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Another Way for Economists to Make Money

America’s universities are producing an awful lot of economists these days. Too many? Well, if Levitt is successful in getting rid of tenure (don’t bet on it), there will certainly be some teaching openings. Otherwise, newly minted economists may wish to consider the career path of David Teece.

Teece is a 58-year-old Berkeley professor who, noting that the legal system was becoming heavily dependent on economic arguments, has become a prolific and well-remunerated expert witness. He has built a 1300-person research shop, LECG, to feed information to him and other economist expert witnesses. Teece has personally testified in cases concerning Napster, Oracle, and Philip Morris, and in 2005 earned nearly $3 million for his legal work.

“I won’t get many thank-you notes for this,” Teece told the Wall Street Journal, “but we’ve given economists the chance to earn investment bankers’ incomes. If you’re successful with us, it isn’t hard to make half a million dollars a year.” About 60 LECG experts, Teece said, earned at least that much last year.