Law School for Everyone: Contracts

Course No. 2015
Professor David Horton, JD
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
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Course No. 2015
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the legal definitions of terms like offer," "acceptance," and "fraud.""
  • numbers Explore the various types of contracts in existence, including unilateral contracts and firm offers.
  • numbers Learn how today's top lawyers seek remedies for breaches of contract and cases of fraud.
  • numbers Investigate the legal distinctions between verbal contracts and contracts in writing.
  • numbers Make sense of 21st-century digital contracts, including browsewraps and clickwraps.

Course Overview

If a product or service exists, someone might want to buy it or sell it. And if they do, the vehicle they’ll use is a contract. This makes contract law a fascinating field that is as broad as everything humans do.

Every day, people around the world enter into multiple contracts—often with a single click of a button. By doing so, they change their personal legal landscape. They subject themselves and others to binding obligations. Sometimes they also surrender their rights, such as the power to recover for damaged property or even the ability to go to court in the first place.

In Law School for Everyone: Contracts, join Professor David Horton of the University of California, Davis, School of Law for a revealing investigation of contract law. Over 12 lectures, you’ll get an accessible introduction from contract essentials, including offers, acceptances, counteroffers, options, and defenses, to contract enforcement, such as fraud, duress, and unconscionability. These and other concepts come alive in court cases that range from the outrageous to the heart-rending to the ridiculous. By the end, you’ll discover why contract law is endlessly challenging, continually changing, and very much a part of your everyday life.

Contracts are agreements between two or more peoples or entities; they supposedly arise from the mutual assent of the parties. Nevertheless, in today’s digital world, we routinely “agree” to contracts we haven’t read—and possibly couldn’t understand. It happens every time you open a bank account, rent a car, join a gym, start a new job, or sign up for internet service.

Several tough questions lie at the heart of a typical law school course in contract law:

  • What does it mean to “agree” to a contract?
  • Should courts blindly enforce fine print that nobody ever reads?
  • Where’s the line between salesmanship and outright fraud?
  • Should written contracts carry more weight than verbal ones?
  • How wide a net should the law cast when it defines a party’s rights?

The answers are vital not only for lawyers-in-training, but also for any consumer who wants a better understanding of how contracts enable us to plan, trade, and cooperate with one another.

Legal Building Blocks of Contracts

The nature of the internet today—which can, oftentimes, feel like an endless parade of companies trying to enter into electronic contracts with you—means that you might enter into a binding agreement without you ever knowing it.

Professor Horton helps you to better understand (and navigate) the contracts of everyday life by breaking down contract law into its fundamental components. Law School for Everyone: Contracts demystifies concepts and terms that can often seem intimidating to individuals outside of legal fields, such as:

  • Offers: According to Professor Horton, for a communication to be an offer, it must set forth the material terms of the deal, and the person making the offer (the offeror) must describe the proposed contract with enough specificity that the person receiving the offer (the offeree) can consummate the transaction by simply saying “yes” or “I accept.”
  • Acceptances: Under what’s known as the “mailbox rule,” acceptance of an offer is operational the very moment it leaves the offeree’s possession. This doctrine gets its name from cases where the offeror makes an offer, the offeree writes a letter accepting the offer, the offeree places the letter in the mail—and then returns home only to find a letter from the offeror revoking the offer.
  • Consideration: Lawyers use the word “consideration” as a shorthand for the benefit each party obtains from a contract. The consideration doctrine requires a contract to be supported by consideration in the sense that both parties agree to an exchange. This doctrine has deep and tangled roots that stretch all the way back to Justinian Rome.
  • Fraud: In contract law, fraud comes in two flavors. The first is misrepresentation, under which a party can annul a deal if assent is induced by either a fraudulent or material false statement of fact which the party is justified in relying on. The second is fraud in the execution, which applies when one party misleads another about the contents of a contract, and the victim justifiably relies on the wrongdoer’s statement.
  • Promises: A basic building block of contracts, promises are a party’s core obligation under the contract. Promises are connected to each other through constructive conditions. For example, when a party makes a promise, it is as if it says to the other party: “I promise to perform, but only on the implied condition that you also perform. If you don’t perform, then I won’t perform.”

An Education in Contract Law Unlike Any Other

To help you better understand just how far-reaching a field contract law is, Professor Horton packs these lectures with eye-opening court cases that illustrate the topics and concepts covered in each lecture.

Among the many cases you’ll examine in Law School for Everyone: Contracts are those involving:

  • A contract for the sale of a farm written on a piece of scratch paper,
  • A young man who claimed a soda company owed him a fighter jet, and
  • Two companies that couldn’t agree on the meaning of the word “chicken.”

Awarded the UC Davis School of Law’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Horton shatters the stereotype of contract law as dry and complex and transforms it into a profoundly accessible learning experience. The result is a course in contract law—and an education in the American legal system—that’s unlike anything you’ll find outside a top-tier law school.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    Contract Formation in the Internet Age
    In today's age of electronic contracts like browsewraps and clickwraps, contract law can entangle you without ever knowing it. Use internet-era contracts as a jumping-off point for exploring the objective theory of contracts and the critical role that the manifestation of assent plays in the formation of a binding contract. x
  • 2
    Understanding Offer and Acceptance
    How can you tell when parties have forged a contract? In this lecture, use two famous court cases to examine why agreements often are the product of a process known as offer and acceptance. Also, learn about the two bodies of law that make up contracts: the common law and the Uniform Commercial Code. x
  • 3
    The Mysterious Consideration Doctrine
    Use the classic case of Hamer v. Sidway as an introduction to one of contract law's great mysteries: the doctrine known as consideration. First, define this elusive rule. Then, discuss its history and the lively debate over its policy purposes. Finally, take a brief look at the consideration doctrine's contemporary relevance. x
  • 4
    Contract Offers You Can't Revoke
    Refine your understanding of contract formation by examining some situations that buck this niche's general rules. Here, you'll explore the slippery distinction between bilateral contracts and unilateral contracts. You'll also study the special nature of (and limits on) firm offers. x
  • 5
    Liability without a Binding Contract
    Promissory estoppel and restitution are two contract-like doctrines developed by the courts that sometimes allow a plaintiff to collect—even when elements of a contract are missing. In this lecture, unpack these liability theories and some of the reasons their issues remain unsettled to this day. x
  • 6
    Defenses to Contract: Fraud and Duress
    Just because a party agreed to something doesn’t necessarily mean a court should treat that agreement as legitimate. Join Professor Horton for a closer look at several defenses to enforcement recognized by contract law, including duress (such as physical compulsion and improper threats) and fraud (including misrepresentation and “fraud in the execution”). x
  • 7
    Mistake and Other Contract Defenses
    Some contractual agreements can be marred by mistakes: beliefs not in accord with the facts. Discover how the law struggles mightily with situations in which one or both parties are wrong about some basic assumption that animates their exchange. Also, learn about other rules that can make deals voidable, including mental incapacity and infancy. x
  • 8
    Third Parties in Contract Law
    Contracts can affect dozens—even thousands—of third parties to whom you or your client will be obligated. Using court cases from 1859 and 1918, trace the history of third-party beneficiaries and examine the related issue of assignment and delegation: when a party to a contract can transfer their rights or duties to someone else. x
  • 9
    When a Contract Needs to Be in Writing
    The relationship between contract and writing is much more complex than you might think. First, look at the statute of frauds: a 1677 rule nullifying certain kinds of agreements if they're not in writing. Then, examine the powerful doctrine of the parol evidence rule, which privileges the contractual text over what the parties might have intended. x
  • 10
    Contract Interpretation and Implied Terms
    What should courts do when parties disagree about what their agreement means? What can we learn about this from the great case Raffles v. Wichelhaus? What is so controversial about how judges read and interpret insurance policies? How do implied terms prohibit parties from abusing their power under a contract? x
  • 11
    Building Contracts and Breaching Them
    Survey the basic building blocks of contracts and the rules for assessing when a contract is breached. These include express conditions (such as force majeure), which say that parties don't have to perform if certain events occur or don't occur, and anticipatory repudiation, or performing terribly and not correcting the problem. x
  • 12
    Remedies for Breach of Contract
    The default remedy for a breach of contract is money damages—but sometimes calculating expectation damages can be complicated. And sometimes, plaintiffs fall back on alternative paths to recovery, known as reliance damages (which reimburse plaintiffs for expenses the defendant’s breach renders worthless). Explore these and other remedies in this final lecture. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 12 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Ability to download 12 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 104-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 104-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

David Horton

About Your Professor

David Horton, JD
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
David Horton is a Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. He earned his BA cum laude from Carleton College and his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and served as Chief Articles Editor of the UCLA Law Review. After graduating, Professor Horton clerked for the Honorable Ronald M. Whyte of the United States...
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Law School for Everyone: Contracts is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 7.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent covers the subject in sufficient detail, a real bargain
Date published: 2020-08-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Contract Law Basic Survey The instructor was excellent and the course was conducted with energy. However, I have difficulty deciding how much I may have gained in the course. Law is the epitome of the immaterial world and while I can recall elements of contract law, consideration, and the tension between common law and the UCC, my reference points are indeterminate. I suppose I expected to gain something more substantial and ended up grasping a lesser prize. It's possible that the course just went by too fast in just 12 lectures. One thing that seemed to disappear quickly was the Latin phrases. The course guidebook has no reference to any Latin phrases, so that's one thing that I would have used to measure my retention--retention being the measuring rod of what I got from the course. There needs to be a supplemental course that goes further, or a revision that goes more in depth. Upon reflection, it strikes me that the nature of law itself is less a science than it is an art. There are many conflicting interpretations of the language of law and, consequently, finding certainty, or truth, is elusive. Maybe that's why I'm at a loss as to what I may have learned. The subject's very nature is ambiguous. One thing that I did learn was to realize that nearly everything we do is a contract--all discourse has an element of a contract. If I knew more, maybe it wouldn't be so spooky, As it is, I may be able to glean more by repeating the course and rereading the guidebook. Still, I think the course was worth the money and worth my time. And I might add, in reviewing the available law courses, the current crop of Law School for Everyone courses strikes me as being a coherent whole. This course fits in nicely with the other courses I have.
Date published: 2020-03-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Quite What I Hoped This is a very high level overview of contract law for those who manage or execute projects that are defined by contracts. I doubt that this would be beneficial for lawyers or contracting officers themselves. Rather, it is good for those laypersons who interact with the lawyers and contracting officers, giving insight into the issues that concern the specialists. It is a short source consisting of only 12 lectures. Dr. Horton identifies and addresses several major topics within the general context of contracts, topics such as offer and acceptance, consideration, breaches, etc. He presents significant court cases relating to those topics and he discusses the reasoning behind them and the evolution of the law over time. He also discusses the Restatement of Contracts guidance and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) or the sale of goods. This is somewhat of a remake of an earlier The Great Courses course on contract law. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that Dr. Horton did not follow the approach in the earlier class of defining “contract” up front and then devoting lectures to each major element in that definition. Interestingly, Dr. Horton does define “contact” in the last lecture and the definition is nothing like the definition in the earlier class. Dr. Horton is a good lecturer who can keep the discussion moving. He is easy to identify with and easy to follow. I used the video version of this course. I don’t think that the Audiobook version would have been missing much.
Date published: 2019-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening I believe that understanding is fundamental to learning. Whether it is taking up a hobby such as gardening, or guitar. Or even gazing at the stars, knowledge of underlying concepts are key. Professor David Horton’s mastery of contracts is surprisingly enlightening. He begins with the concepts, and swiftly moves ahead, weaving the fabric of contract law with the embroidery of the internet age.Apps with pages of fine print hidden within, that no one has time to read, are discussed. The tentacles of recent court decisions nefariously make them binding. Trust me, you will not fall asleep in this precocious professor’s class.
Date published: 2019-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview Prof. Horton does an admirable job in introducing and examining the law of contracts in this surprisingly comprehensive course. His enthusiasm for this subject matter is palpable, his lecture style is pleasant but fast-paced, and his energy and eagerness is motivating. That said, Prof. Horton sometimes gets bogged down in minutiae and fails to present the material as clearly as he might. Unlike with the other courses on "Everyday Law" currently on offer by the Great Courses, I also found this course dragged from time to time and could be a bit of a slog in spots. I listened to the audio version of this course, which was entirely satisfactory. I have extensive experience in this subject matter, but I think the course would appeal to the novice and expert alike.
Date published: 2019-10-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Contracts This course provides an overview of an important field of the law; it also compliments the other law courses that are offered. I find it will be necessary to watch these courses many times. Thanks to these courses, I shall be able to do this!
Date published: 2019-10-26
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