Book Review: A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts

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Book Review: A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts. Weitzenboeck, Emily M. Edward Elgar, 2012. Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-78100-465-4. $145. 363 pages.

The first chapter of Emily M. Weitzenboeck’s treatise A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts lays the framework for the chapters that follow, describing dynamic networks, explaining organizational evolution trends, and defining the related terminology. I’d say this is the most important part of the book, as these terms and overall concepts are going to be unfamiliar to most U.S. law students, professors, and practitioners without some serious background in theoretical business studies, with an emphasis on technology and a specific interest in international business.

Dynamic networks are relatively recent organizational forms that include “an increased use of joint ventures, subcontracting and licensing activities,” all of which “can be assembled and reassembled in order to meet complex and changing competitive conditions” (9, quoting a cited 1986 article by Miles and Snow). They all include vertical disaggregation, brokers, market mechanisms, and full-disclosure information systems. In much-needed layman's terms, these are business arrangements in which large firms outsource major aspects of their operations to other companies, which puts them at an advantage in competitive markets with multiple organizations battling it out in the same fields.

Weitzenboeck, a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Oslo, Norway, in the Norwegian Research Center for Computers & Law, is obviously an expert in the field, but I found myself struggling with the abstract concepts she presented until she turned to more concrete examples with a series of case studies on dynamic networks in various European nations in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3, “The Precontractual Stage,” refers to United States law for the first time in the book, citing the Uniform Commercial Code, the Restatement of Contracts Second, and even a law review article by the venerable contracts treatise author E.A. Farnsworth, all dealing with the obligation of good faith imposed in the performance of every contract. At that point, I can say I’ve never been so relieved to read some U.S. contract law, after encountering so many unfamiliar jurisdictions and their own unique laws, to say nothing of the high-tech business-speak. The “good faith doctrine” comes up throughout the book, including as the focus of a later chapter, as a common factor in most nations’ versions of contract law.

In the end, despite its discussions of contract law, partnership law, and contractual networks, there are so few relevant United States law examples that the majority of U.S. law libraries would not refer to it much, if at all. A typical academic law library would not find much use for this title, unless the law school had an LLM program or other classes in international business law. Law firms engaged in any sort of international business dealing with contracts, especially in highly technical industries, may find it more relevant for their libraries or offices, as would universities with international business and MBA programs. European law libraries and firms would find Weitzenboeck’s book more useful as well.

Louis Rosen is a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor of Law Library at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida.

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