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ABF Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the American Bar Foundation below:


What is meant by “empirical” study on law and who conducts the research?

Empirical study on law uses data drawn from observation or experimentation rather than legal doctrine or pure theory; it is research that examines testable questions.

The ABF has a research faculty of 25 eminent scholars with singular expertise in the law, sociology, psychology, criminology, political science, economics, history, and anthropology who hold either full-time appointments at the ABF or joint appointments with leading universities.

Faculty profiles and publications »

What kind of research does the American Bar Foundation produce?

The ABF engages in empirical research on topics that have direct bearing on legal professionals in the course of their work, their lives, and in the world in which we live. Areas of study include: The Legal Profession, Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, Social Policy, Regulation, Law and Globalization, and Legal History.

Portfolio of our projects »

What kind of “foundation” is the American Bar Foundation? Does the ABF give or seek funding?

The American Bar Foundation is recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The ABF does not provide external grants, but seeks funding for empirical research on the law and legal processes.

The ABF does provide funded fellowship opportunities for visiting scholars and doctoral students.

Information about visiting scholarships and doctoral fellowships »

How is the organization related to the American Bar Association? 

The American Bar Foundation was founded by the American Bar Association in 1952, and
is affiliated with the ABA, but remains an independent research foundation, free to set its own research agenda.

Who supports the American Bar Foundation?

Darfurian women in Eastern Chad refugee camp

photo by Mia Farrow

The ABF’s primary funding is provided by the American Bar Endowment, an organization established by the American Bar Association to advance research and education on the administration of justice. The ABF also receives integral support from the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. In addition to funding from many private foundations and individual benefactors, the ABF receives generous grants for individual research projects from national agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Law School Admissions Council.

What are some real-world results of American Bar Foundation research?

Children in early childhood education class

ABF research findings have far-reaching impact on the legal profession, social policy legislation, education, and human rights. These selected findings are significant, intriguing, and important to all who have an interest in the law.  ABF research changes laws that change the world. Read about the impact of projects and programs in 2019-2020.

What other initiatives are there at the American Bar Foundation?

The ABF is committed to supporting the development of the next generation of scholars in law and social science. We offer a robust intellectual community life and every year welcome young faculty and visiting faculty to engage with our research professors. The ABF also hosts and co-hosts academic conferences in the various disciplines.

The ABF also supports a long-standing annual summer fellowship for diverse undergraduate students who intend to enter the field of law or social science. The 2018 Participants in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program are pictured below.

Does the American Bar Foundation publish?

In addition to our individual research projects, which have produced over 500 articles in refereed publications and more than 50 books since 2005, the American Bar Foundation is proud to produce two publications that are of direct service to the social science disciplines and the legal profession: Law & Social Inquiry and the Lawyer Statistical Report. Our faculty has also produced 10 reports in the same period, including the seminal After the JD Project Reports I-III and several reports on Access to Justice. Dedicated to ongoing excellence, our publications are hallmarks of the institution.

Click here to view a bibliography of ABF publications during the ten year period from 2005 - 2014. 

 How do I obtain copies of ABF articles and books?

Since rights agreements vary between different journals and publishers, we are not always able to provide a direct link to all ABF publications listed on our website. Articles are generally available on academic search engines such as JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and the Social Science Research Network, or SRRN. Books are available on,, and publishers' sites. For help obtaining a copy of an ABF publication, please contact us at 312-988-6500 or

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