get lost in the details. I thought that Professor Cross did a great job as selecting examples - ones that made the point and made the course more real. It is interesting that some courses are 30-minute lectures and others 45 minute ones. I think that in this case, the 45 minute allowed the time to cover the material and to include an effective summary at the end of each session. I thought that the 45 minutes went quickly, oh so quickly. There is another thing that I learned, though, that is not at all correlated with business law. In my now retired life, I teach professional development courses (about a dozen per year); these are unrelated to contract law. Professor Cross' approach of reviewing with small examples felt like a good approach to having me do the review work. While each instructor must use his or hers own personal style - being true to ones self - there are concepts here that I will experiment with in my activities. Maybe they will work for me, maybe not, but I will certainly experiment with some of these. I will listen to this again!!! January 18, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great course!! Frank Cross is outstanding! This is one of the three best courses I have purchased from the Teaching Company. Professor Cross - please add to this series - it is invaluable for people who want to learn about the law. October 11, 2014
Rated 2 out of 5 by Lacking explainations This course was a disappointment. Professor Cross just gives one example after another without much explanation of the concepts he is trying to teach. He doesn’t make any attempt to explain how small change in the example could lead to a different outcome, so I didn’t get a feel for where the line is drawn. The individual lectures also aren’t well organized, they are more like he showed up and was told to talk about a subject for 40 minutes without any preparation. December 21, 2012
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