Skip to main content

Robert L. Nelson

Robert L. Nelson headshot

ABF Director Emeritus and MacCrate Research Chair in the Legal Profession

Joint appointment

Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University


Ph.D., Sociology, Northwestern University; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law

Curriculum vitae


Robert L. Nelson is the Director Emeritus of the American Bar Foundation, the MacCrate Research Chair in the Legal Profession at the ABF, and professor of sociology and law at Northwestern…

Full bio »

Research focus

The social organization of law practice and the relationship between law and social inequality. Research has addressed transformations in the legal profession, the role of corporate counsel, gender inequality, and employment discrimination.


After the JD
Latest finding: Oct 19, 2012, with Bryant G. Garth, Ronit Dinovitzer, Gabriele Plickert, Joyce Sterling
The After the JD (AJD) project is an empirical study of the career outcomes of a cohort of almost 5,000 new lawyers, offering both a nationally representative picture of lawyer career trajectories…
Employment Discrimination Litigation
Latest finding: Dec 12, 2012, with Laura Beth Nielsen, Ryon Lancaster, John Donohue III, Peter Siegelman
At the center of current debates about the role of anti-discrimination law in American society is the system of discrimination litigation. Despite the sheer magnitude of changes in employment…
Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar
Latest finding: Sep 24, 2008, with John P. Heinz, John P. Heinz, Robert L. Nelson, Rebecca L. Sandefur and Edward O. Laumann
Published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2005 Over the past several decades, the number of lawyers in large cities has doubled, women have entered the bar at an…

All projects »


Cover of Diversity in Practice: Race, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers Diversity in Practice: Race, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers
Cambridge University Press Studies in Law and Society
First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table
American Bar Association
After the JD III: Third Results from a National Study of Legal Careers (with R. Dinovitzer, B. Garth, G. Plickert, R. Sandefur, J. Sterling & D. Wilkins (American Bar Foundation and NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, 2014)
American Bar Foundation and NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education

All publications »


Panelist, ABA Mid-Year Meeting
Feb 2016 Rachel F. Moran
Panelist, Constitutional Law
Jan 2016 Rachel F. Moran
Presenter, Board of Directors
Oct 2015 Rachel F. Moran

All presentations »

Professional Service & Recognition

  • External Review Committee, Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, University of California Law School, Berkeley, CA, Fall 2013
  • Faculty Member, Law & Society Association Graduate Student Workshop, Boston, MA, May 2013
  • Member, Kalven Prize Committee, Law & Society Association
  • Chair, Scholarship Committee, World Justice Project, ABA Presidential Initiative
  • Advisor, ABA Commission on Women, Women of Color Research Initiative
  • Principal Investigator, After the JD – Wave 2.
  • Co-Principal Investigator and Member, Advisory Committee, National Science Foundation/Law & Society Association/American Bar Foundation, Doctoral Fellowships in Law and Inequality
  • Member, Sociological Research Association
  • Member, Faculty Advisory Board, Center for Legal Studies, Northwestern University
  • Co-Director, Research Group on Legal Diversity, American Bar Foundation
  • Member, Study Team, National Quality Improvement Center on Child Representation in the Child Welfare System, University of Michigan
  • Immediate Past Chair, Sociology of Law Section, American Sociological Association

Site design by Webitects

© 2017 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Media Contacts
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.