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Laura Beth Nielsen

Laura Beth Nielsen is a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, Professor of Sociology and Director of Legal Studies at Northwestern University.  She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program (Ph.D. 1999) and Boalt Hall School of Law (J.D. 1996). 

Her primary field is the sociology of law, with particular interests in legal consciousness and the relationship between law and inequalities of race, gender, and class.  Her first book, License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech, (Princeton University Press, 2004) studies hate speech, targets’ reactions and responses to it, and attitudes about using law to deal with such speech. 

Her interests include rights in general and employment civil rights in particular.  Her second monograph, Rights on Trial:  Employment Civil Rights in the Workplace and in Courts (with Ellen Berrey and Robert L. Nelson, University of Chicago Press 2017) uses a national random sample of federal court case filings together with in-depth interviews to better understand the litigaiton model of employment civil rights in the United States.  She has co-edited three books on these topics including Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives on Rights, (Ashgate, 2007) and Handbook of Employment Discrimination Research:  Rights and Realities, (with Robert L. Nelson, Springer, 2005); and New Civil Rights Research:  A Constitutive Approach (with Ben Fleury-Steiner, Ashgate 2006).

She is the author of numerous articles published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, UCLA Law Review, Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Law and Policy, Stanford Journal of Law and Policy, and the Wisconsin Law Review. Coverage of her scholarship and her own commentary have appeared in the New York Times, Time Magazine, FOX News, Morning Edition (NPR), ABC Radio, Al-Jazeera English, the Huffington Post, USA Today, and the Nation.

She is the recipient of numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the American Bar Foundation.  She is the winner of the Law and Society Association’s Stan Wheeler Mentoring Prize, graduate student article prize, dissertation prize, and best article prize.  She served on the Law & Society Association’s Board of Trustees (2001-2004) and as the Program Chair for LSA’s annual meeting (2004); she was the Chair of the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association, and served as an editor of Law & Social Inquiry for eight years.

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