For the next installment of our Beginner’s Guide series, we will examine an area of law that never appears to go out of style—contract law. Contract law is a constant part of our lives, whether it is signing a lease for a new apartment, obtaining car insurance, taking out a loan, or even something as simple as buying a warranty for a computer. Despite the overwhelming role it plays in our lives, contract law can be incredibly difficult to understand, leading to questions like these:
- When is a contract formed?
- How do I know what the terms of a contract are, and when can I change them?
- What can I do if I think the other party is not living up to his/her side of the deal?
To start answering these questions, we suggest studying some of the resources listed below.
As is the case for most legal research topics, the best place to begin when facing a contract law issue will likely be a secondary source like a treatise or a model law. However, as the knowledge of a researcher—much like the level of specificity in a contract—can vary greatly, we have collected a range of resources for you to review.
For the True Beginner
- Contract Law Flowcharts and Cases: A Student’s Visual Guide to Understanding Contracts, by Frank J. Doti (2012)
- Modern Principles of Business Law: Contracts, the UCC, and Business Organizations, by Roger LeRoy Miller (2012)
- Contract Law for Legal Professionals, by Andrea B. Yelin (2011)
- Contracts: The Essential Business Desk Reference, by Richard Stim (2011)
- Contracts in a Nutshell, by Claude D. Rohwer and Anthony M. Skrocki (2000)
- Sign Here: How to Understand Any Contract Before You Sign, by Mari Privette Ulmer (1998)
For More Specific Subjects
- Corbin on Contracts Desk Edition, by John Edward Murray (2009)
- A Treatise on the Law of Contracts, by Samuel Williston and Richard Lord (1990 – present)
- Calamari and Perillo on Contracts, by John D. Calamari and Joseph M. Perillo (2009)
- Farnsworth on Contracts, by E. Allan Farnsworth (2004 – present)
- Restatement (Second) of the Law of Contracts, American Law Institute (1981 – present)
For Even More Specific Subjects: The Uniform Commercial Code
When a contract deals with a commercial transaction, researchers may be required to perform research regarding the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC is a collection of proposed model laws, drafted by the American Law Institute and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, that are meant to serve as a guide for state legislatures when they draft statutes regarding commercial contracts and other dealings. Some helpful resources regarding the UCC in the Library of Congress catalog are the following:
- Uniform Commercial Code in a Nutshell, by Bradford Stone and Kristen David Adams (2012)
- Uniform Commercial Code Series, by William D. Hawkland (1982 – present)
- Corporate Counsel’s Guide to the Uniform Commercial Code, edited by William Hancock (1993 – present)
- Quinn’s Uniform Commercial Code Commentary and Law Digest, by Thomas M. Quinn (1991 – present)
- Uniform Laws Annotated, edited by West Group et al. (1968 – present)
Although many states have codified the bulk of the sections proposed in the UCC, it is important for researchers to make sure that the sections of the UCC in which they are most interested are a part of their respective state’s statutes. To do so, we suggest using the table in the Uniform Laws Annotated to see which UCC sections have been adopted by your state, and if so, where they can be found in your state’s statutes. Once you have a state statute citation from the Uniform Laws Annotated, be sure to use the Law Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online to double check it. To find your state’s statutes, select your state from the Guide to Law Online page, and scroll down to the “Legislative” heading.
For many researchers, it is not the theory behind contract law that is the most important; rather, it is how to draft a contract that will address their needs and yet still be upheld in court.
- Basic Legal Transactions, by Vincent DiLorenzo and Clifford R. Ennico (2002 – present)
- Drafting Effective Contracts: A Practitioner’s Guide, by Robert A. Feldman and Raymond T. Nimmer (1999 – present)
- Commercial Agreements: A Lawyer’s Guide to Drafting and Negotiating, by Peter Siviglia (1997 – present)
- West’s Legal Forms, by West Group et al. (1981 – present)
- American Jurisprudence Legal Forms 2nd Edition, by West Group et al. (1971 – present)
- Current Legal Forms, With Tax Analysis, by Jacob Rabkin and Mark H. Johnson (1948 – present)
- A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, by Kenneth A. Adams (2004 – present)
Keep in mind that most of the drafting guides listed above will focus on federal rather than state law. To find a state-specific drafting guide, we suggest doing a subject search in the library catalog for the subject “Forms (Law)” and the state in which you are interested. For example, the subject “Forms (Law)–Ohio” has over 100 entries in the Library of Congress catalog alone.
Finally, for additional information about contract law, including up-to-the-minute updates, researchers may want to review online resources, such as:
- The American Bar Association Committee on Public Education’s ABA Guide to Consumer Law (free e-book)
- Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute’s “Contract” page
- FindLaw’s “Contract Law” page
- Contract Law Blogs
We hope that this Beginner’s Guide helps you to feel more grounded and confident in the area of contract law. As always, feel free to contact the Law Library of Congress if you have any questions.
Update on July 17, 2013: This post was updated to include a new drafting guide.
Update on August 28, 2013: The post was updated to include an additional resource.