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The 'Basics' of Business Law

January 3, 2011

Business Law is a core requirement for all BMCC Business majors. Even so, many of Anne Basic’s students say she made the class material relatable—even admitting, to their astonishment—that they liked studying legal issues.

“Students have said to me, ‘I wasn’t sure I was going to understand this, but you made it interesting, and now that I understand it, I love it and can see myself going to law school’,” she says.

Basic, an Assistant Professor in the Business Management Department, came to BMCC in 2009, and was already familiar with BMCC and Tribeca…

After 9/11, she oversaw a non-profit organization in the area that catered to boosting morale. “It was a communication initiative,” explains Basic. “There was so much in the media that was negative and depressing. This particular non-profit made others aware there were still residents in Tribeca who cared about the community.  And I worked with many people at BMCC at that time, as well.”

After graduating from Mt. Holyoke, American University and Washington College of Law, Basic taught high school students at a technical school in Paris, and then worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors of business.

“Teaching, which is something I love, at BMCC was the best way to combine all my experience into something that, in turn, I can give to others,” she says. “The student body is incredibly diverse, confident and engaged. My students are incredibly generous and I feel blessed to have them. They seek me out, and that’s gratifying."

The influence of Perry Mason

Basic decided to pursue a law degree because “I don’t like blood, so being a doctor was out,” she jokes.

Growing up, she loved reading legal thrillers. “Also, my generation was influenced by Perry Mason. I don’t have any lawyers in the family, but I had a family friend whose uncle was a judge…” she says. “I wanted to go into a profession where I could fundamentally help people. People do think lawyers are obstructionists, but if you believe in the law, it’s there to protect rights and society from the criminal element and is fundamentally there to help people. So, for me, it seemed like a good fit."

Know industry regulations

It may be required, but Basic says the Business Law class is beneficial for anyone who wants to pursue business a meaningful way. “The course touches on so many areas of the daily workings of a business,” she says. “It’s for any student looking to start a business, go to work in a big corporation, work in a non-profit…The concepts taught are beneficial to anyone, no matter where you go in the business world.”

A majority of the course is “talking about rights of businesses,” explains Basic. “I’ll tell my students to be careful and read everything. Continue learning about parameters in your industry. For example, some industries are more regulated than others, like finance has different regulations than the fashion industry.”

Basic also reminds her students that it’s OK to ask for help in the business world “when you need it. Business requires compromises with others, and is all about developing relationships.”

But…be careful, she warns.

Get it in writing

One common theme that arises in class is working with friends or family members—a good or bad business move? Basic reminds students to “get everything in writing.”

“This is probably the best advice that I’ve ever received, and we talk about it in class when contracts come up” she says. “I always tell my students when you work with someone, sometimes they’re your buddy and you think it’s great. However, if it falls south in the long run, you can—and should—protect your rights.”

She elaborates, further explaining, “There are situations in which people go into business with friends and/or family based on a handshake; an oral agreement. The benefits of a written contract can help navigate that relationship and counteract the potential downside of an oral agreement.”

While there are indeed many entrepreneurs who find success with just a “handshake arrangement,” Basic says that others find themselves “on opposite sides of the mat, at odds, wondering what happened to the friendship or to family ties.”

Thus, a valid business contract sets the various responsibilities and liabilities of all parties to an agreement, and helps define the parameters of the business relationship.

“My experience is that a valid written contract can not only save a business; it can save a familial relationship or friendship, in addition to protecting the rights of the individual,” she says.

The impact of technology

Another popular topic of discussion in the classroom—Basic strongly encourages classroom discussions—is technology.

“It changes at a rapid pace, but unfortunately, the law doesn’t change as rapidly. A large portion of the course deals with contracts; I’ll talk about how they affect people in their daily lives. I’ll ask my students, ‘Did you go on the internet today? Did you shop online? Guess what, you just entered into a contract’,” says Basic. “By focusing on concrete examples students can relate to, the idea is to get them to understand they have to be wary, vigilant and understand when you’re entering into a contract. We also talk about marketing and social networking, what you can say, shouldn’t say...”


She also requires students to read a business newspaper or magazine—it doesn’t matter which one. “It’s important to ‘live in the now’, and be aware of, and on top of, trends and the economy.

A positive attitude

In today’s uncertain economy, Basic’s students remain ambitious. “I’ve never gotten a sense of despair from the students. They’re optimistic; they’re passionate about business,” she says, noting that many of her students are interested in the business side of the fashion industry. “There is a wariness and a sense of ‘We need to figure out the best way to position ourselves today…’, but I’ve never had a student say, ‘Look at the economy; I give up’.”

Basic, who is still in touch with some of her former BMCC students says, “Their attitudes are inspiring. I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me.”

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Students learn about technology, contracts and getting everything in writing
  • Basic’s class fosters classrooms discussions about today’s business world
  • Students often ask about the pros/cons of working with friends and family members

share this story »