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Taking the Measure of Law: The Case of the Doing Business Project


  • Kevin E. Davis is Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. He can be reached at

  • Michael B. Kruse is an Associate at Hunton & Williams.

  • We would like to thank Helen Hershkoff, Daniel Hulsebosch, Lewis Kornhauser, Liam Murphy, Carlos Rosenkrantz, David Trubek, Frank Upham, an anonymous reviewer, and members of the audience in presentations at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, São Paulo, the 10th Latin American and Caribbean Law and Economics Association Conference, New York University School of Law, and the Comparative Law and Economics Forum 2007 for helpful comments and conversations. Support from the Filomen D’Agostino and Max E. Greenberg Research Fund at the New York University School of Law is gratefully acknowledged.


This article analyzes a number of yearly reports from the World Bank's Doing Business project, an ambitious international effort to measure various aspects of law and development, analyze their interrelationship, develop benchmarks for assessment of legal systems, and suggest legal reforms. After describing the methodology used, we analyze the strengths and limitations of the project, both as a scholarly enterprise and as a set of proposals for legal reform. Our analysis highlights the challenges associated with measuring legal variables in the face of legal complexity and uncertainty, measuring development when the concept of development is contested, tracing causal connections between law and development, and using scholarly research as a basis for legal reform.

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