A Conversation with Ball Professor of Law Alan Meese| September 23, 2010
More than 200 years ago, Bishop James Madison, then President of the College of William & Mary, helped Thomas Jefferson found the William & Mary School of Law. They appointed George Wythe as the first Chair in Law and Police in an effort to bring various other disciplines, including political economy, to bear on legal questions. (At the time, “police” was a synonym for “policy” or “regulation.”) Today, Professor Alan Meese continues that tradition through his groundbreaking work in the fields of antitrust and related disciplines and through his service to the William & Mary community.
Meese says he has wanted to be a lawyer since seventh or eighth grade. (Before that he wanted to be an astronomer or pro-football quarterback.) “Early in my life, a family friend from Taiwan told me that in a democracy, there will always be a need for lawyers,” says Meese. “At the time I thought that he was assuring me there would always be jobs for lawyers, but I later realized that a constitutional democracy is built on the rule of law, and thus will always need lawyers to interpret, disseminate and articulate controlling legal principles. I wanted to be a part of that.”
As an undergraduate at the College of William & Mary, Meese completed a double major in ancient Greek and economics. “They really don’t go together,” he laughs. But, he quickly notes, “when you study a language like Greek, there is a lot of daily preparation; every day you have to come to class and translate – to wrestle with texts. This required hours of preparation so I when I arrived at law school, I was ready to do that kind of work out of the starting gate. In that respect, I found law school to be easier than my undergraduate studies.”
Meese’s major in economics, on the other hand, was an early indicator of what was to come. “I entered college when the U.S. was in a deep recession and some believed that free markets were inferior to socialized systems characterized by governmental planning. So economics – both macro and micro – was front and center of many interesting public policy debates at the time. ”
Meese graduated first in his class at William & Mary. During his junior year, he applied for an early decision program to the University of Chicago Law School, in part because of Chicago’s focus on law and economics. “It seemed like the place for me,” says Meese, “and it was the only law school to which I applied. Chicago was the leader in the field.” At Chicago, Meese was a Comment Editor for the Law Review and a John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics, an award that required him to complete a paper applying economic theory to a legal problem. The paper, on the law and economics of privilege waiver, was Meese’s first published paper and helped give him a leg up when he applied for academic positions.
After graduating Order of the Coif, Meese went on to complete two very prestigious clerkships: a year with Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and then a year with Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Meese first considered entering academia during the year with Judge Easterbook. “I was at lunch arguing with a clerk for a different judge about a case before the court, and she asked, ‘When are you going to teach?’ I had already accepted an offer to enter private practice, and I had not really thought about teaching as a career. At the same time, Judge Easterbrook would give us drafts of the articles he was working on and ask for comments. It was exciting to be a part of that process. If we had a question about the law, he would direct us to the large stack of reprints of his work he kept in the office. He’d been teaching antitrust for at least a decade but was still committed to excellence in every class and every article and every lecture. Watching him excel at teaching and scholarship made me think seriously about becoming a professor; by the time I started my clerkship with Justice Scalia, I was already leaning in that direction.”
In fact, Meese says that working with these two influential jurists helped form his own emerging theories as a scholar and cemented his desire to become a professor. “I identify both Justice Scalia and Judge Easterbrook as significant mentors for me. Both were terrific bosses, both were committed intellectuals, and both terrific writers, but with different styles. Each took texts very seriously. Just knowing that it was possible to write so well was both an inspiration and a challenge. My experience with these two jurists really helped inspire and shape my own academic path.”
After his clerkships, Meese joined the antitrust group at Skadden Arps, an internationally prominent law firm, where he worked for more than three years.
Meese joined the faculty at William & Mary Law School in 1995, his first and only permanent teaching position; he has steadily moved up the ranks and now holds a chaired professorship. He is also a fellow in the Institute of Bill of Rights Law and an affiliated member of the Public Policy faculty. Coming to William & Mary in those early days meant that Meese could build a career studying political economy and antitrust law. “At the time, William & Mary wanted more people who were looking at the kinds of issues I was studying. I was able to enter on the ground floor, rather than being one of numerous people teaching and writing about the same thing. At William & Mary, I’ve been able to teach in the fields where I do research consistently year after year.”
Meese notes that antitrust and law and economics scholars can tend toward more conservative policies and theories, often making them political outliers in their institutions. “There is no doubt that Republicans, and particularly conservative Republicans, are vastly underrepresented in the legal academy compared to their proportion of the overall population,” he says. “But I came to William & Mary in part because the school has a big tent philosophy – everyone is welcome regardless of political beliefs. People value debate and disagreement.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a place where everyone agrees with each other all the time,” Meese continues. “I’d rather be in a place where there are a wide variety of views, people disagree with each other, talk civilly to another and take each other’s views seriously.”
In fifteen years as a member of the William & Mary law faculty, Meese has become widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading antitrust scholars. He has published nearly 30 articles, many in leading law reviews. His work often extends and applies transaction cost economics – a branch of industrial organization theory – to critique antitrust doctrine. “I really enjoy examining how private parties cooperate and adopt various practices that create wealth, and I try to expose and critique legal rules that get in the way,” he says. Meese’s scholarship has been widely cited in articles, books, and legal briefs. Luminaries such as Professor Oliver Williamson, who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, have cited his work. A brief in the high-profile Microsoft antitrust case cited three of his articles. In 2004, Meese was appointed Senior Advisor to the Antitrust Modernization Commission, which drafted antitrust reform recommendations to the President and Congress.
Recognizing his expertise, various media outlets have quoted Meese about antitrust questions, including Business Week, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABA Journal, USA Today, and the Associated Press.
Professor Barak Richman of Duke University Law School, with whom Meese recently co-authored a paper, agrees. “Alan Meese is one of the nation's preeminent authorities on antitrust law. He is an expert in the case law, he has a mastery of the history and development of American antitrust law, and he appreciates the intellectual underpinnings that continue to guide the field. His scholarship is sophisticated, nuanced, and extremely insightful. His articles are cited widely, and his contributions have been meaningful to both attorneys and economic policymakers.”
“Professor Alan Meese is invaluable to the Law School both as a teacher and as a scholar,” said William & Mary Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas. “He publishes an impressive stream of high quality antitrust scholarship, and is undoubtedly one of the leading legal scholars in the field today.”
Meese’s scholarship is aimed at changing policies on a national scale, but he does not forget to bring that knowledge back to the classroom, where he is a highly respected teacher. “I have co-taught two classes with Professor Meese,” says Sarah L. Stafford, Paul Verkuil Professor of Economics, Public Policy and Law at William & Mary. “Those were two of the most rewarding teaching experiences in my career. Teaching with Alan made me look at very familiar material in a different way and helped me make connections I hadn’t made before. Alan takes a philosophical approach to economic theory, with an incredibly detailed knowledge and respect for the foundational articles in economics. His intuitive understanding of economic models is very strong.”
Meese has also written on the free speech rights of corporations, the economics of tort law, the jurisprudence of economic liberties, affirmative action, and whether corporate directors should be concerned about the welfare of non-shareholder constituencies. His breadth of interests is reflected in his course history, as well. He has taught Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Corporate Law, Antitrust, Antitrust Theory, Current Topics on Antitrust, Economic Analysis of Law, a law school seminar on the Federalist Papers, and a freshman seminar on the Federalist Papers.
For all of Meese’s prominence as a scholar and teacher, he is equally dedicated to service to the William & Mary community. He has served as Vice President and President of the Faculty Assembly, which represents the faculty to the President, Provost and Board of Visitors. He has co-chaired the Committee on Religion in a Public University and the Faculty Committee on University Priorities, served for several years on the Faculty University Priorities Committee, and chaired the Procedural Review Committee. He served on the Executive Committee of the Faculty Assembly for several years and currently is a member of the College’s Planning Steering Committee. In June 2010, the Rector of the College appointed Meese as the faculty representative on the Board of Visitors.
“Alan Meese is a faithful son of William & Mary, having had a brilliant undergraduate career at the College,” said President Taylor Reveley. “He knows William & Mary intimately and cares deeply about it. Professor Meese has also been willing to do far more than his share of service for both the law school and the university as a whole. Against this background, I’m confident that Alan will be an extremely conscientious, informed and productive participant in the life of the Board of Visitors.”
Meese is a past recipient of the Walter Williams Teaching award. In 2010, the College of William & Mary awarded Meese a Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, in recognition of his exemplary achievements in regard to teaching, research and service. Meese was one of only a handful of professors to receive the award. “To distinguish oneself among this group of peers, as recipients of the 2010 Plumeri Awards have done, speaks volumes to their talent and work ethic,” said William & Mary Provost Michael Halleran. “They are truly deserving of this recognition.” No doubt Bishop Madison would be proud.
To read an excerpt from Professor Meese's article, Debunking the Purchaser Welfare Account of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, please click here. To read an excerpt from Competition Policy and the New Deal, please click here. To read an excerpt from Monopolization, Exclusion, and the Theory of the Firm, please click here.