American Bar Foundation

American Bar Foundation

Established in 1952, the American Bar Foundation (ABF) is an independent, nonprofit national research institute located in Chicago, Illinois committed to objective empirical research on law and legal institutions. This program of sociolegal research is conducted by an interdisciplinary staff of Research Fellows trained in such diverse fields as law, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, and anthropology.

The American Bar Foundation is a resource for lawyers, scholars, and policy makers who seek analyses of the theory and functioning of law, legal institutions, and the legal profession. The Foundation's work is supported by the American Bar Endowment, by The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, and by grants for particular research projects from private foundations and government agencies.

Areas of Research

Legal Profession

"Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar", a recently published book, reports on the forces that have transformed the urban bar over a twenty-year period.

AUTHORS: John P. Heinz, Robert L. Nelson, Rebecca L. Sandefur and Edward O. Laumann.


"After the JD: A Longitudinal Study of Lawyers’ Careers" is tracking, for ten years, a national sample of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000.

AUTHORS: Ronit Dinovitzer, Bryant Garth, Robert L. Nelson and Joyce Sterling.


"From Law School to Later Life" is studying the evolution of lawyers’ careers, particularly differences in career tracks between men and women.

AUTHORS: John Hagan, Sociologist, Fiona Kay and Ronald J. Daniels


"Cause Lawyering in Context: The Constraints and Opportunities of Practicing Public Law in Public Interest Law Firms" will provide an unprecedented, empirical portrait of a national sample of the public interest bar.

AUTHORS: Laura Beth Nielsen and Catherine Albiston


"Legal Services for the Poor: A Supply Side Analysis" is mapping the field of pro bono in Chicago to determine how law firms and corporate law departments influence the delivery of legal services to the poor.

AUTHORS: Stephen Daniels and Joanne Martin


"Plaintiffs' Lawyers and the Evolution of Tort Law and Practice in Texas" is examining the impact of tort reform on lawyers' practices.

AUTHORS: Stephen Daniels and Joanne Martin


"Law School Language: Learning to Think Like a Lawyer" is a forthcoming book (2005) that draws on transcribed tapes of Contracts classes in eight law schools to report on the process by which law students are reoriented during legal training.

AUTHOR: Elizabeth Mertz

Law & Globalization

"Justice in the Balkans: Prosecuting Crimes of War in the Hague Tribunal" is a recent book that documents the role that the Tribunal’s prosecutors played in building the institution’s credibility and visibility.

AUTHORS: John Hagan


"A Peace Corps for Lawyers" is an historical and empirical study of the ABA’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI) program and its life-course implications for its voluntary lawyer participants.

AUTHORS: John Hagan and Ron Levi


"The Globalization of Insolvency Law-Making" is an empirical study of the emerging global norms that have transformed bankruptcy law in developing and transitional societies in Asia.

AUTHORS: Terrence Halliday and Bruce Carruthers


"Popular Justice, Communal Violence, and Alternative Policing in the New South Africa" is mapping and analyzing the various forms of alternative law enforcement and popular justice that have emerged in South Africa since 1994.

AUTHORS: John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff


"Legalization: of Medicine in AIDS Treatment and Research" is examining the way in which treatment regimes, in the United States, Africa, and Thailand, have come to be constructed and diffused as a kind of "law."

AUTHOR: Carol Heimer

Civil Justice

"The Civil Jury at Work" is using an unprecedented data set of 50 videotaped jury trials along with juror deliberations to evaluate an Arizona reform that allowed jurors to talk about the case among themselves as the trial proceeded and to assess the role of experts, such as engineers or nurses, who serve on the jury.

AUTHORS: Shari Diamond, Neil Vidmar, and Mary Rose


"The Social Psychological Role of Subjective Harm in Punishment Judgments" is examining the effect of victim impact testimony on sentencing decisions by jurors.

AUTHORS: Janice Nadler and Mary Rose


"Public Opinion on the Civil Justice System" is investigating how public opinion on civil justice is measured, by whom and for what purposes, and how and why it changes over time.

AUTHOR: Stephen Daniels

Criminal Justice

"Consequences of Lawbreaking in Young People's Lives: Delinquency and Depression in the Transition to Adult Disadvantage" is using data on a large national sample of adolescent youth to test a model that considers the causal relationship between delinquency and depression and their linkages to early problems in adulthood.

AUTHOR: John Hagan


"The Social and Economic Impact of Roe v. Wade" is exploring the social implications of legalized abortion, including the link between liberalized abortion laws and declining crime rates.

AUTHORS: Steven Levitt and John Donohue


"Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine" is developing a statistical index to measure the extent to which crack cocaine can account for adverse trends in many indicators of African American progress during the 1990s.

AUTHORS: Steven Levitt and Roland Fryer

ocial Justice

"Understanding the Contribution of Legislation, Social Activism, Markets, and Choice to the Economic Progress of African Americans" explores the relationship between legal policies and other factors that determine the wages of African Americans, both historically and currently.

AUTHOR: James Heckman


"The Foundation and Application of Disparate Impact Doctrine" is examining the legal theory of disparate impact and is questioning empirically whether the concept should be applied to fields such as organ transplantation.

AUTHOR: James Heckman


"The Genesis and Development of Employment Discrimination Lawsuits" is using data on complaints filed with the EEOC, federal discrimination cases, and interviews to reveal the actual dynamics of employment discrimination disputes.

AUTHORS: Laura Beth Nielsen and Robert Nelson


"The Impact of Banks, Regulation, and Taxes on Entrepreneurial Ventures" is using confidential census data to examine the effects of government policies and local lending rates on the success or failure of small businesses.

AUTHOR: Austan Goolsbee


"My Brother's Keeper" is investigating how fiduciaries, who make medical, custodial, financial, and other decisions for those no longer able to do so themselves, exercise their responsibilities.

AUTHORS: Susan Shapiro

Legal History

The Creation of the American Liberal State explores the role law played in the development of a restructured style of American governance that emerged in the twentieth century.

AUTHOR: William Novak


"Suing Mr. Ford: Antisemitism and Hate Speech in Modern America" uses a famous libel case involving automaker Henry Ford to explore the history of American antisemitism and its relationship to group libel law.

AUTHOR: Victoria Woeste


"Law, Work, and Culture in Early America" is examining the legal history of work and labor during the first two centuries of American history.

AUTHOR: Christopher Tomlins


"The Supreme Court of the United States: The Pursuit of Justice" is a recently published book (2005), written by eighteen collaborating scholars under the auspices of the ABF, that offers a fresh, historical portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court.

AUTHOR: Christopher Tomlins

External links

* [ The American Bar Foundation]
* [ American Bar Endowment]
* [ Fellows of the American Bar Foundation]

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