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Elizabeth Mertz

Elizabeth Mertz headshot

Research Professor

Joint appointment

John and Rylla Bosshard Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin


Ph.D., Anthropology, Duke University; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law


Elizabeth Mertz is a legal anthropologist who examines legal language in the United States, with a special focus on law school education. She studies law schools as sites for training incipient…

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Research focus

Language and law; legal education and legal profession; law professors’ professional lives; and how law translates the world around it; examination of these questions through the methods of anthropology and linguistics


The Language of Law Professors: In Their Own Voices

Latest finding: Aug 22, 2016
A companion study to the “Senior Status” project, this research provides a more fine-grained and linguistically sophisticated perspective on today’s law professors in the U.S.. Data…

After Tenure: Senior Status in the Legal Academy

Latest finding: Feb 10, 2016, with Katherine Barnes, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law; Wamucii Njogu, Northeastern Illinois University
This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States. Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law…

The Language of Law School

Latest finding: Nov 2, 2014
This project, funded by the American Bar Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, examined the language of first-year law school classrooms. Employing an innovative empirical design, the study used…

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Cover of The New Legal Realism: Translating Law-and-Society for Today The New Legal Realism: Translating Law-and-Society for Today's Legal Practice
Cambridge University Press
Cover of The New Legal Realism: Studying Law Globally The New Legal Realism: Studying Law Globally
Cambridge University Press
"Law's Metalinguistics: Silence, Speech, and Action."
Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma, ed. L. Solan & Roger Shuy

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Presenter in Invited Roundtable on "Law's Place in the Community of Academic Disciplines," Law & Society Association Meetings
Jun 2016
"Outsiders in the U.S. Legal Professoriate." Paper presented in panel entitled "Who Belongs? Who Doesn't? Legal Education: Plus ca change?" held at Law & Society Association Meetings
Jun 2016
"New Legal Realism: A Map and Some Questions" Keynote Address at 2016 Canadian Graduate Law Student Association Conference.
Feb 2016

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Professional Service & Recognition

  • Invited as Member at Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton (School of Social Science) for 2016-2017 (declined)
  • Visiting Scholar, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton (School of Social Science), Fall 2016
  • Winner, Mentoring Award, Association of Women Lawyers
  • Winner, Doris Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring, University of Wisconsin-Madison campus-wide award for mentoring of junior women faculty
  • Co-Organizer, AALS Program on Qualitative and Mixed Methods Training for Law Professors
  • Selected as 2010-2011 Fellow in Princeton University's Program in Law and Public Affairs
  • Co-Winner, Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law & Society Association:  The Language of Law School:  Learning to "Think Like a Lawyer," Oxford University Press
  • Member, Editorial Board, Language and Law Book Series, Oxford University Press
  • Co-Editor, Emerging Legal Education Book Series, Ashgate Press


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