For The Record

Whenever she has the chance, corporate law professor Jessica Erickson asks alumni what they wish they had learned at Richmond. One answer is consistent: Alumni wish they knew more about business.

Starting this fall, law students will have that chance in a new course developed by Erickson and Jonathan Whitaker, a professor in the University’s Robins School of Business. Students will take a semester-long online course developed by Cornell University to learn fundamental concepts of accounting, finance, and operations. Then they’ll spend a week digging into case studies involving Forbes Global 2000 companies.

“During class, we’re going to talk about the analysis and potential decisions without knowing the outcome of the case,” Whitaker said, “just like a manager wouldn’t know the outcome of their decisions.”

Erickson expected a payoff for corporate lawyers like herself. As she developed the course, she was surprised to learn how knowledge of business principles might benefit students in a wide range of fields, from family law to wills and trusts.

She hopes students will be more equipped to offer solutions to their clients.

“A business person might say, ‘Can we do this?’ and a lawyer will say, ‘No, you’re not legally permitted to do that,’” Erickson said. “Instead, they could figure out what the business person cares about and how they can use the law to help them achieve it. That’s being relevant to their client.”