The Legal and Ethical Environments of Business Course

Course Description

The goal of this course is to provide students and their businesses with information that can prevent legal conflicts. Through a multi-faceted curriculum, students will learn to understand and appreciate the interrelationship between law and business. While the course is not intended to make students legal experts, it will help them analyze legal problems, recognize how law influences business and management decision making in these areas, and improve their management skills when faced with legal issues.

During the first sessions, lessons focus on understanding basic legal terms, the procedural context of litigation, and the legal system in general. Students also work on developing skills for critical thinking, problem solving, and legal analysis. For the balance of the semester, the course will explore management decision making in situations that have legal implications.

Course Objectives

Video Transcript

Welcome. This is the legal and ethical business course at Syracuse University. My name is Dan Rice. I’m a lawyer. I’m licensed in New York State. I also have a Master of Business Administration degree. I hope that’ll help me relate to you, the student, because I was once in an MBA program myself before I went to law school. So when I look back on this course here, I tried to develop a course which is relevant to the MBA students. Before I go any further, I want to give you a disclaimer. One thing is the law is—and this is critical—the law is different from one jurisdiction to another. You can literally go to jail for some activities in one state, which are totally legal in another state. Some of the drug laws that we have now in the United States are totally legal in one state. You’ll actually pay sales tax on it. And if you do that in another state, you will actually wind up in jail. So critical to understand that. This is a national course. Some of you are not in the United States. So what happens when I talk to this course—this is a general overview of the legal system.

OK, the other thing I want you to understand is that the law is complex. And different laws may seem similar to you. But in the situations, different laws will apply. In other words, you think, well, in this situation, the plaintiff won. So therefore, I’m very similar. So therefore, I should win in my case. It might not be that way because there are nuances in the law. The other thing is that the laws change. And it’s unpredictable how the laws are going to change. So what might be in effect today might not necessarily be in effect tomorrow. So, this is an overview of the legal system. But you’re not to use this—please do not use this course for your own personal or business usage until you’ve checked out with your own lawyer in your state to find out what the laws are and how they would affect you and your company.

I’ve done this course as an overview of the legal system. And what that is that I have been in the legal system in a numerous cases. I’ve been there in divorce court. I have been there in surrogates court. I have been in bankruptcy court. I have been in criminal court. I have been in family court. I have been in so many courts I, quite frankly, can’t remember how many times I appeared in court. And a variety of issues. I think that the perception is people don’t realize the emotional and physical pain that’s involved in during one of these legal litigations, one of these complaints. It seems pretty good on a lot of television shows, where you go out there and they resolve the entire dispute in 41 minutes, because you have to have 19 minutes of commercials. But the entire complaint, the actual action, the lawsuit, and resolution is done in 41 minutes. and it’s good fun.

The reality of the legal system is much more brutal. I certainly have been in cases up to five, six years, product liability cases which have gone five, six years of length. It takes a toll on you. And the emotional toll people don’t understand how long that takes when they’re sitting at home on a Sunday night or a Saturday night and think, hey, I got court on Monday morning. They’re not in the moment on Saturday night because they’re thinking about court on Monday. And then Tuesday—and then you come into court. And then you walk into court, and they say, ah, this case is adjourned. Actually, you’re not going on today. I know you’ve been preparing for this for three weeks, but in fact something has come up, come back in two weeks. And for people that deal with the legal system, this is sort of a frustrating thing to go through.

This course is about preventive law. You’ve heard about preventive medicine. You’ve heard about preventive dental care—I should have taken a preventive dental care on my teeth. Once, I had pockets in my teeth and I went in there and the dentist said, you know you have not been flossing your teeth, so because you have not flossed your teeth, you’ve got pockets in your gums, so therefore we are now going to have to do a scaling or scraping the inside your teeth. I learned a lesson from that. It was very painful, but anyways could have been resolved. I could have actually just flossed every day, and I wouldn’t have had the problems with my teeth. I started taking the same approach with this course.

So, what I’m going to do with this course, I’m going to try to give us some tips about the legal system, things to be aware of. Because a lot of times when you call the attorney, it’s too late. In other words, I’m aware of a contract up in New York right now. There was a $20 million contract. They were supposed to be, somebody was supposed to build a building, or put it on a site, and they were supposed to do that, and then what happened was in the middle of the contract now, there’s been a contract dispute. So, it’s a $20 million job, it’s halfway done, and nothing is going on right now. Are the lawyers involved? Yes, they are. Are they gonna fight this out in court? Yes, they are. People have asked me how long is this dispute going to last. Well, maybe tomorrow morning everybody will work it out, or maybe five years from tomorrow morning they’ll work it out. So that’s the risk of the legal system, and when you go into it, you’re really losing control of the situation. So, hopefully with some of the information I’m going to provide you in this case right now—we’re going to talk about corporations. We’re going to talk about wills. We’re going to talk about partnerships. We’re going to talk about negligent cases. And by learning some of these items, hopefully it can save you some of the financial and emotional pain of the legal system.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, online Master of Business Administration students will be able to:

  • Understand the legal system and selected areas of the law that affect business
  • Develop skills for critical thinking, problem solving, and legal analysis
  • Make and implement business and management decisions which are influenced by law