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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, law and social science.  Mertz's research focuses on the intersection of law and language, combining linguistic, anthropological, and legal perspectives. Her empirical research at the ABF has centered on legal education.  Her first ABF study, which was also funded by the Spencer Foundation, provided the most extensive observational data available to date on first-year law school teaching. Her 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: 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…

After Tenure:  Senior Status in the Legal Academy

Latest finding: Nov 2, 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: Nov 2, 2014, with University of California at Irvine School of Law, University of Wisconsin Institute for Legal Studies, Emory University School of Law
The 10-year anniversary U.S. conference on New Legal Realism was co-sponsored by the American Bar Foundation and the University of California-Irvine Law School and was held in Irvine on August 29-30,…

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"Law's Metalinguistics: Silence, Speech, and Action."
Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma, ed. L. Solan & Roger Shuy
Review of Paul Kockelman, Agent, Person, Subject, Self: A Theory of Ontology, Interaction, and Infrastructure (Oxford U. Press).
American Anthropologist 116(3): 682-83
"Language-and-Law Scholarship: An Interdisciplinary Conversation and a Post-9/11 Example." (Mertz & Rajah)
Annual Review of Law and Social Science 10

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Comment on “Envisioning a New Legal Realism,” Plenary Session, 10th Anniversary New Legal Realism Conference
Aug 2014
"'Professional Vision' and Legal Pedagogy." Invited Presentation in Half-Day Program Panel, "The Many Connections between Well-Being and Professionalism in the Practice of Law: Implications for Teaching." AALS Annual Meeting.
Jun 2014
"A Tangled Web: Overt, Implicit, and Structural Bias in U.S. Law Schools." Third Annual Conference of the ABF Research Group on Legal Diversity.
May 2014 Katherine Barnes

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Professional Service & Recognition

  • Editorial Board, Brazilian Journal of Empirical/SocioLegal Studies
  • Member, Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Task Force on Professional Development
  • 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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