Robert Nelson
  • Research Professor
Joint Appointment
Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University
Ph.D./M.A./B.A. in Sociology, Northwestern University
J.D., Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Robert L. Nelson

  • Research Professor
MacCrate Research Chair in the Legal Profession
ABF Researcher

Robert L. Nelson (he/him) is the Director Emeritus and the MacCrate Research Chair in the Legal Profession at the American Bar Foundation, as well as Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University.  

Nelson is a leading scholar in the fields of the legal profession and discrimination law. At the ABF, he has founded multiple projects centered on these research interests: After the JD, Future of Latinos in the United States, World Justice Project, and Changing Dynamics of Employment Discrimination.  

He has authored or edited ten books, including Diversity in Practice: Race, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and most recently The Making of Lawyers’ Careers: Inequality and Opportunity in the American Legal Profession (forthcoming in 2023, University of Chicago Press, w. Ronit Dinovitzer, Bryant Garth, Joyce Sterling, David Wilkins, Meghan Dawe, and Ethan Michelson.  He has also written multiple articles for publication. 

Research Focus

The social organization of law practice, the relationship between law and social inequity, transformations in the legal profession, the role of corporate counsel, gender inequality, and employment discrimination. 

Selected Work