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Timeline of the American Bar Foundation

1952

The American Bar Association (ABA) Board of Governors adopts a resolution directing the "formation of a nonprofit corporation named the American Bar Foundation."

1954

Chief Justice Earl Warren dedicates the new American Bar Center at the ABA Annual Meeting in August. Chief Justice Warren says, "We earnestly hope this Center will be the catalyst for our entire profession… As lawyers, we know better than most other people that there are defects in our administration of justice. With adequate research, we can strengthen our leadership in remedying them.”

The American Lawyer, a comprehensive survey of the American legal profession, is published by Blaustein and Porter. The report notes that only 2.48 % of lawyers were women. It goes on to observe, “[T]he majority of large law offices still refuse (short of war) to interview them for jobs….Women must work twice as hard as men for half the pay.”

1957

The first Annual Meeting of The Fellows is held in conjunction with the mid-year meeting of the American Bar Association.

1969

The final book (of five) on the ABF Survey of Criminal Justice Administration is published, providing the origins of the modern criminal justice paradigm. This survey used empirical observations to carefully examine the criminal justice process, from defendants’ first contact with police to contact with the courts, probation, and parole.

1974

The Board of Directors of the American Bar Foundation authorized the organization of an Oral History Program for the purpose of assembling a historical record about the legal profession and the organized bar.

1976

Barbara Curran is appointed the Foundation's first female Associate Executive Director in 1976.

1985

The Fellows hold their first reception on foreign soil in London, 1985.

1991

A Long-Range Planning Committee begins the preparation of a new Mission Statement for the Foundation based upon the committee's review of the American Bar Foundation's history. The statement is adopted by the ABF Board at its February meeting.

2000

The Honorable Jerome Farris, U. S. Court of Appeals Judge, becomes the first African-American Chair of The Fellows.

Research Professor James J. Heckman shared the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the microeconometrics of diversity and heterogeneity and for establishing a sound causal basis for public policy evaluation.

2002

The Foundation launches its 50th anniversary year celebration with the publication of its illustrated history provided to The Fellows at their Annual Meeting held in Philadelphia.

2005

ABF Research Faculty member Steven Levitt co-writes the book Freakonomics, which takes the country by storm and leads to appearances on the Daily Show and Today, among others. The book, based on research supported by the ABF, began from Levitt's interests in cheating, corruption, and crime, and led to "freakonomics"- applying the tools of empirical economics to many important questions in law and other spheres of policymaking. The book won the first Quill Literacy Award, which was bestowed by Reed Business Information and NBC for the best book of the year in the field of business.

2007

With the University of Illinois College of Law, the ABF announces the creation of the Center on Law and Globalization. The Center focuses on empirical research relating to issues of health, security, and development. The Center sponsored a series of conferences that will bring together scholars of law and globalization with leading practitioners and policymakers working in the international sphere.

2008

Austan Goolsbee, a research professor at the ABF since 1996 and a professor of economics at the Booth Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, is tapped by President-elect Obama to be the chief economist and staff director of the new Economic Recovery Advisory Panel.

The ABF works with immediate past ABA President William Neukom’s World Justice Project, chaired by ABF Board Member William Hubbard, to develop a program of empirical research on the rule of law that is presented at the World Justice Forum in Vienna in July 2008.

2009

ABF Research Professor John Hagan receives the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for his path-breaking research on genocide in Darfur and in the Balkans. In the words of the international jury that presented the prize, “Hagan and colleagues pioneered the application of advanced crime measurement techniques to the study of genocide in their empirical work on violence in Darfur and in the Balkans. Their conclusions were reported in more than one hundred newspapers worldwide, helping to transform public comprehension and discussion of the tragedy in Darfur.”

2010

 ABF Research Professor Shari Seidman Diamond receives the Harry Kalven, Jr. Prize from the Law and Society Association for “empirical scholarship that has contributed most effectively to the advancement of research in law and society.”

2012

Judge Bernice B. Donald, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, becomes ABF President. She is the first African-American woman and only the second woman to hold this office in ABF  history.

Research Professor Dylan C. Penningroth is selected as a 2012 MacArthur Fellow.

2013

In both his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union Addresses, President Barack Obama cites ABF Research Professor James Heckman’s research on investments in early childhood development.  

2014

ABF Research Professor James Heckman participates in a White House summit on the importance of early childhood education for later success in school and adulthood. Heckman presents research that identifies the immense value of early childhood education, as well as the finding that the development of social skills and character are just as important as IQ for a child to succeed in adulthood.

2015

The ABF establishes the William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law and selects Rachel Moran as the inaugural Chair.

2016

In her role as Neukom Chair, Moran helps launch a major research project at ABF. “The Future of Latinos in the United States: Law, Opportunity and Mobility" is a nation-wide, interdisciplinary research initiative devoted to producing innovative scholarship on the Latino population in the United States and locating the sites of intervention that promise to be most impactful in promoting opportunity and mobility through law and policy. 

2018

 The American Bar Foundation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the undergraduate research fellowship program. The program, sponsored by the Montgomery Foundation, offers an intensive, hands-on research experience that introduces students from diverse backgrounds to the rewards and demands of a research-oriented career in the fields of law and social science.

Rebecca Sandefur, ABF Faculty Fellow, receives the MacArthur Genius Grant for her work on access to justice.

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