I argue that legitimacy discourses serve a gatekeeping function. They give practitioners telic standards for riding herd on social practices, ensuring that minimally acceptable versions of the practice are implemented. Such a function is a necessary part of implementing formalized social practices, especially including law. This gatekeeping account shows that political philosophers have misunderstood legitimacy; it is not secondary to justice and only necessary because we cannot agree about justice. Instead, it is a necessary feature of actual human social practices, which must be implemented via practitioners' discretion in changing contexts.