Skip to main content

Elizabeth Mertz

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, particularly in the domain of family law.  In addition to her position at the ABF, she is on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Law School. She has published articles in numerous journals and edited collections; her recent book entitled The Language of Law School:  Learning to “Think Like a Lawyer”  was published by Oxford University Press.   That study has drawn national attention from scholars interested in reforming the current system of legal education in the U.S. 

As a law student, Professor Mertz graduated first in her class, and subsequently clerked for Judge Richard D. Cudahy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Before attending law school, she earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Duke University.

In recognition of her work at the intersection of law and social science, Professor Mertz was elected a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association, as well as Treasurer of the Law & Society Association.  She served for many years as Editor of Law & Social Inquiry, and as Editor of the Political and Legal Anthropology Review.  Her writings on family violence and law, legal translations, and other topics have appeared in such publications as the Harvard Law Review, Law & Society Review, and the Annual Review of Anthropology.  She has been a Fellow at the Law & Public Affairs Program at Princeton University and has also been a Visiting Professor in Princeton's Anthropology Department.  She has a joint appointment at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she is the John & Rylla Bosshard Professor of Law Emerita.

Site design by Webitects

© 2022 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Contact the Fellows
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.