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Eades Teaches Business "Mindset"

"I really believe there is a lot of value added for law students to get a little bit of insight into how business people think."

Kenneth M. Eades, Professor of Business Administration and head of Darden's First Year Finance course, teaches Corporate Finance for the Law & Business Program at the Law School. Often called as an expert witness in corporate litigation, Eades knows firsthand the differing mindsets that lawyers and business people apply to a given set of circumstances. Each valid in their own right, they can also cause miscommunications between the two that could be cured by some cross-training on both sides.

For example, in some recent litigation, he developed a valuation theory that supported a large claim for damages. But he found it difficult to translate the theory in a way that the lawyers could use to support their case.

"My challenge was to do the analytics and figure out what this number was, but more importantly, to communicate it in a way that the lawyers could use," said Eades. "I was spending all this time explaining to them my thought process and it was very clear to me that if we both had an education that allowed us to get closer in terms of how we think about things, we could do this much more efficiently. The lawyers had a different mindset and a view for a different set of details. We were pretty far apart and it took time to get together."

Eades also believes that when a lawyer looks at the business matters for which they're providing counsel, they will be much more effective if they "have a better appreciation of the kind of pressures and trade-offs that their clients experience on the path that got them there, and if they understand what a company is about and how managers interact to make the company what it is."

When the Law School invited him to teach finance to law students as part of the Law & Business Program, it dovetailed perfectly into what he sees as an educational need. "I was grateful for the opportunity. I really believe there is a lot of value added for law students to get a little bit of insight into how business people think. If the lawyers who hired me had several of these types of courses, things could've gone a lot faster. They could have also helped my thinking and we could have arrived at the end result a lot more efficiently."

Eades is adapting his Corporate Finance course to the style of instruction he believes will resonate best with law students. "Since law students are not trained in business case study like the students at Darden," says Eades, "I'll give them a mix of the main pedagogies in business school, a blend of theory reinforced with problem sets, following up with their practical application through case study."

Eades sees the Law & Business Program as an education growth opportunity with an excellent business model. "I think it could evolve from these basics into more specific electives both in finance and accounting, and we could offer a broader set of disciplines, such as marketing, strategy, operations, and ethics, and a higher order of electives. As we move forward, student and faculty feedback will tell us where we need to go."

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