Skip to main content

Director Ajay K. Mehrotra to American Bar Endowment: ABF Must "Continue to Build on Our Strengths"

October 1, 2015, ABF news

The American Bar Endowment (ABE) sat down with ABF Director Ajay K. Mehrotra to discuss his plans for the Foundation as he begins his new leadership role. Read the interview below: 

The ABE has been a proud supporter of the ground-breaking research of the American Bar Foundation (ABF) since 1956, and we recently had the opportunity to speak with the newly-appointed Director of the American Bar Foundation, just as he was preparing to take on his new role. He spoke to the value of grants from ABE, the powerful research of the ABF, and the future collaboration of the two entities. Here are a few excerpts of that conversation:

ABE:

You began your relationship with the ABF as a Doctoral Fellow. Do you see that helping you in your new role as Director?

Mehrotra:

I think so! I began as a Doctoral Fellow here during 2001 – 2003, finishing up my dissertation. There is a really vibrant research community here at the ABF, and I got to be a part of that when I started my career. It was an invaluable experience for me, not only intellectually but professionally.  I got to participate in all of the regular research events here, including the weekly seminars, which are a really formative experience for junior scholars. I learned firsthand the importance of interdisciplinary empirical legal research while I was a Doctoral Fellow, so I certainly hope that will give me some insights into the research mission of the ABF.

ABE:

Do you have recommendations for other young scholars who may be interested in this fellowship program?

Mehrotra:

I would suggest that doctoral students and other research scholars keep an open mind about their research. That’s the quintessential aspect of good social science research, to be open to new questions and new evidence, and the interdisciplinary aspects of social science research. That was certainly important to me. I learned a lot about the different kinds of disciplines and how they operate and the way they engage with law and the legal profession while I was a Doctoral Fellow.

ABE:

Do you see the nature of ABF research or the organization changing over the next few years?

Mehrotra:

I think it may. This will be a decision for the faculty as a whole to make together, with me as Director. I think we’re going to continue to build on our traditional and historical strengths. We are the preeminent empirical research institute on the legal profession – I don’t think that will ever change. For example, our After the JD project, which has been going on for over a decade, is a signature part of our research and an important part of learning more about the legal profession and how it’s evolving over time. We’ll continue to do research on legal education and on improving criminal justice. We have a very strong group of research scholars working on the effects of incarceration and the social consequences of incarceration, as well as the social aspects that lead to greater incarceration, so we’re definitely going to continue to build on those strengths.

But there are other new, timely social issues out there that are critical to law and the legal profession. I’d like to see us expand our research portfolio a bit – again, in consultation with our Board and our faculty. For example, we’re still in the midst of a recovery from a great recession, and I think we could be doing more on law and inequality, and law and financial governance – how markets work and the importance of legal regulation to affect the markets. Health care is another growing concern, not only among lawyers but society at large, especially with the Affordable Care Act in full implementation. So is environmental policy. There are a number of broad, social issues that touch upon the law and the legal profession, and hopefully we can start to think about doing more research in those areas.

ABE:

How do these initiatives rise to the surface and get commitments?

Mehrotra:

That’s a great question. The faculty and I are kicking off a strategic research plan, talking about our areas of strength, what to build upon in our areas of strength, and new areas we might want to explore. The process will involve lots of interaction and input from faculty. We’ll draft a strategic plan that will be vetted by the faculty, approved by our Board, and then implemented through new hiring, for example, to support new areas of research. We’ll also work out how we would allocate our research to new areas.

ABE:

Do you anticipate new opportunities for collaboration with ABE?

Mehrotra:

I hope so, and would certainly welcome it. I’ve already had some discussion with ABE Board members about our research, where it’s going, and where it might go. One project now coming to fruition is an initiative on The Future of Latinos in the United States. I’m just the incoming Director, but as I understand it, this initiative grew out of discussions with ABF leadership and Board members and ABE leadership. We’ve just appointed Rachel Moran, who’s stepping down as Dean of the UCLA Law School, to be our Neukom Fellows Research Professor for the upcoming academic year. Dean Moran is a leading scholar on law, race, and inequality who is going to be spearheading this new initiative. I think this is an example of the collaboration you may be referring to and I’d be very open to more collaboration like this.

See how the interview appears on the ABE Blog »

The American Bar Endowment (ABE) provides quality, afforable insurance and a chance to give back to the good works of the legal profession. A partner of the American Bar Foundation for almost 60 years, ABE members provide vital annual support to the ABF through the donation of dividends earned on their investments. The ABF is grateful to the Endowment for supporting our mission to produce research projects of unmatched scale and quality on the most pressing issues facing the legal system in the United States and the world.

« Return to ABF news

Site design by Webitects

© 2018 American Bar Foundation (AmericanBarFoundation.org)
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
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.