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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Choosing a Casebook: Property

Please use the comments section to share thoughts on choosing a casebook in Property.  (See here and here for a discussion of the Course Preparation Project.)

Posted by Matt Bodie on May 10, 2007 at 04:33 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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» Modifications to D from PropertyProf Blog
In the comments to Prawfsblawg's recent post on picking a property text, I promised to do a post on my modifications to DK. So here it is. My supplement varies in size from year-to-year, depending on what I'm trying to [Read More]

Tracked on May 16, 2007 12:01:58 PM


As a first year prof teaching Property without any background in the field (I'm a law of war/military law scholar) I went with Dukeminier because (a) I'd used it as a 1L myself, (b) it was the majority choice among my peers, and (c) I'd heard great things about the teacher's edition. Having now invested a huge amount of time preparing for my first run through of classes, I have no intention of changing horses and starting preps all over again next year, but:

(1) Sorry 1L, but I do think Singer does a much better job with future interests and RAP. Heck, one of the authors of Dukeminier prepares a supplement they freely share with profs that you can use as an alternative to the text in this field. Hardly a vote of confidence in their own book!

(2) I think the case editing is uneven. Early in the book I found some cases I thought left out too much info, or could have helped out immensely by providing insights available from a lower court opinion. Later in the book the cases seem to go on for pages and pages even where they could have been edited to a fraction of their published length with no loss of substantive content.

(3) I'm going to go out on a limb and say this emperor has no clothes. I think the teacher's edition is NOT very helpful. It does a great job of relating the facts of each case and the decision. That's not what I want in a teacher's edition, however. I'd like insights about themes; I can read for myself what a case says -- as a first time teacher I want to know WHY the case is in the book and what the authors say about it when they teach. (The best teacher's edition I've found so far is Curt Bradley's and Jack Goldsmith's for Foreign Relations Law -- it provides meaningful advice on organizing the class and even includes sample exams. Now that's helpful!) Frankly there were several cases (Othen v. Rosier is one that comes to mind) that I wish I'd never subjected my students to.

(4) I found very few of the notes worth using.

Posted by: Dave Glazier | May 14, 2007 11:12:41 PM

Singer was relatively clear but (1) too much notes relative to the amount of cases, (2) extreme leftist bias, (3) terrible explanation of future interests and RAP [contra Bethany].

Posted by: 1L | May 13, 2007 5:35:39 PM

I use Singer, which I think does a great job of explaining some of the most obscure parts of property law (future interests and RAP) as well as the variety of policy arguments that inform property rules. For example, although one of the things I like about the book is that it doesn't take the perspective that law and econ gives a complete understanding of property law, Singer gives a really lucid & concise explanation of law and econ ideas from cost internalization to Coase to behavioral law and econ. It's true the D&K teacher's manual is king, but you don't need to use the book to use the manual. I've also heard great things from an early adopter of the Merrill/Smith casebook.

Posted by: Bethany Berger | May 11, 2007 6:13:52 PM

As a law student just coming out of a harrowing Property II course, D&K was a horrid book. Dry, boring, poorly organized, too detailed in some places and not detailed enough in others. By the end of the book, it seems like even the authors just gave up.

However, I learned everything from the Gilbert's written by Krier and got one of the very highest grades on the exam. I learned nothing from the book -- in fact, by the end of the course, I didn't even bother to read parts of it (a very unusual event for me). The Gilbert's outline was clear, concise and made sense. Why couldn't the book have been written like that?

Maybe the teacher's supplement is nice, but that doesn't excuse the book from a student's perspective. Every student in the class I've spoken with shares the same opinion about this book.

Posted by: Law Student | May 11, 2007 5:35:30 PM

Thanks so much, Ben. PropertyProfs is two tabs down from Prawfs on my Firefox start page! I'll look forward to your post there in the next week.

Posted by: liz glazer | May 11, 2007 3:33:37 PM

Liz, I'll put a post up on PropertyProfs sometime in the next week describing my supplement.

Posted by: Ben Barros | May 11, 2007 2:56:16 PM

I just finished my first year teaching, and felt dissatisfied with many of the cases in D&K. I'd love to hear what your supplement includes. I've decided to spend a portion of the summer thinking about what to include in the supplement I'll offer to my 2 sections of property next spring.

Posted by: liz glazer | May 11, 2007 10:47:41 AM

D&K is the clear market leader for good reason. As Liz mentioned, the teacher's manual is outstanding. The book has some quirks and not-so-hot cases, though. From talking to people at various conferences, it seems that many people continue to use D&K but supplement it heavily. My supplement is up to around 200 pages after three years. Other casebooks that are discussed quite a bit are Singer and Rabin Kwall and Kwall, which is the only real problem-method property casebook out there. Merrill and Smith's new book is creating a lot of buzz among property profs, but there isn't any teaching feedback on it yet.

Posted by: Ben Barros | May 11, 2007 10:39:30 AM

Has anyone used Paul Goldstein's and Buzz Thompson's new casebook, Property Law: Ownership, Use, and Conservation (Foundation 2006)? It's new, and as stated above, I think Dukeminier is great, but the organization of this new casebook is, I think, quite inspired, and I kind of couldn't put it down. I just wonder if anyone's actually taught from it, and if so, might want to comment on that process. Thanks!

Posted by: liz glazer | May 11, 2007 10:35:53 AM

Dukeminier unquestionably.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2007 3:41:33 AM

The teacher's manual for the Dukeminier casebook is phenomenal. For first year teachers, that can come in pretty handy.

Posted by: liz glazer | May 10, 2007 5:58:57 PM

My sense is that the Dukeminier, Krier, Alexander & Schill book has pretty wide market dominance here. Why is that? I used Joe Singer's book when I was a student in his course, and I thought it did a nice job with the doctrinal rules as well as some alternative policy discussion.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | May 10, 2007 5:32:18 PM

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