August 31, 2021

Blum’s Specific Performance: Contract Wisdom

A Q&A on the 8th edition of Contracts, Examples and Explanations.

A discreet email arrived to Lewis & Clark Law School faculty: Professor Blum left a copy of the most recent edition of his book, Contracts, Examples and Explanations, in the faculty library, “in case anyone wants to look at it.” This small notice belies Blum’s longstanding commitment to crafting a clear, accessible book explaining core contract concepts.

In an email conversation with him around the newest edition, and the work it entails, Professor Blum offered additional insight into how he shapes the editions, how he balances research and writing with teaching, and his upcoming projects.

Q: Your book, Contracts, Examples and Explanations, was first published in 1998. It is now in its 8th edition. What is the most significant change you made in the new edition?

A: I rewrote the text extensively to update it, clarify where necessary, reflect developments in the law, add new cases, and add new Examples and Explanations or adjust existing ones. Contract law develops slowly and it is state law; I focus on looking for better iterations and updating aspects of the book that are outdated.

Q: How do you determine when to revisit a concept or particular contract theory?

A: I am guided by what developments there have been in case law or by articles that suggest that a topic should be revisited.

Q: Are there any newly-emerging legal areas addressed in this edition (e.g. IP, space law, or genetic-material contracts)?

A: Not newly-emerging legal areas, but updating to reflect emerging practices, such as changes in standard and electronic contracting and the courts’ treatment of contacts relating to intellectual property.

Q: What is the most surprising comment you’ve received about this book (any edition)?

A: I can’t think of any surprising comments. I do however, hear from students, and some professors, that they find the book clear and helpful.

Q: Did student feedback influence any changes in the new edition?

A: To some extent. However, I do not use this book as class materials, but recommend it as supplementary reading, so I don’t get the kind of specific feedback that I get more regularly about the casebook, which is used in class.

Q: How long did it take you to write the original edition, and how long did it take you to complete this revision?

A: I can’t remember how long it took me to write the original edition, which was written a long time ago. My guess is that I worked on it for about 2 years. This new edition took me somewhere in the range of 12-18 months.

Q: How do you juggle writing a new edition, researching, and teaching (along with everything else in life)?

A: With difficulty. This is always a challenge. It is hard to find much time to work on writing during the semester, so I definitely need to do most of the writing during the summer.

Q: Do you have any unfinished or forthcoming books, articles, etc.?

A: I am currently working in the 5th edition of the contracts casebook that I coauthored with Amy Bushaw. The manuscript is due in August/September. Next year, I will work on the 8th edition of the Bankruptcy Examples and explanations book; Samir Parikh is my coauthor of that book.