Research Group on Legal Diversity

The American Bar Foundation is committed to expanding equity and opportunity within the legal profession and in society at large.  It pursues this goal in the selection of its leadership, the hiring of its research faculty and professional staff, through undergraduate and doctoral fellowship programs that reach out to students from diverse social groups, through the recruitment and selection of Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, and through several research projects that examine issues of equity and opportunity.

Building on this commitment to diversity and the American Bar Foundation’s position as the preeminent research institute for the empirical study of law, the Research Group on Legal Diversity was established in 2011 to examine trends in diversity in the legal profession and other institutions of justice, as well as the impact of diversity on legal processes and institutions.

The Research Group’s co-directors — Robert Nelson, David Wilkins, and Ronit Dinovitzer — are all centrally involved in After the JD, the ABF’s national study of lawyers’ careers, and have published seminal research including “Why Are ­There So Few Black Lawyers in Corporate Law Firms?” (Wilkins), Urban Lawyers: ­ The New Social Structure of the Bar (Heinz, Nelson, et al), and “The Differential Valuation of Women’s Work: A New Look at the Gender Gap in Lawyers’ Incomes” (Dinovitzer).

As an essential first step toward the goals of the Research Group in Legal Diversity, the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation sought to endow a Research Chair in Diversity and Law through a $1.5 million fundraising campaign. As of December 2012, the American Bar Foundation is on track to fully fund the Research Chair following a major gift from William H. Neukom, President and CEO of the World Justice Project. In recognition of Mr. Neukom’s generous contribution to the campaign, the Research Chair was officially named the William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law.

Read the online book, edited by Atinuke Adediran and Robert L. Nelson, Metrics, Diversity, and Law, (2018) which features chapters by leading figures in social science research, journalism, law, and diversity consulting on the role of metrics in advancing diversity in the legal profession and other industries. Read the online book.

For more information on the Research Group on Diversity and Law, please contact Robert L. Nelson at