Syllabus

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Topics

15.616 is an introduction to business law which covers the fundamentals, including contracts, liability, regulation, employment, and corporations, with an in-depth treatment of the legal issues relating to breakthrough technologies, including the legal framework of R&D, the commercialization of new high-technology products in start-ups and mature companies, and the liability and regulatory implications of new products and innovative business models. There is extensive attention to national and international intellectual property protection and strategies. Examples are drawn from many industries, including information technology, communications, and life sciences.

Some Advice from John Akula on Picking a Law Course

I offer the following three law courses at Sloan:

  • 15.615 / 15.647, Law for the Entrepreneur and Manager (fall and spring) (615 is the full-semester course; 647 is the first half)
  • 15.616, Innovative Businesses and Breakthrough Technologies - The Legal Issues (fall only)
  • 15.617, The Law of Corporate Finance and Financial Markets (spring only)

Based on my experience as a practicing lawyer, I recommend that students at Sloan take a law course. Managers face many law-sensitive issues that are crucial to the welfare of their companies and their own careers. These issues often arise suddenly and outside the normal course of business. Each of my courses is designed to give you the understanding you will need to exercise good judgement and leadership in those situations. Each course will also provide you with the foundation in law that you will need to make effective use of legal advisors, and to develop later in your careers a more sophisticated understanding of any legal issues that are central to your particular responsibilities.

However, I do not expect students to take more than one law course. Thus my courses are designed as an array of choices, not a sequence, and there is substantial overlap with respect to legal fundamentals. You should pick the one that interests you most.

Requirements

Class Attendance

Students should attend class, since material is covered that is not in the readings. Attendance is taken. Absences for good cause (such as job hunting or family obligations) are excused. You should e-mail the TA before or shortly after the class in question, with a "cc" to the instructor, to request an excused absence. You do not need to include any personal details with the request.

Class Participation and "On-deck" Preparation

All students are expected to participate in class discussion. In addition, for each class, some students will be assigned in advance to be "on-deck." "On-deck" students should make certain that they prepare with special care and are ready to respond to questions about the readings. Guest lecturers are invited to call on the on-deck students. Each student will be "on-deck" approximately three times.

Take-home Exercises

There are two take-home exercises. Students have three hours for an exercise, and some choice as to the particular three-hour period. The exercises have been scheduled to be available during the periods shown on the assignments page. For each exercise, each student will make arrangements with the TA to receive the exam by e-mail at a mutually determined time during the availability period, and will e-mail back the completed exam within three hours of receiving it. The second exercise will cover only material not covered by the first.

During the period the exercises are available, students may not consult any other person about the content of the course.

The exercises heavily emphasize the required readings. The questions and format will be similar to previous years (although the exercises from some past years were of different lengths.) Past exercises and a sample answer will be made available to students.

It is not expected that students will need the full three hours to complete the exercise. I use this format so that a student does not have to write fast to do well. This may be of special importance to students for whom English is a second language.

Research Paper Option

All students in this course have the option of writing a research paper instead of doing the two take-home exercises. Students in MIT's Technology and Policy Program who wish to use this course to meet the law distribution requirement must take the research paper option. The requirements for the paper option are set out on the projects page.

Students who take more than one of my courses

If you take more than one of my courses, an additional research paper will be required in the second course, on a topic to be determined in discussions with the instructor.

Grading

Grading is not tied to a formula, but will be based approximately as shown below:

activities percentages
First Take-home Exercise 30%
Second Take-home Exercise 40%
Class Attendance/Participation 30%

Textbook and Course Readers

Students should purchase: Amazon logo Bagley, Constance E., and Craig E. Dauchy. The Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Law. 2nd ed. South-Western College Publishing, 2002. ISBN: 0324042914.

We will read most of this book. There will also be a course-reader available later in the semester.

Changes from Last Year

The only major change from last year is a new course number. It used to be 15.648.