Introduction

Learn about contracts from Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, one of the world’s leading authorities on contract law. Contracts are promises that the law will enforce. But when will the law refuse to honor a promise? What happens when one party does not hold to their part of the deal? This version of the course adds new units on Interpretation, Agency, Partnerships, Corporations, and Government Regulation. 

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We are exposed to contracts in all areas of our life — agreeing to terms when downloading a new computer program, hiring a contractor to repair a leaking roof, and even ordering a meal at a restaurant. Knowing the principles of contracts is not just a skill needed by lawyers, it illuminates for everyone a crucial institution that we use all the time and generally take for granted.

This contract law course, with new materials and updated case examples, is designed to introduce the range of issues that arise when entering and enforcing contracts. It will provide an introduction to what a contract is and also analyze the purpose and significance of contracts. Then, it will discuss the intent to create legal relations, legality and morality, and the distinction between gifts and bargains. The course also investigates common pitfalls: one-sided promises, mistake, fraud, and frustration. With the knowledge of what makes contracts and how they can go wrong, Professor Fried will discuss remedies and specific performance. Finally, Professor Fried will introduce how contracts can create rights for third parties. 

The course’s instructor, Charles Fried, has been teaching at Harvard Law School for more than 50 years and has written extensively on contracts. Not only is Professor Fried a leading authority on contract law, but he also utilizes a story-telling approach to explaining the topic, which creates a unique and interesting class experience.

What you'll learn:

  • A theoretical background of contracts, trust, and promise
  • How to form contracts through valid offer and acceptance
  • Limits to enforcing contracts
  • Issues excusing contractual performance
  • Available remedies for contractual breaches
  • Third parties’ ability to enforce contracts
  • The limitations of contract law
  • How courts interpret contracts
  • Relationship of Contracts to Agency, Partnership, Corporations and Regulation
  • How to read through contracts to apply these key concepts and understand potential issues and outcomes

Meet The Faculty

Charles Fried

Charles Fried

Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Charles Fried is the Beneficial Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he has been teaching since 1961. Most recently, Fried has taught Contracts and Constitutional Law. He was also the Solicitor General of the United States from 1985 to 1989, where he argued 25 cases in front of the Supreme Court. Fried was also an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1995 to 1999. Fried has authored many books, including Anatomy of Values, Right and Wrong, Modern Liberty, Contract as Promise, Making Tort Law, and Saying Where the Law Is: The Constitution in the Supreme Court, in addition to more than 30 journal articles.

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