What's in a Name? Names and Conceptual Frameworks for the Design of, and Approaches to, Law Programme Courses on Undertakings
Forthcoming in Koster, H., Pennings, F. and Rusu, C.S. ed., 2017, Essays on Private & Business Law A Tribute To Professor Andriaan Dorresteijn, The Hague (NLD), Eleven Publishing, p. 29-52.
24 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2017
Date Written: October 02, 2017
Law departments at universities in continental (‘civil law’) Europe, the (‘common law’) UK and the USA and their equivalent in other continents offer courses to students on the law pertaining to ‘undertakings’. This name is the equivalent of corporations, companies, enterprises or businesses and is used in EU law to avoid the exclusion of any version of this social and economic phenomenon in societies. These courses have many different names and deal with a variety of topics, ranging from the characteristics of each type of undertaking (from sole proprietorship to a stock market listed multinational corporation), to corporate social responsibility. Because of globalization these courses increasingly try to highlight international aspects of undertakings. Also, given the trend to include multidisciplinary scholarship in higher education, as well as problem-oriented learning, law courses dealing with undertakings try to include – among other things – economic and societal perspectives. Given the (still) national character of most law programmes at the bachelor’s and American-style JD level these developments, internationalization and multidisciplinarization, challenge the designers of these courses. And they question the proper name to be attributed to them.
Given the limited time which is available (all other courses in law programmes are equally challenged and the total amount of years remain the same), the designers of courses on the law pertaining to undertakings struggle with the question of how to deal with the increasing body of local positive law, but still reserving enough time for these developments. To make things worse, these courses are expected to contribute to the overall aim of law programmes, being the preparation of students for a career in the legal industry as (assistants to) licensed attorneys-at-law (the ‘bar’), prosecutors, judges, company lawyers, legislators and/or legal scholars. This aim is accompanied by the task of spending time on legal skills and academic thinking, which I will indicate with the German term ‘Bildung’.
One of the signs of this struggle faced by the designers of these courses is the choice of a course name. The name is often symbolic of the underlying approach taken. Should it be ‘corporate law’, ‘corporation law’, ‘company law’, ‘the law of undertakings’, ‘business law’, ‘international enterprise law’, ‘commercial law’, ‘comparative corporate law’, ‘European corporate law’, ‘economic law’, ‘the law of the regulation of economic activities’, ‘the theory and practice of corporate law’, ‘foundations and anatomy of corporate law’ ‘business & society’, ‘workers & capital & undertakings’, ‘understanding corporate law’, ‘business law for jurists’, ‘corporate law and legal practice’, ‘business law for non-jurists’, and all their local language equivalent? How does one express all these developments and tensions mentioned above and yet with a clear course name stay in connection with the expectations of the legal industry, which needs to recognize it on the candidates’ grade transcript? How does one translate the consequences of a choice for a particular course name to the subsequent choice of literature and other learning material? And what about the expertise of the team responsible for teaching it?
In this contribution to the Liber Amicorum for Adriaan Dorresteijn I will offer a conceptual framework that might help designers of (undergraduate) courses on the law pertaining to undertakings to choose an appropriate course name, and with that design a meaningful 21st century law course. Based also on ideas presented in an earlier research note, I will discuss multiple approaches to the topic and analyse them in the light of the developments in internationalization, multidisciplinarization and Bildung, as well as the broader discussion around comparative company law. Connected to each approach I suggest a fitting course name and suggest topics and literature with which to work. This analysis also points at the scholarly achievements pertaining to these issues in the corporate law discipline itself, to which Adriaan Dorresteijn has so greatly contributed. In part, it challenges the title given by Adriaan to his course book, European Corporate Law, as a broader attempt to contribute to the scholarly discussion within the Netherlands and abroad on law school curriculum design. The educational law approach below links very well with Adriaan’s efforts as law school dean and board member of the Utrecht Law School in order to pave the way for continuous improvements in legal education, that will hopefully be inspired by this chapter.
Keywords: undertakings, corporate law, company law, business law, legal education, course design
JEL Classification: K00, K40, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation