The Development of Contracts: Law in Action
Volume 87, No. 4, Summer 2015
By Stewart Macaulay, Malcolm Pittman Sharp Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Wisconsin Law School; William C. Whitford, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Wisconsin Law School [PDF]

We are two of the four authors of Contracts: Law in Action, a law school casebook now in its third edition. It is an innovative casebook. Most basically it reflects, more completely than other casebooks, our view that you cannot fashion meaningful theories about the role of contract law in society or best train law students without considering context. You must read appellate reports and statutes, but you also must look outside the doors of the law school. Traditional law school materials tell only part of the story about contract law and its part in the lives of transaction-planning lawyers, business people, consumers, and all of the others potentially affected by this institution that our culture seems to consider fundamental and vital.

In this short Article we recount the development of this casebook over our long careers teaching contracts at Wisconsin Law School—Macaulay for fiftyseven and Whitford for forty-nine years. We accepted Wisconsin’s long-standing law in action tradition. We also built on insights about what are now called relational contracts—the idea that most contracts occur in the context of a continuing relationship in which a particular contract is but one of many occurrences between the parties—that were being developed in the academic literature from near the beginning of our careers. We worked cooperatively with the large group of scholars who have taught contracts at Wisconsin since 1957, as well as others who have used (and still use) our book elsewhere. We comment briefly on the benefits of working collaboratively.