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Drawing interest: How law students can learn about transactions through a coloring book

Transactional Law Coloring Book

We know what you’re thinking: “How on earth can a coloring book help me with one of the most complicated subjects in law school? Surely this is a joke.” It’s an understandable sentiment. As a law student you are continually inundated with supplements, online learning aids, and past students outlines that are supposed to help you ace your courses. But before you relegate this idea to the trash heap, hear us out.

Think of a great memory from your past. What did it involve? It was likely an experience – something tactile that involved multiple senses. Perhaps it was a great family vacation, a night out with friends, or a personal achievement. Whatever it is, we are pretty certain it is not sitting in a classroom listening to a professor or classmate drone on about the U.C.C., or worse – sitting up late at night reading section 9-203 for the tenth time.

As professors, we know Article 9 can be dry, so we would often try to create visuals for our classes to help remember key concepts, or create exercises to do in-class so that our students were not just sitting, but actually doing something. The more you can involve your other senses in the learning process, the more likely it is that the concepts will “stick.” That is the genesis of “Color Me Secured: Exploring Article 9 with Crayons.”

We have taken some of the visuals from our classes and, with the help of our exceptional illustrator Dave Spear, turned them into actual visuals. The book isn’t designed to teach you Article 9 comprehensively, but to assist you as you are going through your class in understanding some of the more important and complicated topics. One of the unexpected benefits of using a non-lawyer illustrator is it forced us to evaluate whether our visuals made sense. Dave would often call us up and ask, “What is the purpose of this picture?” as he needed to know how best to convey the concept as well. The end result is a book filled with, not just pictures to color, but also with simple exercises that help solidify your learning.

We see three tangible ways that this book can help you become more confident in a subject matter that is considered one of the most challenging in the law school curriculum.

  1. Seeing is believing. Words get thrown around a lot in Secured Transactions. Frankly one of our students described it as a foreign language, which is not that far off from reality.   There are terms of art, and you have to know them.  It’s as simple as that.  If you don’t recognize a payment intangible in the problem, then you may not realize that when they are sold they perfect automatically under 9-309 as opposed to the transfer of certain accounts, which may require filing.  Now imagine you have this in front of you:

In the image, the book takes you step-by-step explaining why an account arises by contract, while a payment intangible is a right to payment that does not arise by contract.   The drafters of article 9 assume you would understand the background of the distinction they are making – that some payment relationships arise by virtue of a contractual relationship, while others “just happen.”  We don’t make that assumption and that’s why we try to illustrate what these things mean.

  1. Repetition Repetition Repetition. Like any good foreign language, using it in a variety of settings is how you learn it.   Moreover, you have to become comfortable using the language – seeing it, translating it in action, until you are instinctually declaring what category of goods you are looking at while walking through the grocery store. (Shelving is equipment, canned goods are inventory, nothing in that store is farm products (at least in the hands of the grocer).  So, what Color me Secured allows you to do is use and reuse the terms in a different context than your class.  Think of your professor as the wise sage articulating these values in thoughtful prose, and us as your anger translator, saying what he said, just a little differently.
  2. Its relaxing. Yes – coloring can take the edge off. When you get bogged down thinking you can’t do this, just remember, a coloring book was written about the subject.  Moreover, our first test audience was our children (under the age of 12).   They loved it.  We love it.  Other professors love it (including Lynn LoPucki who calls it “A Triumph!). We think you will too!

Our primary goal is to help clarify the topic with a simple study aid that is more affordable than most supplements. At $19.99, we aren’t trying to fund our retirements with this thing (especially after Amazon takes its cut), but that was never the goal. The goal is to help you learn the topic, and have a little fun in the process. And maybe, just maybe, one of your memories from law school will involve that fun coloring book you used for Secured Transactions.

Colin Marks and Mark Roark Colin Marks is the Ernest W. Clemens Professor of Corporate and Securities Law at St. Mary’s University where he has taught since 2006. Prior to teaching, Professor Marks clerked for the Honorable Harold R. DeMoss Jr. on the United States Fifth Court of Appeals for two years. In 2003, Marks joined the law firm of Baker Botts, L.L.P., in Houston, Texas where his practice concentrated on commercial litigation. He is the author of numerous articles on commercial law and business associations. Marc Roark teaches at Savannah Law School. He is the author of a number of articles on housing and homelessness and on commercial law subjects, amongst other areas.