A Matter of Course: Legal Environment of Business

By Jazmin Guzman, '16  |  Photo courtesy of Astrid Schmidt-King

A Matter of Course offers a snapshot of a current University class.

Taught by Astrid Schmidt-King, J.D., LL.M., visiting affiliate assistant professor of law and social responsibility, Legal Environment of Business examines the legal environment of business activity.

The course teaches students to explain basic legal terms; articulate legal rights and requirements in the managerial setting; identify how a particular legal issue fits into the legal system and how law develops and changes; and discuss managing an organization’s legal matters, including ethical use of the law.

What are the objectives of the course?

As future professionals, it is essential that students develop critical thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills—these are skills that students will need regardless of the career path chosen.

In developing their appreciation for the relationship between law and business, upon completion of the class, students should have a solid understanding of the structure of the U.S. legal system and the creation, evolution, and application of law.

It is my hope that students are able to recognize legal and ethical issues in a given situation, identify relevant laws, and understand the purpose, intent, and application of the law.

What is one of the topics you discuss in class?

Throughout the semester, we cover over a dozen legal subject areas!

One of the key questions we explore when looking at corporations is, “Are corporations considered a ‘person’ for purposes under the law?” We do not often think about corporations having some of the rights afforded to a ‘natural person,’ but in the past five years we have seen some key Supreme Court decisions (namely Hobby Lobby and Citizens United) grapple with this question and the delicate balance between constitutional rights and civil liberties.

This topic challenges us to perhaps take a step back, think about what this means, what the greater impact is on society, and how this influences the development and interpretation of laws.

Is there a service-learning component, extracurricular involvement, or another unusual aspect of the course?

Although the class does not incorporate these components specifically, I have intentionally tried to incorporate course work that challenges students’ perspectives and cultural outlook. By watching a video lecture regarding (de)globalization and writing a reflection essay, students examined the impact of a country’s history and culture on business practices. I think it is so important to gain perspective, understanding, and empathy in the larger global context.

In addition, students were given the opportunity to read “A Jesuit Educational Challenge to Shareholders Primacy” and write a critical analysis regarding the intersection and relationship between Jesuit values and teaching and the business profession and environment. While it is not service per se, I do think that these two components bring our mission into the classroom, which I believe is an integral part of the Loyola experience.

What do you hope your students will take from your class?

First, I hope that by being intellectually supported and challenged they learn how to analyze questions, think critically, and examine situations from various perspectives. Second, I hope they gain an understanding of the different substantive areas of law that impact and influence the business environment. Finally, I hope they take away an appreciation for their holistic development that will serve them well in their personal and professional development. While this course is law heavy, during the semester students complete three assignments structured to this end. The first assignment focuses on the importance of developing soft skills for professional development and personal success; the second explores the ways that the Jesuit mission intersects with business; and the third assignment examines the importance of globalization and how it impacts the interconnected world economy.

While gaining substantive knowledge about the legal environment in which business operates, developing critical thinking and analysis and an appreciation for soft skills, and valuing the bigger picture as it relates to mission and a global worldview are important ‘takeaways,’ I would like to add one more overarching hope.

As a teacher, I genuinely care about my students beyond the classroom setting and well after the semester concludes. This was one of the reasons I offered a professional development resume and cover letter workshop for my students, to demonstrate my commitment to their growth and development.

What is different about teaching at Loyola and at a Jesuit institution?

The former institution that I worked for was also mission driven and, although I myself did not graduate from college or a graduate program that is mission based, over time I have discovered that this is very important to me. I love working at an institution like Loyola whose mission informs its vision. It is this foundation that allows for an education that is greater than the buildings and the curriculum. I also find Ignatian principles grounding and centering. While these principles have always been timeless, I find that they are of particular relevance and incredibly instructive in this ever busy and interconnected world.

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