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Regular version of the site

‘Our University Gives Its Students the Ability to Fight under Any Circumstances’

Students of the HSE Faculty of Management voted Ekaterina Ivanova, Associate Professor at the Department of Entrepreneurial Law, as one of the best lecturers and teachers conducting seminar classes in 2012. In an interview with Matvey Karmakov, HSE student, she told us about a ‘toolkit’ for every lawyer and other cases from her practice.

— You teach the following disciplines at the Faculty of Management: Jurisprudence and Legal Environment for Business, and Corporate Law. What are the difficulties in teaching for ‘managers’?

— Legal disciplines are difficult for ‘managers’. And we only have a very short amount of time to get a lot of information across. In fact, our students study a general course on the theory of state and law, civil law, and entrepreneurial law for just one semester, over two modules.

— What methods do you use to interest the students in your subject, how do you inspire them to study?

— In reality, it is very simple. How do we usually give examples? Someone went to a supermarket and bought potatoes – here, dear students, is an example of a retail purchase contract. But such an example is not particularly interesting. In our classes we consider not only the situation, but also the risks involved. I explain how we can ‘turn’ the situation with the use of legal tools, for the profit of one or another party of the deal. I always tell my students during case studies: ‘You should not only know the law, but also to be able to use it’. Economic relations are a car you are driving. And your driving skills not only determine its direction, but its speed and your safety. And here you need law. In our classes we always look for the solutions to specific situations and try to consider them in terms of protecting the interests of each side. It means, that, initially, we study a specific (usually, a complex, multifaceted) problem from the side of, for example, creditor, and then – from the part of the debtor. And in both cases we need to protect their interests as effectively as possible. Such work gives the students, among other things, the ability to calculate the possible moves of their opponent. Law is a set of tools, like a doctor: we open our case and, depending on the patient’s complaints, use the appropriate medicine or tool. Usually the students are very surprised that practically every situation has a number of totally different solutions. Accordingly, the larger and better equipped your toolbox is, the more options you will be able to suggest in terms of solutions.

— In addition to knowledge, what does the HSE give its students?

— I had an interesting example in PricewaterhouseCoopers. Once, I was waiting for one of my friends after work. She called me and said: ‘Come here, I can’t stand it anymore! We’ve got some of your HSE students here.’ It turned out that they were selecting students for internships. There were quite a lot of contestants. The commission included several Russian and foreign partners. The commission was pretty tired, since all the contestants had been given the same task, and it was already late in the evening.

So, one student from the HSE begins her presentation. It was obvious that the competition was in its final stage, with only the strongest students left. She began with the basics of the project. Then, a London partner interrupts her and tries to ask her a question on her project. The girl turns to him and says: ‘I’m really sorry, but if you let me finish my presentation, I’m sure you won’t have any questions at the end’. The commission took a deep breath, and the girl used the pause to continue.

After a few more minutes another partner, without any forewarning, started asking her a question. At this point she slammed her file down on the desk – almost certainly, it happened by accident, but the whole commission woke up. Then she gave her answer: ‘Dear Mr…, I apologize again, but three minutes ago I explained to your colleague that if you gave me the opportunity to finish my presentation, you wouldn’t have any more questions’. After some time she finished her presentation (within the limit given in the guidelines), and asked the commission ‘Does anybody have any questions for me?’ There were no questions. Then she turned to the second partner: ‘I told you that when I finished you wouldn’t have any questions’.  As a result, she was selected for the internship, together with a couple of other contestants.

In my view, this situation is an excellent illustration that our university gives its students a sense of purpose, tenacity, and the ability to fight under any circumstances, even in the most stressful situations.


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