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Executive Director Search 2022

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) invites applications for the position of Executive Director. The Executive Director leads the foremost research institute dedicated to the empirical study of law, legal institutions, and legal processes. The Executive Director oversees the ABF research program through the management of 18 Research Professors, five Faculty Fellows, a full-time support staff of 22, and a part-time research assistance staff of 20.

Established in 1952, the ABF is a nonprofit, independent institute which conducts research on law, legal behavior and legal institutions in the U.S. and internationally. The research program is conducted by an interdisciplinary faculty of Research Professors who have advanced degrees in such diverse fields as anthropology, criminology, economics, history, law, political science, psychology and sociology.

Core Responsibilities


  • Oversee financial operations, including institutional budget, in partnership with the Chief Financial Officer
  • Assure implementation of policies established by the Board of the ABF
  • Manage a professional research faculty, associated research faculty, full-time support staff, and part-time research assistance staff, including facilitating and reviewing faculty performance
  • Create and monitor internal committees and external research committees
  • Appoint editors and oversee academic publications, including Law and Social Inquiry and Researching Law
  • Advise on programmatic, communications, and human resources operations


  • Produce multi-year plans for faculty research
  • Recruit and retain an excellent faculty
  • Maintain scholarly integrity, quality, and focus of ABF research and identify additional research areas and projects
  • Increase the visibility of research produced by ABF faculty
  • Collaborate with faculty in development of institutional initiatives and operations

External Relations & Fundraising

  • Represent the ABF by being the spokesperson at events, external meetings, and with media
  • Direct and participate in institutional fundraising
  • Facilitate relationships between research faculty, the ABF Board, and the bar
  • Oversee and participate in the preparation of proposals for external research funding
  • Strengthen relationships with university partners, including Northwestern University and the University of Chicago and their law schools
  • Meet with external stakeholders, such as donors and potential donors, lawyers, law firms, bar associations, law schools, and others
  • Prepare and present annual grant applications to the American Bar Endowment
  • Report to Boards of the American Bar Foundation, the American Bar Association, and the American Bar Endowment, and to The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation


  • J.D. degree, with a strong preference for a Ph.D. in social sciences or humanities
  • Experience and familiarity with the design and conduct of empirical interdisciplinary research on law, legal behavior, and legal institutions
  • Demonstrated record of institutional leadership, including administrative and financial responsibility
  • Demonstrated success in fundraising and academic grantsmanship
  • Experience in communicating results of scholarly research to the bar, the bench, the academy, and the general public
  • Familiarity with the organized bar and the legal profession
  • Demonstrated competence in a leadership role that demands clear communication and decisiveness

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional, hybrid office environment. All employees reporting to the ABF office must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including receiving a booster shot, if eligible. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, and filing cabinets.


Full-time benefits include medical, dental, and vision insurance; paid sick and personal leave; paid vacation; paid holidays (including a week-long winter holiday recess); paid family leave after one year of employment; FSA or HSA; 403(b) retirement plan with employer match; transit and parking benefits, including discounted parking; employee assistance program; corporate discounts; and more.

 Application Instructions

AGB Search is pleased to assist the ABF with this leadership search. To apply for the Executive Director position, candidates are requested to submit the following: a resume or curriculum vitae; a letter of interest (not to exceed five pages) that addresses the leadership opportunities in the profile; and contact information for four references (to be contacted with candidate’s permission at a later date). Application materials should be sent to by October 15 for best consideration. The search will remain open until an appointment is made. 

 EEO Statement

The ABF is firmly committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all qualified persons. All decisions regarding the terms, privileges, and/or conditions of employment, including but not limited to hiring, classification, grading, recruitment, discharge, discipline, compensation, selection for training or apprenticeship, placement, promotion, transfer, renewal of employment, tenure or terms, and benefits, will be made without unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, ancestry, age, order of protection status, marital status, disability, military status, unfavorable discharge from the military, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender, gender identity, housing status, parental status, source of income, certain arrest or criminal history records, genetic information, protected activity (such as opposition to or reporting of prohibited discrimination or harassment), or any other status or classification protected by applicable federal, state, and/or local laws. The ABF prohibits discrimination, retaliation, and harassment of individuals on any of the bases listed above and any other basis protected by applicable federal, state and/or local law.

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