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Rebecca L. Sandefur


Rebecca L. Sandefur joined the American Bar Foundation in 2010 to found and lead a new access to justice research initiative.  She continues to head up this initiative as Faculty Fellow at the Foundation and also serves on the sociology and law faculty of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  

Sandefur's research focuses on inequality, particularly as it relates to law. Her scholarship includes investigations of work and inequality in the legal profession and other professional occupations, lawyers' pro bono service and its contributions to legal aid, and studies of ordinary people’s experiences with common problems that could bring them into contact with the civil justice system.  Her current research on the public includes the Community Needs and Services Study (CNSS), a community-sited, multi-method study of ordinary people’s experiences with civil justice problems and the resources available to assist them in handling those problems. The CNSS is funded by the National Science Foundation (SES-1123507) and the American Bar Foundation.  Her current research on the legal profession includes work drawing on the After the JD (AJD) surveys that explores how lawyers who take relatively low-paying jobs serving government, public interest causes, or ordinary people are able (or not) to manage high levels of educational debt. She also serves on the Executive Coordinating Committee of the AJD. 

Her public service has included advising state access to justice commissions and service on the Right to Counsel Committee of the California Access to Justice Commission, the Research Advisory Board of the Civil Right to Counsel Leadership and Support Initiative, and the Sargent Shriver Civil Right to Counsel Evaluation Committee.  Before joining the American Bar Foundation and the University of Illinois, Sandefur received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 2001 and served for 9 years on the sociology faculty of Stanford University.

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