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Contracts in the Real World
Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter

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  • Date Published: May 2012
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781139369190

$ 28.00 USD ( )
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About the Authors
  • Contracts, the foundation of economic activity, are both vital and misunderstood. This book corrects the misunderstandings through a series of engaging stories involving such diverse individuals as Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Clive Cussler, Lady Gaga, and Donald Trump. Capturing the essentials of this subject, the book explores recurring issues people face in contracting. It shows how age-old precedents and wisdom still apply today and how contract law's inherent dynamism cautions against exuberant reforms. The book will appeal to the general reader and specialists in the field alike, and to both teachers and students of contracts.

    • Uses accessible prose to explore the topic of contract law, often shrouded with misinterpretation between common understanding and contract reality
    • Presents more than 45 modern, topical stories, making 'popular' what is often portrayed as arcane
    • Includes engaging stories about contracts in the real world about scholars and historians and also popular culture figures such as Michael Jordan, Lady Gaga and Clive Cussler
    Read more


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Lawrence Cunningham has written a highly original and important book. For novices and long-time contract law scholars alike, the book is educational and insightful. The author presents a fun accounting of the essence of contracts both historically and in the present. One is moved from the position of viewing canonical contract cases as mere milestones of evolution to an understanding that the rationales behind these cases remain embedded in modern contract law. Cunningham has performed a service to legal scholarship by breathing new life into the relics of the past in order to better understand the cases of today."
    - Larry A. DiMatteo
    Huber Hurst Professor of Contract Law & Legal Studies, University of Florida

    "In Lawrence Cunningham’s engaging new book, Contracts in the Real World, old chestnuts, the foibles of contemporary celebrities and holes-in-one are delivered with flair and without legalese. The neophyte will be informed by this fun book. I am sure Professor Kingsfield would enjoy it much as I did."
    - Joseph M. Perillo
    Distinguished Professor of Law Fordham Law School

    "The stories are fascinating, the issues are important, and the explanations are compelling. Lawrence Cunningham has written a splendid book."
    - Steven Lubet
    Williams Memorial Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law

    "Contracts in the Real World is a fascinating account of how contract disputes are argued and decided, engaging the reader with stories involving celebrity parties or gut-wrenching disputes without losing scholarly sophistication. It is fit for general readers and students of the law, amply demonstrating the common sense that the common law of contracts brings to bear on the battles inevitably arising when promises are broken."
    - Donald Langevoort
    Thomas Aquinas Reynolds Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

    "In a perhaps natural turn for legal realism in the age of reality television, the last decade has seen an explosion of interest in legal 'stories'. Too often, however, such stories recount more than they teach. In exploring the Law of Contract through a set of carefully chosen exemplars Lawrence Cunningham does much more. Contracts in the Real World offers an invaluable set of reference points, drawn from both the classics and the modern day, to connect legal doctrine to the life of the law."
    - Robert B. Ahdieh
    Professor of Law Emory Law School

    "This book will be a fascinating reading for teachers, students, and indeed for anyone with an interest in contracting generally. It runs the gamut from Lady Duff-Gordon to Lady Gaga, and taught me things I didn't know about cases I thought I knew well, as well as telling me about cases I had never heard of -- while at the same time weaving a pattern of the common law of contract. An unusual and rewarding book."
    - Charles L. Knapp
    Joseph W. Cotchett Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of the Lawv

    Contracts in the Real World is a long overdue and illuminating alternative. That is, in a academic field where the coin of the realm is case law about matters such as Blackacre, mason fruit jars, Carbolic smoke balls, and Shirley MacLaine, . . . in that world it is refreshing to have a book that brings modernity onto the stage of legal education. While Professor Cunningham pays due deference to the above-mentioned old chestnuts, what is so stimulating about his book is that he highlights how today's contract law bears upon the likes and business dealings of everyone from Bernard Madoff and Donald Trump to Lady Gaga and Paris Hilton, and 50 Cent, too. Likewise, he identifies and understands the real-world contexts of modern contract law involving everything from electronic transactions and confidentiality of information, to agreements re season tickets subscriptions for sports events, to entertainment contracts, to Amazon's provider contracts, to any variety of contemporary non-disclosure agreements, et cetera. In all of these ways and many others, Contracts in the Real World stands alone as a work that ushers the law of contracts into the world of the living.
    An increasing number of law professors are critical, and rightfully so, of the appellate-court-centric perspective offered in so many law school courses and texts. Happily, Professor Cunningham has mined the fields of popular and commercial culture to offer up examples of contracts in context, in various contemporary contexts.
    Contracts in the Real World stands to become a significant break-out book in its field of study. Incredibly, it does this by weaving historical materials with their contemporary counterparts to produce a most useful and quite thoughtful little book.
    - Ronald K.L. Collins
    Harold S. Shefelman Scholar, University of Washington, School of Law

    "Taking the view that common sense should go hand-in-hand with common law, the book delivers a fascinating account of how contract disputes are argued and decided, engaging the reader with stories of celebrities and high-profile disputes without losing scholarly sophistication. The book addresses some of the major issues from the past decade – contract law has seen a substantial rise of interest recently with help from celebrities and reality television – while also adding a healthy dose of legal and historical substance. It’s a bold mix that involves an all-star cast including such diverse individuals as Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Clive Cussler, Lady Gaga and Donald Trump, all of which creates a Hollywood-esque attraction. The effort is perhaps best described by Professor Joseph Cotchett of San Francisco’s Hastings College of Law, who concluded it is 'an unusual and rewarding book.'"
    - The Global Legal Post

    "Cunningham has penned an original, educational, and insightful book... brilliantly support[ed] with history, politics, and related social sciences... nothing short of amazing."
    -A.R.S. Lorenz
    Ramapo College, Reviewing for Choice Magazine

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2012
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781139369190
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    1. Getting in: contract formation
    2. Facing limits: unenforceable bargains
    3. Getting out: excuses and termination
    4. Paying up: remedies
    5. Rewinding: restitution and unjust enrichment
    6. Writing it down: interpretation, parole, frauds
    7. Performing: duties, modification, good faith
    8. Hedging: conditions
    9. Considering others: third parties and society.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Business Law
    • Business Law Contracts and Agency
    • Business Law for the Accounting Professional
    • Contract Drafting
    • Contract Drafting or Transactional Lawyering
    • Contracts and Sales
    • Contracts l
    • Contracts ll
    • Law & the Legal Environment
    • Law and the Entrepreneur
    • Legal Aspects of Management
    • Legal Enviornment
    • Legal Environment and Legal Writing
    • Legal Environment of Business
    • Legal and Ethical Environment of Business
    • Legal and Ethical Environment of Business; Accounting Law
    • Obligations
    • Transactions and Settlements
  • Author

    Lawrence A. Cunningham, George Washington University Law School
    Lawrence A. Cunningham is the Henry St. George Tucker III Research Professor at the George Washington University Law School. He has been a professor of law and business for more than twenty years at Boston College, George Washington University and Yeshiva University. Cunningham is the author of many books, notably The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, and editor from 1994 to 2001 of the leading treatise on contract law, Corbin on Contracts. His writing has appeared opposite the editorial page in The New York Times, The Financial Times and The National Law Journal.


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013

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