Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Advancing Legal Astuteness Skills through Inductive Learning: An Educational Approach for MBA Students

Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Advancing Legal Astuteness Skills through Inductive Learning: An Educational Approach for MBA Students

Article excerpt


One of the roles of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business (ALSB) is to enhance the education and learning of legal studies (the discipline that includes in collegiate business schools such topics as business law, the legal environment of business, ethics, regulatory compliance and public policy).

* Ph.D, Professor of Management and Law, William J. Baxley, Jr. Applied Business Professor and former business dean at the Wall College of Business, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina. He serves in the Academy of Legal Studies in Business' (ASLB) House of Delegates as representative of the Southern Region.

© 2015, Henry Lowenstein, PhD, All Rights Reserved

The goal is not to have our students necessarily become attorneys (though some will go on to do so) nor to establish rote formulated processes that will ensure every manager or professional stay within the mythical boundaries of law or social policy in their daily business operations (though we certainly hope they would do so). Rather, the key educational power of our various curricula in business' legal studies is to achieve among our students, what Professor Constance Bagley of Yale University calls, skills in legal astuteness, that is, "the ability of a top management team to work with counsel to solve complex problems and to protect and leverage firm resources."1

Such a skill set has been recognized as essential in AACSB International's new 2013 standards (referenced below) (AACSB is the top accreditor of business schools worldwide.) Today most business schools include at least one undergraduate course on the legal environment of business and in graduate programs, such as the MBA degree, a like course at the graduate level.2 In more specialized masters degrees such as accounting, one or more specialized graduate course tied to the requirements of the Certified Public Accountant exam (CPA) are also present.3 Indeed, AACSB in its newly implemented 2013 standards for business schools includes a renewed emphasis through a set of Learning and Teaching Standards (Standards 812) with Standard 9 governing expectations in curriculum content.4 Among its expectations, AACSB states:

Curricula facilitate and encourage active student engagement in learning. In addition to time on task related to readings, course participation, knowledge development, projects, and assignments, students engage in experiential and active learning designed to improve skills and the application of knowledge in practice is expected.5

AACSB in recognition of the rapid growth of legal and societal impacts on business mandates curricula content in the first two bullet points for expected business school coverage, "General Business and Management Knowledge":

* Economic, politica\j-egulatory, legal, technological, and social contexts of organizations in a global society

* Social responsibility, including sustainability, and ethical behavior and approaches to management6 (emphasis added)

Moreover, AACSB's guidance to business schools and reviewers notes the expectation for subject coverage and rigor increases at higher levels of education attainment via the higher degree levels (masters, doctorate, etc.)7 And, as both the legal and regulatory reach of government impinges on the management of organizations, legal astuteness skills become of greater importance, indeed essential skill to effective organizational operations in today's society and marketplace. While recognition has been slow in the past, increasingly, business faculty are recognizing the legal environment as a critical success factor and key strategic "cost of production" in commercial and non-profit enterprises.

Given the premise of the increasing importance of legal astuteness skills (as Professor Bagley describes) as a necessary condition for the "top management team," the attentions of business school curricula should rightfully focus on the degree most closely associated with developing top managers, the Master of Business Administration degree (MBA). …

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