Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy on H2O
Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations. We recently talked about why he started using H2O, how he approaches contract law with his students, and how H2O allows him to customize and adjust his course over time.
Briefly, what courses are you currently teaching or preparing to teach?
I’m teaching contracts, a course about the legal changes wrought by the civil rights movement, and a course titled “Policing the Police.”
You started using H2O in 2019 for your contracts course - what prompted you to transition your course material into H2O?
Charles Fried told me how pleased he was that he had put together a casebook and how happy he was with the assistance provided to him by the library in completing this project. He was so enthusiastic that I sent off for his book, liked it, and decided to try putting together a contracts casebook of my own.
I had enjoyed the casebook I had been using. I knew it thoroughly and its authors were very responsive to me. But it was expensive for the students. And I liked the idea of creating something tailored singularly to my class – a juridical bespoke suit.
What changed, if anything, about your teaching once you started to use H2O?
Creating my own casebook has prompted me to think more about the contracts course. I’m constantly thinking about material to add or subtract.
Your book is called “Heartbreak and Happiness” - can you talk a bit about your perspective on contract law and how that is reflected in your book?
The cases that I find most memorable in contracts are the cases involving intimate associations – disputes stemming from promises to marry, prenuptial agreements, palimony suits, and the like. The first “text” in the book is a song, “Our Day Will Come,” by Ruby and the Romantics. It's a wonderful song in which a couple is falling in love and they’re anticipating good times ahead forever. The second “text” is the song “The Thrill is Gone,” by B.B. King which details the disappointment of a romance gone cold. Much of the course arises from sentiments of the sort propelled by those two songs. The casebook features business disputes, too. But more than the typical contracts course, mine grapples with questions of contracting in the shadow of intimate association.
You've already created a second edition of your book and are working on a third - can you talk a bit more about what kinds of things are you changing year to year?
The newspaper is a great source. The next edition of the casebook will consider controversies about Donald Trump’s non-disclosure agreements, the effect of the pandemic on the doctrine of “impossibility,” and ways in which the law of contracts will seek to resolve disputes arising from the recent week-long shutdown of the Suez Canal.
Do you have any advice for professors or instructors considering open casebooks and H2O? Anything you wish you had known going into it?
I’m a big fan of H2O! I think it's great. I would tell anyone thinking about using H2O to create a coursebook to go for it.
View Professor Kennedy's casebook in H2O.