The 10 Best Contract Law Books
Why You Need A Contract
We expect lawyers and paralegals to be extremely well-versed in the complexities of contract law, but they aren’t the only ones who need to have some familiarity with the subject. Everything from running a small business to selling a car and even accepting a job offer can involve entering an ironclad agreement with another party. There are myriad reasons why you’d want to backup your dealings with a legally binding document.
To start, they provide peace of mind. If you’re offering your services to a person or corporation in exchange for payment, you can rely on a written agreement to literally spell out what each side must contribute, that way there’s no misinterpretation. You can breathe easy knowing that you can take legal action and sue for breach of contract if someone attempts to violate your terms. Hopefully, it will never come to that, but in the event that it does, your contract will be there to protect you from exploitation. It can also foresee and offer solutions to potential problems, so you don’t have to figure it all out yourself when the time comes for arbitration.
They also offer clarification. The law is endlessly complicated, and different people might interpret it in various ways. The nice thing about a binding understanding is that it boils everything down to simple, non-negotiable terms. It provides a set outline of rules that suit your personal situation, which makes it easier for you to comprehend and abide by them.
As far as verbal contracts are concerned, they actually are enforceable. However, they’re not nearly as ironclad as a written agreement, and they’re much harder to prove. One might hold up in court if you have substantial evidence to back up your claims, but it’s better to avoid going down that road if you can. You may end up in a nasty dispute that will drain you of time and money, so do your best to brief yourself on contract law with one of the books on our list or by seeking professional legal advice.
What To Look For In A Contract Law Book
Regardless of whether you’re a student or an entrepreneur, there are a few key points you’ll need your contract law book to touch on. You should expect it to include a comprehensive overview of the subject and its origins, plus cover concepts like intent, third party contracts, and the Uniform Commercial Code. It needs to outline how to draft a simple contract and prove its terms in court, and it should expertly enumerate defenses, remedies, and what constitutes a breach.
From a studying standpoint, it's smart to look for a tome that's laid out in a clear and concise manner. Non-essential explanations, dense blocks of text, and unexplained industry jargon are the hallmarks of an inadequate textbook. Pedagogy like vocabulary boxes, an extensive index, and exercises are vital to absorbing the material. It's helpful to have sample contracts and input from professionals in the field, so you can compare what you've learned to real-life situations. Don't overlook the writing style either — just as with any textbook, fluid prose will be much easier to understand than clunky text.
Initial summaries can prime you on what you’re about to learn, while end-of-chapter exercises will help you analyze the concepts you’ve uncovered. Your book should also work to prepare you for testing. Review problems and sample exam questions can get you in the right frame of mind, and a detailed glossary will enable you to go over tricky terms quickly. If you’re a visual learner, you're bound to benefit from an uncluttered layout rife with handy charts and tables that serve to break things up.
Some publishers supplement their books with online learning materials and companion websites. You can expect to access things like practice exams and interactive games that test your knowledge and help you set goals. You may also find pre-created flashcards, guided discussions, and summarized notes that reinforce key terms. If you're an internet-savvy student, these complementary tools could prove indispensable to you.
A Brief History Of Contracts
For a society to exchange goods and services, it needs to have a set of rules that protect its citizens from theft and abuse. This necessity for accountability has been around for as long as humans have traded with each other.
In The Laws, the Greek philosopher Plato identifies a few fundamental categories for how to cancel an agreement. The Romans went further by forming special regulations for separate kinds of contractual transactions. One of the most basic types was an oral contract known as stipulatio. It required the use of specific words, and each party needed to be able to understand the deal and have the free will to make it.
If you were a peasant in medieval England, the likelihood that you might enter a contract and have any power to enforce it was laughable. If you had some status, you were still incentivized to solve disputes on your own, as the court system was rather limited. For instance, if you wanted to contest a payment, you could grab a witness and head to court to swear an oath. However, if you lost the case you risked perjury. If you didn't have a witness, you needed to prove that your aggressor had disturbed the King's peace somehow. Without strict scrutiny, local courts could choose to uphold the law in whichever way they pleased and were often biased and inconsistent.
Contract law didn’t start to resemble what it is today until the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Rather than toil away for rent or learn a craft, workers headed to factories to operate machinery and receive cash for their trouble. This created an entirely new relationship between employers and staff, and the law needed to catch up to support the various agreements being made between them. As industrialization spread throughout the West, each country developed its own brand of contract law.