Accounting for Lawyers is an introduction to accounting concepts. Many business controversies are shaped by accounting thinking and business lawyers will operate in an environment where accounting is considered a universal language. The primary focus of the course will be on financial statements prepared by corporations for their shareholders under Securities Exchange Commission rules and in accord with "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles." But issues from tax accounting, price regulation, internal cost controls, and dividend restrictions are brought in, at least for comparison. The course will teach the core system of accountants, that is, debit-credit entries, balance sheets and income statements, and accrual method. The purpose is not to teach students to be professional (or semi-pro) accountants, however, but rather to give exposure to controversies shaped by accounting thinking. The perspective is that of an outside investor who will use accounting information or an outside lawyer who will make accounting arguments. There will be considerable emphasis on the limitations and errors of accounting theory and practice and on how concepts useful for one purpose can malfunction if used for another.
The three credit hour course consists of a two credit hour version (LAW 271M), plus a one credit hour basic course (LAW 179M), and is constructed to serve the needs of law students who are starting from scratch. Students who have taken more than three hours of accounting before this course may sign up only for the two credit hour version of this course. After the first day, such students need not attend class until after the completion of the first third of the course, on bookkeeping fundamentals. The two hour version of Accounting for Lawyers should prove to be of value even for students who have had considerable amount of accounting because it is critical of accounting and shows the legal use of accounting in ways that rarely show up in accounting courses.