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Elizabeth Mertz

Elizabeth Mertz headshot

Research Professor

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Joint appointment

John and Rylla Bosshard Professor of Law Emerita, University of Wisconsin


Ph.D., Anthropology, Duke University; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law

Curriculum vitae


Elizabeth Mertz is a legal anthropologist who examines legal language in the United States, with a special focus on law school education. She studies law schools as sites for training incipient lawyers in the language of law, and law professors as teachers and translators of that language. Her research also examines the challenges involved in translating between law and social science,…

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Research focus

Research has examined questions regarding language and law, legal education and legal profession, law professors’ professional lives, and how law translates the world around it, through the methods of anthropology and linguistics. 


After Tenure: Senior Status in the Legal Academy

This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States. Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law…

New Legal Realism

The New Legal Realism (NLR) Project's goal is to develop rigorous, genuinely interdisciplinary approaches to the empirical study of law. Initially sponsored by the American Bar Foundation and the…

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Cover of Translating the Social World for Law Translating the Social World for Law
Oxford University Press
Cover of The New Legal Realism: Translating Law-and-Society for Today The New Legal Realism: Translating Law-and-Society for Today's Legal Practice
Cambridge University Press
Cover of The New Legal Realism: Studying Law Globally The New Legal Realism: Studying Law Globally
Cambridge University Press

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Within and Beyond the Anthropological Study of Law and Language
Dec 2018
Judge Richard Cudahy: Balanced Realism in the Service of Justice. Presentation at DePaul Law Review Symposium, "And Justice for All: Symposium in Memory of the Honorable Richard D. Cudahy."
Apr 2017
Law Professors at the Edge of Change. Paper presented at the ABF-NSF Conference on "Legal Education in Crisis? Bringing Researchers and Resources Together to Generate New Scientific Insights." Served as Conference organizer and Chair.
Mar 2017

All presentations »

Professional Service & Recognition

  • Associate Editor, Law and Society Review (2019-2021)
  • Editorial Board,  PoLAR:  Political and Legal Anthropology Review
  • Law & Society Association CRN 28 Co-Organizer
  • Member, Planning Committee, AALS Section on Empirical Research on Legal Education and the Legal Profession (2017-18)
  • Member, AALS Task Force on Professional Development (2014-16)
  • Invited as Member at Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton (School of Social Science) for 2016-2017 (declined)
  • Visiting Scholar, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton (School of Social Science), Fall 2016
  • Winner, Mentoring Award, Association of Women Lawyers
  • Winner, Doris Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring, University of Wisconsin-Madison campus-wide award for mentoring of junior women faculty
  • Co-Organizer, AALS Program on Qualitative and Mixed Methods Training for Law Professors
  • Selected as 2010-2011 Fellow in Princeton University's Program in Law and Public Affairs
  • Co-Winner, Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law & Society Association:  The Language of Law School:  Learning to "Think Like a Lawyer," Oxford University Press
  • Member, Editorial Board, Language and Law Book Series, Oxford University Press
  • Co-Editor, Emerging Legal Education Book Series, Ashgate Press


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