576.01 Agency Law in a Changing Economy

Agency law encompasses the legal consequences of consensual relationships in which one person (the “principal”) manifests assent that another person (the “agent”) shall, subject to the principal’s right of control, have power to affect the principal’s legal relations through the agent’s acts and on the principal’s behalf. As the principal’s representative, an agent owes fiduciary duties to the principal. Agency doctrine applies to a wide range of relationships in which one person has legally-consequential power to represent another, populating the category, “agent,” with a variety of exemplars: lawyers, brokers in securities and other markets, officers of corporations and other legal entities, talent and literary agents, auction houses, and more. Usually, agency relationships contemplate three distinct persons: agent, principal, and third parties with whom the agent interacts, with legal consequences for all three. Agency law also governs the relationship between a principal and its agents, including its employees. The pervasiveness of agency means that its implications remain relevant despite changes in business structures and economies more generally.  This seminar covers the legal doctrines that make agency a distinct subject with in the law, in particular those differentiating agency from general contract and tort law. It also covers a number of contemporary examples in which agency doctrine may—or may not—apply with significant consequences. These may include the status of Uber drivers and other actors who perform services via platforms; the duties of commodities brokers, including merchants in financial derivatives products; the consequences of imputing an agent’s knowledge to the principal; agency as a vehicle for the imposition of vicarious liability; and the consequences for the agent and third party when a principal is undisclosed, unidentified, or undetermined. 
The seminar will meet weekly with assigned readings. Each student will write a research paper on a topic to be chosen with the instructor’s consent and will make brief presentations to the seminar as work on the paper proceeds

Spring 2021

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Research paper, 25+ pages
Oral presentation
Class participation
Deborah A. DeMott
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.576.01.Sp21
Email list: LAW.576.01.Sp21@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Areas of Practice