We asked Eric A. Zacks, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School, what has inspired and motivated him throughout his career. This author spotlight gives a glimpse into his passions and what brought him to where he is today.
What or who motivated you to study law?
I became interested in law during my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that was intellectually challenging, but I also realized I wanted an education that would provide me with flexibility and the opportunity to work in various fields. Law school seemed, and turned out to be, perfect in both respects. I was able to work in the private sector as a transactional attorney for a significant period of time before moving into education and focusing on my scholarship.
Did you have a favorite professor in law school? If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?
Jon Hanson at Harvard Law School was my favorite professor. To me, he was the epitome of a true educator. He welcomed honest and open discussions, and he expressly encouraged those who disagreed with him or others to speak up. His classroom was a place for a thoughtful exchange of ideas and viewpoints.
What law school course did you enjoy the most?
Corporations with Professor Hanson was fantastic. He always found ways to keep everyone engaged, from having street performers help in class to elucidate fiduciary duties (during recitation of famous passages from Meinhard v. Salmon) to illustrating market solutions by contracting to have missing lecture notes delivered to class. He also provided an illuminating introduction to theories that were critical of mainstream corporate law doctrine.
What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law?
My scholarship is focused primarily on contract design and formation, as informed by behavioral and cognitive science findings. In particular, I am interested in how contracts can be drafted to influence different actors (such as other contracting parties and adjudicators) during different points of the contracting process – from pre-formation to dispute resolution. Lately, I have been writing in the area of home mortgage foreclosure together with my brother, who is a foreclosure litigation attorney. We are examining the evolution of contract law doctrine and contract enforcement under the pressure of the backlog of foreclosures following the Great Recession.
I teach a variety of business law courses, including Contracts, Corporations, Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance, and Securities Regulation.
What motivated you to write a casebook?
For years, I have been struggling with current casebook materials because they ignore the transactional nature of contracts. It seemed to me that we were doing our students a disservice by focusing on contract law purely from a litigator’s or retrospective point of view. Consequently, I had been supplementing my course with materials that introduced transactional contract concepts. When Nadelle Grossman at Marquette suggested that we work together on a book that took a more “chronological” and transactional view of contract law and contracting, I jumped at the opportunity. We both have transactional practice backgrounds and saw eye-to-eye on the need to provide students with an introduction to how and why contracts are used in business, including explaining the building blocks or general provisions that exist within most written contracts.
How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school?
I hope students remember me as a professor who had their best interests at heart and was genuinely interested in helping them develop as law students and attorneys.
What are your interests outside of law?
My family and I enjoy playing a lot of sports, and I have enjoyed coaching my children in hockey and baseball (and watching them play soccer, lacrosse, basketball and other sports). I also have been performing with a water-ski show team for almost thirty years, and my kids have been skiing with the team basically since they could walk.
Eric A. Zacks is an Associate Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School and is the author of the new textbook, Contracts in Context: From Transaction to Litigation.