The American Law and Economics Association is dedicated to the advancement of economic understanding of law and related areas of public policy and regulation. Founded in 1991, the membership includes academic and practicing lawyers and economists. The Association holds an annual two-day meeting in May at which members present papers dealing with a wide variety of topics concerning the interrelation of law and economics. Since 1999, the Association has published the American Law and Economics Review, a refereed journal.
As the community of law and economics scholars grew, the need to establish a national association to promote and encourage research in the field became apparent. In January, 1990, Henry Manne, who was Dean of George Mason University Law School, convened a meeting to discuss the organization of an association. Dean Manne also secured initial funding for the development of an association from the John M. Olin Foundation. The meeting occurred at George Mason and was attended by Robert Cooter (Berkeley), Charles Goetz (Virginia), Victor Goldberg (Columbia), A. Mitchell Polinsky (Stanford), George Priest (Yale), Steven Shavell (Harvard), Michael Trebilcock (Toronto), Thomas Ulen (Illinois), and Richard Zerbe (Washington).
After the George Mason meeting, George Priest, A. Mitchell Polinsky, and Steven Shavell formally incorporated the American Law and Economics Association and sent a letter to prospective members in February, 1991, announcing plans for the first annual meeting of the Association. The first annual meeting of the Association was held on May 24-25, 1991, at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and was attended by 200 scholars. The meeting included a plenary session honoring founders of the field: Guido Calabresi (Yale), Ronald Coase (Chicago), Henry Manne (George Mason), and Richard Posner (Chicago), each of whom was in attendance.
At this first annual meeting, a Board of Directors and Officers of the Association were elected by attending members. The initial Board consisted of representatives of major schools: Jennifer Arlen (Emory), Robert Cooter (Berkeley), Richard Craswell (U.S.C.), Patricia Danzon (Pennsylvania), Victor Goldberg (Columbia), Mark Grady (Northwestern), Lewis Kornhauser (N.Y.U.), Judith Lachman (M.I.T.), Henry Manne (George Mason), Warren Schwartz (Georgetown), Robert Scott, (Virginia), Steven Shavell (Harvard), Thomas Ulen (Illinois), Michelle White (Michigan), and Richard Zerbe (Washington). The first Officers were George Priest (Yale), President; William Landes (Chicago), Vice President/President-Elect; and A. Mitchell Polinsky (Stanford), Secretary-Treasurer. The first Executive Director of the Association was Karen Crocco. The John M. Olin Foundation generously agreed to sustain the Association in its early years.