Law and New Institutional Economics Workshop for Law Professors

June 4-5, 2009
@ Wolf Law Building

Organized by Victor Fleischer and Phil Weiser

Workshop Faculty

  • Lee Fennell (Chicago)
  • Victor Fleischer (Colorado)
  • Mark Ramseyer (Harvard
  • Henry Smith (Harvard)
  • Eric Talley (Berkeley)
  • Phil Weiser (Colorado)

Participant Papers

  • Mitu Gulati (Duke)
  • Kim Krawiec (North Carolina)
  • Michael Madison (Pittsburgh)
  • Fred Tung (Emory)
  • Molly Van Houweling (Berkeley)
  • Josh Wright (George Mason)

New Institutional Economics (NIE) is an interdisciplinary methodology that draws on economics, law, organization theory, political science, history, and sociology. It focuses on the study of political, legal, and social institutions and how those institutions shape the behavior of organizations, firms, or individuals. These institutions establish the "rules of the game" - the set of formal and informal laws, rules, and norms of social behavior that shape economic development and growth, innovation, social organizations, and political stability. NIE's most often-cited proponents are Ronald Coase, Oliver Williamson, and Douglass North.

Workshop topics. The workshop is primarily intended for law professors, and it will include scholarly presentations both by workshop faculty and by several workshop participants. The primary focus is on (1) research that helps us understand the effects of laws and legal institutions on economic development, innovation, and social and political institutions, and (2) legal scholarship that draws on analysis of institutional context and institutional design (rather than, say, legal doctrinal analysis, or economic or social theory standing alone). Substantive legal areas may range widely, but may include such topics as business law and capital markets, trade and antitrust regulation, intellectual property, telecommunications, higher education policy, the legal profession, and tax policy.

Last summer, the University of Colorado Law School hosted a one-day workshop designed to introduce legal scholars from around the country to the basic foundations of New Institutional Economics. This year, we hope to build on last year's program by revisiting some of the key ideas and enjoying the opportunity to hear from some leading scholars who study institutions. In addition, this year's program will include several presentations of recent scholarship and works-in-progress from conference participants, with our expert "workshop faculty" serving as discussants.

The workshop will be held at the University of Colorado Law School, in Boulder. We will provide meals, but participants will be expected to cover their own transportation and lodging expenses. The workshop will begin at 9:00 am on Thursday, June 4, 2009, and will conclude after lunch on Friday, June 5, 2009.

Why attend? For legal scholars, NIE is relevant in at least three different ways. First, legal scholarship can benefit from the lessons of transaction cost economics when we write about legal and political institutions in our research. Congress, judges, executive branch agencies, lawyers, and other legal actors all face information costs, collective action problems, and behavioral challenges, just as private actors do.

Second, when legal scholars make normative claims, we often implicitly assume that our policy proposals would be implemented by perfect political institutions. While an assumption of perfect political institutions is sometimes useful analytically, the normative implications of a paper may change if we instead assume implementation by real world political institutions.

Third, NIE can help us understand how legal, economic, social and political institutions and governance arrangements shape the behavior of firms and individuals. Institutional detail can explain why firms and individuals do not always respond to legal incentives as rational actor models might predict; transaction costs, cognitive limitations, and organizational factors all affect behavior. Understanding these interactions can enrich our legal analysis.