Business Law: Contracts

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

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.

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8 lectures
 |  Average 47 minutes each
  • 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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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Audio Download Includes:
  • Download 8 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 56-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Frank B. Cross

About Your Professor

Frank B. Cross, J.D.
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...
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Reviews

Business Law: Contracts is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 45.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great instructor Really enjoyed the instructor. Content was well presented and entertaining.
Date published: 2018-10-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Outdated material, but covers quite the basics I don’t know how much contract law has changed over the past 20 years (I think I caught one law that has changed for sure), but quite a bit of the content is somewhat dated. I also believe if you have watched shows like the “People’s Court”, you have heard much of what is covered in this course. The professor is very easy to follow on the audio, and there really isn’t any need to follow up with the guide book. He covers quite a bit of contract law, at least at the high level, and provides many examples. He can be entertaining at times, even if the jokes are often time sensitive. His reference to how “clever” lawyers can twist things around can be grating on the nerves, though, as it reminds me how often the judicial system is more about winning arguments than doing what is right.
Date published: 2018-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential for Doing Business This course is old (about a quarter of a century old – it refers to possible passage of the CLINTON health care proposal) but still an essential for any manager in a commercial business or any public servant who has any interaction with contractors (excepting lawyers and contract specialists for whom this course is elementary review). NOTE: The lectures in this course are 45 minutes long instead of the common 30 minutes. Also, there are only 8 lectures in this course instead of the more common 24. Finally, this course is designed to be taken in conjunction with the parallel course Business Law: Negligence and Torts. This course addresses the fundamentals of what should be known by anyone executing a contract. Topics include what really constitutes a contract, how does one establish a valid and binding contract, what constitutes acceptable performance, what remedies are available if performance is not acceptable, etc. Oddly, the course pretty much omits discussion of the different types of contracts (e. g., firm fixed price, time-and-materials, cost) and how the contract type affects execution. Dr. Cross is a very good lecturer. His lectures are always well organized. He addresses topics in an intelligible and enjoyable manner. His illustrations are insightful. I took the audio version. I still have the CD but now it is available only by audio download. (For some reason, it is not available by streaming.)
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Every Business Person Should Take This Course I am so glad I stumbled across this course. It is extremely helpful to anyone in business. Of course, it's not an advanced law school course. You won't even need to speak Latin. You will gain some very valuable tips on contracts and the law. Will a verbal contract stand up in court? Under the right circumstances. Like? Take the course and find out. What you will learn are timeless core principles of business contract law. You will also learn about remedy when contracts are broken. So often business people come to me with questions like "since my supplier did this, and we have a contract, can't I sue for a million bucks?" Well, I must ask, "were you harmed because your vendor underperformed?" Find out how business contracts work and why going for big wins in court is a lousy strategy. You are far better off if you prevent dispute than to bet on a big win in court. Any lawyer can tell you that anything can happen in court. Having a solid contract is your best assurance of protection. I really don't understand some of the very negative reviews. This course is informative and well presented. You won't need a book to follow. And you will want to refresh yourself from time to time. I enjoyed the course and have listened to it twice. I highly recommend it. What are your thoughts?
Date published: 2017-05-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lack of any printed material and the need to have to download the file every time to review made the course very difficult take.
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Would be Great if the Topic Interests You audio download version This is a slightly unfair review. I bought the course on a big sale, even though the topic held little interest to me. On the positive side Professor Cross, is knowledgeable, is able to convey his knowledge to a lay person such as myself and is pretty funny. He has lots of case studies, some made up that enliven the course. On the downside, even after listening to and enjoying the course, I still have very little interest in the topic. Provisionally recommended for those who have an interest.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation of Contract Law I am currently completing a law course in my MBA program so I can compare this course with an MBA law course on contract law. I really found this course helpful: 1) The professor has a wonderful sense of humor, is extremely knowledgeable, provides plenty of real life examples, and above all presents the material in a comprehensible verbiage! 2) The length of the course is perfect at 8 lectures. They really do go fast. 3) The material is relevant to anyone who needs to know about contracts. I recommend the course to anyone needing to further their knowledge in contract law. I do wish to see perhaps an updated version of the course, though I doubt much has changed in this field.
Date published: 2016-09-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Extremely Frustrating, Even Infuriating What annoys me about this course, which I gave up on after about the third lecture, is what annoys and infuriates me about anything to do with the law as portrayed by lawyers: the flagrant dishonesty about just how much rulings have so little to do with actual rules and laws, and everything to do with ulterior, pre-existent bias. I've noticed that lawyers tend to be "groupies" for the legal industry, in that they are cultishly compulsive about keeping up "The Great Lie" that it's some objective dimension of the law that determines case rulings, and not the more untoward, ulterior stuff. Yet never do I see anyone in the legal industry ever talk about bias, much less approach the practice and rulings of the law as actually centered around bias and cover-up lying about bias, which it is. Sadly, this course was just more of the same, which I'm obviously sick to death of.
Date published: 2016-07-24
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