The American Bar Foundation (ABF) is a research institute committed to the principle that a deep understanding of the law is vital to a more just, equitable world.
We conduct rigorous, empirical research that explores the intersection of law and society—creating insights that underpin today’s most pressing issues and affect millions of people every day.
Our staunchly independent and proudly interdisciplinary approach yields nonpartisan and actionable research that people and institutions use to shape laws, inform policy and influence society at large.
We also foster a robust intellectual community. Our fellowship programs cultivate the next generation of scholars. Law and Social Inquiry, the ABF’s quarterly journal, promotes conversation around pressing issues across disciplines.
The ABF seeks to expand knowledge and advance justice through innovative, interdisciplinary, and rigorous empirical research on law, legal processes, and legal institutions. To further this mission, the ABF will produce timely, cutting-edge research of the highest quality to inform and guide the legal profession, the academy, and society in the United States and internationally.
The ABF was founded in 1952 by the American Bar Association (ABA), filling the need for an independent center for interdisciplinary research into the law. With a generous gift from the American Bar Endowment (ABE), an ABA affiliate charity offering insurance products to ABA members, the ABF was built as “a research center for the organized bar of America.”
Although the ABF was founded by the ABA and is funded mainly by the ABE, it remains an independent organization. This ensures research projects have full academic freedom. All ABF studies have been undertaken in an objective manner and are not influenced by the views of the ABA or ABE.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The ABF is committed to fostering a robust intellectual community that expands knowledge and advances justice through rigorous empirical interdisciplinary research on law, legal processes, and legal institutions. Diverse voices and perspectives are a key part of our commitment to research with the capacity to inform the public and policy makers.
The ABF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and receives primary funding from the American Bar Endowment (ABE) and the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, a network of legal professionals whose careers have demonstrated dedication to the highest principles of the profession and the welfare of their communities. The ABF also receives generous grants for individual research projects from national agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the AccessLex Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Law School Admissions Council.
We are not a charitable foundation. We do not give grants to others.
The ABF is governed by a twenty-five-person Board of Directors comprised of distinguished leaders in the legal community. The board includes ex-officio directors from the American Bar Association, American Bar Endowment, the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, and Northwestern University. Click below to learn more about the ABF’s current Board of Directors.