Law and economics textbooks:

I'm teaching Intro to Law and Economics in the fall. I've got Posner's textbook, Polinsky's short intro book, and the Dau-Schmidt and Ulen anthology.

Does anyone have comments on teaching from, or being taught from, the above books or any other books I might want to look into?

William Baude (mail) (www):
I T.A.ed a law and economics courses cross-listed in economics and law from Cooter and Ulen, which was ok, but was too scant on (and oversimplified) the law, I thought. It was good for teaching economists, but probably not for teaching law students. So if you think your class will be full of those "former economics majors," or you want the economics to be the focus rather than the law part, you might want to look into it.

I was also taught from the Polinsky into book in contracts my first year of law school, which was a nice reference, but not particularly essential.
4.9.2007 12:20pm
MR (mail) (www):
I used the Posner book at U of C and thought it was really good. It was clear enough for a non-econ major, but had enough detail for an econ major like me. I still have it and refer to it as a starting point for basic L&E theories.
4.9.2007 12:26pm
Thales (mail) (www):
I was taught from both the Polinsky and Dau-Schmidt books--they are fine, and the anthology contains many "classic" articles, but I would recommend adding a lot of your own supplementary material to liven things up, even at the expense of reading the other books cover to cover. David Friedman's book Law's Order is also pretty interesting and has a unique voice. Posner's treatise is great, but more as a theory resource and bibliography and less so as a textbook for spurring class discussion (not sure if your class size lends itself to discussion).
4.9.2007 12:34pm
Seth Chandler (mail):
You might also consider pieces of Jackson, Shavell, Kaplow, etc., Analytical Methods for Lawyers. The law and economics section is exceptionally good, I think, particularly the segment on contracts. The authors have cleverly made pieces of the book available as separate books, so the expense to your students will be reduced. I'd also consider pieces of David Friedman's Law's Order ( as a very accessible book for students, although it may be just too conservative for some people's tastes.
4.9.2007 12:42pm
RMF (mail) (www):
How about Charles Mackay's Madness of Crowds. Good early entertaining history of various investment bubbles, manias.
4.9.2007 12:42pm
David M. Gross, Esq. (mail):
I enjoyed very much Economic Analysis of Law by David Posner. It's incredibly readable - very un-textbooky - and accessible, without being too cursory or oversimplified. I was taught with that "text" during a senior seminar by the same name at William &Mary. Fantastic class. However, I took that class as an undergrad, not as a law student... so consider my comments appropriately.
4.9.2007 12:57pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
David Posner has a law and economics textbook too?
4.9.2007 1:14pm
Matt Caplan (mail):
Jeffrey Harrison has a pretty good book.
4.9.2007 3:20pm
Mergatroid (mail):
A good L&E book to use is David Friedman's "Law's Order." It reads like a general interest book, and provides all the detail necessary to understand basic economic concepts as applied to the law.

Speaking from experience, I abhor textbooks, and prefer shorter reads like this one.
4.9.2007 4:09pm
Closet Libertarian (www):
I am trying to make the same decision, I am leaning towards Posner or Cooter for stucture the first time I teach L&E. I really like David Friedman's book, but think it would be better for a seminar than a intro class. Please let me know what you decide. Is this for Georgetown?
4.9.2007 4:38pm
Jim L.:
I have taught undergrad econ majors with both Cooter and Ulen and Miceli's "The Economic Approach to Law." I find neither all that satisfying. One element that I like about Miceli is that it reverses the usual (Posnerian) order, by covering torts first, then contract, then property. The basic accident and accident avoidance model then can serve as a unifying theme throughout the class.

For law students, I would be tempted to recommend (but not require) Posner, and to use (required) articles to teach the class. To be honest, even for my undergrad econ majors, articles tend to dominate, with the text used to ensure basic coverage (and freeing me from having to talk about many topics in class) while also offering comfort to those (many) students who find comfort in a required text.
4.9.2007 7:15pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Closet Libertarian: Yes. I'm actually considering assigning D. Friedman's book as background ("fun") reading.
4.9.2007 8:18pm
William Baude (mail) (www):
Oh. If David Friedman's book is on the table, I heartily encourage it. I never had it assigned in a class, so arguably I don't fit within the requirement of the initial blog request, but I read it my first semester of college and had it dramatically transform my approach to all of the non-econ social science classes I took.
4.9.2007 10:30pm
advisory opinion:
Mercuro &Medema's Economics and the Law: From Posner to Postmodernism?
4.10.2007 1:50am
Dru Stevenson (mail) (www):
I have tried using the Barnes &Stout casebook from West Group, but found that students enrolled in the course were really expecting seminar-type materials instead of reading cases; also, I wanted to use the class session to discuss concepts and applications instead of cases like we do in doctrinal courses. I switched back to using Posner's text, which I like, but some of the students complain that they cannot follow it. I have started supplementing it with some of his more entertaining judicial opinions here and there, which worked pretty well.

I also tried using the Jackson, Shavell, Kaplow, et al. book during an intersession course this past January. Wasn't aware that I could have had the students buy it in pieces instead, which I should have done - they complained a LOT about the price given how much of the book we used. The Game Theory section was clear and simple, but I don't think I would use the book exclusively in a regular seminar class during the semester. Some sections were better than others.
4.10.2007 12:08pm
Coke is it (mail):
A supplemental text for my Property course is Law and Economics in a Nutshell. It's terrible.

Does that help? I hate to advise you to give out a bunch of Learned Hand and Posner readings, but that and a few law review articles would be pretty handy.

I have an interesting question. Why do we have casebooks in law school? Most of the valuable commentary on cases is available in law reviews. Students have access to Westlaw for cases and Heinonline for discussion.

And familiarity with both is good. Why not try teaching a class without any printed materials (my school, perhaps most schools, have free Westlaw and Lexis printing anyway).

You could email a few case and article citations each week and toss in a few questions the class should be prepared to discuss. It would be free (sort of), and you would be more flexible. If something changes in the law, you can change the course with it. The syllabus could just be a website you are free to modify. The price of a textbook isn't huge, but surely you wind up discussing cases you would not have chosen yourself, and this would be pretty innovative.
4.11.2007 1:26am