School navigation

Law Courses Catalog

Law and Economics

  • Typically offered every other year

The text for the course is Economic Analysis for Lawyers by Henry Butler and Christopher Drahozal. We will cover the materials in the book for the first nine to ten weeks of classes in accordance with the schedule in the syllabus. Class for the last three to four weeks will be devoted to student presentations on projects requiring the application of economic analysis to selected legal problems. The general concept of these projects is explained below.

Fifty percent of the course grade will be based on the projects and fifty percent on an exam at the end of the semester. In addition to the class presentations, you will be expected to write a brief (10-15 page) paper about your project. Active class participation will be rewarded in the determination of the final grade for the course.


A central premise of the course is that economics is a useful tool for the analysis of most legal problems. Of course it is not the only such tool, but it can help us to understand certain impacts of existing legal rules and to anticipate some future impacts of proposed legal rules.

Your project for the course should be an application of economic analysis to a legal problem, rule or regime of particular interest to you. For example, you might analyze the economic consequences of proposed new regulations of the financial industry following passage of Dodd Frank, proposed cap and trade or carbon taxes to address climate change, federal regulation of natural gas fracking or off shore oil drilling, existing wetlands regulations, existing building codes, particular provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, the federal death tax, strict liability in tort law, the creation of new environmental crimes, state regulations with respect to property distribution in divorce and any many other possibilities. The point is to select a legal rule or area of particular interest to you and apply the tools of economic analysis to an understanding of its likely impacts or an explanation of its historic impacts. Alternatively you might propose a new law or regulation and employ the tools of economic analysis to explain why your proposal is a good idea. Or you might critique an existing proposal using economic analysis to explain why it is a bad idea.