Posted: December 2009

A Little Legal Knowledge Can Go a Long Way

Dean Bredeson, J.D., teaches for both University Extension and the McCombs School of Business. A dedicated instructor, Bredeson has been recognized time and time again for his teaching by both students and organizations, including the Texas Exes, Alpha Kappa Psi, the Undergraduate Business Council and the Undergraduate Programs Office. This past summer, The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents selected Bredeson to be one of the inaugural recipients of its Outstanding Teaching Award. Bredeson was one of 35 UT Austin faculty selected to receive this prestigious award.

Dean Bredeson specializes in business law, discrimination law and business ethics. With his course LEB 320F – Foundations of the Legal Environment of Business, he is able to share his expertise in these fields with students in Austin and abroad.

In the interview below, Bredeson discusses his experiences teaching to UEX online students.

Why do you think this course is valuable?

In other business courses, students learn various ways to “play offense” and make more money for a firm. In LEB, my focus is on “playing defense.” It is important to understand the types of lawsuits that commonly impact companies – many of them are quite preventable. An employee who stops a million dollar lawsuit is as valuable as an employee with an idea that earns a million dollars.

What do you like most about your UEX students?

They are generally very focused on something: changing careers, finishing a degree, starting a business.

What do you think particularly sticks with your students after taking your course?

I hope that (at a minimum) they remember the answers to the following:

  • What makes an “ordinary” agreement into an enforceable contract?
  • What steps can guard against negligence lawsuits?
  • What kinds of situations amount to illegal discrimination?
  • When should a businessperson go beyond “legal minimums” and let ethical principles guide his or her decision making?

What do you see as the particular benefits to students taking this course in an online format?

This is a great option for students who, because of work, family, or other commitments, have difficulty meeting at fixed times every week. This semester version works well for students who want the experience of interacting with me and fellow students or who want more built-in structure than a self-paced online course.

Outside of the realm of business, how do you think that students might apply what they learn in this course to their daily lives?

Lawsuits can arise from the most mundane of activities – driving a car, hosting a backyard barbecue, gossiping about neighbors. A little legal knowledge can go a long way.

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