When I was a new professor, eager to meet any and all institutional needs, I agreed to teach Real Estate Transactions, a common law class in a civil law state. It really is a property course properly within the property curriculum, but inadequate staffing there (apparently few property profs want to teach real property these days, the rage being IP) pushed it my direction as the junior person. And that is how I became a real estate teacher. I run hot and cold on the course, but teaching it this semester has been wildly fun with the economic/mortgage crisis. When I am left to the traditional commercial law curriculum, the time is rare when the subject for the day is all over the papers and television, nearly every day. Now I know how my Con Law colleagues feel, talking about this new development or that new case.
Interestingly, I have found that the class, and the task of mastering real estate law, have broadened significantly my perspective on general commercial law. First, you realize what a truly grand and amazing achievement the UCC in fact is. Property law is scattered all over the place--radical disuniformity at the common law, disparate state perspectives and approaches, periodic interventions of federalization, but there is nothing, no statutory supplement or code, that you can pick up and wave with any sort of authority and state "this is the law you must know." The students love this, as you might imagine. Nearly every NCCUSL foray into real property areas has crashed and burned, which makes me less uptight--and almost pragmatic--about the impending failure of the Revised Article 2 project. I have spent the last couple of weeks on state statutory redemption and anti-deficiency laws, and the chaos in that area of mortgage law elevates Grant Gilmore from "Great" to "Bodhisattva who walked among us once" in my pantheon of Commercial Law idols. Mucking through the mess that is real property secured transactions law, you can truly appreciate the amazing accomplishment that is Article 9.
Another interesting thing about a tour of duty in Real Estate is that you see how the doctrine of good faith purchase permeates all of commercial law. You see it with transfers of deeds, foreclosure sales, recording acts. No property casebook does this doctrine to my satisfaction, and I always end up rephrasing things to put them into my Article 3/4 framework. I now see holder in due course less as an Article 3 anachronism to be viewed in isolation, but rather as simply the UCC's play on a comprehensive commercial law doctrine that extends throughout all of transactional law.
In semesters such as these where I am doing a Code class and Real Estate the same day, there is an exciting juxtaposition. In the mornings there is the precision and clarity of the UCC for my Article 2 class, followed up by the chaos and indeterminacy of mortgage law. I would like to say that each legal approach makes me appreciate the other more, but I have to admit that each foray into the regulation of real estate makes me admire and understand the whole enterprise that is the UCC just a bit more.