A two-volume, 1,800 page, state-of-the-art survey of law and economics, the culmination of a five year effort, has just been published as the Handbook of Law and Economics. The book was edited by Professor Steven Shavell, with Professors Louis Kaplow ’81 and Kathryn Spier contributing their scholarship.

“Law can be viewed as a body of rules and legal sanctions that channel behavior in socially desirable directions—for example, by encouraging individuals to take proper precautions to prevent accidents or by discouraging competitors from colluding to raise prices,” Shavell and co-editor A. Mitchell Polinsky write in the introduction. “The incentives created by the legal system are thus a natural subject of study by economists. Our hope is that this two volume Handbook will foster the study of the legal system by economists.”

The book covers an impressive array of topics, including the building blocks of the legal system — property law, contract law, accident law, litigation, and public enforcement of law — as well as other prominent areas of law, ranging from corporate law to environmental law. With a combined theoretical and empirical approach, the book also takes on norms and the law, the experimental study of law, and political economy and the law.

Shavell, Kaplow, and Spier are all leading experts in the field of law and economics, and they are affiliated with the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business at Harvard Law School, a research center which Shavell directs.