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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, interdisciplinary translation, family law. Research focuses on the intersection of law and language, combining linguistic, anthropological, and legal perspectives. Empirical research at the ABF has centered on legal education. The first study, which was also funded by the Spencer Foundation, provided the most extensive observational data available to date on first-year law school teaching. The current project, funded by the ABF and the Law School Admission Council, examines the post-tenure experiences of law professors. Other research has addressed the process by which law translates the social world around it in a number of additional settings.


The Language of Law School

Latest finding: Apr 7, 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…

After Tenure:  Senior Status in the Legal Academy

Latest finding: Apr 7, 2014, 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 New Legal Realism
Latest finding: Apr 5, 2014, with University of California at Irvine School of Law, University of Wisconsin Institute for Legal Studies, Emory University School of Law
Building from the considerable expertise of the American Bar Foundation, the New Legal Realism Project promotes improved interdisciplinary communication among law professors, lawyers, and social…

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After Tenure: Senior Status in the Legal Academy
Journal of Legal Education
“Comparative Anthropology of Law”
Comparative Law and Society
Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Sage

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Respondent, Opening Plenary “Technologies of Truth in the Anthropology of Conflict”
Apr 2013
Teaching an Interdisciplinary Law Class (with M. Mansfield)
Apr 2013
Organizer/Moderator/Presenter, “Law from the Outside In: In Honor of Jane Larson”
Jan 2013

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Professional Service & Recognition

  • Co-Chair, Association for Political and Legal Anthropology and American Ethnological Association Annual Meeting Joint Planning Committee, 2013 
  • Member, Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Committee on Professional Development
  • Member, AALS Committee on Special Programs for the Annual Meetings
  • Member, AALS Pilot Program on Qualitative 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
  • Co-Organizer, International Research Network on Legal Education, Law & Society Association
  • Member, Editorial Board, Law & Society Review
  • Member, Carnegie Legal Education Reform Project Working Group
  • Member, Association of American Law Schools Committee on Research
  • Member, Editorial Board, Language and Law Book Series, Oxford University Press
  • Editor,  PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
  • Member, Ad Hoc Committee on the Annual Meeting, Law & Society Association
  • Chair, Law and Society Association Nominations Committee
  • Organizer, Association of American Law Schools Committee on Professional Development  pilot program training law professors in qualitative empirical methods
  • Member, Editorial Board, Emerging Legal Education Book Series, Ashgate Press
  • Member, Editorial Board, Language and Law Book Series, Oxford University Press


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