Throughout my six-week survey course in business law I have asked my students to complete a wide variety of assignments. By way of example, first they had to watch “Tiger King” during Week 1 of the course and write up a short essay (500 words) describing the most salient ethical or legal issues in the docuseries. In addition, students were assigned a series of open-book quizzes, short discussion posts, and peer reviews during Week 2 through Week 5 of the course (one quiz, one discussion post, and one peer review per module, per week).
Now, for the last week of the course (Week 6), I have a assigned a comprehensive Final Project (see details below). In place of a final exam, I prefer to assign a take-home research report–the ominous sounding “Final Project”–because, as I explain further below, I want my students to start thinking about their career prospects, and I also want them to see the “big picture” of law and ethics instead of cramming for an exam. In summary, the Final Project is the last graded assignment of the course and is worth 1/3 of one’s final grade. (The weekly quizzes and discussion posts, combined, are worth the other 2/3 of one’s grade.) The report itself consists of eight parts, and each part is equally weighted as follows:
1. Cover Page
First, include a picture of yourself or an image of the name or logo of the company you are writing your report about. Also, be sure to include your name and university ID number here.
2. Select a Business Firm
If you could work for any business firm in the United States or in the whole world, what company you would like to work for after you graduate from college. Explain why you would like to work for this company. (I include a link to Forbes’s Fortune 500 here.)
3. Existing or Pending Legislation (cf. Module 2 on Sources of Law)
- What is the single-most important law (State, federal, or international) that applies to your business firm? Put another way, what is the one law that your company has to worry about the most?
- What lobbying efforts at the local, State, or federal level is your business firm currently engaged in? Put differently, what law would the CEO or owner of your business firm like to see enacted in the short or long term?
4. Litigation Risk (cf. Module 5 on Civil & Criminal Cases)
- What is the single-most important lawsuit (past, present, or future) that could affect the future of your firm?
- Is the business firm the plaintiff or the defendant in this case?
- In your opinion, is this case more likely to settle out of court or go to trial?
5. Contracts (cf. Module 3 on the Common Law)
- What is the firm’s most important contract or contractual relationship?
- Who is the other party to the contract, and when was the contract made?
- What problem is the contract designed to solve?
6. Intellectual Property (cf. Module 4 on the Law of Ideas)
- What is the firm’s single most-valuable piece of intellectual property? Specifically, is it a trade secret, a patent, a copyright, or a trademark?
- When did the firm acquire the legal rights to this intellectual property?
- How did the firm acquire the legal rights to this intellectual property, i.e. did it create the IP “in house” or did it acquire the rights to the IP from another firm?
7. Pandemic or “Black Lives Matter” Protests (cf. Module 6 on Ethics & Morality)
- Legally speaking, how has the coronavirus pandemic or the Black Lives Matters movement affected the firm?
- How has the firm reacted to the pandemic or to the Black Lives Matters movement?
Lastly, include links or references to any outside sources you may have consulted in preparing the report, such as newspaper and magazine articles, Wikipedia, YouTube, and any other Internet sources.
From a pedagogical perspective, the Final Project is designed to serve two fundamental goals. One is to give students a chance to see the big picture by applying what they have learned in the course to a business firm of their choosing. (Notice, for example, how parts 3 to 7 of the final project each correspond to one of the modules in the course.) The other goal is to invite students to imagine their future selves after they graduate from college.
Regarding this second goal, my ulterior motive is strategic. Simply put, I want my students to use this assignment strategically to improve their overall career prospects in the following three ways: (1) by researching a company they really want to work or intern at, (2) by reaching out to someone at that company via telephone or email–not only to get the information they need to complete the project but also to make themselves known to the company–and (3) by knowing the legal and ethical sides of their chosen company inside and out in the event they are ever invited to a screening interview for a job or internship at that company. You’re welcome!