Spartan Lawyer Winter 2019

BEAN’S RULES: A RETROSPECTIVE

Professor Bruce W. Bean’s students are 2Ls and 3Ls, seasoned survivors of the rules of contracts, torts, and civ pro. When they enroll in his class, they’re eager to similarly master the rules of Business Enterprises – only to learn that BE does not, in fact, use rules (which Professor Bean emphasizes in every class session).

Delaware business courts don’t have rules, so Professor Bean has drafted some of his own. Each semester, he offers valuable wisdom to guide his students’ careers, even if they never see a corporation again. Professor Bean is retiring this year, but his Rules will keep working hard for a generation of MSU Law graduates.

If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.
LEAVE A PAPER TRAIL.

Of all his timeless gems of knowledge, this is my favorite rule in Professor Bean’s repertoire. Anyone who was lucky enough to be privy to his wisdom can attest to this mantra of his. No matter what. Under any and all circumstances. Be meticulous, be thorough, be tedious: get that documentation! Those who know Bruce can vouch for how earnestly he lives by this rule; it is evident in every aspect of his modus operandi, down to the paper blizzard in his office, his ever-changing bulletin board, and the BWB initials embroidered on his shirts. After all – if it isn’t in writing, did it really happen?

— Sophia Brelvi, ’15

Things are always more complicated than they seem. Keep peeling the onion even when you know you have finished.

Professor Bean’s words reflect the attention to detail, diligence, and competence that are required in the practice of law. As public servants, lawyers owe it to their communities to abide by and effectuate these principles in their daily work. Whether it is a prosecutor preparing for trial, a law clerk reviewing an application for leave to appeal, or an associate attorney drafting a trust, a lawyer must be the master of his or her case.

— Andrew McInnis, ’18

For every “study,” there is an EQUAL AND OPPOSITE “study.”

An attorney will occasionally face what appear to be insurmountable facts. The logical response is an appeal to the law. But when both look bad, I have found Professor Bean's rule to lead the way: a little research – applied judiciously – can bolster just about any position.

— Brent Domann, ’08

John P. A. Ioannidis, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, 2 PLoS Med. 696, 700 (2005) (“Is it unavoidable that most research findings are false, or can we improve the situation? A major problem is that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty what the truth is in any research question.”).

There are
NO LEGAL PROBLEMS;
just people problems.

Throughout the semester in Professor Bean’s class, we would read through cases and this rule would come up to demonstrate that the issue stemmed from a “people problem.” I learned more about this rule when I served as the EIC of International Law Review. Professor Bean was our faculty advisor and my personal advisor through this experience. Through difficult times, we discussed the “people problems” and how to navigate those issues. Professor Bean taught me how to get the job done, make the tough choices, and keep (most) people happy. I use the skills that Professor Bean taught me to navigate the tough times with colleagues or clients.

— Amanda (Carmichael) Dernovshek, ’18

You will never have
ALL the information
you would like to make a decision.

The first time I read this lesson in BE class, I didn’t really understand the meaning. As a student, I thought that having all of the answers was the only pathway to success. Today, as a corporate finance attorney at a global law firm, my success is measured by my ability to make decisions which have multi-million to billion dollar consequences based on a limited universe of information. Little did I know that the lesson that once challenged my notion of success would eventually become the source of it.

— Megan Pirooz, ’12

If you are not having fun,
DO SOMETHING ELSE.

Practicing law can sometimes be challenging, especially when dealing with people. But ultimately I enjoy what I do. I love it. And when frustration takes over, I always remember this rule and know that there is nothing else that I would enjoy more at this time. If I ever stop having fun, I know it will be time for a change.

— Fedor Kozlov, ’09

Just because you don’t hear the footsteps behind you doesn’t mean they’re not following you.

The first time I heard Professor Bean say this, I knew he was not at MSU Law only to teach law. Rather, he had a vested interest in producing leaders of character. He cared about the type of lawyer the Law College produced.

I spent a full career as an officer in the Army. I studied Professor (and Colonel Retired) Bean’s life story and his commitment to duty, honor, and country. The more I learned, the more I made it a point to pick his mind for mentorship. He was always there. Those gems of wisdom, I use at my firm today: leaders do the right thing when nobody is looking.

— Andrae Ballard, ’19

Lose the judge,
lose the case.

I have been practicing law as a litigation attorney in Chicago for over five years, and this rule has never rung truer. Before I appear in front of a new judge, I wait and see how he or she is handling the cases. What questions are they asking? What is the tone of the questions? I then try to match that tone and energy level, showing the judge, “hey, I’m just like you!” Understanding your judge is just as valuable as understanding your case. And it will make your life a whole lot easier, too.

— Nick Standiford, ’13

You need to
get comfortable
with being uncomfortable.

You are not growing if you are unwilling to embrace new opportunities and experiences that are uncomfortable. Professor Bean’s advice is spot on for attorneys seeking highly effective careers. Whether it be an oral argument, negotiating a transaction or seeking a new client, comfort with the uncomfortable is an essential ingredient to success. Attorneys may limit their career opportunities if they seek to avoid discomfort. We should embrace discomfort and seek out uncomfortable situations that fuel our professional growth.

— Dustin Daniels, ’10

NO ONE LIKES SURPRISES
or the person responsible therefor.

As a trial attorney, I can expect surprises from my adversary and, more often than not, I am not too happy to receive them. However, you will be more disappointed in yourself for not anticipating the surprise, leaving you as the “person responsible.” The message? Prepare, prepare, prepare!

— Brian Davis, ’10

BEAN’S FINAL RULE:
There are no secrets.

I have probably taught more than 3,000 Spartan lawyers over the past 15 years. They were all great, but no one was perfect.

Your classmates, your fellow lawyers, your friends and family, even your faculty – we are all imperfect humans. When you make that inevitable mistake, the impulse to bury it is both deeply human and errant. Admitting to a mistake is, in the long run, much smarter than being discovered in your efforts to conceal that mistake. (Just ask any public figure who has tried this.)

Be honest, be cautious, be careful, because – make no mistake – your actions will eventually see the light of day.

There are, after all, no secrets.

— Professor Bruce W. Bean


BRUCE W. BEAN, professor from practice, began teaching at MSU Law in 2004, bringing his deep background in financial services and international law into his classes: Global Law Colloquium, International Corporate Governance, Strategic International Transactions, Corporate Law and Policy, Mergers and Acquisitions, and, of course, Business Enterprises. He has advised the International Law Review and coached Jessup Competition teams.

He’ll join Barbara Bean, herself a retired MSU Law reference librarian and adjunct professor, in Pennsylvania to pass on their wisdom to an avid new pupil: their grandson, Diego.