Formal EU regulations prescribe that LEADER local action groups (LAGs) should be organized as partnerships consisting of representatives from the different socioeconomic sectors. Three case studies of LAGs in Denmark, Finland and Sweden from the LEADER+ period 2000–2006 indicate that LEADER partnerships have been organized in markedly different ways in the Nordic countries and that these differences have had consequences for the legitimacy of the groups. One important phenomenon is the increasing use of the associational form when organizing LAG partnerships. Through an evaluation of the input legitimacy and output legitimacy of the three LAGs, the article identifies different mixes of association and partnership and suggests combinations of the two organizational forms. It argues that without strict meta-governance, partnerships organized as associations have difficulties finding a place under the partnership umbrella.