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Introduction To Business Law In The College Classroom

Updated on March 23, 2013
Mock court trial sessions can help students to understand the step-by-step legal process.  Here the plaintiff's lawyer is questioning a witness.
Mock court trial sessions can help students to understand the step-by-step legal process. Here the plaintiff's lawyer is questioning a witness.

Exploring Business Law as a foundation for private enterprise in the college classroom can be quite a challenge for both teacher and student. Students find the legal environment puzzling and wonder how it applies to their career. Discovering the importance of law and how it applies to business can make the difference between successful leadership and poor management which fails to prevent costly consequences due to unforeseeable application.

For example, Employment and Trade laws are two areas of knowledge leading to ethical management as it requires implementation in daily business practice. The law reaches into every aspect of running a business. It encompasses training, hiring, payroll, marketing, and much more. The inability to foresee legal issues and compliance can greatly impact a company.

Teaching students to understand the basic role law plays as a foundation for business practice will equip them to successfully lead and manage, knowing how to structure a lucrative business and avoid costly legal expense.

Allowing students to take a greater role in teaching topics increases their understanding, introduces them to new concepts and terms, and fosters empathy among peers. Additionally, it opens their mind to different learning perspectives as they are responsible for teaching their knowledge of the topic in the classroom.

Teachers can use the class exercise as a review afterwards. Student evaluations are always higher towards the end of the course when interactive learning activities are included in a curriculum.

Making Business Law Applicable To Real Life

As an instructor, I find students enjoy learning through activities requiring participation and interaction with others. Research proves students retain 90% of their learnings overtime when they teach the subject themselves. When visuals and interaction is required, groups remember almost 70% over a longer period. These statistics support such teaching methods as icebreakers, group projects, team building and role-play in any classroom or workshop.

Therefore, when it comes to teaching Business Law I find it beneficial to incorporate one class session holding a mock court trail. After reading the chapter, during which a sample Complaint is studied and the basic terms related to Litigation are learned, we move forward with studying the legal process of pretrial and court trial and practice assigned roles.

Following is an overview of the Litigation process (see table following for detailed steps):

  1. Plaintiff files Civil Action against the defendant
  2. The plaintiff establishes a case or controversy exists, requiring a resolution on his or her behalf
  3. Long-arm statues are limited by defendant's sufficient minimum contact with the state

As the group begins to research and learn their roles, communication improves and those who are normally passive learners begin to contribute. Allowing students to take an active role is much more rewarding and increases interest in the subject matter.

Pretrial Procedure

Courts and Dispute Resolution
1. Plaintiff files complaints
2. Complaints and summons served on defendant
3. Defendant files motion or answer with possible counterclaim and defense
4. Court rules on motions
5. Plaintiff files reply to answer
6. Attorneys conduct discovery procedures
7. Parties may file motions for summary judment or judgment on pleadings
8. Court conducts pretrial conference
Source: The Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business, McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York, 2013

The Perjury Admonishment 'Voir Dire"

This oath requires jurors to "tell the truth" when answering questions asked about qualifications for serving in the case.

Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will accurately and truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all questions propounded to you concerning your qualifications and competency to serve as a trial juror in the matter pending before this court, and that failure to do so may subject you to criminal prosecution?

Sidebar: The judge calls the defendant's attorney to the bench.
Sidebar: The judge calls the defendant's attorney to the bench.

Test Your Knowledge!


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The Importance of Role Play

Soliciting volunteers for the court trial requires little effort since most students find the opportunity to reenact a trial exciting. I have discovered many students have natural acting talent and thrive under the pressure of performing in front of their fellow classmates.

The following roles will be required:

  1. Judge
  2. Lawyers (two: plaintiff and defendant)
  3. Plaintiff
  4. Defendant
  5. Bailiff
  6. Jurors (six to twelve)

Instructors or facilitators should assist the students by preparing and explaining the purpose of the activity and the court process. Stress the importance of student preparation for roles and the need to understand the entire court proceedings. Require the volunteers to use correct legal terms in their presentations and arguments.

Regarding the terms, I find it useful to provide students with a summary of possible legal language along with the definition. Most course textbooks have them within the appropriate chapter and in an appendix glossary. Direct students to these tools, the individual study will reinforce terminology and application.

The Teacher's Role

The instructor plays the role of a facilitator during this mock trial. Standing by to feed legal law usage and terms to students makes them relevant. Guiding the group through the process without actually performing their roles is important. However, if necessary teachers may have to step in and fill a role. Providing feedback at the end of the activity is vital and reinforces the learning activity.

Props

Transforming the classroom into a courtroom creates a realistic setting and adds to the learning enjoyment. I have found interesting props at consignment shops, but students often bring in or create their own. Again, the knowledge gained through this entire experience is valuable.

Prop Suggestions

  • Gavel
  • Bible
  • Robe for Judge
  • Uniform for Bailiff
  • 2 - 3 small tables for parties
  • Lectern
  • twelve chairs for jurors; one extra for witness
  • Lawyers are required to wear suits (preferably neutral colors)
  • A sample Complaint: use one that is business related for learning purposes

Positive Feedback

Instructors must provide learners feedback that boosts interest and lessons the impression of being corrected. To promote a positive learning experience, I videotape the session and use it as a means of reflection afterwards (your mobile device works well for videotaping).

As students watch the tape, they usually discover areas needing improvement and either add or delete information to the trial as needed. Discuss the video and ask them how they would change scenes for better understanding. Gently guide them to areas needing improvement.

Conclusion

Students always report the mock court trial was a fun learning experience. They remark upon how the research, memorization and interaction forced them to learn the legal law application in business. It may require some work, but role play is definitely a successful learning tool in any classroom setting.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I took a couple courses in college and then taught a couple classes in high school, so I'm educated in this subject. Great suggestions here Dianna, and ones that I have used in the past. Well done!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Though I may never use this thought I would read about it. I did think once about becoming a paralegal. ...well done and well written..

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Bill, I wish I had been there to learn from you. I'll bet your role plays were very productive and motivating. Have a good one!

      Carol, interesting to know how many of us considered law as a career. It has it moments, but somehow I think we as writers prefer our freedom of creativity instead. Thanks for coming by, enjoy your day.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this.I had a high school teacher who had us run a trial.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Good to hear that students have been exposed to these type of learning activities. Your teacher was right on with the mock trial. Thanks for your feedback, Mhatter. Enjoy your day.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A very interesting read Dianna ;thank you for sharing and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

      One of the better courses I had to take in college with my major being business/marketing. I still use it at times.

      The Frog

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I've never run a mock court trial before, but I've seen high school students participate in trials. They always take a trial seriously and are very interested in the process. It's a great learning experience. Thank you for the interesting details about running a trial at the college level, Dianna.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This would be an interesting course to take and as you pointed out it has implications for running and operating successful business ventures. While the fine points of each law and its application to business being done in various locales could not possibly be covered, it gives students a general view which can be invaluable in the long run. Voted up and interesting.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Eddy,

      Frog,

      Alicia,

      Peggy,

      The court trial is always a great learning experience. The students (and myself) really enjoy putting on a mock case trial and they learn much through the process many key business law concepts. Glad to hear many of you had a good experience learning basic business law as well. Enjoy your week, stay healthy and safe.

    • profile image

      Cookie 4 years ago

      Hey, you are a very wise, and on point instructor! I appreciate your wisdom in teaching, and your creativity is second to none!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, Dianna....you are definitely a great teacher and if I was a student I would sign up for your class in a heartbeat. You are meticulous and definitely know your subject! Thanks for sharing, and I am passing this around.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      This is fascinating stuff. I actually had two reactions. One was a memory of taking Constitutional Law in High School, and the class did include a role-play civil case. The other is that, in my 20 years as a small business entrepreneur, the role of business law has been very mixed. One very good New York attorney told me that in any issue where the value at stake is under $50,000, only the lawyers win. I take pains to ensure my contracts have mediation and arbitration and limitation of liability clauses to stay out of trouble. Legal counsel that prevents exposure is key, as far as I'm concerned. As an entrepreneur, I say to budding lawyers: Keep us out of court!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      For years I had to visit courtroom because of property disputes. However, I did not choose Law in the university program. Thanks for sharing this interesting lesson.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Cookie,

      Midget,

      Sid,

      Vinaya,

      Thank you for taking part in this conversation. Looks like many of us have enjoyed taking Business Law during our school years. There is so much to learning how litigation plays into every day business, keeping out of court is what keeps a business ethically sound. I appreciate your support, votes, encouraging comments, and sharing.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, role play makes learning fun, specially in the case of business law. This is a great way to learn and makes learning all the more fun.

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 4 years ago from Florida

      Hi,

      Great informative hub for anyone who wants to know more about the law. Although to some this information might seem to be common knowledge---but believe me---a lot of adults in the USA would not be able to answer any of these questions.

      I bet you were a great teacher---we need more like you in our schools

      Bobbi Purvis

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Vellur, I enjoy using interactive teaching methods such as role play in classrooms. It really is fun and adds interest to any course. Hope your weekend is off to a grat start.

      Bobbi, thanks for the compliment and feedback on the post. Law is an area we tend to slide through in college, making it fun helps to retain the legal terms and concepts much longer. Enjoy your evening and stay safe.

    • Paul Maplesden profile image

      Paul Maplesden 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

      A very important topic; business law can be quite a dry subject, and I think you've done a good job of taking some of the mystery out to us outsiders. I really liked your infographic at the end as well.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Paul, thank you for visiting and taking part in the discussion. Adding role play to any subject makes it memorable and fun. The students especially enjoy the mock trial presentation in Business Law. Enjoy your day and stay safe.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Practical knowledge is so important when it comes to such dreary subjects. I liked your approach, Dianna.

      These televised court rooms are also a good example for them to watch and discuss if the plaintiff was correct/wrong.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Dianna, Fascinating! I think this sounds like a wonderful idea; role play like this is much better when its with your peers and I think the understanding of the concepts is much more focussed too. Very interesting hub.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Ruchira, you have the right approach to learning in this lesson. We use the tapes to improve our techniques and discuss the case. Thanks for being a part of the discussion and adding an insightful comment.

      Jools, your peers do have a big part in making role play enjoyable and interesting. It has proven successful in this type of course. I appreciate and value your views on this article.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Good article! I would think that business law in the classroom lends itself to regulatory issues and some transactional issues surround contract law--litigation is a far different animal. And sometimes understanding the basics in litigation can help know when it is time to consult with an attorney

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I agree, Audrey, knowing the legal process and applicable laws will save a company money in litigation, should they need it. Students can learn this well through role playin the process. Thanks for your add to this discussion, very insightful. Hope your evening is going well.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi teaches12345,

      If i didn't major in Computer Science probably i would have taken Business or Law. I like the way they do it in courts. It is a nice sneak preview you have put here, easy to understand for Law challenged like myself :-) Voted up and useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Dwachira, with the logical thinking you demonstrate, you would have made a great Lawyer. It is never too late to pick up a second career! Take care.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very good. I kind of got it all backwards. I ran my own business and then I took business in college. lol But it was fun. ^

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Mock trials seem like a very good and interesting educational tool. People in business need to know and understand the law to protect themselves and what a fun way to learn it as you have outlined here.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Jackie,

      I think I may have duplicated your style in learning areas, it works at times. I appreciate your comment. Take care.

      Truth,

      I find the mock trials are what students enjoy most in the course, it keeps them engaged, but also forces them to do research and know the material. Thanks for your comment and support.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Interesting Diana and voting up.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Eddy, Thanks for the vote and your visit. It was a fun study and very helpful in learning how the law works. Blessings.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Excellent hub! I think learning the law as it is applied to business and what kind of lawsuits can be filed in business is really a good idea. It really prepares the student for all aspects of the business world. Your approach to teaching it is superb, especially holding the mock trials where students actually get to understand each part of a trial. I enjoyed reading this.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Hello Suzette!

      Thank you for your positive feedback of the teaching method. I enjoy the mock trials as much as the students. Yes, you are so right, it is a good idea to teach law as it applies to business because it will touch their professional career.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Teaches, great article! Your articles are always stuffed full of useful information, love the charts, just a great useful article. Very useful tips. Training such as this would certainly help others achieve in this type of environment. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Hello Lyric!

      I enjoyed writing this article as we had just completed the mock trial. It is a great learning experience for those interested in legal process. Thank you for visiting, commenting, voting, sharing -- you are super sweet! Blessings.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

      Congrats for Best HubPages Teacher award. Well done.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Thank you, Vinaya. Hope your day is going well.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I just recently took an online college course in business law and I enjoyed it very much. One of the problems with online courses like the one I took was that a person misses out on the experience you describe in this article. Made me wish my class could have been more hands-on.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Cygnet, it seems that online classes are becoming more popular. I agree that you lose the value of interaction from being in an acutal classroom. Maybe we can figure out how to make it more interactive over time. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation. Good reflection!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      Yes, teaches12345, I agree that value can be added to our educations, through hands on experience. I think that perhaps businesses should look into creating apprenticeship programs where they take college students and groom them for positions in management and beyond.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Cygnet, there are a few big companies that do take interships in order to groom future employees for management positions but we need this practice in every business. Life lessons are better when students are actively participating. Thank you for your added value to the content. Enjoy your week.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 2 years ago from Lagos

      Your articles are concise and always informative. You have such broad knowledge in almost all areas of life. You are indeed setting the pace for others to follow. Good job!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 10 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      This class was among my favorites in college. At one time I had hoped to attend law school and took many classes toward that goal. I like what you said, "Research proves students retain 90% of their learning overtime when they teach the subject themselves." I've found it to be true that when I had to give a presentation on a subject, that I learned the material and retained it more effectively. Great information here. BTW, I scored 100 on the quiz! Hooray, I still remember some stuff from college.

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