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Unit information: Economic Analysis of Law in 2016/17

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Unit name Economic Analysis of Law
Unit code LAWD20044
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Albert Sanchez Graells
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The Economic Analysis of Law (or 'Law and Economics') is one of the major critical approaches to the study and analysis of law, particularly in the United States. This approach is also gaining relevance in European universities and can be enhanced by current interdisciplinary efforts. It revolves around the application of economic methods to analyse law (as an object). It uses economic concepts and models to explain the effects of laws in order to assess the economic efficiency of legal rules, as well as the systems of incentives and rents that derive from legal institutions. The Economic Analysis of Law focuses on the maximization of social welfare and carries out increasingly sophisticated analyses in key areas such as property, contract, tort and criminal law. The insights provided by an economic analysis of the law tend to support normative recommendations aimed at reducing barriers for the effective exchange of assets and at fostering a more efficient allocation of scarce resources.

This introductory unit provides an overview of the use of the Economic Analysis of Law in legal studies and reviews the insights provided by this approach to core areas of the law such as property, contract, tort and crime, as well as litigation. It offers an opportunity to “think outside the box” and test the students’ understanding of core areas of law from a different viewpoint.

Topics covered may include:

  1. Introduction to law and economics
  2. Fundamentals of Microeconomics
  3. Law and economics of Contract
  4. Law and economics of Property
  5. Law and economics of Tort
  6. Law and economics of Crime
  7. Law and economics of Litigation

Intended learning outcomes

The goal of this introductory unit is to equip students with useful tools to critically assess areas of law. The understanding of economic theories and concepts will allow them to reflect more critically on specific rules and legal doctrines and on whether they contribute to the achievement of social welfare. This “outside the box” thinking will enable students to make better decisions in their future career. Their knowledge about the Economic Analysis of Law should inform their decisions as future practitioners, academics or law-makers. They will develop critical analysis and interdisciplinary skills which are transferable beyond the remit of legal practice and research.

At the end of this unit students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the basic economic principles behind legal institutions
  • Apply basic economic principles to legal problems
  • Demonstrate the capacity to analyse law from an economic perspective
  • Demonstrate the ability to resolve legal problems in a creative way

Teaching details

Students will have access to 10 lectures and 8 two-hour seminars, plus 5 lectures in the Foundations of Legal Research programme.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment:

Students will be required to submit one written formative assignment (max. 1000 words), to be scheduled in a sequence that allows them to receive and internalise feedback before submission of the summative essays.

Summative assessment:

Two 2,000 words essays (worth 50% each of the final grade).

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

The following is an indicative list of general references. The books marked with an asterisk would be used as core reading / textbooks. The others are meant to provide an indication of the available resources.

  • RB Cooter Jr, & T Ulen, Law and Economics, 6th edn (Pearson, 2014).*
  • A Devlin, Fundamental Principles of Law and Economics (Routledge, 2015).
  • DD Friedman, Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters (Princeton University Press, 2000).
  • TJ Miceli, The Economic Approach to Law, 2nd edn (Stanford University Press, 2009).
  • AM Polinski, Introduction to Law and Economics, 3rd edn (Aspen, 2003).*
  • RA Posner, Economic Analysis of Law, 9th edn (Wolters Kluwer, 2014).
  • S Shavell, Foundations of Economic Analysis of Law (Harvard, 2004).
  • C Veljanovski, Economic Principles of Law (CUP, 2007).