New Editions

Going into year four of teaching, there’s one aspect I’ve never dealt with before. I’ve been happy to teach from case books — Dukeminier’s Wills, Trusts, and Estates, and Smith and Williams’ Business Associations — which have remained entirely unaltered during my time teaching.

Reusing a casebook for years has its benefits. I’m very comfortable with the cases by now, having taught them several times. I know the pace of the material we cover; I know which areas to move through quickly, and which spots I need to be careful to avoid getting bogged down. I also know the weaknesses of the materials — I can name off the portions that always cause problems; I know the areas where the casebook is outdated (particularly BA, which came out pre-Disney and Stone) and needs supplementing with supplements. (Plus, the students love it that there’s a ready supply of used books.)

But my halcyon days are ending. In the Spring, I’ll be teaching BA out of Smith and Williams . . . Second Edition.


I know that transitions to new editions can be rocky. I’ve been regaled with horror stories from colleagues, about new editions that were all but incomprehensible. Will the book be gutted? Will it be unreadable? I crack open my new review copy to take a look. (Actually, Gordon sent me an electronic version two weeks ago; so I already know the answers to these questions.)

I can see right off the bat that the edition switch is definitely going to create some new work. There are a number of new cases I’ll have to get up to speed on. There are organizational changes — LLCs are broken out into a stand-alone chapter now, so my class plan for classes 6 and 7 on hybrid entities is going to need a complete overhaul. (A lot of the changes seem sensible enough, though. Minority oppression is moved up, next to close corporations, which is a much better placement.) A couple of short chapters are merged into an omnibus, too, and some material has been cut out as well (though nothing that seems problematic to me). This will take a little getting used to.

There are also some much-needed fixes. Duty of loyalty was a pain to teach in the First Edition — the book gave a very short framing section and then jumped right in to the highly complex Emerald Partners case, and this lost my students every time. I complained about this to Gordon and Cindy, and they addressed it in the new edition. It looks great — it starts with Hollinger v. Black, which should be a very useful case to start students off on loyalty. I’m already excited about this fix. Other fixes look promising, too. I made a number of specific complaints to the authors, and they’ve addressed the existing problems well, I think.

Overall, looking over the new book, I find myself thinking (perhaps optimistically) that the transition really won’t be too difficult. Sure, there will be work, I’m definitely going to be spending days updating the reading lists, figuring out new assignments, reading over the cases, familiarizing myself with the new material. But the changes don’t seem terribly difficult, and the new material doesn’t look _that_ daunting — particularly, given the horror stories I’ve heard from other faculty.

And I wonder: Did I get lucky and dodge a bullet here? Is this an unusually good switch? I’ve been in regular contact with both casebook authors, and I’ve given them feedback about problems in the prior edition (many of which look like they’ve been addressed nicely); I suspect that helps, a lot. (And I’ve found both Gordon and Cindy to be very approachable on casebook questions, which always helps.)

Still, I’m wondering, for those who have gone through this process before — is it going to be harder than I’m thinking? Am I just being optimistic or naive about the amount of work involved in moving to a new edition? Is it ever simple or easy, or is it always awful? What are the best or worst parts of edition switching? Are there any questions I should be asking?

And, does anyone have any really good stories about new editions?

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1 Response

  1. Gordon Smith says:

    Thanks, Kaimi. You didn’t just get lucky … you picked the right book from the start! And, of course, some of the best changes in the new edition were your suggestions or suggestions by other adopters.

    Other casebook authors have told me that the move from the first to the second edition entails the biggest change in the life of a casebook. Of course, many books don’t make it all of the way to the second edition, but those that do make it are going to reflect the suggestions of the users for the first time. We found those suggestions exceptionally helpful and responded accordingly.

    By the second edition, if not before, the logic of the book is pretty well settled, and changes are driven more by changes in law than by new insights about the field. We expect to continue to receive feedback as we acquire more users, and some of that feedback will prompt us to change cases or problems, but I very much doubt that we will have another edition that requires as much work as this one did.

    My experience with new editions of other books has generally been positive. I tend to prefer newer cases, so I appreciate the updates. Sure, new cases require new preparation, but often that results in new perspectives on the material, and I value that.