Field Examination in Law and Economics


Economic analysis provides one of the major theoretical perspectives on the study of law in American universities. Economic analysis has also supplied empirical methods for testing hypotheses about the law’s causes and effects. These theories and empirical techniques have been used to study a broad range of legal and political phenomena, including responses to liability in private law, legal process (including settlement bargaining), deterrence of crime, the evolution of judge-made law, electoral competition, the behavior of legislatures, the regulation of industry, and the effects of constitutional rights on behavior. The findings have become an important part of legal analysis and culture. The examination in the field of law and economics covers these finding. Students who wish to be examined in the field should become familiar with these methods of analysis and their most important conclusions.


Usual preparation for the field examination consists in taking a lecture course in private law and economics, a lecture course in public law and economics, and two semesters of the law and economics workshop. Specifically, the usual preparation consists in Law 251.31 Introduction to Law, Economics, and Business (or its upper division undergraduate equivalent, Legal Studies 145), Legal Studies 147, and Law 216 (fall and spring). In consultation with an advisor, students may substitute another class on a subject in public law and economics instead of Legal Studies 147. A sample of the field examination is available here in PDF format.

Law and Economics Courses

Law 251.31: Law, Economics and Business is a lecture class that teaches the basic techniques of analysis, especially as applied to private law. Laws and legal institutions facilitate and constrain business. By explaining these effects, microeconomics reveals strategies to make the best use of law in business. Understanding these strategies enables business executives and lawyers to work together more intimately and profitably. Practice in large law firms divides into transactions, regulation, and litigation. The bodies of law that facilitate business by lubricating transactions include property and contracts, as well as corporations, bankruptcy, and banking. The bodies of law that constrain business include torts and regulations to protect consumers, investors, and the environment. Transactions and regulatory compliance mostly avoids litigation, but its shadow looms over all business activities. Law and business students in this class will use microeconomics, which is one of the major theoretical and strategic perspectives on law, to analyze and strategize about some of these major bodies of law. (JSP Foundation course)

Law 216 Law and Economics Workshop provides students with an opportunity to discuss ongoing research in the economic analysis of law. At most sessions, an invited speaker will present work in progress, and then take questions from students and faculty in the audience. Speakers include prominent scholars in the field of law and economics from around the nation and the world. Students benefit most from this seminar if they have already learned the basic techniques of analysis as taught in Law 251.31 or Legal Studies 145/147.

Legal Studies 145: Law and Economics I and Legal Studies 147: Law and Economics II correspond roughly to the economic analysis of private and public law, respectively. Legal Studies 145 concerns property, contracts, torts, private dispute resolution, and crime. It closely parallels Law 251.31. Legal Studies 147 concerns constitutions, administration, regulation, and corporations, which are topics not covered in Law 251.31. Most students in these two legal studies classes are juniors and seniors majoring in economics, so more math is used than in the law school.