Professor of Law
James Brook grew up in a family of educators and always knew he wanted to be a teacher, but it was a memorable class with noted legal scholar Paul Freund that he took as an undergraduate at Harvard that first opened his eyes to the fascination of the law.
“It was given in a huge amphitheater, yet Freund, who actually taught at the Law School, treated this undergraduate class like a regular law school class, taking comments and questions from the students,” recalls Professor Brook more than 30 years later. “I had always been a math major, but I was so inspired that semester by Freund that I ended up taking the LSAT and applying to Harvard Law.”
He has never lost that enthusiasm for the basic concepts of the law, what he calls “the nuts and bolts” of law that regulate individual interactions.
After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1972, Professor Brook joined a general corporate practice firm in Boston. In 1975, he was awarded a Bigelow Teaching Fellowship at the University of Chicago Law School and found teaching law students the art of research and legal writing extremely rewarding. Offered a position at New York Law School in 1976, he came to New York, a city in which he had always wanted to live, to use his legal training in a way he had always found most personally rewarding—teaching.
Professor Brook’s field is commercial law, and it is his first-year classes that he consistently finds most interesting and challenging.
“There’s always been a tradition in law schools to put a premium on classroom teaching, to give students the opportunity to study right away with the best scholars. Professors are not shut away, working only with a few graduate students, as they are in so many other professions,” explains Professor Brook, who is well known for the “get-acquainted” lunches he holds with small groups from his Torts class each semester. “There’s a special energy you put into the first year, these are students at the beginning of their law school experience and it’s energizing to teach them and know them.”
About fifteen years ago, Professor Brook began writing the first of his three very successful ‘Examples and Explanations’ books for Wolters Kluwer Law & Business on the three major areas of commercial law: secured transactions, payment systems, and sales and leases of goods. His first book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Probability and Statistics (Carswell, 1990), utilized his math background—he was a Phi Beta Kappa math major at Harvard—to shed some light on a field where a great deal of fact-finding and proof in litigation is based on probability and statistics. A 1981–82 Finkelstein Fellow at Columbia Law School, where he pursued studies in the area of probability and statistics and the law, he received his LL.M. from Columbia in 1983.
Professor Brook’s “Examples and Explanations” books, which he updates approximately every three years, rely on his colloquial and humorous style of writing and teaching, a style that he maintains makes commercial law far more accessible and less intimidating than it might otherwise be. His most recent addition to the collections is Sales and Leases: Examples and Explanations, Sixth Edition (Wolters Kluwer 2012). He is also the author of a casebook on Secured Transactions, also published by Wolters Kluwer, now in its second edition.
Harvard, B.A. 1968 magna cum laude
Phi Beta Kappa, J.D. 1972 cum laude
Columbia, LL.M. 1983, Finkelstein Fellow, 1981-82.
Expert in commercial transactions, contracts, and credit.