Top 25 Most Cited Contract Law Articles Published in the Last 25 Years — Ted Sichelman


Post by Ted Sichelman, University of San Diego School of Law

(A description of the methodology used to construct this list follows the table.)

Rank Cites Author(s) Title Journal Ungated
1 468 Bernstein, Lisa Opting out of the Legal System: Extralegal Contractual Relations in the Diamond Industry [article]  21 J. Legal Stud. 115 (1992) Link
2 331 Eisenberg, Melvin Aron Limits of Cognition and the Limits of Contract, The [article]  47 Stan. L. Rev. 211 (1995) Link
3 322 Bernstein, Lisa Merchant Law in a Merchant Court: Rethinking the Code’s Search for Immanent Business Norms [article]  144 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1765 (1996) Link
4 295 Schwartz, Alan; Scott, Robert E. Contract Theory and the Limits of Contract Law [article]  113 Yale L.J. 541 (2003) Link
5 260 Korobkin, Russell Bounded Rationality, Standard Form Contracts, and Unconscionability [article]   70 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1203 (2003) Link
6 259 Ayres, Ian; Talley, Eric Solomonic Bargaining: Dividing a Legal Entitlement to Facilitate Coasean Trade [article] 104 Yale L.J. 1027 (1995) Link
7 245 Barnett, Randy E.  Sound of Silence: Default Rules and Contractual Consent, The [article]  78 Va. L. Rev. 821 (1992) Link
8 244 Korobkin, Russell Status Quo Bias and Contract Default Rules [article]   83 Cornell L. Rev. 608 (1998) Link
9 233 Kahan, Marcel; Klausner, Michael Standardization and Innovation in Corporate Contracting (Or the Economics of Boilerplate) [article]   83 Va. L. Rev. 713 (1997) Link
10 222 Langbein, John H. Contractarian Basis of the Law of Trusts, The [article] 105 Yale L.J. 625 (1995) Link
11 206 Hillman, Robert Al Rachlinski, Jeffrey Standard-Form Contracting in the Electronic Age [article] 77 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 429 (2002) Link
12 193 Ayres, Ian; Gertner, Robert Strategic Contractual Inefficiency and the Optimal Choice of Legal Rules [article] 101 Yale L.J. 729 (1992) Link
13 178 Merrill, Thomas W; Smith, Henry E. Property/Contract Interface, The [article] 101 Colum. L. Rev. 773 (2001) Link
13 178 Charny, David Hypothetical Bargains: The Normative Structure of Contract Interpretation [article] 89 Mich. L. Rev. 1815 (1991) n/a
15 154 Johnston, Jason Scott Strategic Bargaining and the Economic Theory of Contract Default Rules [article] 100 Yale L.J. 615 (1990) n/a
16 150 Korobkin, Russell Inertia and Preference in Contract Negotiation: The Psychological Power of Default Rules and Form Terms [article]  51 Vand. L. Rev. 1583 (1998) n/a
17 148 Schwartz, Alan Relational Contracts in the Courts: An Analysis of Incomplete Agreements and Judicial Strategies [article]  21 J. Legal Stud. 271 (1992) n/a
18 140 Scott, Elizabeth; Scott, Robert E. Marriage as Relational Contract [article]  84 Va. L. Rev. 1225 (1998) n/a
19 139 Teubner, Gunther Legal Irritants: Good Faith in British Law or How Unifying Law Ends up in New Divergences [article]  61 Mod. L. Rev. 11 (1998) Link
20 134 Posner, Eric Economic Analysis of Contract Law after Three Decades: Success or Failure [comments] 112 Yale L.J. 829 (2003) Link
21 128 Posner, Eric Contract Law in the Welfare State: A Defense of the Unconscionability Doctrine, Usury Laws, and Related Limitations on the Freedom to Contract [article] 24 J. Legal Stud. 283 (1995) n/a
21 128 Hadfield, Gillian K. Problematic Relations: Franchising the Law of Incomplete Contracts [article] 42 Stan. L. Rev. 927 (1990) Link
23 124 Scott, Robert E Case for Formalism in Relational Contract, The [article] 94 Nw. U. L. Rev. 847 (2000) Link
24 115  Merges, Robert P. End of Friction – Property Rights and Contract in the Newton World of on-Line Commerce, The [article] 12 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 115 (1997) Link
25 111  Scott, Robert E.; Triantis, George G. Anticipating Litigation in Contract Design [article] 115 Yale L.J. 814 (2006) Link

[Editor note: links to ungated versions added—Yonathan Arbel]

I first performed a search in HeinOnline to retrieve all law journal articles published since 1990, ordered by citation count. Then, I reviewed the title of the 1600 most-cited law review articles and the content of those articles that could plausibly be classified in the area of “contracts,” including theory. I excluded articles primarily in secured transactions and lending, cyberlaw, intellectual property, and remedies (though I included a few articles that could plausibly be classified in these fields but focused on contract law or theory). Of course, some of these determinations required judgment, but no more than a few of the articles were close calls in my view.

Note that the citation counts only reflect citations to published law review articles, and not books, cases, practitioner materials, unpublished articles, non-law articles, and other sources. As a check for one of my earlier posts, Most Cited Private Law Articles Published in the Last 25 Years, I ran about ten articles through Lexis and generally found the citation counts on HeinOnline were within 15% of article-specific counts tabulated in Lexis’s “Law Review and Journals” category, so it does not appear that the rankings would change much using Lexis or similar databases.

Last, I only report total citations, which biases the rankings towards older articles. However, I plan to update this list annually, so more recent articles that are highly cited will appear in later iterations.

I apologize in advance for any errors or omissions—if you believe an article should be included, please let me know (, and I’ll do my best to promptly make any deserving corrections.


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