Teaching Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co.
18 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2011
Date Written: 1993
Many legal educators across the country seek to bring into our courses more of the perspectives and experiences of white women, men and women of color, people with disabilities, of diverse sexual orientations, or of diverse economic classes. These efforts respond to our duty to educate students for the world beyond law school. Such efforts also send an important inclusive message to law students and the legal profession about whom the law does and should serve. But these efforts may perpetuate assumptions and stereotypes about the people whose perspectives we seek to incorporate.
Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. appears in most contracts casebooks currently available from the major law casebook publishers. The particular stereotypes implicated in Williams are associated primarily with African-American women: that they are disproportionately on welfare, irresponsible with money and likely to raise large families as single parents. The concerns could apply equally, however, to stereotypes of any group. The essay is premised on the belief that stereotypes, even if arguably complimentary, are inherently troubling, for they give legitimacy to the prejudging of people which can, in turn, lead to bias and invidious discrimination.
In addition to its utility for teaching about the doctrine of unconscionability, Williams can facilitate exploration of issues of race, gender and class. The essay presents two versions of the facts in the case – the actual facts and a fictionalized account. It provides discussion questions for classroom use.
Keywords: unconscionability, contracts, teaching contracts, stereotypes, Williams v. Walker-Thomas
JEL Classification: K12, K40, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation