Professor Harold Lloyd marries legal theory with real world landlord-tenant disputes, employment contracts

Photo of Harold Lloyd

Wake Forest Law Professor Harold Lloyd studied philosophy as an undergraduate. Students who take his classes may expect to discuss only lofty legal theory. 

Not necessarily.

Rather, students instead find themselves thrust into the real world of landlord-tenant disputes and employment contracts.

For his commercial leasing class, Lloyd invites a lawyer and a real estate expert from The Fresh Market to debate the terms of their “lease” with their fictitious landlord, Wake Forest Law Professor Tanya Marsh. Lloyd was general counsel for Fresh Market for 10 years.

“We go through a lot of the basic issues and they argue about who is right on use provisions and how you should calculate rent,” Lloyd said. “That’s always fun.”

Lloyd, who got into teaching when The Fresh Market went public about three years ago, enjoys mixing theory and practice in his classes.

“When I was in law school, I was disappointed with the pure emphasis on theory and no emphasis, really, on practicality,” he said. “I don’t know how you can study lease law, for example, without looking at a lease and going through it. I thought there was a real disconnect there and I was interested in seeing what I could do to change that.”

The Davidson philosophy major and Duke University School of Law graduate is happy to be part of the swing toward incorporating real life into law courses, though Lloyd said that theory will always be a necessary part of law.

Being a lawyer in the real world means making mistakes, which Lloyd often turns into teaching moments.

“I like to tell students stories where people make mistakes,” he said. “I like to tell students they’re going to make mistakes, but if they own up to them quickly, there’s almost no mistake that you can’t fix.”

Lloyd has met with residents at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and talked to them about how important it is to get legal advice before they sign their first employment contract. He used real contracts with the personal information taken out to show residents all of the ways that their relationship with their employer could go wrong.

“When we were about halfway through,” he said, “I stopped for a minute and I asked them, ‘Is there still anyone here who thinks they don’t need to go see a lawyer before they sign this?’ and everyone said, ‘No.’”

Lloyd finds that teaching legal writing ties in well with his interest in rhetoric and the philosophy of language. He likes to see English, philosophy and history majors enter law school because they have been taught to think and write well.

In his spare time, Lloyd enjoys writing, as well as translating, poetry. He has translated French poetry, a language he speaks. He has even tried his hand at Greek translations, though he hasn’t studied Greek. Three of his poems have been set to music. One of them was performed at Wake Forest last year.

“I enjoy language,” he said. “To me it’s a mystery. I like to explore it and it’s also something that can be beautiful, that you can construct things with, like art.”